So some of the concerns I had in my last post are getting worse. The conflicts in each episode feel more and more fake and contrived, to the point where the (forced) sense of closure doesn’t really satisfy me. Instead, it feels like everything is getting trivialized. The girls’ feelings of uselessness on the ship? Bam. Resolved. Shirase’s lifelong awkward relationship with the expedition leader? Bam. Resolved. (sort of)
Related to this is how besides the main conflict of each episode, everything else is pushed aside. In episode 9, Shirase took center stage while the other three girls melded into one emotionless unit, with no personality to speak of. Instead of showing the fun and varied personalities of the girls (like in the OP and in the first 4-5 episodes), the show has basically made them act and talk the same.
For example, maybe instead of focusing on Shirase’s reaction on getting to Antarctica, there could have been some inner dialogue from each girl. Nothing much, maybe just 5 seconds/one line for each of the three. Mari could have touched on how she’s finally doing something cool. Yuzuki could say how glad she is to have made it with her new friends. And Hina could say… something? I dunno. But instead, we got:
Mari: We’re here!
Yuzuki: We made it!
It’s the same damn thing! Even though the episode focused on Shirase, it doesn’t have to be all Shirase all the time. In such an overdone genre, it was the small refinements that made the girls so likeable and unique early on in the show, and that’s slowly getting sucked out.
Anyway, it’s still a 9/10 for me overall. These last few episodes have lost the magic that made it a 10/10, but it’s still great.
From this point on, I’m switching from weebanese to English. Why use “Sora yori mo Tooi Basho” with basically arbitrary capitalization when I can use the actual English title?? Related to this: I noticed the other day that “Boku no Hero Academia” sounds pretty dumb in English compared to “My Hero Academia,” but I guess I just get used to whatever I see first… usually on reddit discussion threads.
Anyway, these past few episodes have been excellent. They’ve taken this genre, whatever it is, and perfected it. There’s one point in Episode 6 where Hinata loses her passport, and then there’s a shot of the hotel wall. I was half expecting/half dreading the stereotypical shriek of panic, and then a scene of Hinata frantically looking through her stuff. But as always, this show doesn’t fall prey to the tropes. The next scene is actually all of Hinata’s stuff on a bed, with the girls looking at it. I don’t think it’s very realistic that they’re not panicking, but it’s better than the over-the-top scene I was picturing.
I do have a gripe with the show, though. It treats conflicts like the monster-of-the-week. Every episode is a neatly wrapped bundle of conflict -> resolution -> next episode. I’d like a bit more continuity in the character development instead of the current formula of focusing on one character at a time.
The worst offender of this is actually what I thought was the best episode so far: episode 5. This episode focused on Mari’s glasses-wearing friend Megumi. Her annoyance at Mari and passive-aggressive attitude was spot-on and I felt so uneasy watching her try to hold Mari back. But then the end of the episode felt like such a cop out! I can understand why Megumi would want to break her ties with Mari: Mari can then enjoy her time in Antarctica without worrying about her friend back home who doesn’t get to have such fun experiences. But it felt more like the friendship was ending conveniently, to both wrap up the episode neatly and to have the audience enjoy watching Mari in Antarctica without worrying about Megumi.
If this was the only instance of this sort of conflict-of-the-week, then I’d be fine with it. But episode 6 strolls along and presents another one-episode minor conflict. Without a big, multi-episode goal like “trying to get on the expedition,” it seems like this show is floundering a bit. I’d much prefer just a fun episode about the girls having fun in Singapore, or multiple episodes in Singapore to make the conflict seem… important. In the end, it’s all resolved with a few cheap laughs. I hope this isn’t the end of Hinata’s character development, but it sure feels like it.
Still, this stuff is all minor. A Place Further Than The Universe is the best show of the season so far, miles above bigger names like Darling in the Franxx and Violet Evergarden.
… has had one of the best opening three episodes ever.
