Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho

July 8, 2018

Space. The final frontier. The final place where men has yet to discover its potential. Too bad this isn’t sci-fi so space isn’t the final frontier. It’s South Pole AKA Antarctica. Yup, the giant inhospitable wasteland serves as the final frontier on our lonely little planet that mankind has yet to fully explore and understand. Despite being so ‘near’, it is in its way the furthest place from the universe. Hence, Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho. That is why 4 high school girls are going to brave the sub-zero temperatures for a life changing journey of a lifetime. High school girls going to Antarctica? Is it a public park now? I guess it is going to sound cool when they tell their friends about the field trip they made. Oh, been to Kyoto? Boring. Tropical islands of Okinawa? Too warm and sunny. But have you been to South Pole? Now that’s a real field trip.

Episode 1
Mari Tamaki AKA Kimari has a list of to-do things she wants to accomplish in her life. Not much. But yet she has checked off none. So she thought of starting with the easiest on her list: Ditch school. Uhm. Okay? She even tells her best friend, Megumi Takahashi about it. Well, what can she do? It’s her choice. Heck, she even helps cover for her absence at school. But Megumi knows Kimari well. Because at the end, she chickens out. Unfounded fears of what might happen to her. A meteor falling. Whatever. You’re a good joker at least. So we see Kimari telling Megumi about how this bad habit came about. Every time she tries something, the thought of failure spooks her. Thus it is that part of herself she hates. One night while returning from the train station, she notices a girl dropped an envelope. It contains a million yen! Oh sh*t! Telling this to Megumi, Kimari notices the girl who dropped it was wearing their school uniform. They go around school looking for her. And then Kimari hears someone crying and regretting in the toilet. Sounds like her. You can’t imagine how grateful Shirase Kobuchizawa is when Kimari returns her money. Shirase explains what this is all about. Her mom, Takako wrote a book on Antarctica but went missing subsequently. Hence the money is to pay for her trip to South Pole and look for her. Many mock her for doing the impossible but she is going to prove it and shut them up. But can she earn and save that much money via part time since middle school? Okay. I believe her. This interests Kimari as she is now interested to go to Antarctica. She tells Shirase about her bad habit and this is why she wants to support her going to Antarctica. Although Shirase invites her to go, she needs to test her resilience. This weekend she will be checking out the boats and if she can come, she’ll believe she is serious (the ship named Shirase is at the nearby port for public exhibition before its departure). Of course Kimari starts out as optimistic and then her bad habit starts to kick in midway. Thankfully she doesn’t chicken out this time and meets up with Shirase to start her first ultimate adventure.

Episode 2
Shirase pinpoints the schedule and journey of Shirase. As the ship will be leaving soon and they are not, they will take a plane to Fremantle, Australia and meet up with it there before heading towards Antarctica. Since this is the first time in 3 years that the ship will take on civilian passengers, they can’t miss this boat. Kimari excitedly talks to Megumi about this but the latter has her reservations. It takes a huge amount of money as well as the dangers of the expedition (it has claimed lives before). So I guess the girls need more money and hence they chance upon this easy job. An ad that pays good money for high school girls just talking to boys. Hmm… Sounds too good to be true. But you won’t know if you don’t try. Kimari also works part time at the local convenience store. Her fellow colleague, Hinata Miyake knows all about Kimari and her plan to Antarctica. She overheard them the other day. She wants in. Does she have money? Got it. From her job. She still has to take time off school. Don’t worry. She doesn’t go to school! And she is the brainy kind too. Her dream is to ace everything and show up everyone who goofs off in high school and fails. Of course she plans to do something extraordinary this year before she takes her college entrance exams. Later Hinata reveals more to Kimari why she doesn’t go to school. She hates blending in with the crowd but seeing them together made her envious. The trio try to find the Antarctica expedition meet in the crowded streets of Kabukichou. Ironically Shirase is scared of meeting others. I don’t know what the girls are trying to do to ‘seduce’ the guys but when a couple of ladies, Kanae Maekawa and Yumiko Samejima spot them, Shirase recognizes them and tells her pals to run! And so it becomes a helter-skelter chase throughout the crowded streets. Wow. Those ladies could sure keep up even if the trio separate. In the end, the trio blunder and knock into each other. The ladies (Takako’s friends) hear out their plan to get a male member in their group so it would be easier for them to enter the expedition. Shirase flashes the cash and will give it to them if they can bring them along. But they reject her money although they invite them to come to Fremantle as they are going too. That should be good news but Shirase still thinks if she had more money they would have accepted her right on the dot? Hinata and Kimari didn’t like her negative vibe so they vote to a majority to dismiss her as the group leader and just head to Antarctica.

