To Your Eternity
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 16 of
To Your Eternity ?
Community score: 3.9
Midway through “The Children's Dreams”, Tonari wistfully writes about how “they say every story has a turning point…” She's convinced that Fushi's arrival was her story's particular turning point, the moment in which her seemingly endless quest to escape Jananda might finally start to change its course for the better. At the very least, the girl is certainly right about Fushi's arrival being an event that will change her life for the better, though she is also convinced—as all people are—that she is the main character of the story. Given the track record that Fushi's companions have had throughout To Your Eternity, we simply can't help but regard Tonari's earnestness with grim amusement, while we wonder what inevitably sad or ironic fate will befall her.
Or, perhaps, things really will work out for the kid and her crew! It's difficult to say at this point, though we can all at least probably agree that “The Children's Dreams” is a significant improvement over the last couple of episodes. It's by no means a perfect exemplar of To Your Eternity at its absolute finest, but it's a solid step back in the right direction. Even when the production values start to become a little wobbly here and there, the storytelling has regained enough of its focus to keep the viewer engaged and entertained. That's an inarguably good sign.
One significant factor in the show's turnaround is the way Tonari's character is finally starting to slide into perspective, both for Fushi as a character and us as an audience. Her backstory isn't particularly surprising or innovative — her father was accused of murder when she was only seven, and the young Tonari believed in his innocence enough that she decided to accompany him to Jananda. After he died, she grew more bitter towards the cruel adults that populated the island, and more determined than ever to secure a new life for herself and the other castoff children she's come to see as family.
This is all well and good, and stuff we could have easily pieced together based on context clues, but the more interesting stuff comes from how Tonari specifically deals with her father's fate, and her own feelings towards the man. When Elan G. Dalton initially wins the tournament and is crowned the leader of Jananda, Tonari is initially convinced that her father was killed in the fighting, and she spends days digging through a preposterously large mass grave in order to find his body. It isn't until later that the show confirms that Elan was her father, after all, and that he did fulfill his promise of surviving the tournament…until he is poisoned by the competition and unceremoniously dumped in the water, while Tonari looks on dispassionately.
I was initially confused about what was happening, since I definitely thought the bloody, bald man who killed all of the other gladiators was Tonari's dad, but there were a lot of similar-looking bald dudes all over the island, and Tonari was really committing to the “pitifully searching for her father's corpse” bit. Of course, Elan's death was a metaphorical one (at least, at first), since his brutal behavior in the arena was enough to shatter Tonari's innocence (and heavily imply that he was her mother's killer, after all). I still think that the presentation could have been clearer, since the episode never decided on how much it wanted to play Elan's fate as a genuine twist, but it's a very strong reveal when it comes to Tonari's character development.
Also, and maybe this is just a case of my flagrant bias showing, but I absolutely love the detail of Tonari's journal being the manuscript of her own autobiography. I had initially assumed that she was an obsessive note-taker, which would make sense given her opportunistic nature, but it's a hundred times more endearing to learn that she honestly dreams of finding her way back to civilization and sharing her life's story with whomever might want (or need) to read it. Even if Tonari still feels a touch too disconnected from Fushi's personal arc, I feel like “The Children's Dreams” goes a long way toward closing that gap.
Speaking of ol' Orby, Fushi gets plenty of great character moments as well. I loved the opening gag, where he accidentally knocks out Tonari's gang by foosh-ing them up with the poisoned soup that Hayase dosed him with back in Yanome, and it's an excellent bit of setup for Fushi's ultimate comeuppance at the end of the episode. I also got a bit misty-eyed when Fushi finally reunited with Pioran, and I really felt his rage when he encountered Hayase in the arena and was forced to listen to her awful recounting of Parona's sad and terrible death.
The actual fight between Fushi and Hayase is alright from an animation and spectacle standpoint, but it hits hard on an emotional level. I wish the rest of this arc had been more poignant and thrilling, so as to really make this final-boss reveal land with as much impact as possible, but the point still stands: Hayase sucks eggs, almost as much as it sucks to see our sweet, innocent orb so consumed with the desire to kill her. In any case, she's a monster that you cannot wait to see get her just desserts, and a strong villain like that is always a good ingredient to toss into the mix.
In another version of history, this could have been one of To Your Eternity's standout episodes. Instead, we'll have to settle for “pretty good, I suppose”. I don't know if this final stretch will be able to live up to the show's strongest moments, but most stories can survive endings that are merely okay. Even a great story like To Your Eternity would struggle to survive a finale that is out-and-out bad. Given that there's only a handful of episodes left in the season, I think I can settle for “pretty good.”
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.
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