So far this show has perfected the moe slice-of-life genre of “cute girls do cute things” (CGDCT). While pioneers of the genre (Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, K-ON) featured cute girls doing either boring-as-fuck or purposely cutesy things, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho makes what happens interesting by itself. The actions, rather than the characters, are cute. Look above at Hinata and Mari’s stupid-looking grins as Shirase panics.
What about Mari’s “sexy pose”?
It’s with good reason I had to look up the characters’ names while writing this post. I don’t remember them, and moeification/sexualization is not the point here. So far this show has succeeded because it hasn’t wasted time deliberately trying to make waifu material (a la Mio of K-ON), as shown in the really low number of favorites for the four main characters on MyAnimeList: 20, 9, 8, and 5 favorites out of over 25,000 people watching the series.
These past three episodes have been fantastic, but with the gang all together, I’m a little worried about the future. As long as the series can stay away from overused, stereotypical scenarios and dialogue I can predict minutes in advance, it should easily break into my top 20.
Two weeks ago, the iron juggernaut of Kabaneri exploded off the screen, ramming its hardcore action right up into my heart. Despite missing my brain entirely, Kabaneri won me over with its intensity and over-the-top energy. This week, though… not so much.
Continued from last time… Meiko kicked Taneda out of the apartment because Meiko’s mom (Momko) came over.
Taneda took Kato’s keys, planning on sleeping over at Kato’s place for the night. However, he runs into Meiko, who’s walking around outside after having yelled at Momko. They go back home and see that Momko has left, leaving a note on the table saying that she knows Taneda lives there. As Meiko and Taneda have sex, Taneda reveals that he’s very distant with his workaholic parents, and is jealous of Meiko’s relationship with her mom.
The next day, Meiko and Taneda meet up with Momko at some fancy restaurant, and they have an extremely awkward conversation. Meiko can’t stand it and leaves for a bit, and Momko tells Taneda:
A long time ago, I graduated from a college here and worked in the city. The times being what they were, I ended up back in Akita. She probably doesn’t realize it, but Meiko sees me as someone to avoid becoming. And that’s probably why she doesn’t want to come home.
There are times when I wonder what might have happened if I’d done things differently, but… am I happy? Yes, I’m very happy.
Anyway, I think the two of you should be free to do whatever you want right now. When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.
Mr. Taneda, please take care of Meiko for me.
Meiko walks in as Momko bows to Taneda, and then they leave, etc.
I included Momko’s entire monologue up in the summary because aside from Taneda talking about his parents, this is the only part that really matters in the chapter. Momko’s advice is basically Asano’s advice – this is the first instance where any character really tries to answer the central question: “what does it mean to be happy?”
Momko’s answer: to be content is to be happy.
It’s a really… mature response that directly contradicts how Meiko and Taneda are leading their lives. Whereas Momko has found happiness in her family, Meiko and Taneda think that chasing and achieving their dreams is the key to happiness. Yet Momko doesn’t rule out this “hard road” — she says that Meiko and Taneda need not take such a path, but she still wonders what could have been.
It’s a really vague answer to a really vague question, but Momko’s monologue really succinctly and effectively gets the point across. The line about the hard road in particular is worded so well:
When you’re young, you think the only way to happiness is the hard road… but it’s actually much simpler than that.
It’s such a different take on happiness than what Western media (or maybe popular media) typically puts out. Motivational quotes based on “chasing your dreams” permeates everything we do. It’s the topic of shows like American Idol, the popular interpretation of the road not taken, and goes down to #yolo. It’s not just about trying to be different, but about trying to live life to the fullest and to die without any regrets.
Yet in this chapter, Momko presents a decidedly different view — one that represents older generations, and perhaps more Japanese? (I know almost nothing about the #yolo culture in Japan, so I’m not going to say anymore about this.) It’s so refreshing, yet elicited such an immediate, knee-jerk response in me. Maybe that’s Asano’s whole point. It’s hard to tell only four chapters in whether or not Asano is trying to preach Momko’s solution of contentment, or promote Meiko’s solution of chasing dreams.
At least he got me thinking.