A Place Further Than the Universe

Mari Tamaki wants to do something bold with her life, but she can’t even skip school because she lacks the imagination to go anywhere. Everything changes when she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, a girl who is hell bent on getting to Antarctica as soon as possible, and has forsaken friends and hobbies, working herself to the bone to gather the money for the trip. When Mari expresses her sheer admiration at Shirase’s tenacity and drive, she finds herself becoming part of the plans and soon they are joined by two others, Yuzuki Shiraishi, an actress who just wants to make some friends and Hinata Miyake, a boisterous, easygoing girl.

I really appreciated the pacing of this anime – I had expected the entire anime to be about the girls’ friendship in the run-up to the trip, but by episode five they’re already packing their bags and getting ready to go, and it’s clear that this anime isn’t afraid to step out into a bigger scale. I will say that sometimes the pacing can be unrealistic. When the girls set off on the ship, they’re plagued with seasickness and overwhelmed by the fitness level they’re expected to attain in order to have the stamina for the trip, but by the end of the episode they have seemingly overcome this and adjusted in the space of a day or two. Though this feels a bit unrealistic it does allow the anime to continue plowing forward and dealing with different issues each episode.

The girls had some work to do to find Antarctica appropriate clothing…

A Place Further than the Universe offers some beautifully detailed characterisation, often grounded in fairly typical real world situations which work well to keep the unusual situation from feeling too fanciful and fantasy-like. One example of this I thought worked particularly well was Megumi’s jealousy of Mari’s situation. A childhood friend, Megumi had always been the mature one that Mari looked up to, and when Mari begins to step out from under her wings in preparation for the Antarctica trip, Megumi instinctively tries to sabotage it out of fear of losing her friend.

Leaving friends behind is hard

When Mari finds out, she’s angry and upset, but she still rejects Megumi’s offer to end their friendship. This short exchange brilliantly showcases how quickly Mari has grown whilst still retaining her kind and considerate nature. Not only that, but it’s great to see an anime that recognises real, emotionally weighted consequences of big life decisions, even for ‘secondary relationships’.

This emotional depth runs throughout the entire anime, and is particularly impressive in relation to Shirase, whose main motivation for going to Antarctica is that it was the last place her mother was seen alive, and whilst she knows her mother is gone, she needs closure. The conversations she has with her mother’s old expedition members who are also going on the trip, and her friends’ gentle understanding of her situation all serve to create a mature acknowledgement of death and grief that reflect the fact that the journey for the teenagers will be arduous and dangerous, and Antarctica may be a beautiful place, but it is also a barren and harsh environment that should not be taken lightly.

This is a beautiful anime that tackles the complexities of grief, friendship and family with grace and optimism. It may be cold in Antarctica but A Place Further Than the Universe has a warm heart!

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New Game!

Aoba is fresh out of high school and greener than green when she starts her first job at the game developer Eagle Jump. Inspired by a game she loved as a child she is thrilled to find out she’ll be working on the sequel. But with such zany colleagues she’s in for a heap of wacky misadventures along the way…

As someone who is a few years into the working world, I immediately recalled and related to the feelings that New Game! immediately conjures up as we see Aoba meeting her team and adjusting to their quirks, trying to work out when to ask for help and how to do it, and feeling excited about her first paycheck. Each episode focuses on a different topic with titles such as “What Happens if I’m Late to Work?” and “That’s How Many Nights We Have to Stay Over?”. You can dip in and out of them if you just want some light office-based humour but you’re likely to enjoy it more if you watch them chronologically as the series also charts Aoba’s adjustments to adult and working life and it’s enjoyable watching her learn and grow as she takes advice from her teammates.

I enjoyed how realistically the office environment is rendered, admittedly with some otaku feeling touches to the environment. There are multiple shots of Aoba looking at her computer clock across the episodes, a really simple but effective way that I found made me feel more immersed in her working life and routine. I think this is the first anime I’ve ever seen that features an office environment for most of the scenes and the little touches are really nice and really help give the impression of a creative company’s working space.

New Game! renders a colourful but realistic office environment

The relationships in New Game! also feel natural, with Aoba quickly finding her place amongst her female colleagues in spite of a few newbie mistakes like locking herself out of the office every time she goes to the bathroom because she forgot her key card. The humour flows nicely, with some one-off gag moments that remind you that the anime is based on a four panel manga, as well as some more cleverly built up jokes – there is a great one in particular where Aoba walks in on her colleagues in a compromising situation, but it’s too good to spoil here!

New Game! also makes a few nods to yuri relationships in a way that repeatedly threatens to cross the line into something explicit, but then always wimps out at the last minute. It’s perhaps unsurprising that an anime so exclusively about female friendships and relationships would hint at this to try and widen its audience but also bewildering at times when moments are created then not built on any further. There are also light fanservice-y moments in general with the odd butt close-up but it’s so infrequent and brief that it never feels like you’re watching a fanservice anime.

“What do you mean our romantic relationship can only be implied?!”

I’m really enjoying this anime and definitely recommend it. New Game! offers a sweet and happy story about a young woman’s first foray into the working world, and as she pursues her dream it’s impossible not to remember being the newbie and find yourself rooting for her every step of the way. With a great assortment of characters and genuine laughs I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a funny anime set in the working world that offers up lots of great office humour.