2 out of 5
I realize this is again a battle of my expectations versus reality, but it’s surely a problem if I feel like I’m adjusting my expectations to meet a book’s standards, and I still find myself disappointed. And in this case, frustrated.
Volume 11 of To Your Eternity is a bit of a mess. It’s completely lacking in patience, and there seems to be a scale balancing: that as Oima’s artistic abilities increase, their storytelling skills decrease. I went into this with my wishes for deep character work and heavier-hitting studies of the series’ earlier themes rather fully set aside – its been proven for several volume now that this is an action title, with Fushi just another multi-powered, do-good hero against the always escalating villains, the nokkers. Fine. So I geared up for what (I thought) promised to be an ultimate battle: an entire city constructed out of Fushi’s self; a living landscape warring against the mindless attackers. And that’s here, for a chapter or so. Fushi starts to get worn down again, suggesting how this is going to be stretched out into an arc: the immortal gets exhausted; the nokkers advance; some new tactic has to be decided upon.
Then Kai, Hairo, and Messar die, and it kinda feels like we jump the shark.
As usual, I do want to praise Oima’s inventiveness, as the way things springboard off of this, conceptually, are interesting. But it’s so damn cluttered, and there’s no patience or proper sequencing in how Oima steps through all of these concepts, not only robbing them of impact but making the reading almost unpleasantly jagged. We keep jumping from scene to scene, and it can be okay to leave some points open for later explanation – we have had that standard of storytelling set – it gets to a point where it feels like every single panel is waiting for forthcoming context, that by the time we stop to provide that context, the moment has very much passed. One very direct result of this lack of pacing is that we entirely lose the geography of scenes, which becomes more and more important the more crowded the cast and sequencing is; conversations that seem to be happening in separate locations are actually in the same room, or the opposite is true. Intra-panel, the choreography and detailing are stunning; panel-to-panel I found myself losing the thread, and then not incited enough to care about picking it back up, able to guess that I can just coast for 20 pages until I get to one bit of dialogue that will fill me in one what I’m supposed to care about. Unfortunately, often the answer is “everyone and everything,” which is part and parcel with the lack of focus this volume has.
I know the last page is supposed to tap into the feels from “classic” TYE arcs, but even that hit me wrong: as a backhanded attempt at getting things back on track.
I pre-bought these up through the next few volumes, so I’m still in it by default, but I do apologize that I’ve perhaps been bias toward a more sour point of view. However, I swear I tried to come into this tankobon with level-set expectations, and either I failed, or things are as clunky and cluttered as I’m suggesting.