The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Hinata Miyake

Four Worlds, Four Tomorrows, and Four Fashions For Finding Fulfillment on this First Day of the Fourth Month: Remarks on A Place Further than the Universe on Exploration, Closure, Determination and Teamwork

“Sometimes, people are just mean. Don’t fight mean with mean. Hold your head high.” –Hinata Miyake

2018’s A Place Further than the Universe is a title that aired to universal acclaim for its heartfelt and sincere portrayal of a disparate group of four high school students, each resolute on fulfilling their individual dreams, and through a serendipitous turn of events, come together as members of an expedition to Antarctica. Each of Mari Tamaki, Shirase Kobuchizawa, Hinata Miyake and Yuzuki Shiraishi set out for the last continent of the world with different aims, but through their shared dream, determination and perseverance, come away from their experiences completely changed. A Place Further than the Universe‘s successes came from watching this journey unfold and how it impacted the characters, and by the time the season ended, there was no doubt as to what this anime had accomplished. However, even amidst the excitement of going to Antarctica, each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki never forget why they’d set out on this journey to begin with – viewers, on the other hand, were so blown away by the scope and scale of A Place Further than the Universe that these initial motivations were forgotten. While this speaks positively to the anime’s ability to build excitement and anticipation in viewers, the reasons behind why Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki set off on their journey are quickly shelved. However, these reasons are an integral part of A Place Further than the Universe, represent four different reasons why everyone wants to succeed in their expedition and more broadly, four perspectives on why people pursue success.

  • This post began its life as a series of thoughts after I began rewatching A Place Further than the Universe and realising that while discussions have thoroughly covered off why the anime was so rewarding, the ending outcomes were strong enough to eclipse the reasons that spurred Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki’s initial reasons for going to Antarctica. Without these initial reasons, the events of A Place Further than the Universe wouldn’t have been anywhere as moving as they were.

Success in achieving one’s goals is a central theme in A Place Further than the Universe, and the anime wastes no time in letting viewers know that success takes persistence, effort and dedication, traits that are ultimately summed up as “hard work”. Hard work consists of attributes that are necessary and commendable, and while the initial payoffs may not always be apparent, hard work is understanding that short term pains translate to long term gains which far outweigh the initial costs. Whether it’s learning how to set of navigation waypoints on the side of a mountain and learning that Mari tends to hug whoever she sleeps beside, acclimatising to the disciplined and turbulent life on a boat, or the frigid dangers of Antarctica itself, the road to the most remote continent is fraught with challenges. However, Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki, in their own reasons for being here, each rise to the occasion, and their individual rationale parallels reasons why people in reality wish to succeed. In this post, I’ll briefly explore how everyone’s motivations have roots in reality and how each motivation impacts one’s approach towards achieving their goals where real-world objectives and dreams are concerned, using my own experiences as an iOS developer to speak about everyone’s desires and experiences.

“I want to explore something new.”

Mari’s justification for participating in the Antarctica expedition is of everyone, is the most innocent. Having gone through middle school and her first year without having gone on any destinationless journeys, Mari simply wants to do something. However, she is initially unaware of what this something looks like, and supposes that cutting class to visit Tokyo would qualify. Upon meeting Shirase, however, and learning of the latter’s desire to go to Antarctica, Mari’s world is completely opened up. From visiting the Shirase II in port to attempting to speak with expedition members, Mari’s befriending Shirase sets in motion a journey that Mari never anticipated. With her naïveté and open-mindedness, a key part of her desire to try new things out, very few things can keep Mari down. She’s optimistic, enthusiastic and adaptive. A Place Further than the Universe sought to show, through Mari, that open-ended journeys, trips without destinations, have their merits because it allows one to be wholly immersed in the experience. The good become immensely pleasant memories, and the bad result in one’s learning how to better handle a scenario next time around. As an iOS developer, this is where my journey began – a love for the mobile devices and their ubiquity led me to accept a project to build an iOS app that collected survey data for patients undergoing treatment five years earlier. At this time, I’d only worked on small iOS apps for university coursework, and putting a full app together was a daunting task, considering I’d never built one before.

Through this experience, I learnt the ins and outs of RESTful APIs, authentication and the fundamentals of implementing view controllers, their data models and having everything play nice on different phone sizes. After five months, the app was finally finished, and while it was certainly not my best work, it was the first commercial app I’d assembled. There were more failures than successes, and it was frustrating work to debug things while at the same time, getting used to Swift. However, looking back on this project, I remain grateful to have taken it, because the underlying principles would be what I subsequently saw in every app I’ve since worked on. Similarly, in A Place Further than the Universe, Mari is quite unprepared for her Antarctica expedition and treats things as a game. However, when the chips are down, Mari proves more than willing to learn, and much as how her body adjusts to life on a rocking boat and the harsh climate of Antarctica, Mari develops a more resilient mentality, allowing her to begin appreciating the exceptional experience she finds herself in. Mari’s motivation to simply do something, even if she does not know the outcome, represents the explorer’s mindset: her goal is the journey itself, and so, without any specific objectives beyond this, Mari is open-minded, flexible and adaptive. Someone seeking to explore will similarly be willing to take things in stride, seeing adversity and challenge as being an integral part of the experience, and whose presence simply serves to make successes even more rewarding.

  • Where stepping into the unknown, there’s a little Mari in all of us. Mari represents the optimistic greenhorn, inexperienced but willing to learn. Because Mari is so new to everything, she has no expectations going into a given challenge – this leaves her slower on the uptake compared to veterans, but at the same time, also means that she’s not limited by existing knowledge when it comes to solving problems.

“I want to find closure and finish what was started.”

For Shirase, ever since her mother, Takako, went missing in Antarctica three years earlier on the first-ever civilian expedition, Shirase’s been absolutely resolute on returning there to see for herself what Takako had seen, and gain closure on the fact that Takako hadn’t been in her life for the past three years. The sense of powerlessness and helplessness that Shirase feels each and every day, from not knowing precisely what had happened to Takako, is focused onto a single, concerted effort to make the journey and find the answers that she seeks. Shirase had long known that Takako held an utmost respect and a great love for Antarctica; her words in the book A Place Further than the Universe accentuates this, that despite its inhospitable conditions, the continent was also home to unmatched, unspoiled beauty. Takako’s disappearance left more questions than answers, and for both Shirase and many of the expedition members, a part of this operation had been intended to fulfil a long-standing promise to Takako, to return and continue on the work she had envisioned. While Shirase is doubtlessly driven, her focus is such that she puts earning money for such a trip ahead of everything else. When Mari meets her for the first time, Mari’s innocence and optimism is surprising to her: for Shirase, the uncertainty of not knowing what happened to her mother has pushed everything, even friendship, out of her mind, and A Place Further than the Universe shows here that sometimes, our search for the answers and solutions can cause us to lose perspective. However, when given a chance to regroup, things turn around rapidly: having the support from Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki is what allows Shirase to find a conclusive answer in the frigid cold of Antarctica.

In reality, being driven to finish what one starts is a respectable trait, demonstrating one’s willingness to see things through to the end. Finishing something represents commitment and dedication. It is only by fighting and working hard to the last possible second that one can say they put in their best efforts, and because one had genuinely put in an effort, there are no regrets lingering as a result of wondering if one could’ve done more. This is the sort of mentality that is mandatory in iOS development – bugs or difficult-to-implement features remain on my mind until I’ve taken a good shot at them and have either solved the problem or at least, ascertain what would be needed to solve the problem and determine whether or not something is outside of my skill set (for instance, my knowledge of Core Animation isn’t as strong as it is with Core Location or AV Kit) – to leave bugs and issues unattended is inviting future disaster, since errors could propagate and affect other parts of the system. For Shirase, the question of what happened to Takako was always going to hang over her head, and it was only by going to Antarctica that she is able to decisively accept things, having seen it for herself. While this knowledge is painful, it also brings Shirase closure that she was able to gaze upon Antarctica with her own eyes and finally connect with her mother’s dream: Takako is gone, but her experience now lives on in Shirase, and this allows her to move on without regrets. Seeing something through and finding closure is unsurprisingly a key reason why people are driven: we want to be able to do something that we have no regrets about, and this is accomplished by finishing what one starts.

