It’s no secret that Sora Yori is one of the best shows of 2018. Tightly and smartly written, Sora yori tells a story of four girls who make the journey of their lives, thrust together by fate. At its core is a story of friendship- a theme that has been used, reused, recycled and abused by all sorts of anime since the dawn of time. And yet, Sora Yori stands out as a show that really does it right, getting to the essence of what it means to be a friend and how important these relationships are.
Fundamentally, Sora Yori indulges in the excitement of meeting people you connect with and sharing experiences with them. The girls aren’t friends from the start, and instead are brought together through a shared goal. This goal of going to Antarctica is so outrageous that they are forced to experience new things together by its very nature. They experience fun things- travelling around Singapore, trying fresh spring water and shaved ice, chasing penguins and playing with the other crew members- that become more memorable as they build genuine connections with each other. Shirase, who initially wanted to make the journey on her own, realises this early on and defiantly proclaims to Hinata that they were not going to leave her behind when she ‘loses’ her passport.
It’s not just about the fun things, though – the girls go through mundane activities and bad experiences together as well. But all of these experiences are still valuable nonetheless, simply because they got through them hand in hand. When the turbulent waves rock the boat and they all feel terribly seasick, they look at each others’ sorry states and just laugh – because they feel horrible together.
Sora Yori also captures how good friendships allow us to build upon one another and add value to each others’ lives. Kimari longs for adventure; yearning for her life to set in motion but never being brave enough to take the first step herself. She gets the push she needs to step out of her comfort zone by Shirase, who has infectious determination. She dares to do what is crazy and sets her mind to it, but often overthinks and is easily embarrassed. In comes Hinata: bright, confident and pragmatic, her warm personality gels the group together.
She and Shirase enable each other to open up, with Hinata showing Shirase that sometimes it’s important to say those embarrassing, straightforward things and Shirase showing Hinata that supporting and being mindful of your friend isn’t just about being considerate, it’s about caring for the people you love. Yuzuki, who has never had a friend, is mature and guides the girls through their professional duties but lacks social skills and learns what it means to be a friend through her interaction with the girls. Kimari empathizes the most with Yuzuki, because she approaches her friends’ problems earnestly. Each girl contributes something to the group dynamic, and learns something from the others.
With how different their personalities are, the girls of Sora Yori do bicker and face problems. However, through the journey they learn to accept each others’ differences and adapt to them. They help Kimari, who is naturally a high energy person, blow off steam from the rumours by going for Karaoke. After her conflict ends, she plays an important role in Yuzuki’s growth, recognising her naivety and trying her best to show her the non-verbal feelings that make friendship. Despite Yuzuki’s stardom, the girls never ‘other’ her, instead accepting that it may cause her to lack awareness of social situations and helping her through it.
Shirase is naturally someone who takes time to process her feelings, so when she is not ready to share them, the girls give her space instead of pestering her. Hinata is a strong-willed person who thus finds it difficult to ask for help or appear vulnerable, so the girls take cues from her behaviour to support her with the help she needs, be it when she loses her passport or when her past is revealed. They always chose to approach each other with understanding and empathy.
This drives home the most important theme of the show, that friendship is about supporting one another through tough times. It holds the emotional weight of the show as each of our girls go through struggles of their own, with the others always being right there with arms extended. The most outstanding examples of this are the conclusions of Shirase’s and Hinata’s character arcs. When Hinata’s high school mates reappear in an attempt to gain attention, Shirase calls them out on their selfish behaviour, and the other girls support her decision. Yuzuki declares, “This is friendship!” as Shirase defends Hinata and becomes protective of her.
Throughout the show, not one of the girls questions Shirase’s resolve even though her mother is long gone. When Shirase retrieves her mother’s laptop and the reality of her mother dying finally sets in, the girls respectfully wait outside but still cry alongside her. They know that nothing can be said to make the situation better, so they just stand by her, allowing her to release her pent up emotions. After going through tough times together, they are rewarded with the sight of the aurora australis, which they enjoy arms locked, knowing they conquered Antarctica together and have come out stronger because of it.
There’s a reason that friendship is such a core part of our media – it’s a relatable experience that every person can appreciate. Sora Yori is special, not because its theme of friendship is unique or revolutionary, but because it handled this universal theme with love and honesty. In the end, the show managed to capture what friendship is all about better than I ever could, with just a single word – “ne?”.
All images are from the anime and are used for commentary purpose.
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