5 out of 5
Yeesh, the ups and downs of this series are going to give me whiplash.
Volume 12 of Yoshitoki Oima’s series reminds me of the kinds of comics / TV shows I’d pick up a random ish of or watch a random episode of and have my mind blown by the scope of it, then scrambling to catch up on the build-up to that point. …Only to be disappointed by said build-up, and arrive back at my entry point recognizing that the ideas kind of dropped from nowhere.
That is / isn’t the case here. The concepts expanded upon in this volume are not new, and have been very much toward what the Renril arc has been building. However, I’d still stand by all of my previous reviews in which I haven’t been impressed by certain volumes (and also, to be fair, the reviews in which I have): TYE started with a very strong emotional hook which Oima has struggled to maintain. When it’s a book of ideas – which this one is – it suddenly blossoms, and when it can mainly focus on central character Fushi – which this one also does, in a backwards way – then it can also maintain a throughline to those emotions. But the book (by my opinion) has suffered when trying to stray from those things, becoming very typical shonen manga – if still enjoyable – at points, or outright ignorant and dumb at others.
At a high level, I can sort of see the roadmap: that this is the destination toward which Yoshitoki was plotting, and the previous 11 volumes have been the fits and starts to evolve our immortal from an emotionless ball to the omni-powered God we see here. And it can’t be just a matter of adding abilities to Fushi’s pool, because part of the theme is the juggling act of such a God: what does it take, emotionally, to want to be involved in the lives of these non-immortal beings. That’s the backdoor to making this volume actually focus on Fushi, despite it containing the entirety of the cast we’ve met to this point – the various warriors and March’s and whatnot are all used as figureheads against which Fushi can bounce his thoughts, which are then brilliantly represented by his actions and not forced exposition.
Oima’s art is flawless, densely detailed but readable. The flow of the tale – which winds up the Renril arc, and then sadly epilogues it – reminds of TYE’s beginnings, when the story wasn’t trying to milk unearned tears from its reader, rather just laying out the effects of things and letting us draw our own conclusions. Complexity is added via Kohaku’s fate / role, and we’re left on a sincerely can’t-wait ending that takes things in a direction I really hadn’t expected.
Has it been worth it…? Hm. Volume by volume, maybe, maybe not. That is – I don’t really want to reread the series up to this point. But reading volume 12 makes me feel like it’s worth it, in the moment, and that’s an impressive and noteworthy feat.