A Place Further Than The Universe Ep. 5: Leaving old friends behind

This week, it’s all about Mari’s drama with Megumi. After all, we’ve been building up to this for the past few episodes. Mari used to need her, and now she doesn’t. The problem is that Megumi looked forward to playing the big sister role. She liked being needed. She needed being needed. Any normal person in her shoes would feel a little rejected.

In the middle of her packing, Mari finds an old PSX. Is that console old enough to be considered retro nowadays? Anyways, it apparently belongs to Megumi, but Mari thought she had lost it. How do you even lose an entire console? Well, the girl goes and returns it. Even better, she just starts playing a game in front of Megumi. You can feel the resentment in her best friend’s voice. Mari’s obliviousness starts to get on Megumi’s nerves, so she eventually pulls the plug on Mari’s gaming. She can’t pull the plug on her best friend’s trip, so this is the best she can do. To the audience, however, she’s just being petty. Her childishness is coming through, especially when she pretends as though she merely tripped over the cord.

But to be fair, Mari is being incredibly insensitive. First, why would you come over to your friend’s house — a friend you won’t see for months — then just plop your butt down and start gaming in front of her? Second, it’s interesting how it’s easy for Mari to empathize with others, but she’s having a hard time understanding Megumi’s feelings. I wonder if this is the product of them having been friends so long. Over time, maybe Mari has started taking Megumi for granted. Or maybe, since Megumi has always looked out for her, Mari just never even thinks that she needs to be emotionally attuned to Megumi’s needs.

Either way, the situation is sad when you really think about it. Even the strongest bonds can break if they aren’t maintained. I’m sure these two will make up eventually, because this is just that kind of show. Nevertheless, what’s happening now between these two girls is a stark reminder that we should always strive to put in a little effort even with our closest friends. Ultimately, the day ends with nothing resolved between the two girls.

The next day, Mari goes on and on about how she won’t be able to enjoy some pudding drink for the next three months, or how she won’t be able to visit her favorite temple for the next three months. She’s leaving tomorrow, and yet, she won’t say what she needs to say: she won’t be able to see Megumi for the next three months.

As a result, Megumi starts creating drama: “A lot of people think you’re getting full of yourself.” She goes on to claim that people are badmouthing Mari and her friends behind their backs, but of course, we can’t verify any of this information. Mari will just have to believe her best friend, and she has no reason to distrust her. Naturally, Shirase wants to pick a fight, and Hinata has to continue being the level-headed member of the group: “Starting a fight now won’t help anybody. You’ve ignored all the nasty rumors so far, right?” Seriously. They’re one day away from embarking on a trip of a lifetime. Don’t risk throwing everything away out of foolish pride. Psst, Hinata’s still my favorite character. In any case, it seems apparent to me that Megumi wants to knock her friend down a peg, but she doesn’t realize the mess she might make.

Hinata then offers words of encouragement to her friends: “I mean you have people to vent with!” Gosh, that must sting for Megumi. She must feel as though she can’t talk to Mari at all, which is why she’s lashing out in such a passive aggressive manner. She gets roped into going to a karaoke bar with Mari and her friends, but this doesn’t make her feel any less of an outsider. On their way home from singing, things come to a head when Mari confesses, “I’ve been thinking this whole time… About how I want to go far away, about how I hate being where I am, about how I hate myself.” Megumi finally realizes that she doesn’t understand her best friend either. Somewhere along away, they both became blind to the other person’s insecurities.

Hate is a strong word, but maybe Mari did truly hate herself a bit. It turns out she was frustrated with being such a burden on her loved ones. This trip is a way for her to accomplish something without her family or Megumi to help her, but… she still needs the other three, no? Of course, Mari’s an airhead, and she needs to change that. And maybe she will by the end of the series. But for now, it’s okay to admit that we rely on others. There’s no shame in that.

