As the expedition prepares to make its way to the distant inland base, Shirase ponders her feelings over finally reaching the place she has been striving towards for so long. She decides to join her friends, and the team sets off towards their farthest destination. Along the way, she absorbs the beauty of the landscape her mother fell in love with. Once they reach the base, Gin reveals that the ultimate goal of this expedition is to establish an observatory in honor of Takako. At last, the girls search the remains of the base for anything left by Shirase’s mother and find…
There are shows that go through peaks and valleys as they play out, with some episodes or arcs standing out the most. Others maintain a solid, consistent level of quality, or maybe start to slip as the series plays out past its initial impact. Sora Yori is a show that just keeps getting better for me as it progresses, with every episode offering something new and fascinating.
In this episode, our focus is firmly on Shirase, as she tries to cope with how she feels now that she’s essentially achieved her goal. Her emotions have been somewhat deadened since their arrival, and she’s unsure if this is natural, or if it will change if she reaches the inland base where her mother disappeared. Her biggest fear is that even reaching that goal and visiting Takako’s final resting place won’t change anything, and will leave her feeling hollow and unable to move on. There’s also brief but outstanding scene in which Shirase takes stock of what she’s gone through to get this far that reinforces her resolve that I choked up a little over.
I have personally dealt with the loss of close family members, as do nearly all of us in time. This sentiment is one I completely understand and struggle with from time to time, years after that loss. Shirase’s sense of isolation and inability to parse her own feelings is not unlike what I’ve gone through personally. It takes a good script and a better delivery to make this conflict land, and Sora Yori has done it admirably.
Once Shirase joins the others on the last leg of the journey, we get some time to step back and enjoy some of the girls’ Antarctic antics and take in the desolate beauty of the continent. It provides some great contrast to Shirase’s inner struggle, and reminds me just how beautiful this show can be.
The final stretch of the episode sees the team arrive at the base, which has been desolate for three whole years. Gin finally reveals what she and Kanae have been planning – to found the Kobuchizawa Observatory in Takako’s memory and continue their scientific mission. This is finally too much for Mari, Hinata and Yuzuki, who have been doing their best to let Shirase work through things on her own. They all dash into the remains of the base, hoping to find some memento of Shirase’s mother. I won’t spoil what they find, but the last scene of Shirase and her friends reacting to it had me misty-eyed.
This episode seriously hit home for me. A friend and I once discussed how watching someone die in TV or on film is sad, but there’s something harder about watching someone grieve. This series has handled Shirase’s long-running grief in a serious and honest manner, unhindered by its unique setting. It is beautifully moving in its tragedy, and I am both thrilled and saddened to know it’s coming to its conclusion soon.