To Your Eternity vol. 1 – Yoshitoki Ōima

4 out of 5

This story would just crumble in most creative’s hands. The temptation to lecture or lay out some grant point; to indulge in grand moments; to rush things along… there’s so much promise in the concept – which is deceptively simple – that I can imagine wanting to go for some splash pages, just to make it clear up front that, like, Big Things are gonna happen. And then given the relatively somber tone (though with plenty beats of humanistic comedy), surely heart-breaking moments are ready to roll out, but here again, Yoshitoki Ōima shows restraint. The whole thing is so precise, giving us pretty much everything – comedy, drama, action – without overselling itself, or signposting exactly where things are going to go. And yet this ain’t wandering: To Your Eternity is clearly a journey, and we are very much on our way.

Volume 1 introduces – visually, and as explained to us by some omniscient, narrative force – an orb. The orb’s “job” is to consume information, which translates into the orb subsuming things with which it interacts, assuming that interaction has an impact. And so our orb firstly becomes a rock, and then moss, and then – years and years having passed – chance intervenes when a dog dies atop the moss, and our orb can now become a dog. And the dog wanders and finds its human owner…

The orb has to learn everything for the first time: how to walk; how to eat. Eventually, it is given the name Fushi, and we get to experience one further transition during the four chapters collected here.

We’re not stuck to Fushi’s point of view, though it is the anchor: Ōima, early on, establishes a cadence in which we can step away to set up story with other characters, then winding Fushi back in. Eventually, this brings us to a village with young March, being sacrificed to a local god as some type of annual appeasement offering.

I’m certainly leavin much out, here, but the patient way Yoshitoki draws us along this path is masterful, while the way Fushi is taught (and learns) provides us with intrigue – where is this going? – and then also some appreciative comedy, ’cause, like, eating is tuff. Our point of view is adjusted to that of Fushi’s somewhat insouciant sense of discovery, giving unique relevance to the conversations that occur with other characters along the way.

While Ōima’s art is quite gorgeous and animated throughout, there are some moments that felt slightly more cinematic than comic – that is, scenes that feel poetic, but that aren’t necessarily choreographed clearly. It’s only slight, but it’s enough to ding the immersion in those moments, and maybe cause some page-flipping to establish what’s happened. I sense this will be refined, though: the premise is rather poetic, and so there’s a general enigmaticness to the approach, which I assume will hang around until Fushi gains some more human-like abilities.

A beautiful book, and one of the most instantly attracting things I’ve read in quite some time.