So after mulling over it all night, it’s Megumi’s turn to confess to Mari. The next morning, she drops by her best friend’s home and announces that she wants to dissolve their friendship. It turns out she was the one spreading those nasty rumors all along (big surprise). It turns out she was the one who told Mari’s mom all about the trip. It’s like when a significant other is unhappy with the relationship, but they don’t have the courage to break up with you face-to-face. So instead, they hurt you subtly in hopes that you’ll get fed up with them. They want you to pull the plug for them instead. Unfortunately, since Mari’s been taking Megumi for granted, she never even caught onto any of her friend’s transgressions.

Megumi reveals her biggest secret: “And because I wasn’t anything, I didn’t want you to have anything.” What goes unspoken is the immense amount of shame that the girl must be feeling right now. She’s saying all these things to hurt Mari, but you know she’s really killing herself on the inside. But she accepts her punishment, and she’s ready to move on without Mari. That doesn’t mean they can’t be friends after the trip, but they’ll both have grown up a little by then. They’ll both be slightly different people by then. Whatever they’ll have in the future will have to be a new friendship. After all, they can’t fall back into the same ol’ routines. They can’t rely on the same stagnant dynamic that was causing their relationship to border on co-dependency.

And if they can’t be friends again, then so be it. Part of growing up is realizing that some of our friends just won’t be able to keep up with us. I’m not saying that Megumi can’t get over her issues by the time Mari returns; I’m just speaking generally. You can either lower yourself down to your friends’ level, which would be foolish, or they can try their best to catch up to you. No matter what, don’t let others drag you down and hold you back. I think the wise Snoop Dog once said that.

All in all, this is a strong, emotional episode, which comes as a very pleasant surprise. It shows that the anime won’t just rely on being a carefree, slice-of-life anime. It has the chops to take on difficult feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment, and jealousy without its drama becoming too overwrought. In the end, there’s still hope for Mari and Megumi’s friendship, but at the same time, things aren’t in perfect, pristine shape either. But for now, they’ll both have to let go and move on with the rest of their lives.

Misc. note & observations:

— Short, simple and full of attitude — I like Shirase’s “speech.” The fist bump behind the back was a little corny, though; I groaned a little at it.

— The childhood friend can never win.

— Yuzuki’s a consummate pro… and Shirase’s such a spaz by comparison. I’m glad they didn’t make her the perfectly composed maiden.

— Mari indirectly claims that she only weighs 92 lbs. That can’t be right. Even her friends are dubious, and I should hope so. Even if she’s around 5’0″, which would be rather short, she’d still a bit underweight.

— And yet, she wants to bring 69 kilograms worth of stuff with her. When her sister digs through all the stuff, it includes nonsense like a nonstick pan, two dictionaries, a vegetable peeler, etc. All that stuff I wrote about her last week? I take them back. Okay, not really, but as important as she is to the group dynamic, she’s such an airhead. Not even in the cute way, too. She’d be lost without her sister. And she’d be lost at school without Megumi. And her dreams of traveling never would’ve amounted to anything if she had been left to her own devices. On the other hand, you can easily imagine Shirase making it to Antarctica eventually. It would’ve just taken longer without Mari and the other girls.

Tell me about it.

— Mari’s favorite game is just a puzzle game… which I’m sure someone out there is going to try and reproduce now. Now that I think about it, the only puzzle game I ever really got into was Tetris Attack.

— I’m disappointed that we don’t get to see Shirase or Hinata talk to any of their legal guardians about this trip.

— Hm, I knew she was a fast runner, but did Hinata use to do track?

— Yuzuki’s room is very sparse. She doesn’t seem to own a lot of personal effects. Maybe this is because she’s always moving about for her modeling job. Or maybe this is because she hasn’t had much of a childhood.

— Kind of an interesting shot… Mari is outside her walls, looking wistfully into the distance. She’s about to embark on her journey. Meanwhile, Megumi is left behind.

— The animation quality has dropped a tiny bit. Poor Shirase looks like a pinhead.

Just not on the important trip.

— I actually wanted to see them sing. Unfortunately, this is the best we’ll get.

— Mari’s family whipped up a going-away dinner. Man, these anime families are too sweet. I barely got a goodbye when I left for college.

Jesus Christ.

— What a goofy grin.

— Did Shirase decide to delete the email she was going to send her mom? That’s what I’m assuming, but none of the UI on the phone is translated.

