2 out of 5
Quite a troubling drop-off between potentially rich subject matter and flippancy; as my rating reflects, this was unfortunately noxious enough to make me actively dislike what I was reading, and unfortunately, Oima hasn’t quite proven, yet, that I can expect that some of this stuff will be dealt with down the road, which just makes it feel both manipulative and shallow.
But I should say: volume 8 honestly gets off to an incredibly promising stuff. Prince Bon doesn’t exactly become a fully-fleshed out character, and kind of fits a particular mold of a negging and toxic type, but at least his personality begins to make more sense, and take shape. Oima’s “explanation” of his allure is where it feels rather shallow, however, it fits with the series’ themes of surface versus reality. Perhaps more importantly, Bon’s ability to see the dead becomes integral to the next big wrinkle in the story, which is well executed. This is definitely a huge thing for the book to hang on, and I do think Yoshitoki handles it skillfully, giving us the hook without dangling it too much, while still using it to lead through some following events.
Which are centered around two things: the Church of Bennett’s pursuance of Fushi, and Kahaku professing his love for the immortal. Y’know, in its female, Parona form.
That latter bit is literally at the halfway point of the book, and it’s so good at first, such rich questions about identity, and emotional exchanges – what is love when you’re not even familiar with the term? – that Oima completely washes over in only a few pages. I know it’s not exactly fair to judge the book by something that will probably be examined more later on, because the conversation is interrupted by Bennett business, but the problem, as I see it, is that the initial forays into this conversation are already heading off into unfortunate directions. That is: instead of taking the opportunity to explore that which I mentioned above, it seems like this is just going to be a cutesy will they / won’t they, and that is something Oima has done a couple of times in TYE: Fushi sidesteps some deeper philosophical concepts because his only concern is not wanting to hurt anyone. Again, might this percolate in some heavy, commentary-soaked volume later on? Maybe, but I feel like this side-stepping is Oima’s “can’t we all get along / life is pain, learn to appreciate what you have” low-balled commentary. And this is getting into a more egregious (and rather more topical, in the 2021 in which I’m reading this) version of that.
The Bennett business is rather equally frustrating with and for different reasons. Partially because it’s non-sensical: the group’s “religion” doesn’t feel formed on anything except to be a religion which doesn’t like Fushi. That’s fine, but it’s too easy of a parable; it doesn’t have the world-building vibe that Hayase’s descendants did, or, going back to the start, the way Parona’s peoples had their sacrifices, or that Fushi’s first master had his arctic-traversing family and whatnot. So just as Prince Bon came across in his first appearance as a typical shonen fanciful antagonist type, we now have a sort of faceless, typical shonen group of villains. That non-sensicalness extends to their application of logic when assessing Fushi’s morality, and Bon’s involvement in that, and I also don’t get the sense that that, in itself, is commentary on religion, or perhaps just a shaky translation: I think this is just writing done explicitly to back our protagonist into a corner. It’s forced.
And let’s go ahead and add some Bond-type villain traps in there, because those belong in To Your Eternity, and let’s add some worrisome body imagery, which doubles as a rather lazy, 80s movie image vs. substance metaphor variant.
Instead of a series that starts with tropes and then surprises with its depth, TYE started out feeling soaked in those depths, and has been drying out along the way. This is not new in volume 8, as this has been happening for several collections now, but the discrepancy between what works and what’s left on the table – and maybe scattered insultingly, in the process – is at a peak here.