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Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho – 09 »« Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho – 07

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho – 08

「吠えて、狂って、絶叫して」 (Hoete, Kurutte, Zekkyoushite)
“Howling, Maddening, Screaming”

Before I get into the meat of this post, isn’t it remarkable that an anime would spend fully half an episode with its cute high school girl main characters all seasick and barfing? To great effect, too, because it was hilarious! And true to life, not to mention how it fed into the episode’s theme. It’s still remarkable to reflect on how dynamic and multi-faceted these characters are, and how they’re allowed to reflect real humanity (which includes gross stuff like barfing). They’re a far cry from the kawaii girls headlining a goofy slice-of-life that this show so easily could have been. They’re not put on a pedestal at all—something that anime is surprisingly good at, because even though Japanese society remains pretty darn sexist (that’s not an opinion, it’s in the bottom half of almost all metrics in the Global Gender Gap Report), anime features so many stories that consist largely or exclusively of female characters that, by desire or by accident, we get a pretty good number who feel like real, lived-in people. It’s great! Not the track record can’t be improved, but I takes my victories wheres I can gets ‘em. This is the kind of show where no one’s going to pretend these girls don’t fart. Good! Girls do fart, and they barf too. Deal with it.

The first part of the episode, with its rushing about their work (I hope Shirase gets better at this eventually, haha!), helping out, and training would seem to be pure slice-of-life, if not for how it ties into the episode’s theme. It was necessary to show how impressive the rest of the expedition is, in order to bring the girls low later on. (Showing that while also showing us what life is like on the boat makes for a nice bonus.) Which led to perhaps my favorite thematic moment of the series so far, and that’s saying a lot.

As much as I love anime, there are themes I’m not fond of. One is how so many characters are fatalistic. “It can’t be helped.” “We don’t have a choice.” Probably this is a Japanese cultural artefact, but I’ve opined enough on Japanese society for today, so I’ll simply say that I’ve never been fond of it, due to my own cultural upbringing as much as anything else. It always leaves me thinking: Of course you have a choice! There’s always a choice. All the options but one might be bad (or all the options, period), but there’s always a choice.

“We just have to do our best, right? We don’t have any other choice.”

That was Shirase’s framing of their plight, and while it’s true that they can’t get off the boat—that they’re going to Antarctica regardless—there are still choices available to them. It was also so well done that Shirase said the exact line twice, because it raised it from a one-off statement to a theme ready to be explored. Then Kimari interjected, and I sat up.

“That’s not true. We always had a choice. But we chose to be here. We chose this ourselves!”

My heart sang! Finally, finally there’s an anime character I agree with on this! Usually “We don’t have a choice” is said without reflection, like the knee-jerk recitation of “I/we just have to work hard(er)”, when sometimes working smarter or doing something else would be better. It never gets examined, but here, Kimari does exactly that. And she gets it right—of course they have a choice. They chose this! Kimari rejects Shirase’s paradigm, and regains her agency in the process. They’re not victims. They chose this! Their bodies might be betraying them at the moment, but once they admit it’s something that’s come about because of their own choices, they can fight it. It’s not misfortune to be weathered. It’s a fight to be won. Gin said as much herself when they entered the big waves.

“Though I like this kind of thing … the feeling, like I’m fighting.”

Once they regained their will to fight, they decided to go outside. Probably this was stupid and unsafe, but they were rewarded with something grand, a moment they’ll remember forever. They got to see the pitch black ocean they were crossing, to get to an unforgiving continent of ice protected by storms and raging waves. Once again, it was Kimari who put the feeling best into words.

“When I get home I can tell them … expedition ships are amazing.”
“Yeah, I’ll tell them it was really fun!”
“You must be joking!”
“I’m not! I’m sure that when this trip is over, that’s how we’ll feel!”

She’s right. Though it’s a struggle now, though their stomachs are rebelling, when they look back on this later on it will seem a positive experience. Not because it was fun then, but because it was worth doing, and will be fun to have done. That’s true of so many things in life, the important ones at least.

