A Place Further Than the Universe

Alt title: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho

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Turky's avatar
Mar 29, 2018

Remember that one time we went to Antarctica?

A Place Further than the universe is a halfway-decent, forgettable journey from studio MADhouse. I'm no fan of CTGCT anime on the whole, so it's nice to see one putting in a good deal of effort to be more than its base genre, even if it falls short of greatness. This anime has a lot of strengths that are outweighed by its weaknesses.

It starts off very jarringly, with the first things I noticed being its ugly character designs, art that doesn't work with the backgrounds, shitty white lines around everything, general dullness in its color, and everything looking like it's made of plastic. The only thing that redeems this is madhouse's unavoidably decent animation, which is, as usual from madhouse, pretty damn polished.

For me the art is its biggest weakness by far. The backgrounds all look really lame and uninspired, and they're the reason why I found it hard to bring myself to care about this anime right out the gate. It wasn't easy to look at.

Fortunately it makes up for it well enough in story and characters. This anime is about girls going to antarctica. Note that it is NOT about girls BEING IN antarctica. The entire show is spent getting there, and rather than being a whimsical adventure where we all go to an exotic place, the show deals with the real life struggles of getting to that place, especially for girls that young to get there.

The show that looks shallow as hell actually ended up having some really good character drama. It's the situations that come out of these "cute girls" doing "cute things". They deal with a lot of different subjects, such as rumors, responsibility, bullying, ect in pretty mature and grounded ways.

The best characters are the main girls, who each have their own reasons for going and their own dreams. Their development isn't really about going to antarctica, but their character arcs and how going there resolves each and every one of them.

Every approach they take to the idea of raising enough money, meeting the right people, and getting the correct equipment and experience needed to go to antarctica is pretty grounded in reality, so it's easy to see the writers' passion for the subject and the story they wanted to tell. You get to see everything they go through in a not-too-boring way which makes it great when the payoff comes, especially being set up by backstories of the numerous adults they meet and the emotional stakes riding on it.

The climax of the show is dealt with in a very unique way. You feel the weight of them actually getting to antarctica in every way it shows you, from the perspectives of all the main girls, and it's a life-changing experience for all of them.

That about does it for the good parts of the show. The sound design is pretty mediocre. They have a good amount of insert songs but not all of them are used well. I got into a few debates about the use of a few of them and after much overanalysis i've come to realize that I just don't like the music in this show. I don't like the OP, ED, the insert OST, any of it. I don't think it fits the show too well, and it definitely doesn't always fit the scenes they use it in. Sometimes there will be an emotionally climactic scene and they'll play lighthearted music, ECT.

There's also the humor. The show tries to keep you on your toes and interested in the conflicts and situations by placing humor in between, of course this being a CGTCT show at heart the tone relies on the quality of that humor, and it almost never works for me. It made me laugh once, and it tried to make me laugh a hundred times. I really don't think it did its humor well at all.

Overall its decent, it has many flaws and things to complain about for me, but a lot of really good moments that make it worthwhile if you can get past them all. For me though, since i always put a lot of stock in the presentation of an anime, it's a solid "OK".

7/10 story
6/10 animation
5/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
6.2/10 overall
worknboy's avatar
Mar 28, 2018

This was a delightful slice of life story about four girls who con there way on to an Antarctic expedition. It's a story of friendship and bonding. The animation is very good. The storyline is great and above average. This is a G-rated anime that I would let my nieces watch becuase it's girl power all the way!

8/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
10/10 characters
8/10 overall
MochiMew's avatar
Dec 4, 2019

I think this might be the first review I've written on here. I like to write, so hopefully this will be good. 

