Despite the absolute mouthful of a title, APFU (as I’ll be calling it) is one of the best shows of the decade. It sort of flew under the radar somehow, but those of us who watched it know how good it is. I watched it sort of on a whim – I don’t usually watch shows of this genre, and I rarely enjoy them. Anything with slice of life elements has to be pretty good for me to even consider watching it. But after seeing a review praising its good qualities, and the subject being something I’m personally interested in, I gave it a try. And I’m so glad I did.
APFU follows four girls on an expedition to Antarctica. It leads them on a journey of self-discovery and they all learn something new about themselves and what it means to be friends. I can’t really get into a review about this without giving massive spoilers about the ending. I seriously recommend you watch it – you won’t regret it. Now, on to the spoilers!!
The main character’s new friend, Shirase, is obsessed with going to Antarctica, so much so that she is bullied and teased about it. It’s later revealed that the reason she’s so obsessed is because her mother, Takako, disappeared during an expedition to Antarctica when Shirase was younger. Shirase has wanted to go to Antarctica ever since her mother disappeared to try to find her, or at least find something that Takako might have left for Shirase to find.
There is some light mystery around what happened to Takako that takes a backseat to the slice of life elements of the show for the majority of the episodes. Along with the expedition the four main characters are on, there are some people who were on the previous expedition, where Takako disappeared. They are all very cagey about it, and will not answer Shirase’s questions about what happened to Takako. They simply say she disappeared, and try to discourage Shirase from searching for her mother, because she’s gone.
Some things happen, there are some teary-eyed scenes, but the ending really is what kills you. Thinking about the ending is literally making me just about start crying right now. So, Shirase had been sending emails to her mother for years, telling her what she had been up to in her life and just generally giving her an outlet to “speak” with her missing mother. It was pretty sad to think about. In the final scene, the four characters uncover an underground storage bunker that Takako had used previously that was buried in a storm. Inside, they search for any sign that Takako was still alive, and find none. However, they do find an old laptop covered in a thick layer of dust. Brushing the dust off reveals a photo of Shirase and Takako taped to the front. Accompanied by a score that absolutely rips your heart out of your chest, Shirase brings the laptop back to base and plugs it in. Miraculously, it boots up. The laptop starts downloading emails, and Shirase sees they’re from her. They’re the thousands of emails she’s been sending to her mother for years. Shirase cries and yells for her mother, realizing that, despite her years of hoping and waiting to search for her, Takako really is gone. And she isn’t coming back.
I just want to say for the record, I had to rewatch this scene to remember exactly what happened, and I’m currently actually sobbing. Don’t watch this show without a box of tissues nearby. It wrenches at your heartstrings and makes you feel like you’re actually watching a real girl realize her mother is dead. The writing in this show is spectacular, and I can’t believe it was so overlooked by so many people. The way that the characters develop from their first appearances is palpable. Every character, even the minor side ones, are written in a way that makes you care. It genuinely feels like you’re along for the journey with these girls. This show didn’t just give me an enjoyable viewing experience, it inspired me. Very few shows can do that effectively. It made me feel like I should go out and do things. Take risks and make myself uncomfortable once in a while, because I’m likely to get rewarded for it. This show is incredible for that, and I highly recommend everyone watches it. I give it a solid 10/10.