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!