Damn, I wasn’t expecting an episode like that right from the start of 2018. I was cautiously excited about this shows prospects going into the season- as an original anime with no source can tend to be very hit or miss; but after watching the first episode, my worries have subsided and this show could be a gem. Seemingly a slice-of-life style story, the show focuses on Mari Tamaki and her everyday, workaday school life- where she had come to the realisation that a year into her high school life, she had achieved absolutely diddly.
The episode made me laugh from the word go and I sat through the first few minutes grinning from ear to ear. Following the opening scene, we focus on Tamaki’s every day life and are introduced to her main problem- a relatable one at that. Tamaki is scared about trying new things, scared about failing, scared to go against the norm and break the rules and these sorts of anxieties are things that almost everyone has experienced in their lives; I know I have. Tamaki even got as far as the train station while planning to skip school for the first time but chickened out. She goes to return home dejected after another normal day at school before a run in with a schoolgirl who drops an envelope full of cash in front of her. Once they meet and the introductions are made, we find out the girl (Shirase Kobuchizawa) is a well-known but not in a good way first year at Tamaki’s school. She dreams of reaching Antartica and has a completely different view on things than Tamaki; optimistic, with a goal and driving toward it at full speed with no looking back- isolating herself from the rest of her peers. This meeting drives Tamaki forward and causes her to pick up a dream of her own; helping Shirase achieve her goal. Meeting a new person has developed Tamaki and helped her take the first step in ‘enjoying her youth’- a phrase you hear in anime a lot but something I have never actually heard anyone say in England…
Tamaki’s friend Megumi initially took a little while for me to warm to but as soon as I saw her sniffing people to help her friend, I knew she wasn’t bad. In all seriousness, her character seems kind of bland but I suppose that is actually by design more than anything- to show the contrast between everyday school life with friends and this new dream of reaching Antartica and the excitement that taking the chance will bring. Tamaki herself is immediately likeable and her struggles with anxiety and seeing things through is both relatable and heartbreaking. Shirase herself is also a well rounded character and the polar opposite to Tamaki in that she is driven and has a clear goal but you can see that when Tamaki offers her hand in assistance, that she genuinely does want companionship and isn’t truly isolating herself out of choice and the bud of friendship that has sprouted makes me anxious to see where the story will take them.
The idea of high school girls going to Antartica is beyond ridiculous and that is actually what makes it good. A story of people achieving things against the odds is always popular and a show that explores normal subject areas in an extraordinary place is A-OK with me. In fact, that actually makes this episode all the better; how to approach your dream when everyone around you says its impossible and literally nobody is willing to support you is something that is truly horrible and something I have actually been told myself. The bullying scene is brief but does hit home the message that people don’t like dreamers or forward thinkers as it scares them, makes them jealous and causes them to lash out at the dreamers. A sad fact of life.
The animation does take the odd dip and the character designs change ever so slightly during the episodes run but neither effect the enjoyment I felt watching the show- so I will leave it at that!
Tamaki and Shirase’s newly found friendship is wonderful and makes you want to root for the two young girls in the pursuit of their unrealistic dream. Near the end, where Tamaki meets Shirase on the train and we see her massive grin- overjoyed that someone has finally taken some sort of step to support her; I grinned in unison and I for one cannot wait to see where this series go and how they will approach the impossible dream. Be it Antartica or anywhere else, I am on-board for this feel-good journey.
Episode Score: 10/10- No better way to start the new season; an endearing cast and relatable subject matter (barring Antartica) make the episode near faultless.