5 out of 5
We flip to Gugu: the homeless boy who toils alongside his brother to scrimp money and save for a better life. …Until his brother steals the money, and Gugu is horribly scarred in a near-death accident. Welcome to the constant heartbreak of To Your Eternity.
…And the moments of redemption, and brilliant use of comedy in countering that heartbreak. Gugu dons a mask to hide his disfigurement, and then becomes rather happy-go-lucky working as a clerk for the drunkard who took him in after the accident. The girl with whom he was enamored – and who doesn’t realize saved her, pushing her out of the way of an accident which ended up being the cause of Gugu’s scarring – has run away from her well-to-do home and wants to work alongside “Mr. Clerk.” Happy Days! She’s not there for him, though, but rather for the attractive young boy – Fushi – who was brought in by the old man’s girlfriend, Pioran. Yup.
Gugu knows Fushi’s secret, and he begins to teach Fushi more words, and some minor abilities. But Gugu’s moods ebb and flows based on his crush’s behaviors, and he finds himself acting rather harshly toward Fushi, and then running away from his new home. This is part of a chain of events – as ever, Oima talently straddling comedy and drama – that eventually leads to another attack upon Fushi.
The way Yoshitoki strings together the relationships in this volume is perfect – instead of running to cheap protag proclamations, characters have to earn their moments of integrity or insight, and they hit heavy as a result. Also, as hoped, with the addition of more speech for Fushi, Oima no longer has to be as cinematic with their pacing and layouts – more exposition can occur, and scenes proceed very organically; time can be spent building up to sequences instead of some moments sticking out as unnecessarily poetic due to being overly flourished, sans a lead character who was able to speak or properly emote. By the same token, Fushi is still very much growing up, and it’s fascinating to stick the character alongside others who are growing up – Gugu, Rean (the crush) – and compare how their different upbringings and lifestyles make their takeaways quite different as well.
Oima’s art is also stunning – there are no longer any imbalances in style apparent; the tone of the book can encompass more stylized characters and comedy, and more realistic ones, and then sudden – and intense – action.