Set out on a Polar Adventure like no other!
- Episodes : 13
- Genre : Slice of Life, Adventure
- Airing Date : January 2018 – March 2018
- Producers : Madhouse
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho Introduction and Story
Tamaki Mari (or Kimari as her friends call her) has always lived a normal life, and it just drives her crazy! She made a vow before she entered high school that she would at least go on one real adventure. Now that Kimari’s well into her second year, time is running out! Her childhood friend Takahashi Megumi tries to push her to just skip a day of class and go to Tokyo, but Kimari just can’t seem to bring herself to do that. However, a chance meeting with her school’s local weirdo Kobuchizawa Shirase leads Kimari to learn about Shirase’s own passion; visiting Antarctica. Why? Well, her mother Takako died on an expedition there, and now she wants to see what Antarctica was actually like! Kimari is drawn to Shirase, and decides that she’d like to help her in her goal. Both vow to travel to Antarctica together.
First, though, Kimari will need to take on a part-time job. After all, she’ll need some form of funding for the plane ticket and supplies! After searching around to no avail, she takes on a job at the convenience store the two frequent. There, she gets to know Miyake Hinata, a girl about her age who actually dropped out of high school and has just been working full time while preparing for university exams. Hinata, having gotten to know Kimari and Shirase through overhearing some of their conversations while in the area, tells them that she’d like to join them on their journey.
Unfortunately though, for all the hard work the girls are putting in, none of them have much of a plan to get there. Shirase knows of a meet-up in Shinjuku where a civilian research team is attempting to put together an expedition, but none of them know how to get involved since they’re too young to join. However, as luck would have it, one of the ways the team is netting funding is through a news program hosted by a popular young idol named Shiraishi Yuzuki, who actually doesn’t really want to go but her agent/mother is pushing her into it. Shiraishi’s mother, hearing that the girls desperately want to make this trip, proposes a deal for them: if they can convince Shiraishi to go make the trip, she’ll make sure that one of the conditions for Shiraishi’s involvement will be that the girls accompany her.
While at first Shiraishi is reluctant, eventually she agrees because she has struggled a lot with making friends throughout her life due to her acting and idol gigs keeping her from having much of a social life. However, while Kimari is getting closer to her new friends, her friendship with Megumi is growing tense. Megumi has been discreetly discouraging Kimari from going on this trip, and now that Kimari’s succeeded, Megumi has been distancing herself. The day of the trip, Megumi meets with Kimari to tell her she wants to stop being her friend because she realizes just how petty she’s been. Megumi has a complex about being Kimari’s “older sister” and is jealous that she’s moving on with her life before her. Kimari tells her she wants to still be friends in spite of all that, and the two part on amicable terms.
While the girls have some setbacks on their flights getting to the ship, and then subsequent struggles with seasickness while on board the ship, they finally reach Syowa Station in Antarctica. Shirase is hesitant about going any further, though, as she’s afraid that once she goes where her mother was, she’s not sure what will continue driving her. A talk with her mother’s former partner and current expedition captain Toudou Gin gives Shirase the courage to move forward. There, she discovers Takako’s old laptop, which is miraculously still functional, and she discovers the emails that she sent every day to her since Takako died.
With their time in Antarctica coming to a close, Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Shiraishi vow to return once again someday. The group splits up upon returning to Japan, returning to their everyday lives. In the final moments, Kimari finally gets a response from Megumi, who had seemingly been ghosting Kimari during her entire trip, stating that she’s actually been up in the Arctic on her own adventure.
What We Liked About Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
There are plenty of adventure anime out there, many of which are quite good. What really makes Sora yori mo Tooi Basho stand out amongst its peers is its setting. It’s not a fantasy story about reclaiming an artifact that holds the mysteries of the world, a domineering empire hell-bent on global conquest, or what have you. It’s a story about just getting out there and seeing what the world has to offer. It feels like, at times, that Sora yori mo Tooi Basho is urging its key demographic of otaku to quit lazing about in front of their computer and TV screens to just get out there and do something with themselves. The actual world around them is actually way more interesting and exciting than the comfort of a fantasy.
This message is backed up by some great animation and character building moments to really drive home its point. Many shows try to force a bond between its main set of characters by trying to tie them all together somehow and derive meaning based on how they met. However, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho couldn’t even care any less about how Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Shiraishi met; they fully admit they just happened to meet and it worked out that way. But you still feel for their bond because even though it was entirely coincidental, that doesn’t matter. They all continue to drive and inspire one another to work harder towards their goal.
Pretty much everything about Sora yori mo Tooi Basho works. The characters are immensely relatable due to their very recognizable problems. The story, while maybe a tad bit on the predictable side, still hooks you in, not because you’re surprised by the moment to moment plot beats, but because you’re excited to see how things play out for your favorite characters. Animation is satisfyingly fluid, establishing credibility to the world-building. Heck, even the comedy is a highlight, as the girls of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho play off each other incredibly well. Whether it’s Kimari’s attempts to cover up her embarrassing sunburn or Shirase’s pathetic attempts to be congenial during their news segments, most of the gags draw a chuckle.