  • While Shirase states that she wishes to succeed and stick it to those who doubted her, her actual motivations for going to Antarctica are far deeper than A Place Further Than The Universe initially presents. Shirase’s conflict in the series stems from understanding her mother’s probably deceased, but at the same time, she holds out hope that they might one day reunite. To move on from the latter and gain closure for the former, Shirase intends to travel to Antarctica and decisively find closure. However, along the way, with the others, she’s able to really express how she feels and comes to terms with the outcome of her journey: at the end of A Place Further Than The Universe, Shirase cuts her hair short to signify that she’s turned over a new leaf, and the closure she found allows her to seize the future with her best effort.

“I want to prove it’s possible that I can do something big.”

The drive to explore and push the limits for what’s possible has been one of the major reasons why humanity has been able to accomplish feats like putting a man on the moon or creating microchips that transform the way we communicate. Hinata, the most energetic and spirited of the group, initially joins Mari and Shirase because she appeared to like the pair’s personalities, but later, she explains that she’s here to do something big before returning to high school. As it turns out, Hinata had been an exceptional track-and-field athlete, but because of her ability, antagonised more senior members of the team, who would go on to slander her. Unable to deal with the social pressures, Hinata dropped out of high school. While her confidence was shaken, Hinata nonetheless studies independently and hopes to one day return with a smile on her face, with an achievement or two to her name. For Hinata, Antarctica thus represents a chance to do something amazing, and she seizes the opportunity upon meeting Mari and Shirase: people doubted her, and Hinata intends to demonstrate that each and every one of her detractors wrong, as well as to prove to herself that she can make it on the merit of her own skill and traits. Of the girls, Hinata’s reason for going to Antarctica is one that I relate to the most. As an iOS developer, I have previously worked with other developers who were uncooperative, and who even actively worked against me: the first app that I’d been working on depended on JSON responses with keys spelt a certain way, and I was informed that the keys would always be lowercase. I thus built my serialisation logic on this assumption, although one day, where I had a meeting to demonstrate the app to the product owner, the backend developers unexpectedly changed the keys and capitalised the first word, resulting in the app crashing.

Because I had the presence of mind to take a video of the app working (a habit I got into because the simulator could occasionally be unreliable back then), and swapped out the keys for that meeting to match the responses from the backend, I was able to show the product owner the iOS app was working fine (and suggest that more communication about changing keys would be a good idea). Communication and conflict-diffusing thinking allowed me to sort that problem out: it simply felt more appropriate to fix things on my end and ask for clarification, rather than point fingers. I meet challenges head-on, and like Hinata, I enjoy nothing more than showing people that I am able to keep my word and deliver what was promised no matter what obstacles present themselves. This drive is doubtlessly something that motivates people to work hard and find their success: when people say something isn’t possible, it fuels my desire to test their assertions out for myself. It therefore becomes easy to root for Hinata, and once the Antarctica expedition draws to a close, it is quite clear that this group of friends wouldn’t have made it as far were it not for Hinata’s constant encouragement of everyone. In exchange, Shirase is able to help Hinata find her closure by blasting Hinata’s old classmates on a live broadcast, stating that no matter how hard they dragged Hinata down, Hinata’s own determination and perseverance led her to go somewhere that these classmates can only dream of visiting, proving decisively that Hinata has indeed done something big with her time, both for herself and to prove to her detractors that they ultimately mean nothing. While admittedly petty, proving wrong those who would underestimate me is something I like doing, as well. Of everyone in A Place Further Than The Universe, I am most similar to Hinata, striving to demonstrate what can be done when I’m playing for keeps.

  • Outwardly, Hinata’s diminutive stature means that people underestimate her. However, as Yuri Orlov would describe, Hinata is a big spirit in a small package – pound for pound, she’s livelier and more cheerful than anyone else, and has the book smarts to match her energy. She’s always pushing people forwards, and while never hesitating to speak her mind, is mindful of those around her as well. As such, Hinata is a go-getter, fully aware of what her objectives are and longing most to prove her worth, both to herself and those around her.

“I want to do something special with the people I care about.”

When Yuzuki met Mari, Shirase and Hinata for the first time, she assumed the three were best of friends on account of how well they got along with one another. Reluctant to take an assignment that would see her report on an Antarctic Expedition for the entertainment industry, Yuzuki is convinced upon realising that Mari and the others are more than willing to accept her as a friend. Having been a child actress all her life, Yuzuki never had time to partake in everyday activities and make friends. However, when her current “friends” from school end up leaving her behind, Yuzuki realises that the eccentric but genuine Mari, Shirase and Hinata are there for her, prompting her to accept her assignment on the condition that these three are allowed to come with her: she wishes to really be a part of a team and work on something with others, whereas previously, her assignments had never really allowed her to connect with those she worked with. As a result, Yuzuki’s desire is to work on a team with Mari, Shirase and Hinata: in her own words, she wishes to commiserate over setbacks, celebrate successes, argue and laugh with the others. Indeed, over the course of the expedition, Yuzuki will do precisely thus, experiencing the aspects of friendship that had, until recently, been a foreign world to her. It becomes clear that through ups and downs, Mari, Shirase and Hinata are here to stay, understanding her circumstances and choosing actively to remain by her side in spite of this. Teamwork is something that I greatly respect about Yuzuki: we both have an appreciation of what it entails and what is possible because of teamwork, but in both cases, our situation means that we’ve not really had a chance to be a part of something larger.

The reason why teamwork is so vital is because it enables the sharing of knowledge and perspectives towards problem solving: a problem that I can’t solve on my own might simply require a fresh set of eyes, or a procedure that I might not have thought of because of my experience and background. Indeed, when teamwork is at its finest, miracles can happen; Neil Armstrong’s historic achievement in 1969’s Apollo 11 mission, for instance, involved some four hundred thousand scientists, engineers, technicians and other support staff. Until then, landing on the moon had been something relegated to the realm of fiction, but with four hundred thousand people working on a shared vision, the impossible suddenly became merely challenging. Similarly, as a developer, while I may not always see eye-to-eye with other developers, I nonetheless respect and appreciate the work they do. At the time of writing, I can’t build my own SQL databases or write NodeJS endpoints to allow apps to retrieve and modify information stored in a backend. Working with the people who do possess these skills is how my apps are successful, and also allows me to learn off these developers, as well. On larger teams, with more people, it becomes possible to bounce ideas off one another, and even solve problems in novel ways. With few exceptions (such as individual sports), success and teamwork go hand-in-hand, with synergy resulting from the sum of everyone’s efforts leading people to new heights. With Yuzuki, being able to coach Shirase in speaking more effectively also helps her to feel more connected to the others, as does participating in the routine work at Showa Base and heading out to conduct experiments: she returns home with three friends, and although everyone heads their separate ways for now, everyone’s more connected than before.

  • Yuzuki’s desire to see every aspect of friendship, both the good and bad, stems from having worked on her own for so long, and never really being able to connect with anyone. Where given the chance to connect, Yuzuki is able to support those around her, and even if a few rough moments arise, her honesty allows the group of friends to sort things out with nothing held back. Yuzuki parallels folks who wish to share in their experiences with everyone, believing that the individual succeeds with the team, and despite not having many friends until now, gets along very well with Mari, Shirase and Hinata.

