“Water collects into stagnant pools. I’ve always loved watching it spill out all at once. Breaking free, liberated, rushing out. The energy stored up during its stagnation bursts forth. Everything springs into action.”
– Tamaki Mari, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
When the audience is initially introduced to Tamaki Mari, she’s revealed to be unmotivated and aimless. Her room is a wretched mess and she has failed to accomplish any of the goals she set for herself back when she was in middle school.
Mari, who is also known as Kimari, doesn’t keep a diary, which could be considered something that signifies a lack of self-discipline. She hasn’t skipped school even once or go on a journey without a plan in mind, which indicates a lack of reckless courage.
What causes Mari to tear up, however is the fact that she thinks she’s been wasting her youth. That’s because she hasn’t done anything of merit even though she’s already in her second year of high school. Thus she tells her friend, Megumi, that she “has been sleepwalking her entire life” and that she intends to change that by ditching school and spontaneously traveling somewhere. Unfortunately Mari, even with Megumi’s encouragement and assistance in setting up an impromptu excursion, remains a frivolous jellyfish who meekly follows the flow and is simply too scared to go against the normal routine everyone else follows.
That ends up changing, however, after she meets Kobuchizawa Shirase.
Unlike Mari’s short and juvenile cut, Shirase’s long dark locks, coupled with the height difference, make her appear more mature than the Kimari who has been living life without a single care. Yet it turns out that Shirase is also childish in a different way. She remains convinced that she can find her mother, who has been missing ever since she went on an expedition to Antarctica, by heading there herself. Despite what everyone else says and the difficulty of the task she’s set her eyes on, Shirase stubbornly clings onto her dream.
Shirase has no friends and everyone continues to dissuade her and others from joining her as she reaches for an objective she’s held for years. Meanwhile Mari at least has Megumi, who attempts to help Mari achieve her short-term goals. Yet Shirase is the one who remains determined whereas Mari lost her nerve. Shirase has also, in a different way, wasted her youth by only working part-time jobs to save money for the expedition. Youth, after all, aren’t universally expected to be employed and are supposed to just have fun as they learn about the world and themselves.
By the end of the episode, however, Mari has decided to join Shirase on her quest. Her change in mindset is reflected in how she cleans up her room, which was essentially a stagnant quagmire, until it’s sparkling. Within some circles, people may claim that one’s room is a mirror to one’s self. Mari is thus focused and has made up her mind. She’s no longer afraid. She’s now bursting with energy, power that has been building up as she spent her days living while not truly living, as she and Shirase head to a place that is surrounded by water while fighting upstream against the normal flow. That’s how things have to be with their destination being so extraordinary.
Whether that remains the case is to be determined, however. This is only the first episode and the series is very focused on the narrative element compared to other “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things” shows. After all, the girls are opting to go to a journey, which will very likely put a large amount of emphasis on their characterization and development. But for now, both Mari and Shirase want to make the most out of their youth.