3 out of 5
As we’re still right in thick of the Jananda arc – Pioran and Fushi find themselves on an island, governed by the prisoners who are isolated there – the pacing issues from volume 4 carry over: Oima is trying to work a lot of thought-worthy concepts in here, and it comes through pretty rough around the edges. Scene transitions also feel somewhat haphazard: a surprise return of a foe has some cutaway scenes – with said character kept partially off-panel – that undermine the eventual reveal; and the shift between more relatively intimate conversations, action in a battle arena in which the winner earns the right to rule the island, and several of Fushi’s attempts to rescue Pioran, who’s kept under tight guard due to past crime – these things are very jumbled, making the tone pretty up and down. It’s just not necessarily very graceful.
Smoothing that out, though, are, firstly, the characters: the spunky Tonari, who lured Fushi to the island, comes across much more “recognizable” here than she does in the anime. For that version, the series’ writers understandably mysterious-ed up her nature a bit more, but it prevented her from necessarily feeling like a full character for much of the arc. Here, Oima presents her very clearly as a young girl, equally spunky, idealistic, and devious, all from the start. She’s much easier to ping-pong off of Fushi in this sense, who keeps becoming less naive about humanity. And while a lot of side characters are rather hurriedly jammed in here, it helps to give a sense of the varied community on the island, and its cliques. This leads into the other big boon, which is just the wealth of ideas. Oima toying with guilt, and perpetuations of cycles, and the way we judge, based on expectations. Some of this is a little shallow in execution, but it’s all part of some very big Stuff, and I again applaud Yoshitoki for taking swings at it, even if they aren’t for home runs.
Toward the end of the volume, we get some direction: when Fushi and the islanders have a common cause, the in-flux puddle of Stuff can settle a bit; Fushi has some drive, and it gives the flow of the book a more confident sense of direction.
Still a page turner, still beautiful, emotive, exciting art, but quite a bit to stuff into 20-page chapters. I am still left with nothing but faith that the series will continually find its footing, though; likely inbetween some more experimental story-telling arcs such as this, but To Your Eternity is so interesting, and conceptually worthwhile, that I hardly mind.