While individual motivation and hard work is central to each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki making their dreams a reality in A Place Further than the Universe, it is unfortunate that in reality, the respect for hard work and effort isn’t quite what it used to be. The ceaseless social media controversies and politics does give the impression that traditional values are being displaced by a demand for instant gratification and an entitlement to an audience, where retweets and memes matter more than having done something useful with one’s time for the benefit of others. For instance, video game developers now place emphasis on lootboxes and cosmetics over engaging gameplay, as functional gameplay demands skillful development. Governments tackle non-issues because this make it look like they’re doing something, as opposed to addressing matters of economics and sustainability, something that requires a considerable effort to even begin approaching. Journalists run with misinformation because it’s easier to draw an audience with sensationalism than using legitimate news based in fact. There appears to be a genuine aversion towards hard work and effort, and should such trends continue, society will be in for a very grim future. While this sounds pessimistic, the reality is that hard work and being useful can take many forms. Once one accepts that this is a long-term deal, things become much more manageable. I consider someone worth respecting if they choose their actions such that they are able to make even a single person’s day better; kindness and effort are both scalable, with the mindset for helping one person easily being applicable for bettering the lives of many. While A Place Further than the Universe has Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki setting off on their journey for themselves at the onset, they come to impact many lives in a positive manner, beyond satisfying their own initial objectives: everyone started their adventure for a different reason, but everyone arrives in the same place, leaving behind the same positive impact together. Consequently, A Place Further than the Universe suggests that there is value to taking that first step, and that people can have a nontrivial, positive impact on others as well as themselves with a bit of effort and hard work. I thus leave readers with the question: what gets you up each and every morning?

  • I will note that today’s April Fool’s Day, but the only thing about this post that’s an April Fool’s joke is the fact that the post is actually not a joke in every way – I stand behind every word I’ve written, and this post was actually more for myself, more than anything. Today, I start work as an iOS Developer for a new company, and this post is to remind me of the things that I believe in, to never compromise those core values that I adhere to, no matter how difficult things get. I understand there are many ills in the world, but it’s not on me to convince governments to stop pursuing Sisyphean Tasks or for game developers to remove lootboxes from their games. As long as I am able to do what I can for those around me, and make any part of their day smoother, easier and better, I’ve done my part for the world, and that counts for something.

Four Worlds, Four Tomorrows: A Place Further Than The Universe Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Upon their arrival in Fremantle, Australia, Mari and the others assist with preparations and provision acquisition. They learn that the expedition is understaffed and lacking in funds, only proceeding forwards because of Gin’s motivation to return to Antarctica. Their journey takes them on rough waters towards Antarctica: as Mari and the others help out on board their ship, they quickly learn that it’s going to be no cruise. Besides lacking the physicality of the other crew, high waves render Shirase, Hinata, Yuzuki and Mari seasick. However, their spirits and resolve are restored with time, and the ship reaches the ice sheets surrounding Antarctica. Gin worries that Shirase might hate her since Takako’s disappearance, and she shares a conversation with Shirase, learning that Shirase is still a bit conflicted as to how she should feel. When they touch down on the Antarctic ice sheet, Shirase yells out jubilantly: against all the odds, she’s done what her peers thought impossible. The crew head towards Showa Station and begin bringing the facility to life. Yuzuki is offered a role in a television drama and worries that she might have to leave Mari and the others behind. With their reassurance that their friendship is very much real when they celebrate her birthday, Yuzuki decides to accept this role. Later, Shirase spots in irate Hinata, who reluctantly reveals that she left high school from an incident with the track team. While on an assignment, Shirase encourages Hinata and delivers a tongue-lashing at those responsible during a live broadcast. As the expedition continues, Shirase wonders if she’ll lose a sense of purpose once she learns the fate of Takako. During a snowcat ride to an observatory station, Shirase and Gin recall Takako’s final words and spirit. When they arrive, Mari and the others find a laptop belonging to Takako. Shirase realises that her words to her mother will never reach her and dissolves in tears. When the time comes for the girls to leave, Shirase promises that they will return again someday. She leaves Takako’s laptop with Gin, who sends her one final email from Takako’s drafts, and while riding back, Mari and the others see the aurora australis. Upon their return to Japan, the girls go their separate ways and resolve to cross paths again. Mari learns that, spurred on by her, Megumi has joined an expedition to the Arctic.

The size of the summary, ladies and gentlemen, is why I likely should have broken up the talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, which proved to be a superbly enjoyable anime. However, things are what they are, so focus will return to the thematic elements in A Place Further Than The Universe and how they contribute to the anime’s high enjoyment factor. The key reason why A Place Further Than The Universe stands out is because of its four characters, all of whom have a different story and reason for being. Mari signs up because she’s tired of backing down from adventure and longs to do something meaningful before her time as a high school student expires. She represents the average viewer, acting as the eyepiece from which the Antarctica expedition is presented from. Innocent, energetic and cheerful, Mari stands in for the audience and provides grounding for the adventures she and her friends embark on. Her simple determination and optimism is sufficent to inspire Megumi to do the same, speaking to the influence friends have on one another. Shirase’s story is one of closure and search for a purpose in its aftermath: having long endured ridicule and logistical challenges, Shirase’s dreams of going to Antarctica remained a fool’s dream until she met Mari and Hinata. When the combined efforts of her friends allow her dream to be realised, she is able to defy expectation – her first words upon hitting the surface of Antarctica is to taunt those who doubted her. However, with this purpose now fulfilled, Shirase begins wondering about her mother and whether or not she will find closure. Ultimately, it is in the company of her friends and their warm encouragement that Shirase comes to terms with Takako’s death, accepting that she’s now got her own memories of Antarctica and goals of her own. With one journey over, Shirase prepares to set out on another one.

Hinata participates in the Antarctica expedition to escape from her troubles and similar to Mari, do something remarkable: after leaving high school and forging her own path independently, Hinata admits that she was envious of the focus that Shirase and Mari had. When she learns to rely on others once again and opens up, however reluctantly, to Shirase, she finds that companionship is being able to trust and be trusted. Letting her friends know the reason as to why she left high school, and seeing the dedication her friends have for her allows Hinata to see friendship from a new light. Finally, Yuzuki learns that friendships are very fluid and open-ended in nature. Far from being a formalised construct, it’s a relationship with its highs and lows, bound together by a sense of camaraderie that survives challenging times. Being with Mari and the others allows Yuzuki to experience the things that she’d long to do, and she comes out with a much stronger sense of what friendship is, which may impart a newfound perspective that changes her acting. Overall, each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki are fundamentally changed with their time in Antarctica, having come out of their journey with a profoundly different view of the world. However, each girl experiences their journey differently and leaves with an unique life lesson learned. There are, in effect, four separate themes in A Place Further Than The Universe, one for each of the characters, and while they share the commonality of friendship and overcoming challenges together, the differences that make Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki unique also means that they get correspondingly unlike experiences despite sharing them together. Through its short run, A Place Further Than The Universe manages to weave each of these four stories tightly together to form a cohesive and moving narrative that was entertaining, moving and refreshing.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because I’ve been away from the proceedings of A Place Further Than The Universe for quite some time, I pay the price by having a lot more ground to cover: this post will have forty images. We open with Hinata filming an interview for their project, which entails presenting their travels in Antarctica as a part of Yuzuki’s promotional work. While Hinata and Mari are comfortable on screen in general, and Yuzuki is experienced with such things, Shirase becomes embarrassed very quickly, and here, can be seen blushing furiously even from this distance. Prior to continuing into this post further, I mention that I’m aware that A Place Further Than The Universe is referred to as Yorimoi for brevity, but it’s only got a Hamming Distance of five from the Moyamoya disease. Characterised by clots in the blood vessels of the brain, Moyamoya is so-named because on X-rays, these clots resembles puffs of smoke (moyamoya is onomatopoeia for puffs of smoke in Japanese). This didn’t really sit well with me, so I’ve opted to refer to the show by its English title in full.