Episode 3
As part of the civilian expedition, a high school girl will also be tagging along as a reporter. She is Yuzuki Shiraishi and a famous child actress. Shirase has this idea to tag along with her but makes her friends call her agency because she is scared to talk to strangers? But don’t worry, Yuzuki is here! In short, Yuzuki wants Shirase to go in her place. Am I hearing this right? She really doesn’t want to go as she is sick of the cold (she’s from Hokkaido). While it might seem like a dream come true, it comes crashing down soon. Tamiko, Yuzuki’s mom and manager arrives and disagrees. Yuzuki has a job and she must do it. But what if they can do it in her place? Well, Shirase is a poor actor. Even though Hinata is naturally good, she doesn’t have the looks. Ouch. What about them combining? Bye. But they are left with a slim hope that if they can convince Yuzuki to go, they can tag along as her company. So the trio ‘stalk’ her outside the hotel she is currently staying. Then they go confront and try to convince her while she is doing her homework and revision at the nearby café since it offers free refills. Yuzuki knows mom put them up to this. So she explains as a child actress since 4 years old, she does not have any friends. Not a single one (she always had to leave for a job instead of joining them). This year she vowed to make one and hence the reason she doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t think they understand as they’re all best friends. They quickly dismiss that as they are all strangers and known each other for about a month. The only thing they have in common is the destination. Yuzuki feels better about it but the trio realize they forgot to convince her. So that night they hatch a plan to kidnap her from her hotel via window?! Flimsy ladder on a stormy night! They’re falling! Thankfully it’s just a dream. But the trio did come and get her. Normally through the front door. Yuzuki is so overcome with emotion that she starts crying. First friends, eh? They accompany her to the Polar Science Museum and check out the things that are to be expected for the expedition. Yuzuki couldn’t have felt happier in her life.

Episode 4
Shirase has all the paperwork done that will allow her to take time off from school for training and the trip. Kimari? Oh well, I guess she is being over paranoid trying to figure out if mom knows her intentions. Why does she have to pick a time when she is cutting vegetables? When she tells her the truth, it seems Kimari has used her stamp without her permission. Mom turns into a serial killer… Not even dad could save her because he saved himself. Thankfully Kimari didn’t die and is given the ultimatum to pass every test or else. She hopes Hinata would coach her but is told off she goes to school and this means allotted study time. If she can’t manage that, then she is useless! So true! The quartet are picked up by Yumiko for their training camp. This isolated woods would be a good practice simulation for what is to come. Inside the lodge, she introduces them to Gin Toudou who will be the captain for this expedition. She lays down a few basic ground rules like treating everyone equally regardless of anything. The girls practice to use compass and mark their routes. There is also the real practice of sleeping outside in a tent. Kimari can’t sleep and is noisy. So she asks if Shirase knows Gin. Takako and Gin were high school friends. Both went to Antarctica. Only Gin came back. End of conversation. Kimari wakes up before the break of dawn and sees Gin looking at the horizon. She asks about Takako. Strange, convicted and stubborn. She might not know her daughter well but she gets the vibe she is a splitting image of her. Kimari also explains her reason of wanting to go to Antarctica and not just somewhere. Although Shirase invited her, she decided it herself. She met others along the way who wants to go and she really wants to go with them too. Kimari wakes up her friends to see the sunrise. This motivates them further to go to Antarctica together.

