Yuzuki finally gets around to reading her mother’s email while the other girls are distracted by penguins. Thankfully, it’s not bad news at all. Sorta. I mean, at least they’re not getting blasted for pulling in low view counts. Instead, it turns out Yuzuki has landed a major part in a j-drama. I would think she’s a bit young for the part, since they generally cast people in their mid-20s to play high schoolers, but I digress. Rather, the real issue is that an actress generally doesn’t get to have a lot of free time, especially if she has to play the protagonist’s best friend. So that’s the bad news. What will happen to her friendship with the other three girls once this trip is over? In the past, Yuzuki’s peers tried to hang out with her, but she would either have to cancel on them or reject their invites completely. Naturally, they became distant and cold to her over time. I can’t really blame them too much, though. It’s hard to maintain a friendship with that much distance. Nevertheless, we want to believe that Mari, Shirase, and Hinata are special. We want to believe that this trip has forged an unbreakable bond between these four girls.
Still, it’s totally understandable that Yuzuki feels insecure. It’s totally understandable for her to think that her burgeoning career might come at too high of a cost. After all, before she was convinced to leave for Antarctica, she had wanted to quit modeling altogether. She even starts to worry that the other three girls have become best friends without her. Of course, just asking if they’re really best friends is enough to make Mari cry, but we’ll get to that in a bit. We have to remember that Yuzuki was the last person to join the group, and from her point of view, nobody had made any official declaration of friendship. She’s not confident enough to just assume out of nowhere that they had already been best friends for a while now. Also, Mari shouldn’t have mentioned this one thing that Yuzuki doesn’t know about. Last but not least, it doesn’t help when Hinata points out that they’d be going back to living separately after this trip anyway. She’s not wrong, but considering the current situation, it probably didn’t need to be said. In any case, the girls can promise to remain friends forever, but it would behoove them to make the best of what they have now.
Plus, a question like “When did we become friends” is a kind of difficult to answer. At best, you can point to a certain period, but you can’t be too specific about it. Friendships usually just kind of happen. But again, someone who is insecure about this sort of thing is likely to fret over the details. Shirase suggests that they could just come out and say that they’re all best friends, but Hinata warns (through an amusing impersonation) that it won’t alleviate Yuzuki’s insecurities. She might not think that they’re being genuine if all they have to offer her are words. Therein lies the irony: Yuzuki wants to use words to define their friendship, but words are also easily brushed aside. You can only affirm a friendship through action. So I imagine it’s up to Mari to do most of the heavy lifting this time around. She’s not as smart and sensible as Hinata, nor is she as determined as Shirase, but as we’ve seen in the past, she’s easily the most empathetic member of the group. She provides the emotional support that no one else can.
In the second half of the episode, Yuzuki ends up drafting a friendship contract for her friends. Out of context, this is definitely a tacky move. But we know Yuzuki is feeling particularly anxious right now, so she hopes that the contract would give her some peace of mind. Shirase and Hinata don’t go with it, because they know it won’t. Not for long, anyway. If anything, the contract would just heighten her insecurities. Imagine Yuzuki having a long, arduous day on-set, and she would just love to hear from her friends. But due to circumstances out of everyone’s control, they can’t respond to her right away. She might look at these (non-binding) contracts and feel as though she has been betrayed. Even though Shirase and Hinata could be nicer about it, they’re right: these contracts won’t help at all.
Plus, if you can’t trust your friends to be your friends without a contract, you have bigger issues to tackle. As a result, Mari starts crying again. Unfortunately, dinner calls, so the girls can’t immediately resolve the matter. Still, Shirase and Hinata try to explain their feelings to Shirase. Why did Mari cry in the hallway? Did she feel as though Yuzuki couldn’t trust her? I mean, that might be a small part of it, but I really don’t think it is. If you try to look at it logically, i.e. from Hinata’s point of view, you might see it that way. And Shirase’s not wrong, either: friendships are not exactly tangible things, but that’s what makes them special. Friendship is just a feeling you have to experience to truly understand it. Yuzuki hasn’t experienced it, so she tries to grasp it through details and specifics, but that won’t help. Still, I feel for the girl and how confused she must feel. But more importantly, Mari simply cried mainly because she empathized with Yuzuki. She knows what her friend is going through, but due to a super secret agreement between her, Shirase, and Hinata, they can’t spill the beans just yet.
