Let’s get something clear straight off the bat; I’m a grown man and I don’t cry whilst watching anime. I definitely didn’t cry whilst watching this one. Honestly, there was just something in my eye.
A Place Further than the Universe has one of those rare plots that strikes a balance between believable and extraordinary. High school student Kimari feels life is passing her by somewhat and yearns to go on an adventure. But Kimari isn’t destined for the usual tourist trail; there’ll be no European backpacking for this young lady. Instead, she meets fellow high schooler Shirase, an initially distant, withdrawn figure. But the two become friends and Shirase reveals an ambitious plan; she hopes one day, to travel to Antarctica, where her mother disappeared on an expedition years before.
It seems an unlikely goal, but the pair are soon joined by high-school dropout Hinata and child actress Yuzuki, and together they muster up the resources to join an Antarctic expedition. Together, they form a team bonded by an extraordinary friendship, as they journey to a “place further than the universe”.
The series has a lot going for it. From the catchy score, to the beautifully crafted frozen landscapes, everything comes together to compliment this heart-wrenching story. The four main characters are something of a strong point for Place; there’s just the right amount of tension within the group for their interactions to remain believable, without descending into soap opera-esque perpetual drama. There are certain anime which try to portray groups of especially close friends and end up with a gaggle of mutually adoring sycophants instead, but happily Place avoided going down that route, instead creating four well-rounded characters who actually behaved like real teenage girls.
The visuals are magnificent too. The artists had a broad range of settings to work with, from the concrete and steel beauty of Singapore to the icy wilds of Antarctica, and the backgrounds are minutely detailed in a stunning array of colours. Whether it’s skyscrapers or snowdrifts, you’ll always have something pretty to look at in the background.
My only gripe with this series was a couple of episodes towards the end which tried to give background information on members of the group. It’s always nice to delve a little deeper into character’s past, but the pacing felt a little off, with a certain amount of superfluous drama shoehorned in, creating a frustrating distraction from Shirase’s story, which I was already strongly invested in.
Still, a Place Further than the Universe has so much going for it, it’s allowed a few blips. Go ahead and watch it; enjoy the earwormy opening and closing themes, laugh at the jokes, and enjoy the story. Oh, and you might want to keep a tissue handy for the last couple of episodes…just in case you get something in your eye, like I did.
Jonny Keen | [rating=4]
Adventure | Japan, 2018 | Season One | Dir.Atsuko Ishizuka | Watch Crunchyroll