Episode 5
There’s a school ceremony to tell Kimari and Shirase will be taking leave for Antarctica? The quartet practice reporting but Shirase is still as stiff. But she isn’t one if you insult her because she is willing to pick a fight. Kimari packs her stuffs so her room is in a mess. Besides, with the weight restrictions, it seems her sister is taking the liberty to throw out stuffs she shouldn’t need for this trip. Yeah, look how many tour guides and dictionaries she planned on bringing. While cleaning up, Kimari discovers Megumi’s video game console she borrowed and forgot to return. For 3 years. So she returns it and has some nostalgia playing the only game she could ever beat her. At the park, Megumi meets Kimari’s friends for the first time. When Megumi cautions them about bad rumours circulating, Shirase loses her cool and wants to get to the bottom of this. Hinata keeps her head cool that this won’t solve anything and that they don’t have solid proof they did not either. Besides, they are leaving tomorrow. They have a karaoke party to celebrate for tomorrow’s departure. Next morning as Kimari says goodbye to her family (dad is most emotional), outside waiting is Megumi. She came to break up their friendship. It is revealed she was the one who spread those bad rumours. In short with all the tearful drama, Megumi was jealous ever since Kimari decided to go to Antarctica. All the while, Megumi had always decided for her and this superiority made her feel belonged. She now realized that she was the one who was hanging on to things. Because without Kimari, Megumi would have nothing. So is it too late for Kimari to invite her to come to Antarctica? Well, it is Megumi’s first step into a world without Kimari so it won’t be wise to follow her. Kimari parts ways with her but rejects her break up. She meets up with her travelling companions at the airport.

Episode 6
The girls are now in Singapore. Their flight to Fremantle will be in 2 days. Wow. Haven’t been to Singapore for ages and I can’t recognize the place. Except for the Merlion still there. The girls go sightseeing and a little culture shock when the Japanese food in the menu isn’t the actual Japanese food when ordered. It says ramen but it’s not actually… Their first time tasting durian ice cream stinks… When Hinata asks Yuzu if she has her passport with her, Yuzu instantly can sniff out something is wrong and forces her to spill the beans. It seems Hinata has lost hers. She carried so much junk and not a passport in sight. You do know you cannot leave or return to Japan without it, right? Don’t worry. Google’s solution is to head to your embassy and request a replacement. The fastest is half a day. Too bad it is closed on Sunday. That’s tomorrow. Instantly Kimari could berate the government for being inefficient because she compares them to convenience store workers who work 365/24/7. Yeah… Welcome to reality. Although they can change their flight to a later date and still make it in time to Fremantle, Shirase is against this. Something about the strict rules of their expedition and she doesn’t want to leave that first expedition that they are running late. So Hinata has this idea the 3 of them should go without her. She’ll just get her replacement passport and head home. Next morning, Hinata’s alarm didn’t work. She wakes up only to see the rest has left without her. She catches up to them at the airport as Yuzu is trying to haggle to change their flight date but is unsuccessful. There are no openings for these tickets till next month since they got it cheap. Shirase tries to bribe the officer?! Will it work?! After all that friendship lecture, Shirase wants all 4 of them to go to Antarctica. In the end, they manage to change their tickets to the more expensive business class. Shirase then sees Hinata’s passport in her purse! Oh my. Flashback shows after they got down at the airport, Shirase wanted to tie her shoe laces and gave it to Shirase to hold. How could she have forgotten? With Shirase acting so nervous, Yuzu can sniff her out… Spill it. As punishment, the duo are made to eat the stinky durian. One each. Thank goodness I’m not part of this group…

