If money were no object, what distant land would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments section below. Perhaps a trip to the sunny Bahamas, where you can soak up the rays, would be nice? Maybe you would elect to go on an anime merchandise-spending spree in Japan instead? If so please buy me some body pillows as a souvenir! For high school student Shirase Kobuchizawa her destination of choice is Antarctica. She dreams of seeing the South Pole as her late mother vanished there during an arctic expedition. It’s either that or she just wants to hang out on a continent where cute penguins are bountiful.
A Place Further than the Universe is a thirteen-episode anime produced by Madhouse. To be clear, that’s the veteran animation studio… in case some of you think that the show was created inside a loony bin! Anyways, the series chronicles how Shirase teams up with three other ladies to make her chilly dream a reality. The first person that joins her cause is fellow Tatara West High School student Mari Tamaki. In the first episode viewers learn that Mari wants to go on adventure, as she hasn’t done anything memorable during her young life. She has a history of backing out of things. So much so that she doesn’t even have the courage to skip class.
Convenience store clerk Hinata Miyake is the next person to sign up for the Antarctica trek. She opts to tag along after overhearing Shirase and Mari discuss their journey during one of her shifts. For her, the voyage sounds like a fun distraction before she has to knuckle down with college entrance exams. The problem is that going to Antarctica isn’t something you can book at your local travel agent. Shirase is aware of a scientific expedition that is going to the region soon, but persuading the crew to take three untrained girls with them won’t be easy. Neither bribery nor awkward flirting can convince the researchers to give Shirase and company passage.
Thankfully for the determined trio the impasse is broken when they befriend teenage idol Yuzuki Shiraishi. It’s revealed that Yuzuki has been hired to go on the abovementioned expedition, where she can broadcast news reports relating to the trip. She isn’t keen on the assignment though, as she despises the cold. In the end she only agrees to accept the job under the condition that Shirase, Mari and Hinata accompany her. Like many actresses, Yuzuki is lonely. Constant travel and a packed itinerary have prevented her from making friends. She hopes that Shirase’s group will fill that void. Her craving for chums is so strong that in one episode she even begs the girls to sign a friendship contract with her!
My rating for A Place Further than the Universe is a four out of five. On the surface this appears to be another generic “cute girls doing cute things” series. In actuality the anime has more substance than that. The show is blessed with good production values and well written characters. I expect that many viewers will relate to the heroines’ struggles with bullies, shyness and loneliness. For the most part the tale is a lighthearted coming of age affair, packed with moments that will make you smile. On occasion it does however manage to tug at the heartstrings. Episode twelve in particular is guaranteed to make sensitive types blubber. Even on a frozen land there is no escaping those onion-cutting ninjas!
Citrus is the long awaited sequel to Orange. Hehe. Just kidding! This twelve-episode anime, from the studio that gave us Rail Wars, is actually based on a Yuri manga. The story stars a trendy teenager, named Yuzu Aihara, who has transferred to an all girls academy after her mom remarried. Unfortunately for Yuzu, her first day at school doesn’t go well. Yuzu’s fashion sense earns her a tongue lashing, from those in charge, as it violates the high school’s strict dress code. To make matters worse Yuzu has her mobile confiscated by student council president Mei Aihara. Unlike best friend Harumi Taniguchi, Yuzu doesn’t possess the cleavage necessary to smuggle portable phones inside her bosom.
Eagle eyed readers may have spotted that Yuzu and Mei share an identical surname. In episode one it’s revealed that they are in fact stepsisters. Can the polar opposites cohabitate in their new home? Well, despite being at loggerheads in public they get surprisingly close. So much so that one evening, without warning, Mei plants a kiss on Yuzu’s lips. Despite her icy exterior, it appears that Mei is starving for affection. No surprise, given that her father neglects her in favour of foreign orphans. Deprived of wang at school is it a wonder that Mei turns out to be a lesbian? In hindsight Yuzu’s mother doesn’t help matters. She thinks that two hormone-fuelled teens sharing a double bed is a good idea!
Thus the stage is set for Mei and Yuzu’s hot/cold relationship. At times Mei is flat out rude to her sibling and on other occasions she forcefully locks tongues with Yuzu. I am amazed that Mei has romantic feelings for her new sis, given that Yuzu’s misbehaviour literally gives her grandfather a heart attack in one episode. Then again Mei is a very forgiving person. For example, she harbours no ill will towards Yuzu’s childhood friend Matsuri Mizusawa. During one story arc a jealous Matsuri tries to break up Yuzu and Mei. Her scheme involves using a compromising photo to blackmail Mei into a life of prostitution. Ah no biggie. Sex slavery is nothing major in Mei’s mind. Let bygones be bygones.
