Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 07

The girls’ fantastic journey to Antarctica is feeling closer and realer than ever now that they’re in Fremantle, not just looking at the Penguin Manju but boarding her, getting settled into their four-person berth (where there will be fights, LOL) and touring its gigantic-ness.

But the girls are just as united in their suspicion that something…odd is going on on the ship as they are in their awe at being aboard her. There’s a lot of negative press about the expedition not having a chance of actually getting to Antarctica, let alone accomplish anything.

When Kanae will only vaguely tell them that their crew is “determined” to “see the sky”,  the girls take matters into their own hands and stealthily follow the adults around while wearing masks. What they hear and observe confirms their worries that what they thought would be an ironclad operation is threadbare and held together with a lot of hope and not much cash or manpower.

What can the girls do but have faith everything will work out? Perhaps the discovery of the glow-in-the-dark stars on the underside of a bunk is a good omen; the other girls give Shirase that bunk, assuming her mom must’ve painted them.

Walking the deck at night, Shirase runs into Gin, who fills in most of the blanks related to the hardships they’ve encountered, as well as the ill-fated previous trip when they lost Shirase’s mom in the unforgiving cold. Gin says despite their scrappy underdog status, most of the original team has returned in spite of everything.

Gin speaks with such confidence and conviction that she manages to convince the other girls (who were listening off to the side). And on the eve of their departure, Kanae introduces the girls to the rest of the crew (and indicates that they are not legal, repeat, they are not legal) and gives them a chance to introduce themselves.

There, after having failed in front of Hinata’s camera so many times, Shirase gets a pat on the back from Hinata, steps forward, and delivers the most charismatic intro of the four, pledging her commitment to “do catchy, witty, sensational reporting” (we’ll see) and opening the “treasure box” of Antarctica with her own two hands.

The crowd is pumped—all that beer probably helps!—but I think having the older members seeing such passion in a high schooler, particularly the daughter of one of their founders, can’t be anything but inspiring as they prepare to shove off. It isn’t just Shirase; everyone on that boat is out to prove the doubters and the haters wrong. They’re like the Philadelphia Eagles. And they’re going to freakin’ Antarctica.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 06

With Megumi’s breakup of Mari duly rejected, the quartet endures the harsh stare of a customs official and heads to Singapore by A380, where they’ll spend a few days before the next flight to Fremantle.

I enjoyed the fact it was Shirase’s first fight (Mari’s too, I believe), and how the flight scenes accurately portrayed the intermittent fun, wonder, and boredom of a long flight. I also liked the girls’ culture shock of seeing so much more English everywhere and shamelessly tourist-ing out (Merlion! Merlion!).

Mari’s more sensitive side comes out when she waxes poetic about how amazing it is that people go on with their lives in far-off places they’ve never seen—and it is amazing!—but the fun and excitement of the trip hits a major snag when Hinata’s passport comes up missing.

Everything had been going so well for Shirase, and when the prospect of delaying their flight to accommodate the time required for Hinata to get a new passport from the Japanese embassy, she’s quietly but dreadfully worried that her chance to finally follow her mother might slip away.

That night, Yuzuki must deal with Mari the Bed-Sprawling Monster, who evokes murderous thoughts in her bedmate, but Yuzu actually has it easy compared to the other pair of Hinata and Shirase. Both are stubborn in their respective views: Shirase doesn’t want to leave anyone behind, despite her initial bristling at the prospect of a delay.

While flattered, Hinata says being “shown consideration” is disconcerting; it’s partly the reason she left high school. She understands it’s part of normal relationships, but she’s been burned by such consideration in the past and can’t not look upon it with suspicion. She doesn’t wish to bear the guilt of having inconvenienced everyone else.

Shirase goes to sleep abruptly, clearly done with debating the particulars of interpersonal behaviors, and the next morning we learn why: she had to get up before Hinata, turn off her alarm clock, and leave her at the hotel while she and the others go to the airport to get new tickets, against Hinata’s apparent wishes.

When Yuzuki says they can’t change their tickets on such short notice, it would seem the conflict between Hinata and Shirase is moot. However, while the two may both regard themselves as unusually stubborn individuals, Shirase has the edge in cash, plopping down her beloved Mwillion Yen to get everyone Business Class two days later.

When Hinata protests further, Shirase lets her have it with both barrels: This isn’t just about Hinata; it’s about Shirase not wanting to be the kind of shallow friend who just ditches another when they’re slightly inconvenienced, or doesn’t worry when she’s told not to worry, and doesn’t want to be a coward who gives up so easily. “I remain stubborn…because I’m right!”

The speech moves Hinata to tears, and she yields. But not long after she spent the sum total of her hard-earned Antarctica savings on expensive new tickets, Shirase spots Hinata’s passport in her purse; Hinata was tying her shoe and must’ve forgotten she handed it to Shirase, but Shirase forgot she had it.

Thanks to Yuzuki’s uncanny innate method of detecting when one of her comrades is hiding something, it isn’t long until Shirase’s little secret is exposed, but thankfully, the tickets could be cancelled and Shirase’s savings returned. Yuzuki and Mari punish Hinata and Shirase for their collective tomfoolery by insisting they try Durian fruit (which I for one find too foul-smelling to bring anywhere near my mouth).

When Mari befriended Hinata, a part of me was worried we’d lose some of the excellent dynamic between Mari and Shirase, or that Shirase might be marginalized in some way. But those worries have long since been allayed, as the dynamic between Hinata and Shirase is just as compelling, due in no small part to the wonderful script and the abundant talents of Mmes. Hanazawa et Iguchi.