Episode 7
Another TV reporting test run. Shirase still sucks… They board Penguin Maru as Kanae shows them their room and the few ropes to get around. Yeah, new things to learn. Better learn quick. Especially not losing your directions. Gin points out their room was once used by Takako so please take care of it. Shirase tries to find any clues left behind by her mom but none. With limited manpower and supplies, naturally the girls are worried if they could ever make it to Antarctica. They ask Kanae so she assures them they have taken a lot of measures and with the people on board determined to go, of course they’ll get there. After all, Antarctica is not going away from them! Didn’t think that was a good ice breaker… The girls aren’t convinced and feel she is hiding something. So they snoop around wearing masks? They find a panicky girl regretting coming on board. From what they hear, looks like her boyfriend ditched her and she came just to prove her love. And since he isn’t coming… Yeah… Also, some adults getting drunk. Suspicious… Sleeping in their bunkers, it seems under a bed there is glow in the dark paint making it look like the stars believed to be by Takako. Later Gin talks to Shirase how they started all this. Realizing there was no civilian station on Antarctica, they did all they could to make it a success including securing sponsors. Despite all the danger, they hope to find something worthwhile. Then the unfortunate happened. Sponsors withdrew and the next expedition was delayed till it was postponed indefinitely. Despite all that, they haven’t changed. She hoped to look at the same stars again. Many of them who went before are now back. Many don’t have anything to gain and some may even lose when they return. That’s the kind of ship this is. Kanae introduces the high school girls. Shirase is still nervous but she manages to get by and rally everyone’s motivation to head to Antarctica.

Episode 8
The girls are basking on the warm concrete of the deck. Soak them up because it’ll be freezing when they get to Antarctica. As the ship sets sail, they begin their interviewing. Shirase still sucks. At the kitchen, they are made to peel potatoes. Then it is time for exercising. Ironically they have been walking around all day and for so long, they get tired after one big round around the ship? Better work on the stamina and shape up. Don’t want to be a liability when you reach the world’s largest desert. At the rate they’re working the dumbbells, they might turn into Amazons by then. Shirase blames others for forgetting to do laundry when it was her whom the group decided on for this task. But the real challenge is here. Due to the constant swaying, the girls are seasick. It is just taking effort to hold it all in. They force themselves to eat the next meal for energy but everything went back out. Kanae ‘instils fear’ in them because they aren’t prepared for the worst that is to come. It seems they are entering the rough seas area in which the boat will be rocking from side to side like a roller coaster. This must be worse than a horror movie. At this point the girls are like the masters of throwing up. But the thought that everyone else is holding their ground and them being useless gives them a little motivation. They chose this so they should be prepared. Probably they’ve gone crazy with all the swaying so they decide to take a look outside. They are awed by the vast darkness and laugh in delirium when the salty waves splash all over them. Yup, they’ve gone mad. However the good news is that the next day they are all fine again. Like as though that was the ritual needed for some sort of immunity. As the weather is all clear, they finally see land. Or ice, rather. Antarctica ahead!

Episode 9
Toshio Zaizen suddenly confesses to Shirase that he loves her! Oh my. Did seasickness turn into love sickness? When they talk it seems he is in love with Gin and wanted to ask Shirase if she knows anything about her since her mom was close to her. So I guess he panicked. Unfortunately she doesn’t know much. But the girls would like to help him out although he cannot get involved. Under the guise of an interview, they try to find out her type of men. Too bad she won’t answer anything that is not expedition related. Shirase do eventually get to talk to Gin alone. She doesn’t hate her as mom always talked about Antarctica and she was well aware of the danger. Gin still has some regrets in making a decision to leave Takako behind. When Gin asks Shirase if this is what she really feels, she starts breaking down relating how she knew mom was never coming home. She kept telling herself every day that if she wants to change, she has to go to where mom is. A place further than the universe. The ship hits a fast moving ice. Instead of going around it, they use the ship’s weight to cut through. While so, more snippets of Takako always leaving Shirase to Gin whenever she leaves the house. Gin remembers the final moment when Takako went missing. Her final words over the transmitter was that she something so beautiful. I hope it wasn’t the gates of heaven. Gin starts crying. Right at the moment when Zaizen had his courage all summed up to confess. Hence he can’t and takes out his frustration while drinking with Yumiko. She tries to cheer him up by advising to try someone within his reach. Guess what? Now he loves her! Oh sh*t! Her plan backfired. When the ship finally lands, the girls take their first step on the continent. Shirase starts boasting how she has achieved her dream and take those to all who do not believe her. With the girls also supporting her on this, the entire crew is also influenced and yells the same. In your face, non-believers!

