4 out of 5
Considering the ups and downs of opinion I’ve had of To Your Eternity’s 12 preceding volumes – in part due to needing to change my understanding / expectation of what the story is Yoshitoki Oima is trying to tell, in part as a reaction to what I felt was poor or short-sighted narrative choices – how positively I received volume 13 has me thinking that this may end up being a series better considered in retrospect. Once I hit the roadblock beyond which I started to admit that I wasn’t enjoying TYE, when I’ve rated things higher, its been with caveats – e.g. “this isn’t my thing, but it’s a good thing.” Volume 13 doesn’t require that caveat – it starts to swing back around to the emotional underpinnings that were strong at the series outset, but now with a conceptual richness that would’ve been impossible without the lead-in. That doesn’t alter that that lead-in could’ve been (by my opinion) told more effectively in some ways, but I also think I may’ve suspected the structure of the series to have been subject to fore-planning – like here’s storypoint C that I know I want to get to, so now I need to figure out how A connects to B and to C, and perhaps it’s those forced connections that irk me, or that grow beyond Oima’s controls.
The “C” in this case is bringing Fushi to modern times, reawakening however many years after the Renril battle, his tentacles still extended across the world, and finally getting to revel in a “perfect” world. He can re-awaken all of his immortal chums, and we get some fish out of water comedy as they’re brought back together.
While I thought the original inclusion of the nokkers, way back when, was a good thing for how it provided an OP character – Fushi – with a challenge, it eventually also became one of the more noxious aspects of the series, because it kept turning what I wanted to be a more psychological tale into an action-ridden shonen one. At select points (A, B, and now C) we can return to that former mode, and those are the sections I’ve admittedly enjoyed, greatly, and which I also think are Oima’s strengths. The humor works better against drama than it does as stopgap stuff during intense action, and the bittersweet nature of Fushi’s growing pains – now that of a relative “adult” looking back / over their children – flow more naturally from the way the writer scripts dialogue and paces it.
There are a couple of looming issues here that prevent this from really landing 100%: the man in black loves granting Fushi powers when it’s convenient to the story. At TYE’s outset, this felt more natural, like Fushi learned the powers and then had them explained by the man in black, but later on, when the story took a less organic structure and consisted more of forced roadblocks, we’d get power ups at random points so that we can have fake tension and release; Oima does this again, needing to be able to write storypoint C without a certain limitation, and so bango presto, here’s a new power so you can do so. It’s minor, but still rather contrived.
More potentially frustrating – or perhaps disappointing – is where the story seems to go from here. On the one hand, all of my retrospective above is because of this implied direction – when Oima started to hint at something, I thought it was really promising: that just as Fushi can now look upon this world with matured eyes, the interaction that’s introduced will be fascinating to revisit. But as more details rolled in, it started to feel more like “this again?” kind of business than something new. It’s still, currently, handled within the story-telling context that I’m praising, so it’s not a bad thing, yet, just knocked my opinion down another half-peg.