  • Mari and Hinata marvel at the view from on board the ship while they tour it in advance of departure. Of the characters, Mari and Hinata are more spirited and cheerful, while Shirase and Yuzuki are more reserved. With their distinct personalities, I’ve long felt that A Place Further Than The Universe is really four stories wrapped up in one, unified by a shared goal, and as such, this is what lends itself to the post’s title. It’s inspired by Gundam Unicorn‘s sixth episode, titled “Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows” in English. Being four characters, each with their own insights and perspectives, there are correspondingly four separate worlds and four futures, one for each of Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki.

  • During a departure party, Shirase and Gin share a conversation about their mutual interest in returning to Antarctica while Mari, Yuzuki and Hinata have a fine time on board. Although Gin is ever-stoic as the captain of the expedition, she opens up to Shirase about her motivations for returning and later admits that seeing Shirase’s youthful passion was what led her to accept and push the operation forwards even in light of limited resources.

  • During the talk I did for A Place Further Than The Universe‘s first half, most of the screenshots were set in Japan or Singapore. For this talk on A Place Further Than The Universe, this has changed, with all of the screenshots being either in Antarctica or on board the ship. Admittedly, the ship-borne episodes brought to mind Mighty Ships, another Discovery Channel programme that I frequently watched during the year that I did my MCAT.

  • Here, Shirase tries to interview one of the ship’s crew on their functions and roles. A central part of the Mighty Ships program focuses on the vessels and their crew; from operations to technical capacities, unique points about each ship are shown in great detail, with the show interviewing crew to gain insights into their duties and associated challenges. A Place Further Than The Universe is not a documentary, however, and consequently is not expected to detail life on board the ice breaker to the same level of detail – if I were seeking that, I would watch the episode on the CCGS Henry Larsen, a Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker that’s been in service since 1988.

  • As the ship moves through the waters of the Southern Ocean, the girls notice increasing amounts of rocking. The adults are used to it and roll with things; here’ Mari and the others are peeling potatoes under Yumiko’s eye. The ship’s designated cook, Yumiko brings the girls under her wing and teach them the ins and outs of cooking when she observes that some of their number are unfamiliar with cooking.

  • I could not help but laugh at the fact that each of Yuzuki, Shirase and Mari are so out of shape that curling five pounds and doing sit ups puts them on the floor. I’ve frequently alluded to the fact that I lift and do Gōjū-ryū; having trained for around eight and seventeen years, respectively, I consider myself in slightly above average shape. That Hinata is able to keep up without too much trouble foreshadows at her background, and she keeps an eye on the others while they train. Fortunately, necessity soon pushes Mari and the others; as Place Further Than The Universe progresses, their low physicality no longer seems to be an issue, suggesting they’ve improved.

  • Crew remark in Mighty Ships that a ship’s galley is the heart of a ship; keeping the crew well-fed and watered is essential to morale on board, and some large commercial ships have top-tier galleys that serve up gourmet or homemade meals that ends up being something crew members look forwards to after a tough shift. Being immensely complex machines, Mighty Ships shows just how involved running a large ship is, from ensuring the engines are running to keeping track of cargo and equipment on board. What impressed me most is the professionalism all of the crews display under very stressful conditions.

  • Seasickness is no joke, and I’ve only ever encountered the Strait of Georgia’s waves twice: once during a cruise fifteen years ago and another during a school trip twelve years ago. I managed to stave off seasickness while my classmates were put out of commission by sitting out on deck and looking into the distance, but the Strait of Georgia is relatively calm compared to the likes of the waves in the Southern Ocean, so more involved measures are required to keep one’s dinner. Unaccustomed to things, audiences are treated to funny faces from Shirase and Mari as they struggle to endure the rough seas.

  • While in the throes of another tempest, Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki break out onto deck, where they take in the waves for the first time. Resolving to endure it as best as they can, their spirits allow them to recover and acclimatise to life at sea. This moment here, captured right as they exit the ship’s interior, provides yet another example of the funny faces seen in A Place Further Than The Universe – I’ve become quite fond of Madhouse’s style, and their upcoming movie (by home release standards), Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, is set to feature a very similar art style.

  • As their ship moves closer to Antarctica, Hinata and the others decide to interview Gin when they learn that Toshio’s developed feelings for her. Naturally, Shirase wants no part in things and resorts to her signature move: clinging to a bunch of stuff. It typifies A Place Further Than The Universe‘s approach in being able to employ both comedy and drama to equal extents within the anime; fiction that strike this balance tend to yield characters that audiences can empathise with, by illustrating that they are human and subject to the same emotions as the rest of us.

  • In its light-hearted moments, A Place Further Than The Universe delivers moments that make audiences smile. The only other anime of the season with such welcoming smiles is Yuru Camp; that A Place Further Than The Universe is a close second speaks volumes to how effective its art style is at conveying emotions. I’m especially fond of Yuzuki’s smile in this moment as the girls prepare to interview a reluctant Gin, and note that upon seeing trailers for Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, I had some reservations on watching it owing to the art style. Having seen A Place Further Than The Universe and coming to embrace the way characters look, I’m now fully looking forwards to Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai, which will release on May 25.

  • During Toshio’s pursuit of Gin’s heart, he’s constantly rebuked by Yumiko. Watching the interactions between the two was at once amusing and also a bit disheartening. One might be forgiven for thinking that Yumiko is interested in being with him; as this is not the focus of A Place Further Than The Universe, the anime has Toshio stand down and that’s about as far as things go.

  • Gin’s concerns are far removed from the comings and goings of her crew and their love lives: she’s spent most of the journey worried about Shirase’s well-being. Flashbacks show that she was the last person to be in touch with Takako prior to her disappearance during a blizzard, and since then, while doubtful that Takako is still alive, nonetheless resolves to Antarctica in order to continue with her work and also for Takako’s sake. Here, Shirase and Gin simultaneously react to the sight of penguins on the ice packs as they near Antarctica.

  • Vast white landscapes evocative of Hoth and endless blue skies are the imagery that characterise A Place Further Than The Universe, and so, it wouldn’t be a satisfactory talk on Place Further Than The Universe without at least a handful of images that illustrate the scale of things down in the Antarctic.

  • The culmination of Shirase’s efforts with her friends lead her to this point: encouraged by the others, Shirase prepares to take the first step onto Antarctica’s ice pack, and in doing so, she starts on a new adventure with her friends. It was only together that the girls have made it this far: the sum of Yuzuki’s connections with promotional work and Shirase’s ties with Gin, paired with unending support from Hinata and Mari is what allowed them to reach Antarctica. None of the girls could have done this alone, so seeing them stand at the edge of a staircase with all smiles was an immensely rewarding scene.

  • Standing on the ice cap at Antarctica, Shirase shouts out that she’s done it, against all of her detractors’ claims that such an undertaking would be impossible. When the girls step off the boat, they are immediately hit with the cold: the average temperature at Showa Station during the summer is around 0ºC, with a low of -4ºC. During the winter months, temperatures range between -14ºC and -20ºC. These temperatures are well within the realm of what I count as ‘comfortable’ – I’ve mentioned previously that any real Canadian would count temperatures above -15ºC as warm. However, being in the most extreme places in the world, the Antarctic cold is no joke.

  • With the initial rush of arriving in Antarctica past, the crew prepare to ship their supplies out to Showa Station. Established in 1957, it is Japan’s permanent research facility in Antarctica and is located at 69º00’16”S 39º34’54”E. This is probably one of the most remote locations that have been shown in any anime, and while it is unlikely that civilians will be able to tread the same walks that Mari and her friends do, travelling to Antarctica is not outside the realm of possibility. Organised tours and cruises down to Antarctica, complete with shore excursions, start at around ten thousand CAD per person, which, incidentally, corresponds with the million yen that Shirase had.

