A Place Further Than the Universe and more importantly, the thematic drive to get us there! (Part 2)

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho simply has far too many good points to pin down and talk about. Before my posts there have been an incredible amount of amazing insights given to me by other bloggers around the sphere. This is basically what happens when creators put fine observation experience and details into their work. If one big name can carry out a groundbreaking project, can you just imagine the wow factor when many people of similar altitude of talents work together to perfect every corner of a single show?

From the clever use of lighting and visual distraction to incorporation of the already popular Japanese Twitter and Instagram culture, Yorimoi can make itself aimless and would still look great. But because it is not going that route, I cannot simply turn off my brain and pretend to enjoy it like some kind of cute girls doing cute things show.

In this part I will attempt to explore some ideas from the show and express my feelings on how one’s drive, determination and persuasion, when done right, can become my mental fuel to achieve the things I would otherwise normally be hesitant about and usually leave until the last minute.
These girls are following their dreams in admirable ways so it is only natural that I want to follow them on their journey. You know what they say — great leaders are also great followers (of their own dreams).

 


Kimari’s Drive

 

 

The concept revolving around her character is almost fully recycled from older classics and some of the newer shows which anime fans would never live their life without not having heard of them once.

Mari is not a pessimist or melancholic type of girl; she is simply always feeling that she has never done enough for her bucket list. Now, a bucket list is something many of us would love to kick, only if we had the luxury to.
Or at least that is what many of you may think, which makes Mari’s decision to set off to Antarctica a satisfyingly odd one and she is doing nothing to hide that fact.

R-r-rebel!

 

Much of the fifth episode was spent on visualizing—from past experience—Mari’s situation and where she most likely stood in her civilized world at the time before she’d met Shirase.

When too much curiosity explodes into a flow of truth seeking actions.

 

On top of feeling that she has never done enough, Mari also feels that she may have done too much — crossing that undefined line to inevitable risks. The latter part is well summarized by her confession to Megumi when instead of ditching to go out on her adventures, Mari showed up to her school at midday after feeling halted by the rain.

Planes could crash. Shinkansen could explode…

Making excuses to put oneself in a safe spot is considerably worse than lacking motivation from the get go. Both Mari and Megumi have their own excuses to justify their choice of action but neither of them are acceptable by the society. Mari happens to be the only person to change her ways and it is thanks to Shirase’s genuine behavior of verbally disregarding hazards, the very excuse she initially used to stop herself from going outside. Mari has always been a high-drive type of person; sadly she had no specific direction during the first one and a half decade of her life.

Now with Shirase paving the way for her, Mari’s one job is to ride it. And since she cannot do it alone, Shirase is sure helping in her own style — putting their friendship on the line every time Mari struggles to jump over. It is almost like blackmailing but has no aftereffects since everything happens and is known only between the two.

I really like the visual direction which goes on here — Mari saying that she wants to call it off while she backs away.

 

I have come across too many instances of, “If you don’t do this then we aren’t friends anymore.

It is sure repetitive but when you get that phrase thrown at you enough times, you should be able to eventually figure out how much the other person really mean when they say it. There will be times when hearing that line will make you go, “Ugh. You are not worth my time anymore.
And I’m sure you know what happens next…

For Mari, who has only spent a few days with Shirase after having met her; she definitely values Shirase’s ingenuity and respects her honesty — her worth. It is believed that we tend to follow strangers’ orders, at least more often than our friends’ and family’s. I am also sure this is what happened with Mari.

 


Shirase’s Drive

 

She is the complete opposite to Mari which is probably what makes the dynamic between the duo such a great watch.
Shirase is extremely shy when it comes to the most superficial things such as greetings to strangers. She is however the quickest of the bunch when it comes to showing strangers up shall they rub her the wrong way.

Her mother has left to the South Pole a few years earlier with no signs of return. And without a lot of things left for her daughter, it becomes natural for Shirase to chase her mother’s trails, all the way to Antarctica. Her drive comes solely from the fact that she really has a definite, set goal. And that is to travel to the South Pole in order to discover any sort of evidence with her own eyes. Shirase will not take word of mouth for her answers; she will find you and she will seek the truth from you.
What this also does to her is creating a tunnel vision where in front of her is her goal… and only her goal. She has no time for anything else including making friends. It is not like her schoolmates dare to side with her after knowing her honest wish, which slowly creates the Shirase we love — at times narcissistic, pent-up and fond of revenge.

 

The way this scene flicks to show groups of people doing their every day things while Shirase says “in your face” really summed up her feelings towards the ‘normies’ who would always think that going to Antarctica as a high schooler is impossible.

The signs says something along the lines of, Year 2 Class 2 “We are all in this together.” But it seems that Shirase is not part of ‘we’, hence her willingness to show them up.