Episode 10
The girls arrive at the Syowa Station. Even though it is December and it is summer in South Pole, it is still damn cold. Kanae gives them a quick tour around the place and they’ll each have their own rooms this time. It is good for Yuzuki since Kimari sleep talks with her eyes open! As this is the first time Syowa Station has people staying in 3 years, there will be a lot of cleaning up to do. Don’t let that cute penguin distract you. Yuzuki receives word from Tamiko that she has been accepted by the drama audition that she took prior to this audition. This makes Yuzuki sad because she will be busier and the quartet won’t spend time together anymore. However they note they will still live separately and they are all friends. But this confuses Yuzuki because since when did they become friends? Weren’t they just strangers with a common goal? This causes her to have trust issues with them. Hence she comes up with a friendship contract that will have all of them remain friends once this is over. But Shirase believes it doesn’t mean a thing. She has been alone before and knows it. However Kimari is so touched that she starts crying. Yuzuki freaking out? So the rest try their best to explain about Kimari’s actions to her. This friendship and trust thingy is sure confusing. Hinata and Kimari try to do a Christmas show but all the drunk adults have passed out. Not sure what Kimari was doing stuck up the ceiling so she could just talk to Yuzuki? More talk about friendship thingy. The other friends then bust in to give her a surprise belated happy birthday cake. They were too seasick that time for that and thus Kimari suggested they all should celebrate it at Antarctica. I guess this means we’re all friends. I guess this also means it’s time for Yuzuki to cry her heart out. Even more when she messes up by blowing out the candles with her accidental sneeze. Not sure if this is inspiring because they think friendship is this one word. Uhm, isn’t friendship itself a single word? Ne?

Episode 11
Nobody can stop laughing at Kimari’s goggle tan lines. Reverse racoon? Even during the live stream, mom and sis laugh the moment they first see her. When it is Hinata’s turn, a few old friends show up. Instantly she shuts the camera and fakes injury. Shirase notices Hinata has been stressed since and sees her taking it all out via violently abusing the snow. Shirase wanted to talk to her about this but the circumstances wouldn’t. Hence there is an email in the public computer addressed to her. Shirase knows it is wrong but the temptation is too great. She takes a peak and is caught in the act. Hinata not pleased. So here is the backstory anyway. Hinata was part of the track and field club. Her club members tell her to go easy and lose out to the seniors since it is their last year. Hinata didn’t listen and she got selected. She then heard some of them badmouthing her. That was the last straw. She quitted. They tried to spread all sorts of rumours of her so she also quitted school altogether. Hence the reason she came to Antarctica is because there is nothing here. An empty place with no one to tie her down. As the girls carry on their work, Shirase lets Hinata know about her thoughts of it. She wouldn’t stand for anyone who treats her badly but yet she is smile. Hinata isn’t Shirase, you know. Hinata thanks her for her concern and the truth is, she is still scared. On another live stream, Hinata wonders if she should forgive them if it would make her feel better but the thought of knowing they would be relieved would disgust her. So when Hinata’s friends are online, Shirase hijacks and tells them to leave Hinata alone. They might think she has been sad ever since but the truth is she is having a lot of fun. Getting straight to the point, since they hurt her friend, they get to live with this. No halfway state business. Hinata so moved to tears. Perhaps the final taking out of the frustrations of the year as the quartet ring the makeshift bell made out of the drum can. Hope it doesn’t break.

