OP: 「The Girls Are Alright!」 by saya
「青春しゃくまんえん」 (Seishun Shakumanen)
“One Mwillion Yen For Youth”
The first episode of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho is proof that a premise encapsulation does not always do justice to the reality of the work. When I previewed this series, I tried to do justice to the promise I saw, for yes, “four high school girls visit Antarctica” sounds like cute-girls-doing-cute-stuff nonsense, and like it’s not giving Antarctica the respect its deadly reality deserves. Yorimoi is none of that. It’s a coming-of-age story, and it takes very seriously the mundane absurdity of its premise. Is going to Antarctica really that crazy? Yes. But is it impossible, and might the attempt be worth the effort? Hmm.
This episode does several tricky things well. First is in featuring a main character, Tamaki Mari (Minase Inori), who’s both kind of an idiot and who precisely diagnoses her problem but is unable to surmount it. The former is only slightly impressive; making your idiot character not an abject aggravation comes down to a good bit of humor and by making them thoughtless and easygoing as opposed to unobservant and stupid. So got that down. It’s in how even Tamaki herself diagnoses her problem, but cannot seem to fix it, even though it seems so fixable.
“What if it doesn’t go well?” “I really don’t want to fail.” “What if I end up regretting it?” These worries are understandable. The issue is that, now that she’s voiced it, it seems so easy to fix. Just do something, right? The reason these issues are so insidious is that most of us don’t realize they’re at play until far after the fact. Or, if you’re a certain kind of personality, that anxiety and worry can so overrule your best intentions to make them hard to get over even when you see them. But that’s really hard to convey to a viewer, so as soon as this was given as the reason, Yorimoi was on a time limit. It needed to find a way for Tamaki to push herself forward, preferably by episode’s end.
And director Ishizuka Atsuko, writer Hanada Jukki, and their team did not disappoint. Once Kobuchizawa Shirase (Hanazawa Kana) entered the scene—who could have easily been a shallow character whose only role, if only in this episode, was to propell the plot/Tamaki forward, but quickly became something more—the light came on in Tamaki’s head. I understand her. I understand what it’s like to meet someone who has what you lack, who’s doing what you wish you could do, and feeling yourself light up. There’s no shame in wanting to do her grand trip with a companion. There’s no shame in waiting until she doesn’t have to skip school. There’s no shame in having frivolous feelings that you decide you’re going to make not-frivolous. And the scene where Tamaki is in bed, with the call backs to previous lines—to her fear, others’ doubts, the request this lonely girl has made—it got to me. I felt emotions stir in my crusty heart, and supremely enjoyed seeing them on their trip together.
This is not slice-of-life. This isn’t about cute girls doing cute things. This is a coming-of-age story, where other characters seriously doubt Kobuchizawa—and now, will doubt Tamaki—for wanting to do something so dangerous, because it is. This is a story of overcoming fear to do something grand, and I have a feeling that the disappearance of Shirase’s mother, while heavy, will play less of a role than it might seem. That’s the impetus, and what is getting Shirase out there earlier than she would have if her mother had survived and she just wanted to follow in her footsteps. What I like is how earnest this story is, and in one episode it’s already got my attention. I don’t much care about Antarctica, but I do want to know where these characters will go, and I feel I was right to place my faith in Ishizuka-san and her team. She hasn’t let me down yet, and this first episode is a great sign. This is but one show in a season filled with potential stars, so I don’t know if I’ll continue blogging this. I will be watching it, though. That, you can take to the bank.
Speaking of: take your damn money to a bank yooou! Sheesh.
- I like how friend-chan was just going around sniffing all the long-haired girls.
- I wonder what show this team has worked on before HMMMM I WONDER WHO KNOWS I’LL NEVER KNOW HMMMM.
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ED: 「ここから、ここから」 (Koko kara, Koko kara) by Minase Inori, Hanazawa Kana, Iguchi Yuka, & Hayami Saori