The return of To Your Eternity heralds the return of existential crisis and a lot of sad Fushi. And makes for quality entertainment.
“I couldn’t do anything.”
Grief is a tragic thing, something Fushi slowly learns more and more of. As he grows and learns, as his awareness expands, the more he learns how to feel. And the more he knows how to feel, the greater the consequences of knowing. And he learns this the most as he struggles to accept the loss of Gugu, his older brother figure and his closest friend so far. Knowing the danger of his existence, he decides to choose to live in isolation in fear of bringing more of his loved ones to danger.
The dark godly being, or the man in black as Fushi would call him, reveals that Fushi cannot escape his destiny. That even with his powers, Fushi still holds an important place in the survival of his world. The defeat of the Nokkers. That Fushi has to fight, has to keep going, because choosing not to will have its own consequences. But Fushi is tired. He just wants to be left alone, and stew in his pain.
But Pioran has other ideas. She’s been with Fushi the longest, seen him already when he had barely any sentience. She was his first teacher, and one of his loved ones. And she is not going to let him go out in the world all alone. She’s made a pact to help him, and she plans to see it through.
“You’re a critical step in achieving my goal.”
After a week of no To Your Eternity, the series returns for its 13th episode with a healthy dose of sadness and existentialism. Beginning with the episode revealing that Fushi has no idea what grief is, or has little experience in processing grief, we find him in the midst of what could be a teenage angst session. The episode even begins with him lonely and brooding, with a narration that has him asking, to no one in particular, why any of it had to happen.
Sure it’s valid, no one can easily recover from watching their best friend sacrifice themselves after all. But it also matches cleanly with Fushi’s development. If the death of the white haired boy from episode 1 was basically Fushi’s birth into human form, and the death of March was like the death of a mother to a young baby, the death of Gugu was the first death Fushi has in his ‘child’ or ‘teenage’ years, since his emotional development is echoes that sentiment.
The blanks in his memory when it comes to March even mimic how children barely remember their parents when they died young. Whether the author purposefully used the development of a child as a template for Fushi’s development is true or not, it still makes Fushi’s characterization really interesting. It feels appropriate and grounded.
“I’ll be your walking stick”
This idea of growing up is also seen, when it comes to central theme of the episode. Since Fushi is all about isolating himself in fear of hurting others, it creates this idea in him that he has to do everything on his own. First he tries to run from his destiny again, wanting to not exist in the first place. Then, when Pioran arrives, he tries to avoid her as much as he can. Pioran, with more patience than ever, just tries to reconnect to him. Like an adult trying to coax a grieving child. It’s both sad and heartwarming, seeing Fushi learn to fear human connection out of the paranoia he has developed around them. But this is the point of the episode.
Just as Fushi can’t shake of Pioran, the episode is all about how loss isn’t a reason to fear reaching out. If anything, learning to communicate to others in our times of hardship might actually help us go through the tougher parts in our life. Pioran is the one who helps Fushi understand his troubles, his feelings that he can’t define. Helping him understand why he can’t force people to do things even if that will keep them alive. Why he was missing memories, and why he felt lost and unaware. Pioran’s companionship and insight helps Fushi realize that he’s missing memories of March, that he has people he still wants to protect and remember, and that’s why he has to keep fighting.
“Living on the edge has its appeal too”
It’s in this new vibe, new approach that Fushi has, that the series has slowly moved closer to normal shounen territory. All the talk about ‘loved ones’ and ‘getting stronger’ are all the template motivations that you can expect in any shounen action series. The unique thing with To Your Eternity is that it actually creates a better foundation for Fushi to grow, and provides an even more emotional basis for any battles to come. Because the anime spent most of the episodes building up Fushi, in some cases almost literally, it had the opportunity of both exploring each of the reasons Fushi has to fight. Every loss is made with a purpose, to push Fushi forward. Unlike in most shounen anime, To Your Eternity wants the audience to know the characters as people rather than character development. And this is why it is intelligent.
Take any of your garden variety shounen anime. How many episodes do they give in creating the basis for their heroes to fight? Most of the time, these reasons are left out in flashbacks or just one episode beginnings because they need room for the action. And while they do function, they also have the risk of feeling shallow and underdeveloped. There’s only so much you can use the underdog trope as a reason for your characters to fight before it becomes very repetitive. Which, thankfully, Fushi is not. While he can certainly have the same potential for being overpowered like most shounen protagonists, it’s also balanced that he actually acts like a person with wants and desires and is willing to reject responsibility. He doesn’t feel like a caricature. He’s fleshed out thanks to us literally seeing him learn how to be human.
Not every character has to be Naruto or Midoriya. Not every character has to be a NEET who got isekai’d. Sometimes, all you need is to write a character who learns to live before learning a reason to fight.
“We’ll only be truly dead once we’re forgotten”
To Your Eternity once again provides the spice, tragedy, and philosophy that you expect. And as the show gets closer and closer to its end, and shows more and more of the action side, the excitement of its climax becomes clearer.
GET READY FOR THE NEXT EPISODE
New episodes of To Your Eternity coming out every Monday. Watch Episode 14 on 19 of July 2021 at 10:50 PM (JST).
Official English website: To Your Eternity
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