Anime Review: A Place Further than the Universe

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here with another anime review. Today I’ll be discussing A Place Further than the Universe.

Looking back, the year of 2018 was a very strong year for anime. We had amazing contenders in the anime line-up every season, with plenty of content to choose from. From series like Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online to Cells at Work! and My Hero Academia Season 3, it was difficult to pick and choose what anime to watch that year. There were just so many solid choices to pick from that it was hard to go wrong.

One of the most notable anime of that year is A Place Further than the Universe. It’s also known in Japan as Sora yori mo Tōi Basho. The series was released in January of 2018 and finished around March of that same year. Written by Jukki Hanada the series started off on a strong foot for that alone.

For those of you who may not know,  Jukki Hanada also did the writing for such anime as Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl and the 2011 Steins;Gate series.

A Place Further than the Universe was directed by Atsuko Ishizuka, who is also known for his work on the design production and storyboard for Monster. That’s another anime I’ve reviewed on this blog, and find it to be one of the best classics that anime has to offer. As far as his directing skill is concerned, you may also know him from such anime as The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and No Game No Life.

I’m hesitant to say that A Place Further than the Universe ticked all the boxes for me. I deeply enjoyed it, but it would never make a top ten list for me. I’ll explain why near the end of the post. For now what you need to know is that the series is certainly noteworthy and you shouldn’t bypass it. If you like cute girls and slice-of-life series and you haven’t seen this anime, go watch it.

To me, this anime is required viewing, because it sets the baseline of what a serviceable anime really needs to be across the board. I think I just don’t hold the series to quite the same level of prestige because 2018 was such a strong year to begin with. It was an amazing year of anime, hands down.

If you doubt that, you were either under a rock that year, or you missed out on some really solid series someplace. Alright then, with that out of the way, onto the meat of this review.

The plot is simple enough, I suppose. Four girls, one big journey with a slice-of-life feel and a coat of cut girl paint. You have a character named Mari Tamaki. She’s a second-year high school student who wants to make the most out of her youth. The thing is, she’s a bit of a coward and she’s usually too afraid to step out of her shell. 

One day, she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, someone much more brave and with big ambitions. She’s been saving up to travel to Antarctica. It isn’t just a pipe dream. It’s a goal with emotions attached, since mother disappeared three years ago. These two characters are eventually joined by two other girls, Hinata Miyake and Yuzuki Shiraishi. These four eventually make their way to the Antarctic.

It’s a simple series, with simple elements. The plot itself isn’t contrived, thankfully. It isn’t bombastic and it isn’t flat out stupid. What is very nice about the show is that it has 13 episodes. That’s just long enough to tell this story in a fulfilling way. The series doesn’t overstay its welcome and it doesn’t draw out nonsense plot elements to the extreme.

Honestly, I’d say the series could have used a few more episodes, even if just one or two. It is a packed series from start to finish. That’s a good thing, a very good thing. You’ll probably be left wanting for more after the series concludes and I think another episode or two would have given it just a little more room to breathe. Honestly, even without extra content, this series stands as a hallmark of a great anime.

When you get the benefits of a fulfilling ending and you still crave more, that’s when you know the series goes on a top ten list someplace.It might not be in my top ten list for anything particularly, but to say this anime is anything less than steadfast is a direct injustice. I’ve watched a lot of series across many genres, and every single thing this series does, it does very well.

The pacing is where it should be for a series like this. It’s the sort that slowly builds, but it is also tightly packed with key character moments. That’s the main draw of this show after all. It isn’t about the adventure itself, but rather our four main protagonists and what it means to them. They need to work hard to get to the Antarctic.

This isn’t an adventure where they sit around on their hands doing nothing but giggling their way through the show. Although I would say it is about cute girls, they’re not always doing cute things. Sometimes they’re put to real work, and the trip is occasionally far from glamorous. There are scenes where they even acknowledge that the cramped spaces they’re shoved into could be problematic for them.

These girls are multi-layered and very compatible on screen together, but they know they can sometimes clash in ideology too. It isn’t heavy handed, but there’s a real down-to-earth mentality used in this show. Unlike a lot of the other slice-of-life series you may come across, there’s not a lot of mindless or useless fluff. The character moments always feel as though it has been planned to enrich the story. These girls are all very likable and that helps too.

