Posted by SuperMario on 22 April 2018 with categories: A Place Further than the Universe, Anime Reviews

Cute girls doing cute things is a genre that been done to death at this point. Even within this Winter 2018 we had been overloaded with big eyes fluffy face girls doing a lot of different things of interest. It takes a standout concept or a deeper narrative to make one stand out from this crowded pack. Enters Universe, an original show from Madhouse that has both of these. The show’s concept, after all, is about a group of high school girls making their trip to Antarctica, also known as the place further than the universe. Universe isn’t without its issues, the pacing in particular takes the girls way too long until they reach the destination. But to its defense this show is always more about the journey than the destination. It’s about experience life to the fullest and make friends who share the same interest in the process. The “friendship” bits can be contrived at times, but even with me (who isn’t that enthusiastic about it) realizes that the drama in this series is done quite well, as it always gives a satisfying emotional response to the conflicts it creates.

If there is one thing that I’m sure this show will be remembered for years to come, it’s the concept. Touring oversea isn’t that difficult nowadays compare to say, 20, 30 years ago, but a trip to Antarctica? Really? High school girls you say? What’s there to see in that icy place? How the hell do they get in there? Money? Lots of questions bound to come up upon hearing this premise and I’m happy to say that Universe never glosses over those issues, but instead approach them with a thoroughly research. Every stage of the trip is planned carefully, they never make light comments about high-school girls going for such harsh trip and indeed, they point out many times how extreme this trip can be. The expedition ship and the Antarctica place are so detailed that it’s easy to see the staffs made the same trip for their own research. It’s a joy to watch and know more about this little unheard place, to the point sometimes I feel this show is an advertisement for Antarctica (well, I’m sold). Moreover, a show that gives a detailed treatment to Singapore is always a plus (and I love durian!!).

What Universe also sells us is the way they frame this trip as a self-discovery, as a way to embrace the youth to their heart’s content. Mari, the show’s protagonist, is the perfect character for this trip. She worries about how she steps out of her comfort zone, and this trip makes a life-changing event, not necessary in terms of the specialty of Antarctica, but more about maturity. It also helps that the girls’ goal to reach the South Pole is much more than just “follow your own dreams”. Shirase is a girl that had her Mother disappeared in that very place, and it’s one of her resolve to go there just to be closer to her Mom. There’s also Hina who takes high school off but wants to experience something before college and most importantly, there’s Yuzuki, an idol who gets caught up with this trip and just tag along because she wants to travel with her new friends. And those make this trip a bit richer because doesn’t matter their own intention is, it’s the experience that they share together is the most important factor.

The girls make up a great central cast for us to follow. All 4 of the girls have different personalities, they have their own goals and their own backstories, and they have their own voices. Shirase, for example, is a no-nonsense but extremely unstable girl, whereas Mari is cheerful and acts like the emotional force of the group. Hina, my favorite character, has a wise (and bullying) side of her and Yuzuki somehow feels much more relatable through the way she loathes her “star” identity. Moreover, they bounce off extremely well and it’s a blast just to see the four girls interacting with each other. But most important of all, each of them has their own arc to overcome, and while some it I felt were made for the sake of creating conflict (in other words, unnatural), they always have a satisfying ending that elevate the shortcomings of the conflicts.

While the main theme is about self-discovery, I was a bit surprised to find out most of the show’s episodic conflicts are about the notion of friendships. Mari’s drama with her best friend, Megumi, for example, cuts unexpectedly but it cuts deep, mind you. Or Yuzuki’s little drama about “When will we know if we are friends” or Hina’s past issues with her secondary school friends. As a whole, I find the concentration to friendships theme a bit overplayed. Granted, their friendships in a nutshell are interesting ones. They haven’t known each other for so long and apart from this trip, they have very different lives. Yet Universe argues that as long as they share something together – be it getting seasick, eating a thousand-year-old snow corn or enjoying a view of mystical Southern light– they will always have a special place in each other’s heart.

The character designs and the production in general are in the more conservative side, but taken as a whole it fulfils its jobs nicely. There is a large amount of insert songs – most of them pretty heart-warming- so the music of Universe is solid overall. The pacing remains its biggest issue, as it takes until the end of episode 9 for the crew to finally takes their feet onto Antarctica icy ground. They could do it much better if they cut a bit of a transit section (Singapore and Australia, as well as on a ship section – another 2 episodes). Ultimately, Universe is a journey itself. It remains a feel-good show with relatable message of enjoying youth to the fullest and the girls make the most of their time on-screen. Certainly amongst the top tier of its cute girls pack.

4 Responses

  1. Avatar KTravlos says:

    I wonder if I should watch this in juxtaposition of my watching of “The Terror”. They both are about journeys to the ice :p

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      then you absolutely SHOULD watch this. After all, cute girls with big eyes and no nose doing “cute” things can be as creepy, if not more so than being stranded in the extreme weather.

  2. I originally ignored this series back when it was airing because it was something I felt I’d put behind me or wasn’t interested in.

    But as I said on the chatbox, I decided to give it a chance today.
    Initially I wasn’t onboard with the over-enthusiasm, squeekiness and energy this series was trying to sell me, Kimari and Hinata particularly annoyed me initially.

    But after a couple of episodes that enthusiasm started winning me over and despite not being the main character, Shirase’s drama bits were the standout moments for me and she ended up being my favourite of the girls, largely because her reasons for taking the trip were the most special of them and those were the parts, especially late in the series where it made me feel something.

    I even got moments of decently funny comedy out of it eventually and cheesy as the friendship angle was played in this it worked for me by around the half point and this became a show where, after it had ended, it did feel like I was saying goodbye to these characters.

    Thanks for reviewing it.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      Thanks for giving your thoughts on it, Kaiser. I mean, this show has a refreshing topic: high school girls making trip to Antarctica – and they make it as realistic as possible. Despite the show starts with Mari, it’s Shirashe’s arc that carry the main narrative. It works quite well from how I remembered it.

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