Now that the team fully assembled, it’s time for the girls to start preparing for the Antarctic expedition. Mari’s mother is… less than thrilled that her daughter waiting so long to bring this up to her, but gives her conditional permission. With the last of the paperwork out of the way, they set out for a multi-day training course overseen by the expedition captain, Todo Gin. The challenging course brings out a sense of pride and wonder in the girls that should serve them well when they finally reach their destination.
As Brendan pointed out in his recent review, these episodes seem to go by awfully fast. Despite that, I’ve found each one to be nicely paced-out and filled with a near-perfect combination of humor and subtle drama. Episode four continues this trend as Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki start training for the expedition.
Before we get to that, there’s a brief prologue of Mari confronting the fact that she hasn’t managed to get her parents’ permission to go on this adventure yet. Worse, she’s been filling out the paperwork herself without telling her mother, and that does not sit well. It becomes pretty clear why she was reluctant to bring it up, but as her friend points out, Mari brought it on herself by sneaking around.
While it’s a pretty short diversion before the main plot of the episode kicks off, it demonstrates one of the key features I love about this show. These girls are doing something very out of the ordinary, and the world is not just going to hand it to them. Things have gone their way so far, but only through a combination of research, hard work and luck, and Mari is not quite a grade-A student when it comes to the first two.
This failing becomes more apparent once they actually get to the training course. Mari is as gung-ho as ever, but the others are there to reign her in. This isn’t going to be a show where the protagonist(s) succeed just by virtue of being cute and spunky.
Captain Todo makes it clear that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but no one is actively trying to discourage or scare the girls. If anything, their pride and excitement increases as they step up to their first challenge real challenge, and they get a small glimpse of what the real expedition will hold.
This fourth episode still has all the hallmarks that we’ve enjoyed so far; a firm grounding and understanding of its plot, engaging characters and fun banter. The more somber undertones of Shirase’s grief over her mom are there to remind us that this is still a serious venture, and serve as a fine contrast to the more fun and goofy moments.
What I like most about this show so far is that its lesson seems to be, “following your dreams takes hard work”. That’s a much better moral than “follow your heart” or “believe in yourself”, because both of those leave out how much commitment and effort it takes to accomplish anything worthwhile. These girls are about to face one of the harshest environments on the planet at an age when most people are trying to figure out dating, so more power to them. They’ve certainly had their run of good fortune getting this far; now it’s time for their own effort to take them all the way to Antarctica.