  • With the hard numbers in mind, travelling to Antarctica is a matter of money: the price range is definitely outside my reach for now (it does not include the air fare), but it might be worth considering. If I do decide to make such a trip, if I still write for this blog in the future, I’ll be sure to write about the experience and attribute it to having watched A Place Further Than The Universe. For now, I’ll return to A Place Further Than The Universe, where Kanae introduces Mari and the others to their quarters at the Showa base.

  • After arrival, the expedition crews work tirelessly to activate station functions. They stop to celebrate Christmas here: most of the heavy lifting (i.e. research, operation of heavy machinery) is left to the adults in the team. Mari and the others take on everyday tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, as well as distribution of foodstuffs to other crew. While their roles might be seen as minor, they nonetheless are incredibly important in keeping morale and spirits up amongst the station’s crew.

  • When Yuzuki tries to get Mari and the others to sign a contract reminiscent of Sheldon’s “Friendship Agreement” from The Big Bang Theory, Mari and the others try to convince her that friendship isn’t something that can be codified. They manage to impart on her that friendship is a matter of trust and togetherness, and when they throw her a birthday party, she’s moved to tears. Having spent most of an episode troubled by whether or not she should accept a new assignment that might separate her from Mari and the others, she eventually realises that friendship can be a powerful force and so, accepts her assignment in a new drama.

  • Exposure to UV radiation while wearing goggles leaves Mari with a goggle-shaped tan that persists for the remainder of one of the episodes, leaving Shirase, Yuzuki and Hinata attempting to conceal peals of laughter, much to Mari’s embarrassment. The solution would’ve been to wear a full face covering: as none of the girls have eyewear, fogging up shouldn’t be a problem. On an unrelated note, I attempted to recreate the sort of clothing that the expedition team might wear in The Division after seeing the masks and goggles. I ended up quite close with my reproduction, although since I don’t have any hard hats or white jackets with orange highlights, this is as close as I got.

  • Once in Antarctica proper, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase get their own episodes in which their own personal challenges form the underlying story. After live streaming to viewers back home, Hinata runs into folks she once knew. Despite maintaining a cheerful façade, she hulks out – Shirase bears witness to this and spends the remainder of the episode trying to get Hinata to be truthful about how she feels.

  • It’s a clever touch that Mari’s tan remains visible throughout an entire episode and fades away by the next. Aside from cooking and cleaning duties, Mari and the others also help out with setup of research facility equipment. In between all this, they recount their experiences as per their original agreement. Here, Shirase measures the depth of a hole in the ice, bringing to mind a remark that Les Stroud had while traversing a glacier in one of his earlier episodes. While taking a shortcut over a glacier to reach a meadow, he encounters numerous crevices in the ice. Formed by the movement of ice, which opens up cracks, he says that some of them are deep enough so that if he’d fallen in, he’d never be found.

  • Is it possible to drink meltwater from ponds on the surface in Antarctica in real life? With its cold conditions suppressing bacterial growth and almost nonexistent exposure to pollutants, save for traces from the atmosphere, this water is quite clean and would be something that Les Stroud would recommend making use of in a survival situations. Mari and the others find it very refreshing to try. Here, Hinata reminds the others that whatever troubles she’s experiencing should not have any bearing on the others, befitting of her usual manner; while admirable, her friends genuinely worry about her.

  • While helping out with the deployment of solar panels and placement of satellite markers, Shirase manages to get Hinata to open up about how she genuinely felt over what’d happened in high school: she explained earlier to Mari and the others that she was an exceptional track student who incurred the jealousy of senior students, who retaliated by spreading rumours that lead her to leave high school. While she maintained a cheerful outlook on life after, she has trouble deciding whether or not she can forgive those who simply stood by and watched, and it takes developing trust with her friends, especially Shirase, before Hinata is able to openly confront how she feels about things.

  • Shirase doesn’t forgive easily and during their next live broadcast, delivers a tongue-lashing towards Hinata’s former teammates, calling them out for their actions and stating that Hinata’s moved on. Hinata is moved to tears by the spectacle of how deeply her friends care for her. I personally do not forgive easily – while some contend that only the strong can forgive, I maintain that forgiveness is something that must be earned. I do not give out free passes, seeing it as a key indicator of weakness when forgiveness is handed out too easily. Conversely, when an individual demonstrates they have earned forgiveness, I will regard them as I would anyone else who has earned their respect.

  • Shirase and Gin share another conversation about Takako. Shirase’s internal conflict about Takako is brought to bear in the penultimate episode – her entire reason for coming was to learn of her mother’s fate since her disappearance three years previously, and she feels that once this is done, her entire raison d’être will evaporate. Fearing this loss of purpose, she hesitates to go on an excursion to the site where Takako was last seen. With much support from Mari and the others, Shirase decides to go.

  • The girls help Kanae set up the snowcat convoy by lashing the vehicles together and attaching the required provisions. Once they set off, a ferocious blizzard strikes: Antarctica may be classified as a desert, but blizzards are not uncommon, and once they set in, visibility drops down to zero.

  • Ice crystals in the air create a spectacular phenomenon for Mari and the others to behold: known as a sun pillar, this results when hexagonal ice crystals align in the air to create a large mirror of sorts that reflects the light. While the sun is the most common light source for sun pillars, the moon and even street lamps can create light pillars. They can be observed with a nontrivial frequency where I am: owing to the climate, airborne ice crystals create all manners of observable optical phenomenon. Besides sun pillars, sun dogs and halos are also commonly seen during the winter.

  • In general, reception to A Place Further Than The Universe is very positive, with some people counting it as the strongest anime of the season. Discussions have gone in interesting directions elsewhere, from Shirase’s conflicted feelings about being up close and personal with penguins (the real deal, not the Pittsburgh Penguins) to whether or not the anime could’ve been better with more episodes. Aside from some incoherent ramblings from one “Verso Sciolto” (who’s plagued talks of Kimi no Na wa previously with pseudo-intellectual banter of no substance), talks have been reasoned, well-thought out and generally show that behind the enjoyment factor, is a show that’s clearly taken the time to ensure it strikes a balance between realism and narrative advancement.

  • Takako vanished during a blizzard, and while nodding off to Gin recounting Takako’s final words, Shirase sees her mother’s Force Ghost. Mari thanks Shirase for having allowed everyone to have come so far. When the girls enter the observatory, Mari tearfully sets off, feeling that Shirase’s trip would have fulfilled its purpose only if they can find any hint that Takako was once there. They scatter into the facility and locate a laptop that Takako used.

  • There’s a bit of waterworks in A Place Further Than The Universe, some of which is warranted and some of which might feel a little excessive. When Shirase opens Takako’s laptop and it hits her that her mother never received and never will read any of the messages, the finality of her death hits her in full. The tears come out, while outside of the room, Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki silently cry for Shirase, and audiences also feel the impact of what’s going down. This is one moment where the tears are appropriate.

  • As their time in Antarctica comes to an end, Mari enjoys a shaved ice made from glacial ice: the dissolved air bubbles in the ice date back several millennia, and while not tasting any difference than standard ice, when one considers that they are ingesting something that’s been untouched for such a period time, it is interesting compared against the “ordinary” water and air we drink and breathe. Once each of the characters have overcome their own individual barriers, the finale is much more light-hearted in nature, and back at base, the adults unveil a banner thanking Mari and the others for having helped out.

  • Shirase cuts her hair short, signifying a renewed outlook on the world and a fresh start. A major change in hairstyle has long associated with a change in relationship status, but the practise is actually a global one – longer hair might represent the past, and to cut it indicates a willingness to let go and move on. While Shirase’s not suffered any heartbreak, she’s nonetheless feeling like a new person with the sum of her experiences in Antarctica.

