Studio: Brain’s Base
Director: Masahiko Murata
Streaming on: Crunchyroll
This season is full of adaptations and new projects from established authors. Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song was written by the author of Re:Zero, while Combatants Will Be Dispatched was penned by the author of Konosuba. To Your Eternity is based off the manga written by Yoshitoki Oima, best known for her manga, A Silent Voice, and the subsequent film adaptation. Yeah, this is gonna be sad.
Although, A Silent Voice was often melancholic, though it ended on a high note, and To Your Eternity is poised to similarly deal heartache and joy in equal doses. Three episodes in and it has already swung for the highs and lows that anime is capable of. It has received nothing but praise since its debut, and I hope you don’t think I’m going to be a contrarian, even if I so often am. It’s good. If you were here only to figure out whether or not it’s good, er, have a good rest of your day, maybe check out one of the other reviews before you close your browser.
But here I prefer to dive into the why and how of something is good, or something that’s bad. It’s often a much more interesting answer than just, “does this piece of media meet my standards?” To Your Eternity is a compassionately written story that is fascinated in people. We get lost when pop fantasy tells us that humans are default, the boring, the unremarkable ones. There is something that speaks to people in a story examining us from the outside perspective.
So To Your Eternity is already your anime snob friend’s favorite of the season, but as pretentious as they might be, they’re right, and here’s why.
To Your Eternity is the journey of an orb cast down to the earth by a mysterious figure, with the sole purpose of absorbing stimuli and learning. The orb is later named Fushi, so we’ll be using that name for the purpose of clarity. Fushi’s simple ability to take the shape of what stimulates it: first a stone in the tundra, then the moss that grows on that stone, and then the dying wolf that limps over to the rock and dies beside it. That’s where our story begins.
After wandering for some time, Fushi comes across an abandoned village where he meets the unnamed boy. The boy was left behind to care for the elderly when the villagers left to search for a warm paradise beyond the mountains, and now he is all that remains. He had a wolf to keep him company, but until Fushi appears, he believes that the wolf just wandered off. The boy warmly welcomes what he believes to be his pet home, but he has intentions of setting out for the utopia his people must have found.
The boy and the wolf go on a long journey, beset by frostbite and injury before being forced to turn back by terrible conditions and no end in sight. The boy’s wound is now infected, and Fushi watches his new companion perish. With no stimulation, Fushi assumes the form of the boy as well as his goal of reaching the other side of the mountain.
This sounds like some pretty significant spoilers, but that’s literally just the first episode. It’s some of the most efficient, effective, and downright raw storytelling in anime, and it’s just the first episode. The story doesn’t shrink in scope as Fushi continues to gather experiences, either. Each episode is a new stage for Fushi to progress to as he learns a new facet of being human, even if he needs to learn how to stop and go to the bathroom first.
Now, this is pretty unusual for me, but I don’t have a lot to say about To Your Eternity’s visuals; they’re good, though not often great. The line art is relatively simple, the color palette is pleasant, and the character designs are endearing. In a word, the show’s aesthetic is once of competence, though it rarely goes beyond that. For once I could spend a lot more time talking about the music instead.
The music is what sells the majority of this anime. Most of the first episode is silent except for the boy’s reassuring himself through one-sided conversations with Fushi, but it would be impossible to create this tense narrative and deep bond between these two without a killer soundtrack. Composer Ryo Kawasaki has outdone himself here, although I particularly enjoyed his score for Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia. This type of storytelling is quiet and moving, and the score perfectly complements and every painful ebb and flow of pathos that To Your Eternity inflicts on its viewers.
I won’t be talking about any episodes other than the first, as each should be enjoyed unspoiled. The first episode is just as affecting even if you know what’s going to happen, I’d argue I got more out of it on a rewatch, and it’s nice to know what you’re getting into. Tearjerker anime like this are great and often the recipient of critical and audience acclaim, but they’re not for everyone.
The series’ direction though is excellent, even if the art feels unremarkable more often than not. It’s funny when it feels like it, heartbreaking when it needs to be, and engrossing throughout. It inherits much of that charm from its manga heritage, but the voice acting and character animations pull their weight just as much. It isn’t easy selling this unusual world and setting in anime, but the environment design and direction transport me to a place I never envisioned wanting to go.
To Your Eternity has a formula to its story, but it might not be immediately obvious. Each episode is a new step in Fushi’s journey, often more than one as he has to learn to absorb new stimuli, as well as what it means to be human. First it just has to get the hang of being a living thing, including remembering to eat and drink, but he learns after his first handful of deaths. Speaking is going to be hard, but progress is steady.
The story is reminiscent of Violet Evergarden, as both have a protagonist learning to unlock emotions that they were not previously aware of. However, the orb has a lot more work ahead of him than just processing grief and trauma, though I’m sure that will come in time. The trouble mostly comes with how he’s starting off with less of a basis than even your average newborn.
Thus far, he has not had many opportunities to understand the people around him, especially as Fushi was never expected to respond to the boy’s words. Now that he’s a human and needs to converse with them, that will quickly change. I hope that once he becomes self-aware, he will be given the chance to recontextualize the experiences he acquired before then. I’m interested in how he will come to view his relationship with the boy, the first person who made an impression on him.
But this is a story and style of storytelling that just begs to go to many different places and meet so many kinds of people. Right now the series is slated for 20 episodes, and I’m relieved. I love a good 12 or 24 episode anime, but having an unusual episode count means that they chose it to suit the series’ unique needs. It’s also long enough that this story has room to breathe, but won’t overstay its welcome. Nothing dooms a great story like cutting important parts or having to fill in unimportant ones.
To Your Eternity is likely to be a favorite this season with its engaging visuals, fascinating story, and unbridled potential. It’s been a minute or two since I’ve properly enjoyed a story with this kind of slow emotional buildup, but it’s a special occasion to be able to watch it weekly, as it comes out.
I’ve seen people complain that watching weekly is too hard, especially for popular thrill rides like Attack on Titan, but To Your Eternity is the perfect vehicle for this gradual drip feed of story. I’m opposed to binging on principle, as it turns carefully paced stories into messes that just kind of form a slushy whole, but this is a series that is almost designed with that methodical progression in mind. To Your Eternity feels like a journey, and I heartily recommend keeping up with it as it airs.
To Your Eternity offers a rare kind of story that will have wide-reaching consequences in anime for years to come. It isn’t my favorite of the season, I’m going to get around to that soon, but it is easily the most ambitious. You can tell that To Your Eternity has its eyes set high, and I’m waiting to see where it goes with baited breath, and you should too.
If I didn’t pay enough respect to To Your Eternity, feel free to tell me in the comments, or leave a like if I praised it just enough. If you’re waiting to see what my favorite of the season is, you can follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress to get a notification of when it goes live, I’m sure you’ll be surprised. If direct from the source isn’t good enough for you, you can head to Twitter and follow me @ExhibitionOtaku where I’ll be providing updates and commentary on all the anime airing this season. Until next time, thanks for reading.