Episode 12
Shirase still remembers she was in the middle of class when the teacher called her to go home. That feeling never ended. So when Kanae invites Shirase to head inland where her mom was last seen as part of their next expedition programme, she shocks everyone by wanting some time to decide. Her friends talk to her as she relates how eager she was to come here and did everything she could. But now that they are here, there is nowhere left to go. And if nothing changes, she is going to live the rest of her live feeling this way. The friends do not pressure her but give her some space to think. Shirase talks to Gin about her reason coming here. She has to accept the fact Takako is dead and came here latching onto the supposed dream she wanted her to come back here. But in the end, those dreams weren’t enough as motivation. It was the injustice of reality that made the impossible possible and allowed them to proceed. Of course Shirase eventually decides to join the team but still has this forlorn look on her face. Moving deeper inland, it gets colder and colder so much so you can use a banana as a hammer! They are awed with the sun pillar phenomenon before retiring into their snowcat. A blizzard hits that night and it reminds Gin of a very similar situation of how they lost Takako. She believes she left the main station after forgetting something and slipped. Despite she was right behind her and tied to a rope, it broke and the next thing she knew, she was gone. Next day it is clear as Shirase narrates a letter if she was to write to mom. She talks about having friends who are willing to go this far for her. They finally arrive at the site which is supposed to be an observatory site. It is still far from completion. After seeing Gin shed tears, Shirase’s friends get frantic to look for anything that Takako left behind. Anything. Proof she was here. Shirase remains sceptical but hey look. What’s this? A picture of mother and daughter together. Uhm, wait. Isn’t that a laptop too? After 3 years, it is still working in fine condition???!!! Wouldn’t the electronics just freeze? Apparently Shirase knows her mom’s email password after the second try. Guess what? It starts downloading (not really sure but is wifi available this deep?) all the emails Shirase sent to her. Oh my, there are over 1,000 unread emails!!! Cue for Shirase to cry and scream for mom. If that doesn’t move you to tears, perhaps her friends outside crying for her will. DAMN WHERE ARE THE TISSUES????!!!!!

Episode 13
The girls have got used to things so well that this could be their second home. Yeah, Shirase is such a killer at the mahjong table. Watch out, Saki. There might be a new kid in town… As the girls would soon have to leave, Kimari has this silly thought of continuing their stay. I understand she likes it here but the rest instantly shoot her down because they have families and school to think about. So on their last day, they play baseball. Nobody could take Gin’s pitching except Shirase. Because only Takako was the other one who ever did. Shirase then shocks everyone with her new look as she cuts her hair to shoulder length. A sign she has gotten over this Antarctica and mom issue? The morning comes for the high school girls to depart. The winter team is supposed to swap with them but since there is none, the adults are continuing their stay. Gin makes her speech about this successful experiment featuring high school girls before passing the mic to Shirase. Typical heartfelt speech that leaves everyone crying. Even Gin. Shirase passes her mom’s laptop to Gin. She doesn’t need it anymore. Takako would be mad if she didn’t stay for the winter. Oh, so mom’s spirit now resides in this laptop? That night, the girls get to see the beautiful aurora lights. Shirase receives a mail from her mom’s laptop. Actually Gin sent it after noticing a mail in the outbox. You mean now it only has wifi? What about when Shirase downloaded all those inbox messages? Did she not notice that single mail in the outbox? Anyway it states that the real aurora is ten thousand times better. How convenient and precise timing and setting. The girls return to Japan and part ways before returning to their normal life. Kimari texts Megumi that she is back but too bad the latter isn’t home. In fact she is away at the North Pole! NO WAY!!!

Have A N-Ice Day! Frozen Friends
I guess once you have experienced something so awesome, returning to your mundane everyday life seems like hell. I’m not saying the girls dread going back to society but I can feel that from all the promises they made during their fastest friendship building days, they are certainly ready for the next trip together. Well, if their schedule isn’t packed or conflicted. While many ordinary people are too busy to even bother the achievements of high school girls going to Antarctica (or the most give a 2 second wow, that’s cool line) and shrug it off as so-what-it-doesn’t-have-anything-to-do-with-me, not many could say they went to the freezing hell and came back alive and in one piece plus an even motivated spirit. I wonder if this is comparable to the other kind of hell that is known as the biannual Comiket, going and returning from there alive. Yeah, too many people have done that so it doesn’t seem so Antarctica cool.

Like they say, it isn’t the destination but the journey that is important. This is what this series is all about. Hence the main draw is not Antarctica but rather their journey together and the bond that they created in this short journey that has turned them into lifelong friends. From mere strangers with a common goal into inseparable BFFs. This is the beauty of this series. Despite at times when I thought it was going to be boring and lacklustre, the dynamic interaction between the main quartet sure proves interesting.

