3 out of 5
A stunning extrapolation of the To Your Eternity story down an unexpected path is rather undermined by unclear scripting and / or translation flubs, backed up by another big tonal redirection swing from Oima which feels ill-at-odds with what we’ve thus far seen. Volume 7 is an exciting one, and also a weird one.
Firstly, the time jump forward: Yoshitoki moves the needle on this excitingly, shifting us several decades onward into Fushi’s time along on the island, and skillfully summarizing only some of that which Fushi has experienced during that time. We meet Hayase’s descendants: smartly not directly perpetuating the “threat” of Hayase (which was my concern with the way Oima had kept her alive last arc), these descendants inherit their mother’s nokker, but has also been passing down traditions concerning Fushi along the way, leading to the Guardians: something of a worshipping cult of the immortal. Through the man in black, some philosophical quandaries arrive, as it’s learned that the nokkers are no longer seemingly focused on Fushi – attacks are happening in remote places, far away from him, giving Fushi a new sense of freedom, to explore.
This is core To Your Eternity stuff – as the immortal’s self-awareness and consciousness has evolved, it allows for direct and deeper questions as to what this all means to Fushi: he seeks friendship, but why? If there’s no longer a threat to others, what becomes his new goal? And if people are dying from nokkers with or without his interference, why does he bother with absorbing forms and knowledge at all?
The increased gaps in time also gives the narrative (and Fushi) an unspoken difference in perspective on death – while he still wishes to avoid forming bonds with those who will pass, he’s now had several generations of people he’s known come and go, changing into them at will.
Conceptually, this is very, very strong, and the new dimensions introduced by the Guardians (and how the public positively or negatively responds to them) is fascinating.
Unfortunately, some absolutely key revelations are – frankly – ruined by what I’ll assume are translation flubs, in which information that’s intended as a surprise to a character are clearly mentioned in pages or panels previously. Because Oima has played the long game with some information, there’s reason to think that the initial, non-reacted-to mentions are purposeful, but the later shocked reactions suggest otherwise. These are massive immersion breakers, and make the story feel sloppier than it is.
And then there’s the introduction of “Prince of Uralis Kingdom, Bonchien Nicoli La Tasty Peach Uralis,” a flighty figure who likes to decorate and over-react, and is exactly not the kind of typical shonen villain-type which has previously figured in TYE. Just as the Jananda arc felt like a somewhat forced attempt to toss some action into things, this feels like Oima wanting to try goofy comedy on for size. Once Jananda settled, it started to fit, but it was a tough intro; the same is true here, and some of those initial steps toward something deeper are again undermined, though this time it feels more like an art and script disconnect: Oima is trying to show us something that Bonchien is “seeing,” but I didn’t find this to be very clear, and had to reread the chapter to make it make more sense. Again – big immersion breaker.
I’m excited to move past the anime with this tankobon (at the time of reading), but the up and down experience of the manga continues. As before, I’m overall appreciative of Yoshitoki taking chances with this, and expanding the emotional palette, but volume 7’s miscommunications make that approach even more risky, even when bundled with some really fascinating conceptual choices.