To Your Eternity
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 14 of
To Your Eternity ?
Well, that was a shame.
I don't want this whole review to be hampered by negativity, I really don't, but it is going to be difficult to fully balance my temperament for “Jananda, Island of Freedom”, because it marks the first time that my enjoyment of To Your Eternity has been so hampered by its production values. There are still some interesting things to get out of this episode, because c'mon, it's To Your Eternity — but boy, this was a rough one.
Some of this is by design, at least in regard to the choppiness of the story. For the first time since he's come into his own as a human-ish creature, Fushi is truly alone; he's come to the most hostile environment he's yet encountered when it comes to the depths of human bitterness and cruelty, and even the new companions he's found himself stuck with aren't really his friends. That little schemer from last week, Tonari, lays it all out once Fushi “wins” the first round of the island's tournament: Nearly everyone here is the victim of Jonanda's slave trade, or a direct descendant of a slave, and her crew wants to use Fushi's immortality for their own gain. Not being able to die makes victory in the arena a virtual guarantee, and that doesn't just mean that the kids can flaunt Fushi's newfound status and exploit it for a quick buck – they can make it off the island entirely.
I'm sure Fushi would be more amenable to this plan if he wasn't so put off by the island's brazen lack of humanity, and the kids' own world-weary cynicism. Tonari wasn't entirely honest about Pioran's fate — she's specifically being held because of a good many murders she's been accused of by the Yanome — and that's enough for Fushi to distance himself from the ruffians entirely. “You're liars,” he says, in one of the first times he's expressed contempt for another person. “You're not normal.”
This, of course, has less to do than the kids' plight and more to do with Fushi's naivety. You can't swing a dead cat in a crowded space without hitting a liar or three, but Fushi hasn't caught on to that yet, since he's had the good fortune of being taken in by loving people, time and again. It was inevitable that Fushi would eventually have to consort with people whose definitions of “normal” and “moral” have been warped by a lifetime of abuse and dashed hopes, but it makes it harder to latch on to this stage of Fushi's story on an emotional level, all the same. That will pass, I'm sure, but it will take some more time.
All of these growing pains are the kinds of things that you can actually attribute to good and interesting writing, but this week also sees To Your Eternity suffering from some production woes that are much harder to write off. Visuals have never been this anime's strongest suit, but the show has historically been able to make do with what it's been given. The action scenes that we've seen so far have been good enough, and often the strong music and world-class writing have been able to carry To Your Eternity when the art isn't quite getting the job done.
That isn't the case here, and it's doubly damning because this is one of the episodes where I think the visuals needed to impress. Fushi's battle in the tournament is another first for him, the first time that he's been put in a position where he must take a life to move forward (unless you count his rampage as Oniguma, but Fushi doesn't remember that, so it's probably moot). Here, Fushi has a visceral encounter with violence and cruelty that he just isn't ready for, and his victory only comes at his ability to take dozens of fatal wounds without falling, which causes his first opponent to practically pass out from fright.
In short, we needed to feel the violence, the same way Fushi does, and that simply can't happen when the action is reduced to static slide-show shots and brief, sloppy animation cuts . Afterwards, Fushi tells The Beholder that he simply doesn't understand why he has to hurt or kill people to get stronger, and while his creator responds with very practical arguments about how the people in the arena are taking control of their own fates, Fushi isn't convinced. This dilemma is a critical one for our orby protagonist, but it feels far too academic for a series that has excelled in instilling empathy in its viewers.
Or take the big reveal of the episode, when Fushi is forced back into the tournament to fight an axe-wielding maniac who revels in his chance to kill or be killed, and scoffs at Fushi's desperate attempts to scare him into submission. A chance recollection of his time with March sparks a moment of stimulation in Fushi, and he finds himself transformed into…Parona! This should be a fist-pumping, “Hell Yeah!” screaming turn for show, since Parona was such a beloved character, and it is proof that Fushi might be able to regain his lost memories after all. Instead, the reveal is…fine? It's fine. I love the idea on paper, like most of this episode's beats, but the execution was sorely lacking.
The same goes for Hayase's creepy, face-licking return to the story. Some of this might be my fault, seeing as I didn't even recognize her until I went back through the episode to take some notes, but when two major callbacks to Fushi's past arrive in one week, and you barely end up getting excited over it, some of the blame has to fall on the show's shoulders. I'm really hoping that this disappointing speed bump of an episode isn't a sign of things to come for To Your Eternity. The story is still incredible, and it would be a shame if the anime ended up being unable to see it through to the end.
To Your Eternity is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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