3 out of 5
I’m definitely interested to see where this is going – Oima still has some tricks up their sleeve, for sure – but this is also a periodically silly (and maybe a bit stupid) set of chapters, indicative of the way the series occasionally wastes time playing around with genre.
What I like, here, is how Oima has evolved the nokker dilemma, suggesting – and maybe this has been apparent before, and is only now dawning on me – that To Your Eternity hasn’t just been a study on finding purpose in life, but also in determining the driving force of that purpose: heart (emotions) versus mind (logic). But I’ve referred to this as a “dilemma” because what was an interesting dichotomy with Fushi’s immortality has often been used to capitulate to the needs of shonen manga, meaning we’ve gotten a lot of big and dumb action along the way. Taken on its own terms, this stuff has been quality – Oima’s artistry and choreography have gotten better and better along the way – but these arcs have also cycled through characters-as-filler and wasted a lot of breath on beats that are meaningless for the story’s potential emotional underpinnings. That’s still creeping around here: my fears as to what the reappearance of this foe meant are still present.
Mixed with that is the shallow way the story seems to want to counter it, which is some generic Love Saves The Day bullshit – one of my least favorite story devices ever, anywhere, any medium. Yes, curmudgeon for life, raising my hand.
And then on the silly side: Fushi and the team go to school! Let’s take an immortal who’s been alive for longer than all of you, and who can look like anyone, and place him in middle school because his Fushi persona looks about that age. This is used exactly the way you’d imagine: for cheeky fish-out-of-water humor, and giving girls the chance to swoon over cutesy Fushi. Is it funny? Yeah, but it’s also pretty senseless, and short-sighted in the way this series can sometimes be. Like, one-millimeter step towards reality – I’ve got your greencard, so now you can go to school! – and shrug, and consider that story point checked off and move on.
So did I enjoy this tankobon’s worth of chapters? Absolutely. Oima still keeps me on my toes with the directions in which they’ve managed to evolve the general concept, and push the story, but every time that happens, it tends to be surrounded by storybeats that suggests there’s a much more compact, effective way of presenting things.