The girls are ready to go to Antarctica but there’s still one final loose end in the form of Mari’s friend, Megumi.
I was actually a little bit surprised that this episode is singularly focused on that issue. I was thinking that maybe the concern about funding would be brought up again but I suppose that Shiraishi sponsor really did patch things up. There was also the fact that Mari had to pass all her exams as a compromise with her parents and that surprisingly just disappears in the narrative. It’s odd but maybe that was just director Atsuko Ishizuka and her team sparing us a traditional “study group” episode. That kind of narrative decision stands more to me as a nitpick than an actual deal breaker though. Ishizuka’s staff opted for the more personal stake and that’s fine with me because they did an overall terrific job addressing it.
It was a little shocking to find out that some of the backlash Mari and her friends were dealing with were actually because of Megumi. Granted, that character has been a massive skeptic for the past few episodes. She’s the first to bring up the funding issues and she constantly asked Mari if she won’t chicken out of the goal, even when Mari does secure membership. In the end though, it does make a lot of sense that Megumi was the culprit. Someone had to spread rumors about Shirase’s money, the trip to Tokyo, or that Mari was feigning her parents’ permission and the one person who was aware of all this was Megumi.
My take on Megumi’s character is that there were two things that motivated her to do what she did in the past few episodes. The first and most obvious was that Megumi feared Mari becoming independent. When you have a friend who has depended on you for so many years, that kind of change to the status quo can throw you off. Trying to uphold is not a sign of a healthy friendship but in Megumi’s defense, her intention is more misguided than intentionally scummy. And to her credit, she does realize that she was the one who was dependent and regrets actions.
Another cause is that perhaps Megumi was quite jealous of the new friends Mari has gained. She doesn’t look too happy when Mari sends pictures of the whole gang and the fact that she keeps calling Shirase “Antarctica” is awfully insulting. And if I’m being honest, I think Megumi simply got outclassed by Mari’s new friends. Just the rumor scene alone shows a huge difference in chemistry. Ignoring the fact that Megumi is the culprit, it should’ve seemed odd to Mari that her friend wasn’t on the defensive against the rumors. Conversely, Shirase immediately responds with anger and demands justice while Hinata calmly suggests blowing off some steam. Simply put, they were readily willing to help Mari, certainly more so than Megumi.
Of course, Mari would forgive her friend and reject the whole friendship breakup. Just knowing her, it’s hard to imagine she’d agree to such a thing. The forgiveness is brief though and shortly after, Mari heads off to meet with her friends. I know that Mari has to get to the airport at some point but I was expecting some grand speech about friendship. Something about how Mari chose to keep things brief seems much more powerful. To me, Mari reaffirms her friendship but she moves on immediately because she knows Megumi wants to spend the time they’re apart to think things over anyway.
Other than that, there were a lot of other great story details in this episode. It really did feel like things were coming to an end at Japan. Mari and Shirase’s expedition membership goes public and they share a neat fist bump in secret. The quartet has started their online show and that’s pretty entertaining to see. From beginning to end, the episode cuts back to every character packing up for the big trip. Just seeing Mari say goodbye to her family and home carried an emotional punch to it. I think anyone who leaves to go abroad in any fashion for any duration of time can relate to what Mari is going through. Going to Antarctica is something she wants to do but it doesn’t change the fact that she is leaving the things she cherishes behind.
Of course, there does seem like there’ll be another episode before the girls actually get to Antarctica. I swear, this is becoming one of the biggest teases in anime. Then again, it was stated that the girls need to stop at Singapore first so I should’ve kept that in mind. There’s a part of me that really just wants these characters stuck in the freezing cold (and I realize that sounds harsher than it should) but I’ve been patient this far in so I can wait. And besides, most slice of life anime rarely go abroad. Detouring to other countries doesn’t necessarily sound bad.
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