MINOR SPOILERS ~~~ READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

This was not a story about Antarctica. This was a story about people. It can be considered slice-of-life, but it does have a plot. In fact, it balances the two things well. The majority of your time is spent watching four high school girls goof off, but the plot never stalls. On occasion, their antics ARE the plot, like the passport incident. I personally never got bored. I will say I don't get bored easily when it comes to stories, but there's a difference between sitting around watching or reading something because I'm idly curious to see where it goes, and actually being engaged. I was actually engaged. I can stick with a story all the way through and then think "lol that was dumb" at the end; not so with this anime. I loved the energy and the emotional intensity. It was strong without being over-the-top. The first few minutes with Kimari suddenly wailing was a bit much, but that's a very minor complaint. 

The main appeal of APFTTU, I think, was its characters. Their designs don't stand out among other anime characters (except Gin, but that might just be the lesbian in me drooling). But I don't think they were supposed to. This isn't a fantasy or anything experimental; it takes place in our world and the characters are very much normal human beings. Their personalities shone through better with plain faces. They're memorable for who they are, not what they looked like, which I feel was kind of the point.

One thing I liked in terms of design was how the strands of longer hair on either side of Shirase's bangs were uneven in the exact same way Gin's were. I know it was left ambiguous as to whether Gin and Takako were in a relationship, but it seemed obvious to me in that no one had to say it because it was common knowledge. So I like to think that Shirase (maybe subconsciously) looked up to Gin as a stepmom--or at least, someone who would have been more of a stepmom had it not been for Takako's passing. Even with the lack of confirmation, I feel that the relationships between the three were explored just enough considering time constraints. 

Kimari's longing to do something, to break out of the mundane before her life passed her by, but her simultaneous fear of doing anything at all--that's something I can relate to. A lot of people probably can. She came off as a bit ditzy sometimes, but she was never treated too harshly because of it. Hinata's story of bullying is very relevant today, and Yuzuki...well, she was the one character I wished had had more screentime. I felt like we didn't get to know her as well as the others. 

Shirase's grief was the high point of the story for me. My mom died in 2012, and when I see other young women in fiction with dead mothers I always pay attention. Episode 12 really got to me. In the beginning of the episode, she said she felt like she was dreaming the day her mother was reported missing, and she still felt that way. Like she never really woke up. I wrote that exact thing several times in all my turmoil-filled journals from my teen years.

I had my guard up when I got to that episode because I knew this was the one where she got closure--I was mildly spoiled looking at something on TV Tropes--and before then, whenever the girls cried, they were always loudly wailing. I absolutely can't stand loud wailing. (That's probably my only real complaint of the anime.) But she didn't! Her reaction to the unread emails felt real. It wasn't a cute anime girl reaction. It was satisfying, in a way. Grief is never a fun thing to watch, but seeing a character go through pain you yourself went through and react the way you did makes you feel less alone. A few other works have let me down because the characters' reactions to loss were just so odd. I know people process things differently, but seeing someone in film either start screaming without a second of shock and denial, or just nodding and saying "they made a noble sacrifice" with no pain at all, is weird. I really appreciated finally seeing grief done right and that's part of the reason this got five stars from me. 

The art was another favorite aspect of mine. There's another thing I look for in stories, animation in particular, and it's a bit hard to explain. I think it could be described as using darkness well. Close-up shots of those intimate conversations between girls in a tight space at night, a blizzard raging at the windows? A trio sitting outside their friend's door, listening to her let out all her pent-up grief, in lighting softer than a hotel hallway? Light banter in a dimly lit room on a rocking ship, waves pounding the hull? That's amazing. It feels so much more sentimental than a conversation under a tree on a sunny day, or walking down a brightly lit school corridor. Nighttime is so much more expansive. People feel like they can bare their soul in the quiet coziness of stars and shadows, or the safety of having someone beside you in shelter while the weather comes down around you. 

"Erased", "The Promised Neverland", and "Mawaru Penguindrum" did a good job of this as well. ("Steven Universe", although a big favorite of mine, is a good example of what not to do. It's almost always shot on a bright, cloudless day from a standard angle, with only a handful of exceptions. Those exceptions are memorable, but the majority of the show is the same. I love you, SU, I just wish we could get closer in a physical sense as well as an emotional one. The movie did a better job, but I'm getting off track.) 

