A Place Further Than the Universe
I think this might be the first review I've written on here. I like to write, so hopefully this will be good. MINOR SPOILERS ~~~ READ AT YOUR OWN RISK This was not a story about Antarctica. This was a story about people. It can be considered slice-of-life, but it does have a plot. In fact, it balances the two things well. The majority of your time is spent watching four high school girls goof off, but the plot never stalls. On occasion, their antics ARE the plot, like the passport incident. I personally never got bored. I will say I don't get bored easily when it comes to stories, but there's a difference between sitting around watching or reading something because I'm idly curious to see where it goes, and actually being engaged. I was actually engaged. I can stick with a story all the way through and then think "lol that was dumb" at the end; not so with this anime. I loved the energy and the emotional intensity. It was strong without being over-the-top. The first few minutes with Kimari suddenly wailing was a bit much, but that's a very minor complaint. The main appeal of APFTTU, I think, was its characters. Their designs don't stand out among other anime characters (except Gin, but that might just be the lesbian in me drooling). But I don't think they were supposed to. This isn't a fantasy or anything experimental; it takes place in our world and the characters are very much normal human beings. Their personalities shone through better with plain faces. They're memorable for who they are, not what they looked like, which I feel was kind of the point. One thing I liked in terms of design was how the strands of longer hair on either side of Shirase's bangs were uneven in the exact same way Gin's were. I know it was left ambiguous as to whether Gin and Takako were in a relationship, but it seemed obvious to me in that no one had to say it because it was common knowledge. So I like to think that Shirase (maybe subconsciously) looked up to Gin as a stepmom--or at least, someone who would have been more of a stepmom had it not been for Takako's passing. Even with the lack of confirmation, I feel that the relationships between the three were explored just enough considering time constraints. Kimari's longing to do something, to break out of the mundane before her life passed her by, but her simultaneous fear of doing anything at all--that's something I can relate to. A lot of people probably can. She came off as a bit ditzy sometimes, but she was never treated too harshly because of it. Hinata's story of bullying is very relevant today, and Yuzuki...well, she was the one character I wished had had more screentime. I felt like we didn't get to know her as well as the others. Shirase's grief was the high point of the story for me. My mom died in 2012, and when I see other young women in fiction with dead mothers I always pay attention. Episode 12 really got to me. In the beginning of the episode, she said she felt like she was dreaming the day her mother was reported missing, and she still felt that way. Like she never really woke up. I wrote that exact thing several times in all my turmoil-filled journals from my teen years. I had my guard up when I got to that episode because I knew this was the one where she got closure--I was mildly spoiled looking at something on TV Tropes--and before then, whenever the girls cried, they were always loudly wailing. I absolutely can't stand loud wailing. (That's probably my only real complaint of the anime.) But she didn't! Her reaction to the unread emails felt real. It wasn't a cute anime girl reaction. It was satisfying, in a way. Grief is never a fun thing to watch, but seeing a character go through pain you yourself went through and react the way you did makes you feel less alone. A few other works have let me down because the characters' reactions to loss were just so odd. I know people process things differently, but seeing someone in film either start screaming without a second of shock and denial, or just nodding and saying "they made a noble sacrifice" with no pain at all, is weird. I really appreciated finally seeing grief done right and that's part of the reason this got five stars from me. The art was another favorite aspect of mine. There's another thing I look for in stories, animation in particular, and it's a bit hard to explain. I think it could be described as using darkness well. Close-up shots of those intimate conversations between girls in a tight space at night, a blizzard raging at the windows? A trio sitting outside their friend's door, listening to her let out all her pent-up grief, in lighting softer than a hotel hallway? Light banter in a dimly lit room on a rocking ship, waves pounding the hull? That's amazing. It feels so much more sentimental than a conversation under a tree on a sunny day, or walking down a brightly lit school corridor. Nighttime is so much more expansive. People feel like they can bare their soul in the quiet coziness of stars and shadows, or the safety of having someone beside you in shelter while the weather comes down around you. "Erased", "The Promised Neverland", and "Mawaru Penguindrum" did a good job of this as well. ("Steven Universe", although a big favorite of mine, is a good example of what not to do. It's almost always shot on a bright, cloudless day from a standard angle, with only a handful of exceptions. Those exceptions are memorable, but the majority of the show is the same. I love you, SU, I just wish we could get closer in a physical sense as well as an emotional one. The movie did a better job, but I'm getting off track.) I gave the animation a 9 because overall it was great, but there were a few moments where it felt a little too still. Freeze-frames on long dialogue moments are okay, but some camera panning would have made it a little better, I think. There were a few times I thought my laptop was acting up because it held a shot for so long. That might be a nitpick. I do tend to hyperfocus sometimes. The sound is the lowest score I gave to any aspect of the show. Even then, it wasn't bad. As others have said, it often felt generic. I did love the end credits song. And I don't think the music was any detriment to the anime; it just wasn't anything outstanding. The wailing thing I mentioned earlier was obnoxious, but they didn't do it at the most emotional part of the series, so it was forgiveable. Voice acting was expressive and excellent. To recap: the story, characters, and art were all amazing, and the animation and especially the sound could have used some more polish. I give it five stars as one of those anime that really blew my mind and won my heart, and a 9/10 objectively, mostly for the sound. One more thing: I got this for a Secret Santa recommendation, and if you're reading this, I love that you chose an anime that used penguins and stars as symbols. I said my very favorite anime was Penguindrum, which used heavy amounts of penguins and stars in its art, and this did as well, but in a way that was entirely its own. I loved this a lot. I hope I'm not gushing too much about APFTTU lol, it was just a perfect suggestion. Bakemonogatari is next!
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