I loved the attention to detail. I loved how the insert music started up when Kimari gave her initial refutation, only for it to cut off when Hinata signaled she had to barf. Not everything was perfect. Kimari’s final narration might have been served better by a spare soundtrack (she was talking about silence at the time), and the noises the girls made as they looked at each other were over-acted. But the reason I spend so much time gushing about this show is that it sets me on fire. This anime is a call to action. Sure, none of it’s real. But the purpose of stories is to teach us how to be human. I hope Yorimoi leads to a lot of real humans taking on Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Yuzuki as their spirit animals. Be like them, barfing and all!

Random thoughts:

  • “But as of now, we are no longer high school students who can never take a step forward. We are not 17-year-olds and 16-year-olds who try but accomplish nothing. That’s enough!” It reminds me of publishing my first book. Everything might not be perfect afterwards—and I’ve spent the last year and a half working day jobs too much to write the next one—but once I had published that first one, it was an accomplishment no one could take away from me. In that moment I was no longer someone who tried but accomplished nothing, and it’s a sweet feeling indeed. Like I said, this anime is a call to action. The world would be better off the more of us who answer it.

My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Book 3 Progress Report.

February 20, 2018 at 10:43 pm
23 comments »
  • February 20, 2018 at 11:13 pmsailor80

    I didn’t know the Bermuda triangle was between Australia and Antarctica, because the girls skipped over episode 7! Or I can’t find it…

  • February 20, 2018 at 11:29 pmLin

    My heart sang! Finally, finally there’s an anime character I agree with on this!

    It feels like Kimari missed the point though. Sure, they did choose to make this trip off their own accord, but now they’re part of this crew and they have to play the part properly. In that respect they don’t have a choice, and that’s what Shirase was trying to say. I know Kimari just wanted to lighten the mood but her remark was tangential at best.

    • February 21, 2018 at 2:54 amStilts

      I disagree! Like I said in the post, the point was not that they can suddenly opt out of the expedition. They’re in that. The point is that they’re not victims, and this isn’t being done to them. They chose to be here, and that makes all the difference. Yes, in this case the big decision point is in the past, but reminding themselves that they made that decision will pay dividends. It reminds them that they have agency over their lives. Otherwise they wouldn’t be here.

  • February 21, 2018 at 1:14 amShiranaiHito

    When watching the girls go outside in a storm I was waiting for a responsible adult to yell at them cause going outside in a storm without a safety harness is insanity.

    • February 21, 2018 at 2:56 amStilts

      Haha, seriously. They almost flipped over the side in calm waters, they should be careful danggit!!

    • February 21, 2018 at 3:05 amHenrietta Brix

      Bloody hell. Here at sea state 1.5 I don’t step on deck of my police boat, the girls here have the balls to go on deck in a sea state 3 or 4!

    • February 21, 2018 at 3:06 amHenrietta Brix

      Correction. Sea state 5 to 7 in SoraYori

      • February 21, 2018 at 4:19 amewok40k

        the 40to60 deg south latitudes donth ave their reputation for nothing…
        girls were lucky to not be swept overboard

      • February 21, 2018 at 4:27 amJeffers

        actually sorayori depicted the 40-60 a little bit too friendly because the real ones, as what i’ve experienced during my life in sea as a cargo ship seaman, are not as weak as those waves shown in the anime. well i know its anime but i hope, if they are going to the lengths of depicting how a travel to antartica “really” looked like, i hope they get the 40-60 part accurate.

      • February 21, 2018 at 12:42 pmStilts

        I think, if those didn’t seem sufficient, that might be the one time Yorimoi pulled a punch. They mighta thought the real (usual) size of the waves would seem too unrealistic (trope!), or just that they wouldn’t be able to do the outside scene without the girls’ demise being assured, lol

      • February 21, 2018 at 3:24 pmewok40k

        @STILTS i was half expecting some adult showing up and packing the girls into safety rigs… those waves were already going well over top of the bow and washing the decks, especially since the series seem to take realism and safety quite serious

  • February 21, 2018 at 4:08 amJeffers

    i cant stop my tears of joy (LOL) to the point that all i can say is CONGRATS to all of our ggirls… finally they have reached errr scratch that, is now approaching the land of THEIR dreams, ANTARTICA.