I gave the animation a 9 because overall it was great, but there were a few moments where it felt a little too still. Freeze-frames on long dialogue moments are okay, but some camera panning would have made it a little better, I think. There were a few times I thought my laptop was acting up because it held a shot for so long. That might be a nitpick. I do tend to hyperfocus sometimes.

The sound is the lowest score I gave to any aspect of the show. Even then, it wasn't bad. As others have said, it often felt generic. I did love the end credits song. And I don't think the music was any detriment to the anime; it just wasn't anything outstanding. The wailing thing I mentioned earlier was obnoxious, but they didn't do it at the most emotional part of the series, so it was forgiveable. Voice acting was expressive and excellent.

To recap: the story, characters, and art were all amazing, and the animation and especially the sound could have used some more polish. I give it five stars as one of those anime that really blew my mind and won my heart, and a 9/10 objectively, mostly for the sound. 

One more thing: I got this for a Secret Santa recommendation, and if you're reading this, I love that you chose an anime that used penguins and stars as symbols. I said my very favorite anime was Penguindrum, which used heavy amounts of penguins and stars in its art, and this did as well, but in a way that was entirely its own. I loved this a lot. I hope I'm not gushing too much about APFTTU lol, it was just a perfect suggestion. Bakemonogatari is next!

10/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
Aniosophy's avatar
Mar 18, 2019

I don’t know why I waited so long to watch this series maybe I was just being stubborn because of how popular it was, maybe I was just being ignorant because of the genre the show is in, or maybe I was just being naive thinking that I wouldn’t love this show, but in all honesty this was a Hidden Gem from Winter 2018 that I didn’t watch until today and now I understand why so many people liked it because it was phenomenal. I relate so much to this show and I honestly love it so much from the first episode to the last. Everything about this show just felt so real and relatable to me on a personal level since I too always want to travel around the world and see stuff that has never been seen by others. But more than that, watching these high school girls wanting to find purpose in their youth and make a difference, even just a little, was so fulfilling to watch.

At first I thought this show was just going to be a bunch of cute girls in Antarctica playing, and though there would have been nothing wrong with that this show is so much more and goes above and beyond that, with us spending the first few episodes watching them struggle to figure out a way to fulfill their dreams and instead of just appearing in Antarctica we watch them struggle, have dead ends, and have hardships along the way, which really made it all the more worth wild when they finally arrived there. This premise was so unique to me when you really consider where they went, Antarctica at least in my mind is the last place I would want to take a vacation in high school, but that’s where they go. These four like-minded strangers who find happiness in each other’s company take a journey to a place further than the universe, a place that we know less about than actual Stars, that is why Antarctica is so magical and that’s what this show showcases. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to like this show so much but after binging the entire series I can firmly say that this show is easily one of the most heartfelt stories about friendship that I have had the pleasure to have seen made by Studio Madhouse.

Is the show perfect, no, but I can’t really point out the flaws that it has, every character has a deeper layer to them than you originally think, and each of them take time to open up over it with you especially finding out that Shirase’s has been sending emails to her mom every day since she left and never came back. Honestly I can’t really think of anything exactly wrong with it, but I can’t wait for there to be another season of this show with them going somewhere else in the world to explore together, and I truly hope this becomes one of those long-running shows where every season they just go to somewhere else fantastic in the world because that would make each of these places so much better to visit😄😄😄

P.S. I’m really going to miss this crazy group of girls😭😭😭

8.5/10 story
8.5/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall
SArdukkan's avatar
Apr 11, 2018

This was a total suprise, I did NOT expect to be drawn into such a well written and funny [in a lot of parts] storyline.  I laughed out load more in the first 6 episodes than I have in any other series for quite a while.  The second half got to the meat of the storyline.  How many Cute Gilrs doing cute things series would have an eposdie and a half of them all puking thier toenails up???

Watch this NOW!!!

10/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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