「南極恋物語(ブリザード編)」 (Nankyoku Koi Monogatari (Burizaado-hen))
“Antarctic Love Story (Blizzard Arc)”
You’ll have to excuse me if my analysis isn’t as sharp this week, because ol’ Stiltsie is sick. Yet that may give me a convenient excuse for what would be the case regardless, because this episode is about relationships, and I don’t mean ones that involve the ship’s resident punching bag, voiced by Matsuoka Yoshitsugu in some perfect casting. I mean that between Shirase and Toudou Gin, and it’s a complicated one.
The two of them really are alike, aren’t they? In their mutual fascination with penguins, of course, but when Takako said that her daughter needed Gin’s spirit, well, it clearly worked. I don’t know what happened to Shirase’s father—it appears that those who go on civilian Antarctic expeditions don’t have good luck with relationships—but Gin is like the other half that leads to Shirase. She clearly had an outsized effect on Shirase’s development, in a way she likely wouldn’t have had Takako not died. But she did, and the steel in Shirase’s spine can be traced back to Gin, as seen in the way that she practiced jumping rope until she was excellent, no longer caring for the pain of a rope strike on her ankle after Gin-obasan told her a little story. They really are so much alike.
“If I want to change things, I just have to go … to where my mother is, to the place further than the universe.”
So it’s fitting that they can’t communicate for shit, and by the end, they still haven’t communicated all that well. Gin did what she needed to do as a captain, even if it took some chiding to get her to have that uncomfortable conversation. She even pressed in the right place—Shirase’s reasonable mind has accepted that her mother couldn’t have been saved, and that Gin did what she could have done, but that doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t still raw. Not when she lived her life alone ever after, and feels the need to go to the ends of the earth to get closure, and see the place her mother died in and for. They still can’t talk well, in the way that some sets of people will never be able to talk well because they don’t quite mix—they’re too similar, in this case. But the attempt counts for a lot.
Then it came to smash through the ice. This was just pure Yorimoi-as-inspirational-theater, and even when I know they’re reaching for those emotional levers and pulling them hard, I don’t care. They’ve earned it by this point. This show is exceptional at playing these notes, and I’ll let it play them all damn day.
“Time and time again, they found themselves on the brink of giving up, but they dug deep and pressed on.”
Step by step. Year after year. Again and again. You could say this thematically tied in with Shirase and Gin’s relationship, and I probably wouldn’t fight you on that argument, but I think this was more about punching home the series’ theme writ large—that determination in the face of obstacles will get you to where you want to go, no matter what the critics say. Not without consequences! The expedition members are all alone, balding, divorced, poor, and in at least one instance, they’ve ended up dead. This show doesn’t shy away from consequences. But you can still get there, if you’re willing to slam into the ice over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
“It’s beautiful… It’s so . . . very beautiful.”
I lost it. To weave Takako’s final words in there—and any worry that they’d pull a, “She’s actually been alive this whole time!”, which should have been long since ruled out and is all but dashed against the rocks by now—shows that this series accepts that there are consequences to the character’s dreams, serious consequences, to match the seriousness with which they pursue their goals. Then the music played as Gin sobbed, and I had to have a bit of a tearing up myself.
I haven’t talked much about Toshio-kun’s romance, and that’s because it’s not the point of this episode. It’s a vehicle by which the important relationship is explored, and so we can get some good laughs. He’s a bit of a useless guy, and definitely shouldn’t be pursuing his boss during the expedition (you’re free to try afterwards, bud), though since he may be turning his attention to Yumiko—seriously, this guy is hopeless! Don’t by like him boys. At least, when given a clue about what your crush likes, do some thinking yourself.
The episode ends with a crystallization of another of Yorimoi’s primary themes, and I don’t think my words could do it justice. So I’ll let Shirase say it instead:
“In your face… In your face, in your face, in your face! You made fun of me and looked down your noses, but I believed! You betrayed me, thinking it was impossible, but I didn’t give up! And this is how it turns out! Well? I’m standing in Antarctica! In your face, in your face, in your face! In your face!”
Like I said before, ugly emotions can be positive when they’re put to good work, if they compel us to prove the doubters wrong and live our best lives. That’s why the rest of the expedition joins them in a cry. “In your face!” They all know what Shirase and the girls are talking about. They know how they feel. They feel the same, if not more. If you really believe, do everything you can to get to where you’re going, and when you’re far ahead and the doubters cannot reach you anymore, you’re allowed to turn to look behind and thumb your nose at them. “I told you I’d do it!” If it helps you succeed, that’s as beautiful as an ugly emotions can get. Inspirational spite … it works!
- I love the attention to detail, from how the characters gradually wear warmer clothes, to how the headrest was broken when earlier it wasn’t. And the silence that descended when the music stopped and they looked out over the ice… *shudder*
- The full OP and EDs have been released, and lemme just say: the full-length ED song is even better than the TV version. I’m so glad. It’s already one of my favorite anime songs in a long time. It may be close to 「Days of Dash」 level, which to me, is everything.
- I’m sick and I still can’t resist writing a thousand words of gushing. That’s Yorimoi for you.
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.