My rating for Citrus is a three out of five. It’s a decent series that should appeal to Yuri fans. Some viewers may however get frustrated with the script. Aside from the far-fetched melodrama mentioned above, the way that Citrus teases its audience can get grating. The writers routinely bait you with smut, but never deliver anything more than tame smooches and heavy breathing. Can’t romance anime find a happy medium? I don’t expect a hentai, where people bang after just five minutes of meeting each other. On the flip side however, is it really necessary to prolong things out for a dozen episodes? It takes months for Yuzu to confess her feelings and even then she needs the support of friends to do so.
It’s a shame that this cour didn’t cover the aftermath of Mei/Yuzu’s courtship. Given that love between stepsisters is taboo I am curious to see how their parents would react to the news. Would the pair try to conceal their status or be open about it? The relationship could also have some serious ramifications for Mei. I imagine the scandal may prompt her highly conservative school to remove Mei from the student council. Due to the anime’s slow pacing that question shall remain unanswered, unless you are willing to delve into the later chapters of the source material. That makes me feel sour… just like a lemon. Perhaps that’s where the title Citrus originates from?
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a series that I recently finished watching, after spotting it in the “popular” section of Crunchyroll’s App. It’s based off an ongoing manga created by Kore Yamazaki, which began its run back in 2013. Crunchyroll crowned this show the Best Drama of 2017. The anime spans across twenty-four episodes and Funimation has already dubbed the vast majority of them. Studio Wit, who are best known for Rolling Girls, produced the cartoon. Much to my relief, unlike some other animated adaptations based on a comic that is still being published, I am happy to report that TAMB ends on a satisfactory note.
Finding love can’t be easy when you have a buffalo skull for a face. Like many ugly chaps, magic user Elias Ainsworth’s search for a spouse ended with him having to purchase a bride. Rather than picking the Russian variety, often advertised in the e-mails situated in my spam folder, Elias acquires a redheaded wife via an auction. Chise Hatori is the lucky girl in question. Apart from getting hitched, Chise has the honour of becoming Elias’ apprentice. She has a knack for spell casting, as she was born a Sleigh Beggy – a human who can generate bountiful quantities of mana. Her magical gifts come at a high price though.
Early on it’s revealed that Chise’s power is taking a toll on her lifespan. If a remedy cannot be found she is expected to perish within the next three years. Elias vows to save his missus, but doesn’t seem to be in a rush to do so. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a leisurely paced slice of life affair, were the couple spend most of their days doing chores at their countryside abode. Occasionally they’ll take a trip down to London, for some shopping, or visit Iceland’s dragon sanctuary to fashion a wand. Character interactions are given more prominence than story in this series. Just like Haley Joel Osment, many of the folks Chise converses with are invisible to regular humans. Instead of poltergeists, Chise’s “sixth sense” allows her to see members of the Fae race.
My rating for The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a five out of five. The series is certainly deserving of the accolade Crunchyroll bestowed upon it. Fans of fantasy and the supernatural are sure to enjoy the world Yamazaki has crafted. It’s populated with a diverse cast of characters who are brought to life thanks to Studio Wit’s beautiful artwork. Mischievous fairies fly through the air, along with adorable woolly bugs (I really desire a plush toy of the latter.) In the village where Elias resides spirits are abundant. His housekeeper is a banshee and one of his neighbours unknowingly cohabitates with a half naked Succubus. Sigh. Why can’t my own home be haunted by a cute waifu?
I am certain this series will be a contender for my annual anime top five, as it is rich in emotional moments. Some scenes will make you laugh and others will invoke tears. Surprisingly the romance is subtle. Don’t expect too much mushiness, as Chise is recovering from a tragic childhood whilst Elias is a creature who struggles to comprehend human emotions. Slowly however a bond does form between the pair. The blossoming love exposes how Elias isn’t the majestic sorcerer he initially appears to be. When others court Chise’s attention he isn’t above immature bouts of jealousy. He wants Chise’s affection all for himself. Old buffalo head is quite the horny devil… in more ways than one.