A new year means a slew of brand new anime, and while a show about Antarctica may seem like the last thing to warm you up in midwinter, the charming, heartfelt A Place Further Than the Universe will stoke a gentle crackling fire in your heart!


This is an altered version of a feature by Kara Dennison that originally appeared on Crunchyroll here.

In an anime season of remakes, adaptations, and the returns of classic series this winter, you may not have noticed the quiet newcomer A Place Further Than the Universe. But, with a staff with members that have worked on both No Game No Life and Love Live! you would be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on this show based on pedigree alone! At first the show seems to be about your typical awkward girl, Mari, who is intent on doing something adventurous but can never quite work up the bravery to do so.


Mari longs for some greater adventure to make something interesting out of her life and fears the lost opportunities of squandered youth. And then she finds one million yen in an envelope dropped by a fellow student, Shirase. The two girls then find themselves linked in an almost fated way. Shirase’s quiet, powerful determination to travel to Antarctica inspires the floaty and indecisive Mari, while Mari’s optimism balances Shirase’s pessimism.


The strong character dynamics are heightened by the strong direction and visuals. The first episode is gorgeously understated, with a desaturated pallet and a film-like attention to shot composition and depth of field. The focus of the shots often reinforces or adds new dimensions to what is being said in dialog, as when the camera reveals that Mari is holding a book on ethics as she frets over not returning Shirase’s money.


It’s both a strength and a weakness that A Place Further Than the Universe can’t easily be pegged into a genre. It doesn’t slot easily straight into slice-of-life or action or comedy. It’s more an attitude thing, maybe. If you love adventure, if you love to travel, if you enjoy seeing character development and happy friendships, then this show should appeal to you. A lovely, warm, quiet story of people discovering themselves and grasping for what they want certainly isn’t the worst way to start out your anime watching in 2018.