The connections we make in life, however powerful, rarely run parallel. Instead, a network of experiences intersect and part ways time and again. We will all feel the shock of leaving home, or saying goodbye to old friends, setting out on a path where the end point is indeterminable. A Place Further Than the Universe acknowledges how unique that time is for everyone, assembling a cast on the precipice of that search for their own purpose.
Mari is stuck in a comfortable rut, until realising there’s no quick way out wakens the storm of anxiety over making her life mean something. She remembers days at the park, digging sand wells to gather the rain until eventually the water rushed out, surging, liberated. That same grey rain echoes her loneliness in finding her freedom, these views on the weather something other than mere pathetic fallacy. Nature itself unfurls, map-like and in every sense as beautiful, cruel, everyday and epic as her journey ahead – the way to Antarctica with her mercurial new friend, Shirase.
Antarctica, the place where all guidelines can vanish and the meaning of any direction dissipates in a blizzard, is the blank canvas we all step onto when we head towards adulthood. Our survival depends on our own will and determination, as much as the people we can lean on while our paths overlap. Just as each key character has their own reason for braving the tundra, it develops its own meaning for the viewer. Along the way, however, comes the realisation that making it to the Antarctic at all is a footnote in what these girls find in sharing a dream. The adventure is in the failures, the embarrassments, the hilarity and victories they claim as they take their shared steps towards the future they want for themselves.
In leaving home, Mari finds beauty in the familiar. In finding a friend, Shirase learns that the greatest successes are earned together. These universal lessons taken through to adulthood, but not necessarily learned all at once, form the foundation of this series’ charm. Life, as the saying goes, is the journey, not the destination. But A Place Further Than the Universe doesn’t sugarcoat it. It stresses that if we’re to find our purpose, we will stumble, hurt, be shattered and remade as something wounded, but more beautiful.