Mari Tamaki is in her second year of high school and wants to start something. It’s then that she meets Shirase, a girl with few friends who’s considered a weirdo by the rest of the class and nicknamed “Antarctic” since it’s all she ever talks about. Unlike her peers, Mari is moved by Shirase’s dedication and decides that even though it’s unlikely that high school girls will ever go to Antarctica, she’s going to try to go with Shirase.
If I had to describe A Place Further Than the Universe in one word, it would be “earnest.” From start to finish, the anime exudes youthful enthusiasm for adventure. Tamaki’s goal to go on a trip of some sort as a right of passage is both charming and relatable, as is her reluctance to fully commit to it. Taking a risk like that is a scary concept, especially for a high school student like her. The anime understands this fear but doesn’t dwell on it, instead focusing on the fun side of things. Tamaki is always full of energy that manifests in a variety of silly facial expressions and her complete sincerity. She’s a very straightforward character, which is refreshing in its own way. Complex motivations and a deep backstory aren’t necessary to create a great character; you just need a likable personality and relatable motives. From start to finish, Universe’s energy and general sense of fun kept it entertaining and pleasant to watch, and there’s every sign that it’ll be able to sustain this. Tamaki and Shirase have only just met, but their friendship already has a lot of potential. Shirase has the same enthusiasm as Tamaki, but also has the slightly guarded attitude of a person who isn’t entirely ready to trust others with her goals again. The contrast between them already provides a great base that can likely carry the anime a long way. Rounding out the already compelling story is a great production by Madhouse. The animation itself is some of the slickest and most expressive Madhouse has done in a long time, and is complemented by a distinctive color palette. Universe combines soft and muted colors with a strong reflective effect that makes everything involved stand out while also feeling grounded at the same time, a strong contrast with the director’s previous work on No Game, No Life. That’s just the icing on an already excellent cake, though. If Universe can maintain this level of quality, it’ll be a strong contender for anime of the season.