  • February 21, 2018 at 4:22 amewok40k

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgTxTHltGWc
    here have a sample of how ships behave in (ant)arctic storms

  • February 21, 2018 at 6:48 amIncognito

    http://randomc.net/image/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2013.jpg
    Yuka Iguchi showing off her prankster side in Hinata is always fun to watch (in a schadenfreude way). Poor Yuzuki, though.

    http://randomc.net/image/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2034.jpg
    Man, storms in the Southern Ocean make Bering Sea storms in Deadliest Catch look like a picnic in comparison. After seeing how huge those waves are, the large size of the Penguin Manju is justified.

    http://randomc.net/image/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho/Sora%20Yori%20mo%20Tooi%20Basho%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2039.jpg
    The stomach-churning part is over, almost close to the edge of the world…

    • February 21, 2018 at 12:39 pmStilts

      Hinata’s mischievousness is great :3 Though it was a good thing Shirase stopped her there. They don’t want to tease their kouhai too much! (Just a bit more >:3)

  • February 21, 2018 at 5:33 pmXiV

    hmm.. I feel like the plot has progressed so much that it feels like I am watching a 16th episode than an 8th one. If I look back at the events of the group’s departure from Japan(episode 5), it seems so long ago.

    I guess this show captures the the bliss of traveling?, or perhaps living life to the fullest?

    I mean, this is the kind feeling I get when I go traveling, or go to a different province for school. A three-day weekend out of town venture feels like a week, a week traveling feels like a month, and so forth.

    I see much discussion about the group going to the deck during a storm, honestly though I think the director and script writer wanted to emphasize that it would be better taking a risk than being stagnant, ruminating self-pity.

    And hey, they are teenagers! Fun>Logic mentality if you ask me.

    • February 22, 2018 at 1:02 amStilts

      I totally agree on how time passes differently when you’re traveling. To me, it’s about being more present. When I’m traveling, I’m amazingly present! (Or usually am. Business travel very much does not count.) I’m purposefully going to wherever, so I’m not on my phone or with my nose buried in work. I’m seeing things, talking to people, doing new stuff, and working my way through the little problems that arise. And when you’re present, time stretches out, but in a good way. Life fills up with action.

      I always notice the same thing in another situation—spending time at a bar. Even with the alcohol greasing the wheels, time passes so much more slowly when I’m at a bar chatting with friends than it does when I’m watching a movie (or anime), but in a good way. Because I’m focused on the moment (my friends, the beer, whatever) instead of taking it in. It stretches out time in a delightful way.

  • February 22, 2018 at 5:46 amsailor80

    I am beginning to sense that this journey isn’t to just Antarctica, but learning the fate of Takako, and the fate of her dream, everything is pointing to that she was lost and never found. She has inspired almost all of these people to go to Antarctica with her, and to return, finding out her fate will put all of these people motivations into question, will they continue to believe that Antarctica is a beautiful place, did she in her final moments (when they find her remains, which I bet they will)? For a very optimistic show there are a lot of dark themes swirling around.

    • February 23, 2018 at 3:03 pmSaburau

      If(and when) Takako turns out to be gone, I bet there will be a “pass the torch” moment between Shirase and (imaginary)Takako, and also a “that’s what friends are for” moment with our four girl musketeers.

  • February 23, 2018 at 7:43 pmRenaSayers

    Japan is a sexist country (ya don’t say) I think the cat was out of the bag the moment producer kept relying on. Milfs. In Anime and manga. Let’s admit it already sex, eye candy, cute high school girls who act mature sells. “Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho is no different. What can be better than hot school girls on ice.

    That aside these four are getting an opportunity to see how Adults plan and journey towards an adventure. These are grown up decisions they are experiencing–and–puking–out.

    Also I get the feeling producers are trying to tell views to get out and have an adventure. Next episode read the obituary you might read about how tourist finds a frozen American Asian in Antarctica.

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