Coming of age anime are really ten a penny, especially in the last decade or so as there have been more and more series being produced per year. Some of them have a really fond place in my heart (Hanasaku Iroha) others end up leaving me cold because they take too long (Aria) or just retreat so much of the same ground. It was a bit of fatigue with these kinds of shows that postponed me watching A Place Further Than The Universe for a good while. I honestly only picked this as I wanted an antidote to the mecha anime I have been consuming recently.
A Place Further Than The Universe is one of those gems of a small coming of age series that, whilst it treads over a lot of familiar ground, frames a lot of the tropes in a different way. I mean, it isn’t every decade that you come across a series where a group of high school girls find themselves whilst on a quest to visit the Antarctic. Having this barren undiscovered country of a place with it’s very real delights (penguins) and dangers (it being the place where the mother of a major character died) helps add a different perspective on their own problems.
At the beginning, it is about a girl fearing about wasting her youth whilst having to conform to the very regimented life that is expected of being a high schooler in Japan. After a chance encounter with someone at school obsessed to get to Antarctica to find her dead mother, this series builds them up until they have either come to terms with themselves or found peace in having finally found an outlet for their young dreams.
The series, once they get to Antarctica, could have easily trailed off a bit and become a confection of the beauty of the snow and the joy of penguins – kinda interesting therefore that penguins rarely appear and most of the time we see them in the research station is actually helping out by being in the kitchen, taking part in science expeditions or lifting boxes. Like, a lot of how they get there is thanks to the magic of it being a story but you also cannot deny that they work for their place.
A Place Further Than The Universe is one of those shows whose presence in my mind I didn’t really get until I finished the final episode and thought back on the journey the four girls had made. On a storytelling level this was a great show, but that was really bolstered up by some stunning art of the Antarctic, raging seas and some lovely scenes of Singapore that made me incredibly nostalgic.