There are going to be lots of heartstrings tugging moments to move your heart as you see the girls bond closer each other while working towards their goal. Might not be the most tear jerking anime ever nor one that would normally needs tissues, but unless your heart is as cold or even more frozen than the depths of Antarctica, you will definitely be moved the moment Shirase finds her mom’s laptop despite I still find it silly it still works but the overall atmosphere was so moving that it made me forget this sin. Many times they drum up the drama and the feels close enough to make us cry. It is like they built up all that emotions welling up to this point that became the clincher to release the flood damns of tears. Damn they did it so well I would have gone full blown emotional if I was the weepy kind. Seriously.

It might seem like they are painting it look easy and even accessible for high school girls to jump on this dangerous expedition. I mean, you want to see old guys in place? Anyway we have seen them in harsh conditions and overcoming it (because power of friendship too) and with the supervision and guidance of veteran adults, it is not as impossible as we think. It might seem unrealistic that the girls are having lots of happy times while on the trip but I assure you that this is the correct attitude. Nobody is going to take you seriously if you keep on complaining and whining. Besides, the girls know very well what they are signing up for and hence getting grumpy at the point of no return is going to cause a lot of problems for everyone. Always keep a positive outlook.

As mentioned that the dynamic interactions between the main quartet is the main driving force of the series. All four of them are not without any problems aside from their character flaws that serves as the series’ comical moments (Shirase being forgetful and stiff in front of the camera while Kimari has weird sleeping habits). They have their own issues to deal with and are properly fleshed out during the course of this series. Like Kimari who has done nothing eventful in her life because she is a coward decides to do something big and for a person who has achieved nothing in life, that is commendable. Even Megumi didn’t want her to go because who else would she ‘show off’ to? But I guess in life, changes are inevitable. In order for Megumi to ‘evolve’ to the next stage of becoming her true friend, she have to come to terms and accept Kimari’s freedom. The will to let go. I mean, even when apart they can still be friends, right? Damn that girl pulled a fast one over Kimari because without anybody noticing, she’s now at the Arctic. So why doesn’t anybody talk about the North Pole? Penguins over polar bears… And also Santa never existed… Because of Kimari’s frank and honest nature, sometimes she feels like the comic relief character of the group after Hinata whose outgoing personality is just so outgoing.

Yuzuki is probably tired of being in the spotlight and just wants to have normal friends. Ironically the first friends she makes are while she is out of Japan. Even the cheerful Hinata has her own issues. While it might seem childish that she ran away from society, what would you have done in her shoes? Well, probably heading to Antarctica wouldn’t be on my top 100 list of things to do to escape from bullying. Perhaps the journey refreshed her in a lot of ways. Yeah, nothing like taking a long trip and taking your mind off things. Screw society. Antarctica has nothing and the best place to represent nothing.

Finally Shirase as the one who commenced this group trip has the biggest load of burden over her shoulders. It is one of the most traumatic ways to lose your mom and never having to say goodbye to her. Hence sometimes I feel this is one big trip to pay her last respects by visiting her ‘grave’. It is a long winded process for her to overcome and accept that mom is never coming home. It is her only chance of putting the rest the ghost of her mom’s disappearance and demise. Yeah, I came to funnily believe Takako’s soul is now in the laptop. Because otherwise what kind of ‘power’ do you think would have kept it in good running condition after 3 years of not in use? I know today’s technology allows wifi in Antarctica but I can’t help think it is cheaper to strap the modem on the penguins’ back. Haha!

Other supporting characters aren’t really prominent in the spotlight but they especially Kanae and Gin (also staying strong and trying to overcome and accept the death of her friend) do help support the main quartet in their stay. It was interesting and funny to see that girl who got the short end of the stick with her boyfriend leaving her on this trip alone. It was like the biggest stand up ever. One way ticket to Antarctica if you want to dump your girl (assuming it was but it isn’t in this case). So as not to see her lose everything, he had the heart to contact her in the end.