  • The time has thus come for Shirase, Yuzuki, Mari and Hinata to leave Antarctica, bringing their trip to an end, and it is here I explain the page quote. A long time ago, some of my readers felt that the quotes I picked had hardly any relationship to the post in question; while I can see the connection immediately, I understand that my non sequitur thinking means that parallels that I intuitively draw are not apparent, hence this practise. Today’s quote comes from J.R.R. Tolkein – he refers to Bilbo’s adventures and involvements with the Quest for Erebor, stating that it is challenge and adversity that is worth recounting. From struggling to begin their adventure to fighting amongst one another, from seasickness to the challenges of Antarctica itself, Mari and the others have experienced their share of adversity on the journey to Antarctica.

  • Had Mari chosen to remain idle and live in the status quo, it is likely that none of the events in A Place Further Than The Universe will have occurred. Audiences are therefore happy that Mari took the initiative to step out of her comfort zone: while she had no real learnings in Antarctica, her internal conflicts were presented early into the season and as a character, she reaches her resolution once the trip becomes realised and she parts ways with Megumi.

  • Having eaten shaved ice made with All-Genuine Antarctica glacier ice and walked amongst the penguins, the only thing that Shirase and the others have not done is experienced the aurora australis, the southern equivalent of the aurora borealis. As they rest on the deck of the icebreaker, a stunning display begins, filling the skies with curtains of shimmering light. Coincidentally, Gin sends Shirase the final email that Takako had intended to send Shirase before she passed on; it was that the southern lights are much more beautiful in person.

  • Mari’s journey in A Place Further Than The Universe ends where it began, and she returns home. She sends a message to Megumi, who replies that she’s in the Arctic. Unlike Frodo, who’s tribulations in Middle Earth and exposure to the One Ring’s evil has a permanent effect on him, Mari will have no trouble resuming her old life. The epilogue shows each of Hinata, Yuzuki and Shirase going their separate ways, having come back from Antarctica with a profoundly changed world-view and presumably, a newfound appreciation for what they do have. When their journey began, each of Mari, Yuzuki, Hinata and Shirase were longing for something more: A Place Further Than The Universe shows how their travels help each of the girls fill the gaps.

  • I’ll close off with a screenshot of Megumi in the arctic, mention that this post has 5426 words, and as is customary, give A Place Further Than The Universe a numerical score. With a score of A+ (9.5 of 10), A Place Further Than The Universe ties with Yuru Camp△, but the distinction here is that the presence of a more cohesive narrative and clear objective means that I could recommend A Place Further Than The Universe to anyone. With the last of my March posts in the books, I look ahead to the shows of the Spring season, mention that I’ll be writing about Violet Evergarden once the firefights on that settles, and return to Battlefield 1, where a new patch fixes mid-round balancing, changes visibility when looking outside from inside a building and also makes the PTFO skins legendary rarity along with other UI improvements.

As per my original expectation, Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki’s friendships are tested and through trial by fire, the girls come out stronger than they entered. While I previously was unsure whether or not A Place Further Than The Universe would take a more plausible or fairy-tale like approach in dealing with Takako, the later aspects of the series also answered that question, choosing to go with a realistic approach that simultaneously serves as the catalyst for Shirase’s maturation. Overall, A Place Further Than The Universe has many positives going for it, being a show that I looked forwards to each and every week once I got into it. In conjunction with its riveting story, highly engaging and likeable characters and technical excellence, the only thing that one can really hold against A Place Further Than The Universe is the fact that the waterworks come out a bit too frequently than one might reasonably expect of high school girls. While the dramatic might be occasionally placed into situations more often than necessary, it does not serve to detract from A Place Further Than The Universe‘s story. Consequently, I am confident in giving A Place Further Than The Universe a strong recommendation: the biggest draw is simply watching Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki grow as they spend more time together, work together to overcome challenges and ultimately, gain a broader view of the world together. With A Place Further Than The Universe now over on such a decisive note, I do not expect there to be a direct sequel, although the possibility of a spin-off dealing with Megumi and her path to the Arctic following Mari’s departure would be a story well worth telling.

A Place Further Than The Universe: Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” –Drake

Mari Tamaki is an ordinary high school student in her second year. She constantly longs to do something exciting during her youth but has the propensity of backing down before embarking on any adventures. When she finds an envelope containing a million yen, she learns that it belongs to one Shirase Kobuchizawa, who intends to travel to Antarctica in search of her missing mother. Inspired by Shirase’s resolve, Mari resolves to support Shirase, and she takes up a part-time position at a convenience store to raise the funds required to travel. She befriends Hinata Miyake, who had overheard Shirase and Mari’s plans and yearns to accompany them. When they attempt to participate in a meeting for expedition members, Kanae Maekawa and Yumiko Samejima catch on. They learn of Shirase’s aspirations and decline her requests to join. Later, Shirase, Mari and Hinata encounter Yuzuki Shiraishi, a young actress who is trying to worm her way out of going to Antarctica. Yuzuki, having spent her life acting, never made any friends and so, longs for a normal life, but when Mari invites her to hang out, she realises that she’s found friends among Mari and the others. She decides to accept the Antarctica assignment on the condition that Mari, Shirase and Hinata accompany her. The girls attend a training camp, where they meet captain Gin Todo, who knew Shirase’s mother, and later, Mari and Shirase receive a proper send-off from their school. Megumi reveals that she’d grown jealous of Mari, who’d become more independent since the Anarctica trip materialised, and Mari promises that she’ll return. Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki travel to Singapore for the first leg of their journey, where Hinata seemingly loses her passport. When it turns out that Shirase had taken it for safe keeping, an irate Mari and Yuzuki force Shirase and Hinata to eat a whole durian as recompense.

A Place Further Than The Universe, or Sora Yorimo Tōi Basho, is perhaps this season’s most unexpected anime: earnest and forward in its portrayal of a journey motivated by multiple factors, precise in its presentation of detail and striking a balance between the comedic and dramatic, there’s been no shortage of discussion on A Place Further Than The Universe out there. From the minute details in geolocation using waypoints and flags, to the portrayal of Singapore, A Place Further Than The Universe is an anime that invites praise discussion and scrutinisation. However, par the course for anime discussions wherever real-world details and drama are involved, folks often forget about the overarching themes within the narrative, which is akin to understanding how an engine works but not know what an engine is used for. There is a much bigger picture in A Place Further Than The Universe than what is presented at the halfway point, but for the present, the simpler and more immediate theme A Place Further Than The Universe aims to present is that the journey matters as much as the destination. This accounts for why, despite being presented as an anime about high school girls visiting Antarctica, the entirety of the first half deals with the preparations Mari and the others undertake before this dream can become a reality. From Mari summoning the courage to carry out one of her long-standing wishes of doing something worthy of remembrance and Shirase’s determination pushing her to continue her initially-futile goal of visiting Antarctica, to the fateful turn of events that bring Yuzuki into their group, A Place Further Than The Universe makes every effort to show the human aspects that transpire to turn Shirase’s pipe dream into reality. How the girls’ dreams begin, and their efforts to realise this dream, matter more than the end goal: Shirase’s seemingly-unattainable and foolish dream has the effect of bringing people together, and unified, the girls set out to Antarctica, each with their own reasons for undertaking this journey.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Featuring a bawling Mari is probably a strange way to open up a post, but I think I understand how Mari feels about having not done anything in her youth. Now that I’m no longer a carefree youth, the opportunity to go out and do something is rarer, and in Mari’s case, the cure to what she feels is to summon the courage and resolve to do something, picking something that balances what is feasible with what is memorable, and then executing. This forms the basis for the whole of A Place Further Than The Universe, which sees Mari’s world turned upside down once she encounter Shirase.

  • Mari is voiced by Inori Minase, who by now, is a well-known voice actress with numerous leading roles. In A Place Further Than The Universe, her delivery of Mari’s lines is such that Mari bears very little resemblance to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu or Girls’ Last Tour‘s Chito. She’s speaking animatedly to Megumi Takahashi, a friend she’s known for a considerable period. Of the two, Megumi is the more level-headed and usually offers Mari advice.

