A Place Further Than the Universe
Episode 10

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Place Further Than the Universe ?

The good news for our heroines is that they've finally arrived in Antarctica. The bad news is that getting there was the easy part. Their base of operations hasn't been used in years, and there's a mountain of work to be done before the expedition can get up and running. You'd think that would keep everyone too busy for any personal drama, but Yuzuki somehow finds enough spare time to have a crisis of confidence. After finding out that she'll be playing a recurring role in a TV drama when she gets back to Japan, the group's resident celebrity starts to wonder if the relationships she's formed with the other girls will remain after the expedition ends.

A Place Further Than the Universe does a nice job of making the arrival sequence interesting, at least for viewers who are curious about what it might be like to visit Antarctica. There's a nice balance between mundane details, like melting and filtering snow for fresh water, and reminders of how extraordinary this journey is, like the initial helicopter ride off of the ship. It almost feels like a sequence from Space Brothers, albeit with teenage girls instead of astronauts in their thirties. That comparison is a point in this show's favor for me, as Space Brothers is one of my gold standards for character dramas, especially ones that involve an extraordinary journey. That ability to make an unusual experience feel relatable will be more important than ever as future episodes venture out into the Antarctic wilderness.

As the grand tour wraps up, Yuzuki's friendship dilemma moves into the spotlight. This storyline sets up some solid moments of comedy, drawing from both Yuzuki's social ineptitude and the other girls' baffled reactions to her frantic attempts to formally define their relationships. The premise of having a character draw up a “friendship contract” is old hat, but it's executed well here, and I love the way Shirase shamelessly bails on Hinata when it comes time to explain how friendship works. All of this plays out against the backdrop of the crew's Christmas festivities, which creates an intriguing contrast; in the midst of a big celebration and a feeling of unity within the larger crew, Yuzuki's fear of ending up alone stands out all the more.

While I like that basic setup, this episode starts to get clunky once it ventures into more dramatic and philosophical territory. Yuzuki's crisis of confidence isn't as compelling as some of the show's previous storylines, and part of the problem lies in how her upcoming TV role is presented. Because it's something that will happen after the girls get back to Japan, it ends up feeling too far removed from the rest of the story. The stakes are just too low to really draw the audience in; the bond between the heroines is strong enough that this situation doesn't pose a major threat, and it's not as if Yuzuki has to choose between staying in Antarctica and going home for the TV gig.

At the same time, the insights we get out of this conflict are too familiar to hit that slice-of-life sweet spot. The idea of friendship being harder to define than other kinds of relationships comes up all the time, often shows where the writing isn't strong enough to deliver anything more original. A Place Further Than the Universe is at its best when it digs a little deeper and finds a conclusion that's uniquely relevant to its characters, which it's been able to do numerous times throughout the season. Compared to the parting confrontation between Mari and Megumi or the conflicted dynamic between Gin and Shirase, this episode lacks that “eureka” moment where it feels like the series has touched on something special or important. It's perfectly adequate, but it falls short of the standard this show has set for itself.

When all is said and done, this episode boasts strong comedy and world building but is relatively light on drama and insight. With low stakes and a predictable conclusion, it never managed to grab my attention in the way I've come to expect from A Place Further Than the Universe. On the upside, there's still plenty of worthwhile content here, and the overall narrative is still moving in a promising direction. You know you're looking at a good series when a “B” rating qualifies as a low point.

Rating: B

A Place Further Than the Universe is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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