— Just a small but neat thing to point out: I like how Hinata is walking in the opposite direction of her peers.

— Don’t try this at home, guys. It only takes one person to break up in the real world.

9 thoughts on “A Place Further Than The Universe Ep. 5: Leaving old friends behind

  1. Lin

    This episode didn’t do it for me. I feel the show blamed everything on Megu and never addressed how Mari took her for granted and basically forgot about her when she didn’t need her as much anymore.

    Honestly, I thought I was gonna like this show more than I ended up doing. I wanted more interaction between the girls other than Mari, for instance, but all we got was that little moment between Hinata and Shirase in episode 3. I think that’s a missed opportunity. I can only hope Shirase’s character arc will get more focus in the second half of the show. The first half was mostly about Mari’s seishuun bullshit and that’s okay but not particularly interesting. I’m more interested in how Shirase will face her mother’s death and move on.

    1. Sean Post author

      I feel the show blamed everything on Megu and never addressed how Mari took her for granted and basically forgot about her when she didn’t need her as much anymore.

      I felt Megumi brought it up in her final scene. She didn’t say it directly, but her words were clear enough. Plus, I’d have more sympathy for her if she didn’t outright spread rumors. If Mari did anything to hurt her friend — and she did — it was unintentional. She’s just dense and clueless. Megumi was straight up malicious with those rumors.

      1. Lin

        If Mari did anything to hurt her friend — and she did — it was unintentional. She’s just dense and clueless.

        It doesn’t matter. Being insensitive is still a probably and needed to be addressed. Maybe even moreso than Megu’s bitchiness since she’s not even a main character and we won’t see her again until the end. Mari on the other hand is supposed to grow as a person in this show, right? But while she’s becoming more assertive she’s also becoming somewhat self-absorbed. What’s the point of her character arc if they’re just trading a character flaw with different one instead of actually have her grow for real?

        1. Sean Post author

          There are still two months of episodes left, so I’ll wait and see. I agree Mari hasn’t grown much, but that doesn’t mean she won’t. I feel the episode did address her flaws. The episode deliberately highlighted her insensitivity. Just because Megumi didn’t say anything about it doesn’t mean the episode wasn’t critical of Mari. There just wasn’t enough time to fix things between those two, which I don’t mind. But I can’t convince you to like what you didn’t like, so I’ll just leave it at that.

          1. Lin

            Yes, there are more episode, but they have to cover Shirase’s character arc too. Other than that, I didn’t feel they highlighted Mari’s insensitivity all that much, to be honest. Mari is oblivious and self-absorbed but I’m not sure how much the show is actually aware of that.

  2. ndqanhvn

    The character design looks really funny to me. Everyone seems to be dipped in oil.

    “Part of growing up is realizing that some of our friends just won’t be able to keep up with us.”

    This is really true. Sad, but true. If the anime really goes that way, it would be quite interesting. But I think there’s a higher chance that they will go for a “friendship forever” resolution sooner or later.

    1. Sean Post author

      The character design looks really funny to me. Everyone seems to be dipped in oil.

      I was thinking laminated. Or lacquered.

  3. Adamar

    “Mari’s favorite game is just a puzzle game… which I’m sure someone out there is going to try and reproduce now. ”

    Looks like Puyo Pop, probably.

  4. Advaris

    The first episode to the fourth episode of this anime feel much too light-hearted for me to take seriously, especially with all the coincidences. I know that the plot about Shirase’s mom has existed from the beginning, but the rest of the anime kinda ruin it I think. Heck, it’s the only conflict in this anime that I can take seriously. The lightheartedness kinda ruins this episode for me, though. I can’t take the problem seriously if the rest of the anime convince me that everything will just be happy happy fun time. I just feel that the way that conflicts are resolved in this anime is too anti-climactic like there is no stake here.

    Other than that, this anime is surprisingly more enjoyable than what its first episode would suggest. On another note, all the four main girls have the same bang. What…? I think if Megumi seriously want to become BFF with Mari again, she should do her hair to have the same bang as the four main girls. Lol


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