• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

To Your Eternity
Episode 13

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 13 of
To Your Eternity ?
Community score: 4.4

To Your Eternity is back from its one-week hiatus with “Aspiring to Go Higher”, an episode that accomplishes two very important things:

  1. It brought to mind the single greatest musical performance in the annals of modern entertainment.
  2. It provided more concrete proof that, even in an episode that could have been little more than a transition between story arcs, TYE is one of the most expertly written and constructed anime out there.

Seriously, “Aspiring to Go Higher” could have easily rested on its laurels and done the bare minimum of expositing and world-building — and we do get a lot of exposition and lore dropped here — but, as always, the show never forgets about the emotion and themes rooted in the heart of its story.

Here's the short version: Grieving Gugu's death, Fushi is determined to go it alone from here on out, but some pestering from The Beholder and the surprise return of Pioran are enough to convince Fushi that he maybe ought to take the mandate to become stronger and fight the Nokkers a bit more seriously. After a lot of wandering, Pioran convinces Fushi to take a boat to the island of Sarlnine to continue experimenting with stimulation and building up his abilities. Except, surprise! They get captured by slavers and taken prisoner, and it looks like the only way for Fushi to rescue Pioran and regain his freedom is to dive headfirst into the most unexpected development that Fushi's story has encountered yet: A tournament arc.

In a lesser show, all of this plot would take up the focus of the whole episode, and you know what? It probably would have been fine! Except while all of this is going on, TYE's sharp writing ensures that we're always learning something that is just as important to understanding its characters and themes as it is to follow the plot. This is one of those core elements that distinguishes great writing from the merely functional, where the need to get characters from Point A to Point B never causes the script to lose sight of the important stuff.

Take, for instance, Fushi's relationship with Pioran. On a purely functional level, she's here to give Fushi someone to talk to that isn't the indecipherable Beholder, someone human. She also incites the trip that eventually gets Fushi stuck on the island of prisoners and gladiatorial combat, and her presence means that there are greater stakes to Fushi's victory than merely his own safety. Plus, Pioran is a funny old coot, and we need as much comic relief as we can get after Gugu's death.

Thematically, though, her role in this story is so much more than simply giving Fushi a relatable character to play off of. From the moment the episode begins, it is clear that Fushi can barely cope with Gugu's loss, and his reaction is an incredibly human one: he shuts down and shuts off. When his efforts to become a lifeless fruit are thwarted by The Beholder, Fushi is at least determined to make sure nobody ever dies again on his account, so when Pioran shows up to offer her aid, he rejects it wholeheartedly. The episode gets some great comedic mileage from juxtaposing her heartfelt speech with the Old Lady Rage she unleashed on Fushi moments later, but it's impossible to miss the point of what she says.

When she left to rejoin her precious orb-y grandson, Pioran asked herself, “How do I give meaning to the little time I have left in life?” The answer, she tells Fushi, is “to be your walking stick.” Later on, after he's done throwing his tantrums and refusing her help, Fushi boyishly asks Pioran to promise her she'll never die. She doesn't respond, of course, because there's literally nobody on Earth that can make that promise, except maybe for Fushi himself. Besides, her mortality is the whole point here. She knows she'll probably never come back from this last adventure, and she's okay with that.

In other words, Pioran has learned the lesson that a lot of these stories about immortality spend their entire runtimes getting to: Life isn't very much worth living if you don't have other people to live for, and to someday even die for. That's incredible stuff, and the show doesn't smack us over the head with these themes. Rather, they're so baked into the narrative, and into Fushi's journey as a character, that we can't help but reckon with them.

It's like how the show handles Fushi's acquisition of new powers and forms, and the potential loss thereof at the hands (vines?) of the Nokkers. On the one hand, it's convenient to have a clearer understanding of how Fushi gains forms and adds items to his ever-expanding Goop Inventory. It is also good that the show clarified some of these points and informed Fushi of his own abilities, now that he's presumably going to be fighting for his life again in the near future.

The more emotional stuff is what I'm more invested in, though, and TYE wields it with clear and obvious care. When Pioran realizes that Fushi has forgotten March after the Nokker battle, it isn't just a heartbreaking punch to the gut, it's also where the show lays out its stakes: Fushi may be functionally immortal, but if anything, it means that he has the most to lose out of anyone. With every form the Nokkers take, a piece of Fushi dies, and if he were to ever lose all of his memories and powers to the enemy, Fushi would revert back to the perpetual unlife of the orb. He would be well and truly dead, for all intents and purposes, and he wouldn't even have the promise of some manner of afterlife, which is what his companions seem to have found.

This is some of the most thematically rich and impeccably developed storytelling I've encountered in a very long time, and To Your Eternity continues to make it look easy. The writer in me is insanely jealous at how long TYE has been firing on all cylinders, and how it still shows no signs of slowing down. Then there's the rest of me, which is just glad to be able to go on this ride with Fushi and his friends. The wait for next week is going to be an agonizing one, that's for sure.


To Your Eternity is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.

discuss this in the forum (204 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

back to To Your Eternity
Episode Review homepage / archives