By bassman2112 3 Comments
While anime is a medium which can be at its absolute best when telling ultra-compelling, complicated, dark, twisted tales; sometimes you just need to sit down and watch something wholesome. In previous reviews, I've pointed out that one of my least favourite genres tends to be Slice of Life. I didn't really like Nichijou, One Week Friends didn't do anything for me, K-On was actually pretty fun, Kanon left me shrugging, and while Clannad was interesting, I wouldn't say it excelled at anything. A Place Further Than the Universe (which I'll call Sora Yori, because it's shorter) is a special show, and I would say that it transcends its genre into being something worth seeing no matter what you feel about Slice of Life.
At its core, Sora Yori is a show which follows four high school-aged girls who are trying to make their way to Antarctica. It sounds fairly silly when you break it down like that, but its core story ends up being remarkably compelling. The narrative is, ultimately, carried by its wonderful cast of characters and their realistic interactions. Each of them are dealing with very relatable 'real life' issues - things like abandonment, loss, fear - but they are doing so by leaning on the people they care most about, their friends. Sora Yori does away with a narrative which is about world-ending threats, terrifying and life-threatening scenarios, as well as intense action. It's just four girls living life, and making a point not to waste their youth.
The show trends towards being a comedy, and executes on its comedic tropes flawlessly; but be warned, it does show its emotional hand many times throughout the series - especially near the end, where it does so without abandon. The scene I'm referencing in particular is very powerful, perfectly executed, and will stick with me for years.
It's kind of amazing to think that this was made by Madhouse, the same studio which brought us such classics as Death Note, No Game No Life, and One Punch Man. I find it particularly amazing because, even with those important shows, these four girls are maybe my favourite characters they've ever worked with. Even more impressive is the fact that it is a wholly original work - Sora Yori is not based on a previously existing manga/novel/VN/etc.
Another thing which caught me off-guard is how cohesive the show is artistically. The art team created beautifully detailed vistas which are astoundingly true to their real-life counterparts. Seeing their renditions of Tokyo, Singapore, and the Antarctic prompted me to look at pictures of the real-life versions. I was surprised to see just how well they captured everything - it was like looking at a (admittedly lower-budget) Shinkai work! (I guess that applies to both the art and the story).
I could easily wax rhapsodic about every aspect of this show - sound design, music (though I would have enjoyed more music, as they reuse it occasionally), art, story, characters, plot - but I'd prefer summing it up in a succinct way: this show is easily Anime of the Season, and it is currently holding firm as my Anime of the Year (here's hoping Steins;Gate 0 continues being great though!). It is my favourite Slice of Life of all time, and I am so happy it exists. It is a refreshing experience to experience something so optimistic and grounded, and I have no caveats when saying that A Place Further Than the Universe deserves your time. Even if you're traditionally a fan of action-heavy anime, don't be put off by this show's genre and main characters - it is an exhilarating experience, and I can't recommend it enough.
I want to say one last thing about Sora Yori. Though it seems like an exaggeration to say, this is the kind of story which could prompt real, actual change in your real, actual life. It did in mine, and it takes a special kind of fiction to do that. Though they likely will never read this, I want to thank the creators of this show for making a positive impact on my life <3
I rate A Place Further Than the Universe: 5/5