As a general rule, the series wants the girls to be fun-loving and adventurous. We see this most of all. They’re not dimwitted, and they’re not trying to do something entirely idiotic. Honestly, I just can’t praise A place Further than the Universe enough for this aspect alone. The series really hit it out of the park with these characters.

We get the same compelling banter between them that you’d expect from high school girls, but you also get some real heart and soul out of them too. The series hones in upon their dreams, fears, aspirations and insecurities. Frankly it does a phenomenal job of letting viewers get to know each of the four girls. At the same time, the series isn’t interested in cramming contrived emotional stupidity in front of our faces… when there is an emotional outburst, it means something valuable and important to the wider story.

We never lose out on that wider narrative either, nor the unpredictability of the adventure they’ve embarked upon. There are obviously a few small layers of drama, but it’s perfectly fitted for the story at hand. The series focuses deeply upon forged friendship, and facing tragedy.

As I said above, Shirase’s mother went missing three years prior to when the series actually starts. That’s a plot point that adds a layer of emotional gravity and uneasy tension to the journey. Also, the fact that they’ve got some measure of adult oversight and supervision means that the story is believable for these four high school students.

They travel with the Civilian Antarctic Observation Team, so as an adult watching this series, you’re not going to be raising an eyebrow. There’s no need to sit there wondering how in the hell these four girls are going to pull this trip off without suspending disbelief. It is a very believable story with a very steadfast component of grounded and logical plot elements.

You’re going to get an ending to this short series that’s about as complete as you could hope to expect for a 13 episode runtime. The plot ties up nicely, what isn’t addressed doesn’t need to be, and there’s a satisfaction to the ending. That entire final episode leaves you feeling justified for having enjoyed the show. There’s no need to point at the manga and say “finish the story there” although, there is a manga too and it is worth the read as well.

I’ve not said one single bad thing about this series, because there’s nothing bad to say about it. The visuals are solid, the soundtrack works well, the story leaves you fulfilled. So, you may be wondering if I’ve lost my mind. You may be wondering why, in spite of the fact I praise so highly, that it wouldn’t sit on my own personal top lists for anime?

It’s not groundbreaking, that’s why. I wouldn’t have it on my list, because it didn’t knock me out of my seat the way others in the genre have. I was thoroughly entertained, but I can’t say that I was surprised or taken aback by this anime in any meaningful way. I’ve seen a lot of shows like this, or similar to it. I’ve seen the basic idea of a journey like this one a billion times over.

While the characters are a home run out of the park, you’ve still seen these archetypes before a billion times over too. Honestly, I expect anime like this one to have strong characters, because if it didn’t, it would be a failure of a series. The characters are what matter, they’re what make the story being told amazing. If you watch animated series like this enough of the time, you come to hold a baseline expectation of what that sort of anime should be.

Let me be absolutely clear; A place Further than the Universe is everything an anime like this should be. It ticks all of the boxes in a way that any anime fan should demand of a high quality slice-of-life series. That’s exactly what this series promises.

It promises high quality animation and sound design. It promises to be exactly what it advertises its story to be. It upholds that standard throughout its runtime, and never once do you feel stolen from as far as a quality experience is concerned. However, although it holds the high quality standard, I personally don’t feel it surpasses the standard.

Maybe I’m just a jerk, but I expect a high standard of grounded, down to earth slice-of-life series. This one touches upon and continues to uphold that high standard baseline of quality anime. You’re just not going to find anything new here or something that challenges your notions of what a series like this one should be like. To me, it’s not a revolutionary series, if you’d think of it that way… and my top ten lists, those ones have to rip me right out of my seat and knock me down.

To me a top ten list is the best of the best. A Place Further than the Universe doesn’t quite match that. However, it would likely sit someplace on a top twenty which is far from an insult. Trust me, watch as many anime as I have, and so long as the anime makes the top fifty it’s a damn good show… two decades of anime watching does that to a person, honestly speaking.

So, there you have it. Watch this show if you haven’t already. A Place Further than the Universe sets the baseline of what we should all be expecting from our slice-of-life anime series. Quality characters, interesting visuals, a great story and one that wraps up nicely at that.

If you want to see another review of this series, from someone other than myself, perhaps check this one out written by NEFARIOUS REVIEWS. I thought it was a good review of the anime, maybe you will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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