 

Another running theme exclusive to Shirase is within the show’s title itself. While the title is written as 宇宙 [reads ‘uchuu’, means ‘space’] and reads Sora [means ‘sky’] from the first Kanji only, the meaning behind that word is seriously beyond this world and that is entirely intentional. You can interpret it as “above the sky/high in the space” and automatically turn the phrase into a big metaphor for “heaven”, which we know too well does not exist in our universe.

As far as human beliefs are concerned, how do you think one gets to heaven?
Heavy spoilers in the white text so read on if you do not care about being spoiled for insights.

It is death, of course! And this is where Shirase’s journey to find evidence of her mother’s whereabouts is practically the motto of the show — “A story that leads to Antarctica (with the penguin).”
Shirase travels to a place further than the universe to find her mother. While she believes that her mother has been long dead, she only wants to witness concrete evidence with her own eyes. Twelfth episode does nothing to hide these themes as its episodic title is literally the same as the show’s title (A Place Further Than The Universe), reveals all truths to Shirase, throwbacks to Kimari’s wish and how her drive has been given direction by the former, and leave us tearful with the ending song called またね  [reads ‘matane’, means ‘see you later’].

Even for someone with insane amount of personal drive, Shirase is no exception to ramming her head into the wall when she reaches her goal. The feeling which stops one from completely achieving something when they realize that they are just a few steps from there; it is just as bad as the lack of initial courage if not worse. This is a different kind of pent-up feelings for Shirase and she becomes unable to resolve the conflict alone.

 

Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki watching the balloon free-flying together have had their conflicts resolved. The balloon represents the emotional baggage that weighed on them before their trip to Antarctica, all of which had been lifted.
Only Shirase was watching the balloon on her own while snoozing off, still feeling the weight of burden. Yuzuki had even explicitly say at this point. “Shirase didn’t come, did she?”
This shot of the clear, empty blue sky is later re-projected in the final shot of the episode. The sky gradually darkened, evoking Shirase’s anguish. Yet just in the end, as the night grew darker, the darkness revealed myriad of stars lighting it, like many balloons.

With a strong pursuit-like behavior, Shirase’s tunnel vision of a goal to reach Antarctica should have already been your number one reason to watch this show before anything else wins you over.

 


Hinata’s Drive

 

She is somewhat in the same boat as Shirase for the initial part of the series…

“My current dream is to ace everything and show up everyone who goofs off in high school and fails!”

 

It is later revealed that Hinata has more to showing people up as well! Unlike Shirase, Hinata’s conflict is entirely personal and has absolutely no connection to her family members, meaning that she is basically all on her own from the start. Her pent-up feelings are definitely less serious than Shirase’s as well, but if there is anything that makes Hinata the powerhouse of never-give-up fuel for others, it is her random, philosophical quotes conjured up by no other than herself:

“If you can still turn back, it’s not really a journey. When you hit the point of no return, that’s the moment it becomes a journey.”
“It’s a thin line between self-assertion and selfishness.”
“Never think the stars you see are all the stars there are.”
“Sometimes, people are just mean. Don’t fight mean with mean. Hold your head high.”
“Keeping busy is the best way to speed the clock’s hands!”
“To act is not necessarily compassion. True compassion sometimes come from inaction!”

You cannot forget this one below, too…

 

Yorimoi can easily be compared to an RPG game. Shirase would most definitely fit a tank role where she directs all malice to herself, and she will not take them lightly either; she will make sure that all threats get nullified whenever possible. Kimari would be your typical idiot damage dealer who most likely dies to simple boss mechanics; it is usually the idiots however who pull miracles in games. Hinata is definitely the healer of the group; she is the best moral support all around and knows exactly what and when something is right to be said, as long as it is not about herself which makes the role even more fitting for her. She can help others out of trouble but if she gets herself in there, only she can heal herself. That is not to say others cannot prevent her from getting in trouble, which they all have done a splendid job.

What is Yuzuki, then?

 


Yuzuki’s Drive

 

She is that one loser who waits to be buffed, always.
And the buffs I am talking about are her friends, stacked!

 

That said, Yuzuki is that one person who cannot do anything normal alone. She will either solo the dungeon (her job) or restart the game from scratch and do it like everyone else — normally. Her personal drive has always been to be able to make memories with people who she can wholeheartedly call friends. And with three stacks of buffs, Yuzuki is more than courageous and confident of her party; she is ready for taking on the ultimate quest of friendship.

So if you ever think that you have been missing childhood then watching Yuzuki having the time of her life will also make yours a happy one. People like her do exist in real world and are far too relatable, I will not be surprised if that is your reason as to why she is the best girl of the show.

 


 

Yorimoi girls never make a boring week for me; in fact I am now feeling like a douchebag and wished that they could become boring at some point. This is easily slice of life achieved, from little emotional turmoils to exciting reactions.

With top-notch thematic direction, the characters from this show ultimately show us up on the fact that if we are going to do it one-dimensional, then we would be better off doing it all the way until complexion is begged for.

This is not Jack of all trades; they are one-dimensional perfections.

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