Sore ga Seiyuu! – 12

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Ichigo’s foot is hurt, and though she tries to hide it, both Futaba and Rin know it’s hurt. The success of the concert is in jeopardy, but both of them care more about her health. Ichigo, not wanting to let everyone down, assures her she can do it, and makes the others promise not to tell Kaibara. Her foot, her terms, it would seem.

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However, after watching Hocchan on TV and bumping into her at the studio (not recognizing her at first because of her disheveled off-stage appearance), Futaba gets yet another invaluable piece of advice, this time about units: everything is shared amongst everyone, be it happiness, hardship, or pain. That means the foot isn’t just Ichigo’s problem and Ichigo’s call, it’s the unit’s. Rin agrees with Futaba, and Ichigo tells Kaibara, who naturally freaks out.

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However, the Earphones haven’t gotten this far without overcoming hardship (or lack of natural dancing talent, in Futaba’s case.) So Ichigo gets taped up, and both Rin and Futaba will pick up her slack in the dancing department, rearranging choreography to lessen the strain on Ichigo’s foot, doing a slow song while seated, etc. Konno even finds a clever way to conceal Ichigo’s swollen foot: fuzzy leg warmers!…Which at least to me call to mind the soft padding of earphones.

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In order to balance out the proportions of their look (with their $5000 outfits…geez Kaibara!), they also go out wearing bunny ears, and while the first tense few moments after they take the stage they worry they’ll be laughed right back off of it, but the full house of nearly 500 (480 to be exact) end up digging the cuteness.

The trio goes out with everything they have, powered by Futaba’s pre-concert motivational speech that was the culmination of everything she’s learned from working with pros like Hocchan, and while Ichigo stumbles, she doesn’t fall, because Futaba and Rin take hold of her and keep her upright. The unit even gets a call for an encore.

It’s an unforgettable night for the Earphones; far more of a success than any of the girls could have hoped for, especially considering the setback with Ichigo’s foot. But they pulled it off with aplomb, and it was immensely rewarding to watch them do so.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 11

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The “most helpful” short review of SgS on MAL describes the show to a T, portraying working life reality without resorting to tropes, with adorable characters with regular human flaws and worries, and situations relatable to viewers of all professions despite the unique seiyu milieu. An apt description of a show that’s remained on my Summer watchlist due to its uniqueness, honesty, and heart.

This week, Futaba neither wants to be left behind nor hold her unit-mates back, so when she gets a “program reg”, a semi-steady bit role in a new anime, she tries her hardest…and ends up trying a little too hard for her precious voice. She’s not the only one who tried to hard, and she isn’t the last in this episode about a very important part of a Seiyu’s job and life: self care.

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Shiraishi Ryoko (whom I know best as the lovely Himeko in SKET Dance) gives Hocchan a run for her money as the best cameo on the show to date, because the episode positions her both as another seasoned veteran for Futaba to look up to (and Futaba is struck by her beauty, vocal versatility, and preparation) and as a voice of earnest caution against working to hard at the cost of one’s health.

All jazzed up about her boisterous young boy voice role, Futaba strains her voice, and all the seiyus around her suggest various remedies. Shiraishi gives her honey herb cough drops, but to no avail; the next day Futaba comes down with a cold. Thanks to her manager’s wrangling, she’s still able to record her lines, but must do so separately, losing precious hours amongst her peers in the studio.

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She comes back, none the worse for wear, and Shiraishi is there to offer more support, and life advice I presume comes straight from the real Shiraishi’s life. She thinks she was about Futaba’s age when she hurt her throat, but it wasn’t a cold, it was vocal cord nodules, the result of being so excited and busy with her voice work she never gave her throat a chance to rest and heal. As a result, she needed surgery, which no other seiyu she knew had ever undergone.

She was thus understandably worried about the operation, but she had no choice: for Shirashi, then and now, being a seiyu was her life. There was nothing else she wanted to do, and her talent and popularity proved it was the right path. She might’ve over-scared Futaba a bit, but the lesson remains: don’t get too caught up and push too hard too fast. Futaba also wants to life a seiyu’s life, so she has to take care of her voice. That means going at her own pace, even if that pace is slower than Ichigo’s and Rin’s.

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The episode’s second half chronicles Earphones’ preparation for their first real concert, a two-hour affair at a 500-seat venue. Only problem is, after one week they’ve only sold twelve tickets, and they only have three songs to their name. So in addition to stepping up their marketing and promotion for the concert in a big way, the unit also has to learn a bunch of cover songs to fill the time.

Ichigo commits to writing up the choreography for those songs, and becomes an idol possessed of a fire that makes Futaba and Rin tremble. After days of hard dancing, Ichigo and Futaba are a lot sorer than Rin, owing to being older…yet still young, they protest!

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They make a promotional push by pounding the pavement and distributing flyers at the popular Anitumn Festival (well, outside the festival, anyway) and before long, their venue is around halfway sold out, a great improvement from twelve takers. With Futaba’s newfound devotion to going at her own pace, she remains positive while working to master Ichigo’s dance moves.

Everything is coming together, and the group is in the highest of spirits, which bodes well for the success of the concert, as they’ll be wearing their hearts on their sleeve up on that stage before however many hundreds of people attend. But then Ichigo injures her ankle tripping on a bottle of water. Oh mannn….

Just like that, Earphone’s concert is in serious jeopardy, demonstrating that whatever your profession, even if you do take care of yourself, shit still happens; shit you can’t predict or prepare for. Here’s hoping it’s not a bad sprain, and if it is, the unit doesn’t let the setback douse their spirits.

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