If there’s any complaint to be had about Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, it’s that it doesn’t make enough use of the Antarctic setting. Only four episodes are spent in Antarctica, and the sole episode where the location has any bearing on the plot of the story is when Shirase goes on a mission to see the station where her mother may have died at. The prior two episodes follow Shiraishi and Hinata dealing with their personal insecurities, and then the final has the girls departing for home. These are not necessarily bad, but anyone looking for an in-depth study on what it takes for survival at an Antarctic base might be a bit disappointed.
Why You Should Watch Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
1. Clean Art and Animation
Episode 8 ends with a beautiful sequence in which our gang, after being stuck sick in bed for so much of the ship ride to Antarctica, decides to check out the deck amidst the raging currents that are knocking the ship to the point of almost turning over. Certainly, some of the emotional effect comes from the stark contrast from the dangerous situation the girls have found themselves in and the joyous discovery of the wonder of nature, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the slick animation during this sequence. Each of the waves has their own distinct animation, crashing into the bridge, and at one point, even engulfing our heroines in one fluid motion.
This animation adds to the grandeur of the scene because we can actually feel ourselves in that moment, wanting to be a part of it along with our heroines. Many Iyashikei anime try to encourage their viewers to go out and do something beyond watch anime, but very few actually have the animation chops to back up their message. You actually want to experience what Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Shiraishi are because it actually looks as incredible as what they’re describing.
2. Comedic Timing
Maybe the gags in Sora yori mo Tooi Basho aren’t always the most unique. Plenty of other anime make jokes about camera shyness, misunderstanding job listings, or what have you. However, the devil is in the details. What makes Shirase unable to speak on camera to their viewers isn’t funny because she can’t do it, but how her disposition is in extreme contrast to that of Kimari and Shiraishi. Before you even have any sense that this is going to be an issue, you’ll watch the tail-end of their first recording, and while Kimari and Shiraishi have an excited leap into the air, Shirase attempts a timid little hop that doesn’t even clear a centimeter off the ground. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho doesn’t need to beat you over the head with how she can’t perform; you just immediately understand how it’s going to be a problem, and completely takes you off-guard before you’re even aware of the situation.
3. Unique Subject Matter
Perhaps the greatest strength of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, however, comes from the fact that it’s theoretically an adventure anyone could have. Maybe Kimari, Shirase, and Hinata wouldn’t have made it on the ship if it wasn’t for them lucking into a friendship with Shiraishi, but the point is that it’s not as if Antarctica is a made up location or anything. It’s a real continent that is still being investigated to this day, yet no one else is talking about. It adds to the excitement that there are still unheard of mysteries in this interconnected world of ours.
Why You Should Skip Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
1. On the Nose
We’re not saying that Sora yori mo Tooi Basho isn’t genuine with its proclamations for its audience to go out on an adventure of their own and to not waste their lives. It’s just that sometimes Sora yori mo Tooi Basho can be a little unsubtle about it, especially early on. Right at episode 1, we have Kimari outright state how she doesn’t want to waste her high school life and goes into detail about how she wants to go on an adventure and go somewhere she hasn’t seen before. It’s a little too blunt and it can make it a bit difficult to really sympathize with Kimari’s problems when it feels like she’s reading off her favorite speech from One Piece and not just speaking like a high schooler.
2. Not Enough Antarctica
Episode 11 primarily focuses on Hinata’s issues back home and delves into some of her personal history. She dropped out of high school because she was frustrated by how she was hated for her track talent and the people who pushed for her to try out for the main team wouldn’t stand up for her when the seniors got pissed for depriving them of their last chance to compete. It ends with a heartfelt speech from Shirase to her former teammates, saying that they need to quit searching for Hinata’s forgiveness because she’s having a grand time with her friends and having a real adventure while they’re still clinging to their past and need to quit dragging Hinata down with them.
The problem with this episode is that the above conflict serves as the focal point of the story of the episode, and, to be frank, this story really could have been told at any point in the plot. For all the build-up to Antarctica, when the girls are actually living there, it has very little impact or drive on the plot. There’s very little about the girls actually getting used to their Antarctic life, how life at the station works, and so forth, that actually drives the plot, making it feel like this story really could have been about just about anywhere in the world and it would have the same effect. That is not to say these episodes are necessarily bad; they actually serve as perfectly solid moments of character growth. However, stories like Hinata’s history would have been better served if we had gotten more time actually getting to know what life is like at Syowa Station. By the end of the series, we’re just told that the girls have gotten used to their life there and are sad to go, but it doesn’t land quite as hard when we barely got to see how they lived there.
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho is a pretty solid all-around recommendation for any anime fan. Even if Iyashikei anime is really not your thing, there’s enough sense of adventure that you simply don’t see in these types of shows that tends to keep them from general appeal. It’s a bit light on overall plot, but if you can look past that you’ll find a really fun and heartwarming story.