At the end of this journey, no doubt that Kimari wants to return to South Pole with her friends, it makes me wonder if this will be the only thing for the rest of her life she will be doing. Sure, she has been bitten by the South Pole bug but remember at first she has a list of to-do things she wants to accomplish in life. So is she going to devote the rest of her life not doing anything else but become a permanent explorer of team Antarctica? If so, what makes her think this would be life’s best experience (assuming she said this) if this is the only thing she has accomplished in her life? So if Kimari is going to stay true to her bucket list, I guess she’ll have to spend the rest of her life travelling to other parts of the world and experiencing different new cultures and the likes. Yeah, less time for Antarctica then. Well, at least she did something than nothing. But if she wants to forever stick to Antarctica is fine with me. Hence Kimari’s life will also be known as the Ice Age. Sorry, bad pun.

Art and drawing feel pretty normal and decent. The characters look simple enough and lacking detail. Also, the colouring hues feel a bit bland. Especially when you get to South Pole, everything is pure white and even from myself if I focus too much on the white ice and snow, I feel I might get some snow blindness! Okay, a bit exaggerated I admit. However the background and sceneries of the cities especially the one in Singapore look gorgeous enough. Even so, the backdrop and characters don’t clash and blend in together. I also want to note that one of the biggest exaggerations of this series is when the characters cry. Their tear drops are freaking big! I thought they were crying translucent pearls! It might be this series’ sort of trademark and exaggeration but I find it a bit weird that they really cry big teardrops. Animated by veteran Madhouse who brought to you One Punch Man, No Game No Life, Highschool Of The Dead, Ore Monogatari, Chihayafuru, Overlord, Black Lagoon and Death Note.

Voice acting, got to credit my absolute favourite Mamiko Noto first. Although sounding serious in her character role as Gin and nothing like the upbeat and fun type like Liszt in ClassicaLoid, it may be nothing special to others but she will always sound special to me! Cringe? More like me still fawning over her! Also recognizable is Yuka Iguchi and her lively voice makes it perfect as Hinata. Other many recognizable seiyuus include Kana Hanazawa as Shirase, Saori Hayami as Yuzuki, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Zaizen, Youko Hikasa as Kanae and Sayaka Ohara as Tamiko. Also recognizable is Kana Asumi’s cameo as that girl who keeps pining for her boyfriend who left her on this icy trip by herself. Gotta prove this freezing journey is not what breaks their relationship. Break the ice! Not the relationship! Oops. Went a bit off there.

Other casts include Inori Minase as Kimari (Rem in Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu), Lynn as Yumiko (titular character in Fuuka), Ai Kayano as Takako (Inori in Guilty Crown) and Hisako Kanemoto as Megumi (Ika in Shinryaku! Ika Musume). The opening theme is The Girls Are Alright by Saya. An upbeat song that instils motivation and hope, enough for you to feel you want to root for the main quartet. The same can be said for the ending theme sung by the main quartet, Koko Kara Koko Kara.

On a trivial note, I keep wondering why despite the series is called and pronounced as Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Sky) when its original kanji writing is Uchuu Yori Mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than The Universe) and this one is often referred to throughout the series. I am guessing what lies beyond the skies are the stars and technically the universe. So using double writing and meaning in Japanese is like Japanese being Japanese, huh? Well, like I said in my opening paragraph about space being the final frontier. When you’re at the southernmost point of Earth, it feels like you’re in space and on an alien planet, no? Or maybe the meaning is just simply interchangeable in this case.

Overall, despite in sub-zero temperatures, their friendship continues to burn and keep our hearts warm. Heck, they even melted it at one point. So is this one cool story then? This is one anime where they correctly use the power of friendship to drive its plot and characters. Even if you are not into this friendship drama thingy, this is still a worthy and entertaining watch. Sometimes it is good to take a break from a long journey and stop to smell the roses once in a while. Who knows the detour you might take and experience something even better? Who’d knew that going south was such a positive thing? This series really gives a whole new positive meaning about heading south. Things are sure looking up in this case.

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