After dinner, Mari opens up to Yuzuki about her delicate relationship with Megumi, and this private moment simply reiterates what we already know about friendship: it’s a feeling you just know you have once you experience it for yourself. The girls surprise Yuzuki with not just a Christmas celebration, but a birthday one as well. Apparently, her birthday came and went during that tumultuous period on the boat when all four girls were seasick. As a result, Mari, Shirase and Hinata all agreed to throw a surprise party for Yuzuki afterwards. After all, a birthday wouldn’t feel very special if you and your friends are too busy puking your guts out. This was the super secret agreement. This is what Yuzuki wasn’t privy to and for good reason, too. Mari also did most of the planning, so she saves the day again. Still, what the other three have been trying to tell her all along is that they’re already best friends. They just needed a grand gesture to convince girl who — quite frankly — has had a tough childhood as well. Friendship is understanding each other without being overburdened with words. Right? Right.
Anyways, you can tell Madhouse had a ton of fun making this show. Every scene just oozes with genuine warmth and heart. Even difficult conversations end up having tons of charm. For instance, Shirase keeps stuffing her face at dinner to avoid having an awkward talk about feelings. This, of course, came at Hinata’s expense. Basically, there isn’t a single cynical bone in this entire anime. If this episode didn’t thaw your heart, I really don’t know what could. It’s not the most challenging show out there, but that’s fine. Even I’m enjoying the hell out of this anime, and I really came into the season quite skeptical about it. “Four high school girls are headed for Antarctica? For real?” After ten weeks, however, the saddest realization is that we only have three episodes left.
Misc. notes & observations:
— Our girls get the first crack at their new temporary home, so this means climbing onto a helicopter and taking a short flight over to Syowa Station. Even the other characters are now noticing Yuzuki’s love for dying. The girl’s scared of heights, but I’m surprised she’s also scared of this relatively enclosed space. I dunno, it doesn’t seem consistent, because she wasn’t scared at all when she flew on the planes to get to Singapore and Australia.
— Damn, they packed all those costumes?
— Madhouse is showing off their fancy 3-D chops, and I gotta admit that this CGI actually looks good. Usually, 3-D anything tends to stick out like a sore thumb in anime.
— After telling all the haters in her life to suck it at the end of last week’s episode, Shirase’s mood is… subdued. She is definitely not as gleeful as either Mari or Hinata (Yuzuki is still too scared to be excited). But that’s understandable; this isn’t just an adventure for her. I can’t wait to see how the show handles the upcoming melodrama regarding her and her mother.
— Kanae is giving the girls (and the audience) a quick tour of Syowa Station, and for some reason, I’m reminded of The Thing. Man, how awesome would it be if the show suddenly become horror for the final few episodes? Okay, maybe not awesome, but I’d be so amused. Something that looks like Takako is killing people one-by-one… can Shirase do what needs to be done?!
— The girls each get their own rooms, which is a boon to Yuzuki. According to her, Mari likes to talk in her sleep. Not only that, she even opens her eyes as she sleep-talks. I imagine that must have been startling for the others to see the first time she did it around them. Still, these accommodations are much nicer than what I had expected. Yo, I wanna go to Antarctica too.
— I don’t think you should get close to wild animals.
— Mari should heed the advice about being sunburnt seeing as how the ozone layer is thinner there and all.
— Whoa, nice-looking bar.
— The concerned look Mari gives Hinata when she suggests that birds wouldn’t eat each other cracks me up. Nevertheless, there’s always a danger of making Mari too dumb even if it’s for the sake of comedy. In the end, the two girls decide to leave the chicken out in a hallway.
— Meanwhile, Shirase and Yuzuki have to serve up some Christmas cakes to the rest of the team as a pick-me-up. The girls are dressed for the part. I like Shirase’s hat. I imagine the burst of sugar is nice. Hell, I could use one right now… For these guys, those calories will quickly be burnt by all their hard labor. Sadly, I don’t have the same luxury. I do wonder how well cake frosting would hold up under these cold temperatures, but I’m no pastry chef.
— Everything is making Yuzuki insecure. Since Christmas is supposed to be a celebration, the girl is reminded that she has apparently never celebrated her birthday with friends. Aw, don’t let that get you down. I mean, me neither!
— Is… is there fruit in that cake? Ew.
— Frozen rice may as well be inedible, so at least it’s just the tuna that’s a little crunchy.
— Elsewhere, Gin and Kanae are sharing a mostly silent moment as they toast their return to Antarctica. I’m sure there are complicated feelings involved, but I like the show’s restraint. We don’t need another melodramatic subplot on top of what we’re already dealing with this week. There are still three weeks left to address everything.
— Oddly enough, part of the festivities involve Shirase and Hinata dressing up and telling Christmas stories. From a distance, you might think of Shirase as a tall and composed beauty, but in reality, she’s such an awkward goof. I figure Shirase would find something like this deathly embarrassing, but luckily for her, the adults have all passed out from drinking.
— What was Mari trying to do? Pretend to be Santa coming down the chimney? What a dork.
— Oh hey, another good insert song during Yuzuki’s birthday celebration.
— Look at that busy schedule.