  • After stumbling across an envelope containing one million yen (about 11550 CAD), Mari manages to find the owner; she encounters her crying about it in the bathroom, and after returning the money, learns that the money belongs to Shirase, who is somewhat infamous for her persistent attempts to go to Antarctica. Long ridiculed by her classmates, Shirase longs to fulfil her dream in order to find her missing mother, as well as to stick it to all of the naysayers who dismissed her dreams as impossible. Shirase mentions to Mari that everyone who initially displayed interest in her endeavours eventually backed down, but Mari, having long wanted to break out of her perpetual habit of backing away, decides to commit to and support Shirase’s goal of reaching Antarctica.

  • A stern-looking girl, Shirase begins smiling more once she encounters Mari and finds that Mari is serious about helping her. One of Shirase’s strong and weak points is her single-mindedness; once her sights are set on a target, there’s no shaking her from seeing things through to the end, and she’ll endure ridicule because she understands that it’s what she believes, rather than those against her, that matters the most. However, it also alienates her from those around her – Shirase is quite unwilling to deviate from a plan or find alternative solutions when things don’t work out, leading to conflict.

  • Without any clear plan of how to join the civilian-crewed expedition, Mari initially decides to start small, and takes on a part time job at a convenience store to earn some money to fund her travels. She is employed at the same store as one Hinata, who has been listening to Mari and Shirase’s conversations with great interest. The two strike off a friendship while working together, and two become three. Hinata spends most of her time working and studying independently, having long felt herself to be uncomfortable in the high school environment.

  • While in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, trying to sneak into a meeting with the expedition members, Hinata suggests using their powers to “convince” male members of the team to allow them in. Hilarity and chaos results – it turns out that Shirase is the equivalent of K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama. Aloof, stoic and serious, she’s also the most stacked of everyone and is prone to fits of immaturity. Hinata, with her energy and spirits, resembles Ritsu Tainaka, while Mari is similar to Yui Hirasawa, being quite lacking in direction but is surprisingly reliable when the situation calls for it. Like Mio, Shirase seems to be humiliated quite a bit, and here, Hinata and Mari attempt to haul her into meeting up with the expedition members. Their endeavours backfire, but Shirase is afforded an audience with expedition members. Yumiko and Kanae, who decline Shirase’s assistance.

  • On a hot summer’s day, Yuzuki encounters Hinata kicking Shirase’s ass while Mari looks on. A child actress, Yuzuki was originally assigned as the high school student who would accompany the civilian expedition team to Antarctica as a part of her duties, but longing for nothing more than friendship and an ordinary high school experience, Yuzuki has no interest in going. Tamiko, her mother and manager, overrule this, but seeing Yuzuki’s resistance and the spirit amongst Shirase, Mari, and Hinata, she decides that if they can manage to convince Yuzuki to go, then they may accompany her.

  • Up until this point, I’ve been reasonably disciplined with “funny faces”, but the time has come to throw caution into the wind. Here, Hinata and Mari attempt to convince Tamiko that Shirase is a suitable replacement for Yuzuki. While Shirase may be styled after the Japanese hime, Tamiko asks if Shirase can sing, dance and act, essential skills in Yuzuki’s line of work, but Shirase evidently lacks experience here, hence her embarrassment.

  • Despite her strict mannerisms, Shirase will cave like a stack of dominos when pressured sufficiently. After finding Yuzuki, Mari and the others settle themselves down with her and begin speaking with her about Antarctica – Yuzuki deduces that they’re here because of her mother, and while Mari manages to betray little of the truth, Yuzuki manages to learn the truth from Shirase’s reaction. It is here that Yuzuki’s story is presented, and later, after a dream where she accepts Mari’s friendship, Yuzuki decides to hang out with Mari and her friends: their first time spending a day together sees the girls visit a museum with an Antarctica exhibit.

  • Seeing Mari, Shirase and Hinata’s warmth and companionship lead Yuzuki to reach a decision: she will accept her assignment provided that Shirase, Mari and Hinata can accompany her. Logically equivalent to her mother’s requirements, it’s a win-win for everyone. Accustomed to acting and performing, Yuzuki resembles Wake Up, Girls! Mayu Shimada in terms of background and appearance. She prefers practical, comfortable clothing over excessively ornate designs, and I cannot help but wonder if Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! would have benefitted from having a well-known studio work on its animation: Madhouse has legends such as Chobits, The Princess and The Pilot and Rideback in its repertoire.

  • After Mari forges her mother’s signature on a form, her parents somehow find out, and Mari gets her face kicked in. She notices something is off when her mother presents a variety of Antarctica-related items, and in the prelude for what awaits Mari is one of history’s most amusing funny faces. A large amount of the comedy in A Place Further Than The Universe are the exaggerated facial expressions, which give Shirobako a run for its money. As punishment for having forged a signature, Mari must pass all of her exams in order to be granted permission to ship out to Antarctica, and on top of this, she’s got a summer training camp to prepare her for her journey.

  • I’m concurrently watching and writing about Yuru Camp△, and while the latter has more emphasis on easy-going camping, A Place Further Than The Universe deals with a journey that might involve an actual survival situation. As a result, Mari and the others attend a training camp to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations required for safety. Les Stroud has never done any Survivorman episodes in Antarctica because of the extreme dangers and remoteness of the southernmost continent: it’s the last continent that humanity has explored, and its population extends only to researchers studying the continuent’s biota.

  • The closest approximation of Antarctica in a Survivorman episode would be when Les Stroud visits the Arctic Tundra near Pond Inet. Back in A Place Further Than The Universe, the girls begin with a geolocation and waypoint setting exercise. In the absence of familiar terrestrial landmarks, researchers make use of flags and GPS to ensure they don’t get lost amongst the vast ice sheet covering the southernmost continent. The girls are subsequently tasked with camping out, and unlike the gourmet cooking of Yuru Camp△A Place Further Than The Universe is rather more focused – when Mari tries to get some conversation going, the others remind her to stay on-mission.

  • Gin later is seen speaking with Yumiko about Shirase, remarking that Shirase is strikingly similar to her mother in terms of personality. After Shirase makes her story known, the others give her some space and step out into the chilly night, seeing the Milky Way and what a true night sky might look like. Staff at headquarters radio in to check up on Mari and the others; Hinata reports that the situation is normal, and the girls turn in for the night.

  • The next morning, Mari awakens to find Gin nearby and asks her about Shirase’s mother, before gazing at a majestic sunrise. Animation in A Place Further Than The Universe is of a very high standard: the characters may look a little unusual, but their design is by choice, made to accommodate a unique brand of expressiveness that very few series can convey with just facial characteristics. The end result is that characters stand out amongst the exceptionally detailed landscapes and interiors.

  • During a publicity event for the Antarctica expedition, Shiease has trouble presenting her goals in front of an audience, and Mari inadvertently evokes Yuzuki’s displeasure by implying that Yuzuki is familiar with public speaking. As it turns out, Shirase might be able to speak with absolute resolve and clarity when it’s to disprove others who doubt her, but when this opposition is not present to motivate her, she falters and reverts to a shy, easily flustered manner. This is probably Shirase’s true self, with the tough, strict persona being more of a façade.

  • It stands to reason that Mari ended up passing all of her exams, since she’s preparing for her trip here. While a bit weak-resolved, Mari’s undergone a considerable change in the space of six episodes, and here, she wonders what she’s allowed to bring with her. Equipment from Les Stoud’s usual survival loadout, which include a multi-tool, hatchet or knife, and a harmonica, are noticeably absent from the girls’ inventories: his gear is designed to help him survive in most areas except for the Arctic and Antarctica.

