Now that the girls have secured a route to Antarctica, they need to get their parents’ permission to make everything official. Oh, don’t forget about the school’s opinion either. Needless to say, Mari hasn’t mentioned anything about her winter expedition to her mother. It all comes to a head when the girl finally tries to secure her mother’s approval. I love this scene, actually. We are made small and diminutive; we are put in the role of the child who has done something wrong. We can’t see our mother’s loving face. All we can see is our mother turned away from us. Knife in hand, she proceeds to rhythmically chop away at the cutting board. At the end of the day, A Place Further Than The Universe is a simple story about four girls embarking on a grand adventure. Nevertheless, I appreciate the director making the best of the material by allowing the show’s tone to playfully indulge in the conventions of other genres from time to time. In this case, we treat ourselves to a bit of horror.
In the end, Mari’s mom is incredibly lenient. The girl can go on the trip so long as she passes all her tests. Well, she should’ve been passing all of her tests to begin with. I feel for the mother, though. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, your child will be thousands and thousands of miles away. She won’t just be visiting another country. She’s visiting one of the most dangerous places on this planet. If and when she needs help, there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to trust that the adults around her can protect her. Any parent would be scared out of their mind at such a prospect. But on the other hand, if you forbid your child from going on such a once-in-a-lifetime trip, she’ll probably resent you for a lifetime. What can Mari’s mom do but be lenient? It also doesn’t help that the neighbors know more about what your kid is up to than you. That is a little embarrassing. Mari should’ve never held this off until the last minute. I kind of understand her reasoning. She wanted to make sure the trip was even a reality before talking to her mom about it. Mari could’ve planned this all out better, but then she wouldn’t be Mari.
I won’t lie; Mari’s not my favorite character. In fact, she’s my least favorite of the four girls. That doesn’t mean I dislike her, though. Mari’s disposition for recklessness is simultaneously a strength and a weakness. Her impulsivity can’t help but make her loved ones worry. Megumi warns her best friend that the trip might not come to fruition. And if Mari works this hard only for everything to fall apart, she’ll regret it later. I actually don’t agree with Megumi here. If you don’t work hard, then you’ll just regret not giving it your all. In fact, Megumi’s been a bit of a downer lately. Then again, you have to feel for her as well. Her best friend charges head first into everything without a plan, and yet, she’s being rewarded with a trip to Antarctica. Meanwhile, Megumi just feels a bit… left behind. It just sucks to see your best friend do all these cool things without you. And since Mari tends to live in the moment, she doesn’t notice that her best friend might be lonely.
The same thing happens later with Shirase. At times, Mari needs to be reigned in. During the training camp, Shirase’s mood has soured significantly. She is definitely not the nervous bundle of energy that we saw last week. Well, she just bumped into Todo Gin, one of people who used to know her mother Takako. They even went on expeditions to Antarctica together. Naturally, Gin returned from Antarctica one day and Takako didn’t. We don’t know yet if Shirase resents Gin for surviving (though I’m sure the woman already feels guilty enough for that), but her feelings towards the group’s captain is no doubt complicated. As a result, she’s been less talkative than usual, and the girls can sense it… except for Mari, that is. For her, this trip to Antarctica is still all about having fun. So when they settle in for the day, she wants to stay up and chat all night with her three new friends. After all, who goes to sleep at 8pm? Unfortunately, her recklessness prevents her from being able to read the current mood of the situation. When Shirase eventually opens up a little bit about Gin, Mari tries to reach out and comfort the girl. Hinata holds her back, though. I can’t say if that is the right move or not, but in the end, it doesn’t matter anyway. After all, Mari just can’t help herself: in the morning, we see her with one hand reaching out to Shirase. It’s a neat, touching bit of characterization that flips Mari’s one weakness on its head. She acts without thinking, and yet, she always acts with good intentions.
There are times when Mari’s recklessness hurts her, but there are also times when it definitely helps her. For example, when she hugged Yuzuki out of the blue last week, there was no better action to take. What Yuzuki needed in that exact moment was a friend, and Mari’s ability to act without thinking met that need perfectly. And even though she’ll probably stumble more often that not throughout the rest of the series, you have to imagine that she’ll eventually be able to help Shirase cope with the loss of her mother as well. Without her recklessness, we wouldn’t even have a show to watch. Only someone like Mari would’ve accepted Shirase’s invitation to Antarctica on such a whim. Plus, I doubt Hinata and Yuzuki would’ve joined without Mari. So even though she’s my least favorite character out of the four girls, she’s the all-essential catalyst that sets all of the events in motion.
Misc. Notes & observations:
— I wish I had a sibling to help me gauge my mom’s mood when i was growing up.
— Excellent direction. Again, I just love everything about this scene.
— Regarding Mari’s test grades, I would never expect my kid to get straight As, but I know how easy high school is. Sorry, but getting a C should be a walk in the park.
— And on that note, when Mari asks Hinata for help on her studying, she quickly gets shot down. I agree wholeheartedly with Hinata and Shirase.
— It’s the first day of the training camp, and some woman shows up in a cluttered van to pick up the four girls. They quickly realize that this is not some glamorous trip. This is a bunch of civilians barely scraping, and it shows. Shirase appears to be completely calm on the surface, though, and I like the contrast between her and the other three girls. Something’s eating away at her. For Shirase, this isn’t a winter trip; it’s a mission.
— The group — as in the official group and not our four girls — still doesn’t have all the money raised for the expedition. Time for a GoFundMe. Speaking of which, one of my favorite pastimes lately has been reading the “Don’t Fund Me” subreddit.
— That’s a measured response.
— Midway through their lecture, Todo Gin, the group’s captain, storms in and starts establishing her authority. There isn’t much warmth here; she’s completely businesslike. I don’t agree with that approach. You’re talking to kids, not grown adults.
— Oh, Gin did not want Shirase on this trip at all. This probably explains her cold approach earlier. Still, she can’t stop the girl from coming now, so she may as well make the best of it.
— Will such a short training camp truly suffice? These kids are too green. Even with Hinata and Shirase trying to lead the group, the girls end up off-track. They’re not idiots; like I said, they’re just really green at this.
— All this flag-planting business is new to me, so I’m actually kinda interested in what they’re doing.
— Somehow, Mari is good at using the compass.
— The land around them seems barren. If they suddenly need to use the restroom, where would they go?
— I’ve lived in a city all my life, so I’ve never gotten the chance to see a night sky full of stars.
— Mari is the first to wake up, and when she leaves the tent, she sees Gin standing on a rock. She joins her captain as they take in the view around them. The bed of clouds almost resembles the snow of Antarctica, reminding them that they’re on the cusp of a great adventure. The girl then asks Gin about Shirase’s mom, and gets this answer in response: “I don’t know her daughter very well. But in stubbornness and conviction, she’s her splitting image.” As one might expect, the fruit doesn’t fall very far from the tree.
— When the sun comes up, Mari goes to wake her friends. Hinata’s still my favorite character. Her reaction cracks me up.