Alternative title(s): Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho, A Story That Leads to the Antarctica
Anime original by Madhouse
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Dissatisfied with the lackadaisical life she’s been living up to now, Mari Tamaki decides to skip school and venture out into the unknown, but is too scared to eventually go through with it. One evening, she comes across an envelope dropped by a girl, and discovers it contains one million yen. She soon learns that the girl, Shirase Kobuchizawa, has been saving up the money to travel to Antarctica and find her missing mother.
Aqua’s verdict: Frozen Delight
It’s becoming a bit of a nuisance, isn’t it? All these excellent coming-of-age stories the anime industry keeps turning out? A Place Further Than The Universe is another hallmark, an ostensibly simple show that knocks its own curveballs out of the park with a presentation only a Kyoto Animation production could match. That’s not where the comparison ends, however. Finally saddled with an original project that allows her to flaunt all of her cinematic talents, director Atsuko Ishizuka (No Game, No Life, HaNaYaMaTa) not only shares Naoko Yamada’s (Sound! Euphonium, A Silent Voice) love for imaginative shots, sharp cuts and legs, she’s also fully mastered the art of making drawings act like genuine human beings. The strong character acting and delightful comedic timing make A Place Further Than the Universe one of anime’s few subtle comedies that actually works, and an understated joy to watch throughout.
Yet Ishizuka’s license to cut loose is only as affective as it is because of the excellent script she’s been allowed to play with. Pitched as yet another bizarre, high-concept moe comedy drawn from a hat, A Place Further Than The Universe instead turned out to be a coming-of-age story in disguise. In fact, it uses the Antarctica trip as such an obvious stand-in for the common teenage desires Mari is struggling with — escape from the daily routine, make something of your young life — I wouldn’t be surprised if our plucky heroines never make it there in the first place. As old as the “maybe the real journey was the friends we made along the way” chestnut is, this show sells it like tickets for a Marvel movie on opening night — using easily digestible symbolism and smart callbacks to deliver a pilot episode that easily stands on its own, regardless of how the rest of the show turns out. Start your anime year off on a good note, and give this one a try.
Iro’s verdict: Strong Start
We’re starting 2018 with a bang, and it’s probably all downhill from here. The only real issue I have after the first episode is everything is so tightly paced that I worry if it can adequately fill out even a single cour, but really that’s just a testament to how good the first episode is. Atsuko Ishizuka’s directing is as solid as they come – I particularly like the use of signs in the fore/background to wink at the audience – and the cast is more relatable than the usual “cute girls” type of show, with an end goal clearly established. Here’s a show I’ll gladly keep watching.
Zigg’s verdict: Further Than Expected
Despite sounding like a parody entry into the increasingly crowded ‘girls do completely random stuff together’ genre, i was actually seriously wowed by this debut episode. It’s got a great grasp of characterisation and pace, slowing down to allow us to get to know Mari, yet never bogging down in exposition, keeping the story ticking over just enough to keep things interesting. That, and they wait until the back half of the episode to introduce the gimmick, and do so in a relatively realistic and affecting fashion. Combine that with absolutely fantastic visuals and clever, subtle directing from Atsuko Ishizuka and the net result is a show which feels classy and high quality straight from the start. Very much hoping for more like this.