“Will you be my friends?”

Such an innocuous statement, that, without further detail, could come from anyone. Yet by the end of episode 3 of A Place Further than the Universe (Yorimoi), we get to know the speaker behind it. In a mere 20 minutes, the show provides a simple yet effective sketch, deftly fleshing out the loneliness of the teen actress Shiraishi Yuzuki.

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“I have no friends.”

Thus begins a confession, that, on its own, would have been boring exposition. We’ve seen it in Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, with Archer and Shirou shouting their philosophies at each other. We’ve seen it as well in Sound! Euphonium, with Mizore vomiting her backstory to a junior she barely knows. What makes this monologue work in Yorimoi is how it’s used to supplement and contextualize setpieces from Yuzuki’s point of view, granting us glimpses into her headspace: memories of the little girl led away from her happy peers; selfies and group activities declined, keeping her from truly being a part of the friend group she’s trying to join; images of the group chat, her lifeline to her peers, being abandoned by those she tried to reach out to.

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Yuzuki’s desires and disappointment come to a boil in a melodramatic dream sequence. A gust of night wind flutters the curtains. Yuzuki opens the windows to find the teenage girls she had barely just met. They are braving the wind, climbing up a ladder to her hotel room–as if they were knights scaling a tower toward the entrapped princess–to whisk her off to adventure. The windy night, the tilted camera, the shot of Yuzuki literally pulled out of her room, out of her current life: they all add to the heightened realism and bring us into her mind.

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Thanks to these glimpses, we not only know intellectually that Yuzuki is lonely, we feel it viscerally. That’s why when the three girls show up at Yuzuki’s door the next morning, we share her catharsis: finally, after the deep solitude, the pain, the longing, she has found a group she can belong to. When she sinks down in tears of relief, so do we[1].

Being economical yet effective in art is a valuable skill. Through glimpses into Yuzuki’s headspace, contextualized by a monologue, and topped off by a melodramatic dream, Yorimoi has given us a concise yet moving sketch of Yuzuki’s loneliness and longing for companionship. Yuzuki’s character development likely (hopefully) won’t end there, but we have a solid foundation for future episodes.


Notes:

[1] “We” represents an unspecified audience. I’ve pretty much given up being able to cry watching TV now T.T

[2] Also, notice Yuzuki’s reaction to realizing it was a dream: a giggle, a flash of disappointment, and then a forced smile (notice her face moving back into the shadow). This was heartbreaking to see.

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