Directed By: Atsuko Ishizuka
Written By: Jukki Hanada
Voice cast: Mari Tamaki – Inori Minase; Shirase Kobuchizawa – Kana Hanazawa; Hinata Miyake – Yuka Iguchi; Yuzuk Shiraishi – Saori Hayami; Gin Todo – Mamiko Noto; Kanae Maekawa – Yoko Hikasa; Yumiko Samejima – Lynn; Mugumi Takahashi – Hisako Kanemoto
Genre: Adventure; Comedy; Drama
Number of Episodes: 13
Run Time: 24 minutes each
A Place Further Than the Universe is a Japanese animated series. Classed as an adventure and subtitled as the story that leads to Antarctica, the series focuses on four high-school students who want to be a part of the civilian Antarctica expedition.
Mari Tamaki (Inori Minase) or known to her friends as Kimari is a high-school student whose insatiable curiosity about life and need for adventure is thwarted by her paralysing fear of failure. Her desire to live her youth fully finds expression when she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa (Kana Hanazawa), a school-mate. Shirase wants to travel to Antarctica so that she can find her mother Takako Kobuchizawa, a civilian researcher who went missing three years ago during a blizzard in Antarctica.
Shirase’s dogged pursuit of her implausible dream makes her the butt of jokes on the school campus but Kimari’s decision to stick by Shirase and be a part of her dream becomes the catalyst for the narrative.
Their enthusiastic conversations are overheard by Kimari’s colleague Hinata Miyake (Yuka Iguchi) at the convenience store she part-times at. Hinata is a high-school student who dropped out because of certain events. She wants to be a part of Shirase and Kimari’s plan so that while she waits to take her college entrance exams, she can be a part of something momentous.
Their decision to crash the meet-up for the Antarctica Civilian Research group introduces them to Yuzuki Shiraishi (Saori Hayami), a freshman high-school student who is also a popular child actress. Yuzuki’s mother/manager wants her to accompany the civilian team and do a broadcast show on living in Antarctica.
Conceptually, the story sounds laughable and yet it builds the credibility of the narrative bit by bit as the faith and desire of the holders of the dream grow. Much like a bildungsroman, the series draws on different experiences to chart growth and learning. More so, since it is centred around loss; not just for Shirase but even the adult researchers like Gin (Mamiko Noto), Kanae (Yoko Hikasa), Yumiko (Lynn), and many other members who were part of the previous ill-fated expedition.
The series is an emotional experience but it doesn’t become trite or matter of fact even when the viewers are able to sense a reveal. True to the idea of an adventure, the backdrop of the animation is dynamic and detailed, giving us a realistic insight into what the daily grind of living on a ship or working on one of the most desolate landscapes could be about.
The story has the ability to connect across age and culture largely due to its realistic characterisation, scenery and in the sense of catharsis it conveys. It also continually gives us a sense of possibility. Kudos to its intimate portrayal of relationships such as that of Kimari and Megumi (Hisako Kanemoto), on the strains that form and the insecurities that build when people choose to follow their own path.