Beware the Onion Ninjas!
What’s the Story?
It began life as an orb, cast unto Earth by a mysterious figure with no thoughts, feelings or even a concept of self. For many years it stayed that way, inert and immobile, but then it met the wolf and become said wolf after it’s death. From there it met a human and it was happy for a time, but that soon came to an end. Now it has taken the form of the human, journeying the world with no real plan or goal other than to see the world and experience new things. It will meet many others on it’s journey and it will learn many things about what it means to live. There will, however, also be a lot of heartbreak on this journey, as for every hello there will inevitably be a goodbye.
Some shows are designed to make you cry. I know, technically, all shows or films or just stories in general are designed to make you cry, or at the very least get an emotional response out of you. That’s what stories are for, to make us feel and think about things in different ways and it’s the great magic trick of all good storytellers that they can make us feel something for people that don’t really exist. Even if you know what the trick is and how it’s going to be done, if the storyteller plays it right you’ll still feel what they want you to feel. That’s ‘To Your Eternity’ in a nutshell, I knew this was an anime that desperately wanted me to cry from the very first episode, and I did, again and again. Not every story got to me, but a fair majority did and even when I wasn’t breaking down in tears this is still a solidly put together series, with a few exceptions that I’ll get to in a minute.
Let’s start by talking about our main character, Fushi, as they come to be known. Now, admittedly making an audience care about a shape-shifting orb that starts out with no personality, no dreams or desires of their own, is a really tall order and yet this show manages it effortlessly. The start of the series wisely chooses to focus on the people around Fushi, the ones who will teach them and have an impact on their life going forward. All the while Fushi sits in the background, endearing themselves to us as they struggle to wrap their heads around basic concepts like needing to eat to stay alive. Gradually though Fushi starts to take more and more of the focus as their personality develops and they feel the weight of events. It’s a joy to watch and a real master class in character development. By the end of the series Fushi feels like a fully fleshed out person, who I want to follow and see where their journey takes them to next.
Now, unfortunately, this review can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. There are parts of this series that are fantastic and I will continue to praise them, but it does have some definite strengths and weaknesses. In the strengths pile we’ve already got the development of our main character and we can add on to that the emotional gut punches that come from the earlier story arcs (as well as that final episode). That’s not to say the later story arcs weren’t trying to get me to cry, they definitely were, but they never had quite the same impact. For a while I was struggling to puzzle it out. Was I just getting wise to the tricks the show was using to get me emotional? No, I’d known what the show was doing from the first episode. Were the stories just not as good? I wouldn’t say that, there were still plenty of characters I liked and was invested in, plus some really interesting plot developments and decent action. It finally struck me as I was getting towards the end of this first season, the later arcs, they’re longer.
This series is at it’s best when it’s doing shorter, more contained stories. That way the emotions it wants to build towards can steamroller over you and leave you as a weeping puddle on the floor. When the arcs are longer, strangely, they get less emotional. I say strangely because in my brain surely longer story arcs should be more emotional. There’s time to build a connection to the characters and really invest in them, but that didn’t happen while I was watching this. Part of this is down to the fact that the animation quality clearly dips towards the end of the series, but If I had to put money on the real reason, I’d say it was a consequence of watching the show as it aired, week by week. The gap between each episode just gave me time to process and prepare myself so my feels couldn’t gang up on me as they undoubtedly would if I binged this show. So there’s my recommendation for this series, if you’re going to watch it, binge it.
On a final note, I’d just like to talk about the world-building in this series and how much I enjoyed it’s slow-burn approach. We never go into too much detail, there’s just a gradual build of information to give you a sense of different areas, their beliefs and customs, so with each arc the world feels a touch more fleshed out. I also really like the Nokkers as antagonists, they’re really creepy looking and I love that they evolve much like Fushi does. Trying out new tactics and really being the perfect foils for our favourite shape-shifter.
In the end, To Your Eternity, is a solidly put together and well executed show. It knows exactly what it wants to do, make you cry, and it does it’s level best to achieve that. The later arcs struggle to maintain the same level of emotional intensity due to their length, and some poorer animation, but this could be fixed by binging the show instead of watching it weekly. For me, the development of our main character and the world around them are more than worth the price of admission. Just remember to bring the tissues.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.