  • After the school sees them off, Mari receives a bouquet from her classmates. Later, Megumi warns Mari that resentment is growing amongst the student population, leading Shirase to vehemently declare a desire to root them out. Hinata suggests that they visit a karaoke bar to decompress. Shirase ends up screaming into the mic; this brings to mind Reina’s actions back in Hibike! Euphonium, and it’s supposed to be a release for stress. Known formally as primal scream therapy, I find that kiai in karate is similar in function, so rather than acting like Reina, I destress while doing kata and other exercises.

  • On the eve of the expedition, Mari’s parents and sister make her favourite meal: omelette rice with an egg tart pudding. I suppose now is a good time as any to note that Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki are all voiced by voice actresses that I’m familiar with. Shirase is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino and Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Sonoko Nogi), Hinata is voiced by Yuka Iguchi (Mako Reizei of Girls und Panzer and Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki), and Yuzuki is voiced by Saori Hayami (Aoyama Blue Mountain of GochiUsa and Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita).

  • It turns out that all of the ills affecting Mari, from some students finding out about Shirase’s million Yen and her parents discovering the truth about her forged signature, to the alleged rumours, were a part of Megumi’s desperate bid to keep Mari at home. She reveals that in Mari’s absence, she will become lonely and has long depended on Mari being around so she could help her. Wanting to end their friendship here, Megumi is ultimately consoled by Mari, who declines Megumi’s request.

  • While I don’t hate flying per se, the pressure differentials does make me a bit uncomfortable on long-haul flights. On average, a flight from Tokyo to Singapore, the layover on the girl’s trip to Fremantle in Australia, lasts around seven hours and forty minutes. Mari’s excitement at being at the airport evokes memories of the K-On! Movie, and while A Place Further Than The Universe initially feels far removed from the easygoing adventure that Yui and the others take while trying to find a suitable graduation gift for Azusa, the travels that both groups experience end up sharing the commonality of enriching the girls’ world views and create unique memories that they will treasure long after they return home.

  • The reason why airline food is the subject of so many comedic jokes has its roots in science: the lower pressure and cool, dry environment inside the airplane cabin dries out our olfactory systems and also lessens the sensitivity of our taste buds. In conjunction with the food preparation methods, which reduces the freshness of the ingredients and dries them out, folks have long found airline food to be a cut below conventional food. With this being said, advances in food preparation and our understanding of what’s going on mean that airlines have begun experimenting with modifying the flavour profile of foods. By using savoury ingredients and creative preparation, more enjoyable airline meals can be made. Of course, on long flights, I’m too exhausted to give a crap, and I’ll eat to replenish my energy.

  • Paralleling Yui and Ritsu’s antics whenever they travel, Mari and Hinata immediately hit up an ice cream stand in Singapore and attempts to haggle with the operator. It strikes me as strange that Mari did not bother exchanging her Yen for local currency, reinforcing the idea that she’s green to travel. This had me a bit worried, since inexperience could get her into trouble. While I don’t travel with a high frequency, I count myself as being quite lucky in having travelled before. Besides ensuring my passport is in good shape, one of the first things I do when travelling is visit the currency exchange to have the proper money: as much as I love the Canadian money, it’s bloody useless outside of Canada.

  • One’s passport is the single most important document they have while travelling: it allows one to enter and exit a foreign nation, and return home to their own nation. As such, every traveller’s worst fear is losing their passport: Hinata finds herself in a bit of a bind when her passport goes missing. It’s a lingering question even as the episode progresses, and the girls correctly identify the solution as visiting the local embassy to get a new passport. To help with procedure in the event that such an incident occurs, it’s also recommended that one keep a backup image of their passport with them: as phones are now widespread, and good PDF (or photo) apps are commonplace, there’s really no excuse not to scan one’s passport ahead of one’s travels and load it onto the phone’s local storage (I say this because WiFi is not a sure thing).

  • The anime community in Singapore is large, and when viewers from Singapore saw their hometown being depicted, they immediately set about matching all of the locations seen in A Place Further Than The Universe to their real-world equivalents. What they found was an impressive degree of realism, and this sets the precedence for what is to come (although strictly speaking, I would have preferred if Mari and the others visited Hong Kong, a city more vibrant and worth visiting that Singapore). If A Place Further Than The Universe is anything like Yuru Camp△, then the Antarctica sections will similarly be faithful to how things work out in the real world.

  • Ordering dinner at hotel restaurants is always a bit more pricey than eating out, primarily because of the fact that hotels have stricter regulations on the quality of their ingredients, and also as a consequence of service costs. As well, there’s also factors related to the table turnover in hotels, which are lower than that of other restaurants. While Yuzuki and Hinata look through the menu, Mari laments the lack of Japanese options at the restaurant; they end up ordering gargantuan fried rice dishes from misunderstanding how Chinese restaurants serve food, thinking it’s individual portions.

  • By nightfall, the girls visit the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, and Mari wonders if they can access the pool. Admissions are around 19 CAD for adults, and the pool is open between 0930 and 2200 (2300 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday). As it’s a Saturday, they could have visited had they chosen, although they likely would not have swimwear, and so, they spend the evening looking over the Singapore skyline, with Mari commenting on how it’s amazing that there are so many people out there living their lives. It’s a thought that flits across my mind when I travel, and I’m certain that other folks travelling likely entertain similar thoughts, as well.

  • After Hinata’s missing passport comes out into the open, the girls struggle to decide on what the best course of action is. In a time of crisis, the characters’ attitudes are presented to the audience and also to one another. Hinata reveals that she hates folks who put others ahead of themselves, while Shirase refuses to leave anyone behind. She eventually uses her million yen to purchase the next set of tickets to Fremantle, so as to allow Hinata enough time to get a new passport from the embassy.

  • For better or for worse, the girls resolve to stick together, and Hinata is moved by her friends’ companionship. It’s a bit of a turning point for her, having been on her own previously, seeing what real friendship is like here moves her to tears. We’re nearly done with this post, and with this, I’m now completely caught up on A Place Further Than The Universe. It seems I’ve picked a good spot to do the half-way point impressions: the girls will continue their journey to Antarctica in upcoming episodes, and it’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen from here on out.

  • However, as it turns out, Hinata’s passport was with Shirase the entire time, having handed it to her for safekeeping after exiting customs. Yuzuki is able to get a refund for the tickets, and as a result for having caused this bit of skulduggery, Shirase and Hinata are made to eat durian. I’ll say this openly: forget XKCD‘s grapefruit,  fuck durians. I might be okay with eating blood tofu and chicken feet, but the overwhelming taste of durians means that this is one food I’m not ever trying. With my complaints about durians out of the way, posts after this one will include the halfway point talk for Slow Start and a post for CLANNAD, where Tomoyo and Kyou’s arc will draw to a close ten years ago as of Wednesday.

While I was late to the party in both starting and writing about A Place Further Than The Universe, I’ve caught up with the show, and I note that I’ll do two reviews on this anime in total. From a technical perspective, A Place Further Than The Universe is impressive: the artwork and animation are of a solid quality, as is the voice acting and aural components. Of note in A Place Further Than The Universe are the distinct character designs: each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki have facial expressions that definitely contributed to my enjoyment of A Place Further Than The Universe. I refer to these as “funny faces”, and in A Place Further Than The Universe, these are plentiful, conveying precisely to audiences what the characters are feeling. In conjunction with voice talents from some of the industry’s best, emotions in A Place Further Than The Universe are vividly conveyed to viewers, from the most hilarious of moments to those where things become more subdued and serious. As the anime pushes forward, it’s evident that reaching Antarctica will be A Place Further Than The Universe‘s end goal. At this point, it’s still early to be speculating as to whether or not Shirase will reunite with her mother or not (from what I gathered about the main theme in A Place Further Than The Universe, I’ve not been able to make a well-reasoned prediction yet), but what is clear is that the journey ahead of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki will put strain on their friendship and leave them with stronger bonds with one another than before. This journey will undoubtedly have a profound effect on each individual, and it will be interesting to see how the Antarctica expedition will help each of the girls mature through their mutual experiences.