I wasn’t expecting much from this series (and frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the Winter 2018 season at all), but episode one of Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho had me pleasantly surprised. I was a little confused when I saw it listed on Crunchyroll as A Place Further Than the Universe since I had only known it by its subtitle, A Story That Leads to Antarctica. Even just seeing that far more interesting title raised my interest level a bit higher. Once I started watching, the gorgeous shot composition and pacing exceeded those expectations further.
Oftentimes, anime tends to fall into really generic framing traps, especially when it comes to slice of life type shows. Anime is a visual medium, after all, so it’s disappointing when shows don’t actually use those visuals to give viewers more information about characters or the world they’re in. Luckily, Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho knows better. By having Mari lazing about in her cluttered room, we’re able to get a feel for her character before she even utters a line.
The room even further symbolizes Mari’s resolve: when she sets her mind on her new goal of going to Antarctica, she cleans her messy room to show that she’s ready to take this seriously and clear a path for her future.
The show also does a great job with utilizing negative space. In shots like the ones above, Mari is alone, surrounded only by the vastness of possibilities. She says that every time she wants to do something, she thinks too much and chickens out, and in these shots, you can almost hear her doubts even if she’s not actually narrating it. At the same time, though, they’re not too looming and scary…there’s always a light present that lets you know Mari will find her way.
I also really enjoyed the framing for the scene where our girl
Antarctica Shirase is almost mugged. The tilted camera angle and inherent framing gives a sense of uneasiness right away. The intimate, tight framing lets us see Shirase’s genuine fear. Once Mari shows up, though, the shot loosens up, and both Shirase and the viewer can breathe a sigh of relief.
As for the pacing, there are plenty of lingering shots that add to various scenes. Shots of hands and feet are often very telling, and episode one gives us a lot of fidgety feet shots. They help place the viewer in Mari’s headspace of uneasiness or nervousness. It also literally puts the viewer in Mari’s perspective by placing them in her point of view as she glances down at the ground.
Though Mari is optimistic and determined, she still finds herself overwhelmed by the vastness of the future. Still, the anime maintains that feelgood slice of life vibe while also portraying Mari’s very relatable crisis of thinking she’s going to “sleepwalk” her life away.
I’m really looking forward to seeing more of this show. I wonder if Yuru Camp will have the same level of nuance in its slice of life adventure… I hope the rest of the Winter 2018 pilots can deliver like this one did!