All of my reviews contain spoilers for the reviewed material. This is your only warning. TOKYO 14000 KM signpost seen near the end of the series Lets be clear right from the getgo here. A Place Further Than The Universe is not really about Antarctica per se. Its about Antarctica in the same way that Citizen Kane is about running a newspaper business. Further is more akin to a young adult novel than anything else an adventure series whose premise straddles a line between the fantastical and the merely unlikely it is certainly technically possible that a group of highschoolers might someday be sent to Antarctica but its not exactly a safe bet is it? and indeed the animes very title is an allusion to the sheer improbability of the task at handspace seems a more likely destination than the worlds final frozen continent. What makes this work is the series buildup taking protagonist Kimaris desire to tag along with her friend Shirase to Antarctica from in the beginning more of a mere impulse to a full on quest by the end of the fourth episode complete with a sunrise and stirring music. The desire to go to Antarctica specifically may not resonate with many but the desire to go out and see the world to escapeeven temporarilyfrom ones everyday hometown life to go in the shows own words to somewhere that isnt here is damn near universal. Near its halfway point at the end of the fifth episode is where it becomes clear that Antarctica in this series is a metaphor for growing up and more specifically for seizing control of ones life for shaking up ones routine. On the dawn of Kimaris departure Megumi Kimaris longtime childhood friend and recurring secondstringer throughout the first half of the series tearfully breaks up her friendship with Kimari and confesses that shes been spreading rumors and making Kimaris life difficult in a bid to sabotage her trip to frozen frontier. Both characters cry fullon ghibli tears as Megumi comes to the realization that shes been clinging to her friend and using her as an emotional crutch. The soundtrack swells and Kimari rejects the break up forgiving her friend even as the both of them step into a world without each other for the first time since they were kids. Its the third episode in a row to deliver a knockout finale and easily places Further in the upper echelon of anime in its season all on its own. This extended metaphor continues throughout the series and is evident in just how much of the shows runtime is devoted to the girls overcoming the minutiae and mundanities of making the trip to Antarctica. A trip that does not actually begin in earnest until over halfway through the series. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it reaching your goals is often a hard and furthermore a tedious process filled with pitfalls and any number of things great and small that could easily go wrong. Further succeeds by not skipping over this. The series first third is dedicated to the girls simply securing the money and permission to go on the trip in the first place and the second revolves around their overcoming obstacles on the actual tripHinata losing her passport in Australia the girls adjusting to life aboard the ship and enduring a wicked bout of seasickness and so on. Then there is episode 9. Shirases character is probably the one whose initial motivation ties into this extended metaphor the least at first at any rate. For most of the series everyoneincluding the audienceassumes that the main reason Shirase wants to go to Antarctica is the distant hope of finding her mother who was part of a civilian expedition not unlike and sharing many crewmembers with the one she is on during the series latter half went missing during an inland expedition and is presumed dead. This is mostly true but theres another angle Shirases relationship with Gin Toudou the expeditionary leader Shirases late mothers friend and someone who has known Shirase herself since she was a child. Its established over the course of the series that the two have a very strained relationship and during the climax of the 9th episode they talk. Shirase blames Toudou for her mothers apparent death and is evidently somewhat in denial about doing so but more to the point and tying back into the Antarcticaasindependence theme Shirase feels that her life stalled after her mothers death she later compares it in episode 12 to a dream she feels like she never woke up from. The rhetoric is familiar every day was the same. Antarctica again serves as a means of escape an end to the endless everydaythe Slice of Life cycle of consequencefree repetition that many lighthearted anime embrace but in the real world and here is a trap. Shirase pours her heart out and we are met with the immediate visual metaphor of the expedition ship hitting fast ice and having to ram through it as well as a brief history lesson about Japans allotted routes to the frozen continent. The episode ends with our girlsall at oncestepping foot onto the Antarctic snow. A place further than the universe finally within reach. So with all of this said how does one assess Further Than The Universe in a broad sense? On the whole and within the context of its medium? Well heres the thing. When it premiered Further got unfairly pegged with the nondescription that is the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things pseudogenre and while the term isnt entirely inaccurate here certainly the cast is allfemale and they are adorable true enough its not even close to the full picture. Further is an adventure series and furthermore har har it is one defined in part by a thematic opposition to the slice of life series that make up the majority of what gets called CGDCT. Further is boiled down to its barest essentials a story about coming of age about becoming independent and about breaking away from the societal cycles it is all too easy to get trapped in. Look for instance at how little of the show actually takes place in high school despite its main cast all being teenage girls and how its unambiguously portrayed as a place of trauma and a place to escape for Shirase and Hinata. The series is not entirely unique in this regard as this kind of antiSlice of Life genre dates back at least to Sound of The Sky if not farther. But the key difference between Further and many of those earlier series is twofold. The first is that Further takes place in a setting much more akin to the real world the events improbable but far from impossible as opposed to a dystopia or similarly downbeat setting and the second is related that Further finds in that opposition not something disheartening or depressing but something inspiring. There is nothing antagonistic about Furthers relationship to cozy slice of life shows it stands apart from them and as a result of its ambitions is something altogether different. There is of course more to the showboth in breadth and depthin the end it is probably impossible to touch on every single thing that Yoromoi does right. There is so much packed into its thirteen episodes that there is a real temptation to ramble until words lose their meaning about them. It is a story about growing up independence friendship parents. Big ideas broad things that a lesser anime would sweep aside entirely or carefully pick and choose from. Part of what makes Further so brilliant is how all of this fullness and richness takes not a single thing away from the main arc of the showShirase coming to Antarctica the place where her mother died. An arc that finally reaches a sobinducing conclusion at the end of the shows penultimate episode where in its biggest break from reality but such a wellearned one the girls visiting the camp site where Shirases mother disappeared near find two things. One a frostencrusted picture of Shirase and her mother. The other a miraculously stillfunctioning laptop. Shirase opens the computer opens her mothers email and sees messagesover a thousand of them from Shirase herself to her mothers untouched in years inboxpouring in. Here Shirase and the other girls break down crying and so its not unlikely do you. The last episode is probably the one that hews closest to what the term slice of life usually conjures but by that point its so wellearned and so deserved that its just more emotional payoff. Even in its victory lap the show captures you over and over. The scene at the end of the twelfth episode is probably what will set off the most waterworks but for me the title card at the very end of the series is what sent me tearing up Further absolutely does not ever lapse even for a second. It is ultimately that very command of emotion genuinely masterful in its execution that makes Further so perfect. Its flawsextant but minorare so few and nitpicky as to not even be worth mentioning when every single note of character and plot development is played this well they simply dont matter. If all of us had friends like Shirases finding our own personal Antarctica would not be so hard and its telling that the series itself seems to wish us that exact thing. After all at the very end of the last episode we have this: 880 The sort of touching farewell that assures you that yes the people who made this genuinely did pour their whole hearts into it. Somewhat incredibly Further is director Atsuko Ishizukas first longform project that is not an adaptation. If this is a work of auteurship then we can only hope that the title of the final episode Well Go On Another Journey Somedayis something of a promise of more of thisthis whole thingin anime. Its something well worth hoping for. 880 If you enjoy my work you may wish to follow me on Twitter to get updates about my work and learn how you can support me. And if you liked this review why not check out some of my others here on Anilist?
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