The To Your Eternity manga is translated from the Japanese by Steven LeCroy
Yoshitoki Oima is a modern legend of the manga world; a young female mangaka who has shaken the manga and anime scene with two incredible series’: A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) and To Your Eternity (Fumetsu no Anata e).
A Silent Voice was a revolutionary manga series that took a raw and poignant look at bullying, mental illness, isolation, depression, love, friendship, and more. Adapted into an anime film by Kyoto Animation, it remains at the peak of manga and anime storytelling.
Oima’s To Your Eternity manga is, genre-wise, a very different beast. Nevertheless, it proves to be just as sharp, smart, impactful, and unexpected in its narrative, plotting, pacing, and delivery; all of which makes it essential that you read To Your Eternity.
The Narrative and Characters of the To Your Eternity Manga
To Your Eternity begins with a god-like being sending a small orb down onto the surface of a planet. That orb has the ability to mimic whatever it touches, usually provided that thing has died.
First, the orb becomes a rock, then some moss. Next, an injured wolf, lost in a blizzard, dies atop the orb and it becomes the wolf.
It learns to walk and makes its way to a snowy village, where it meets a lone boy who believes the orb to be his lost wolf — the same one that perished.
Chapter 1 of the To Your Eternity manga follows the orb, now in the form of the wolf Joaan, as it stays close to this lonely boy and learns from him how to eat and be a good companion.
This first chapter does so much right in establishing the tone, themes, morals, and character writing of To Your Eternity.
Yoshitoki Oima is so intimately in touch with human nature; her compassion and empathy is demonstrated time and again, but never with such rawness and precision as in this very first chapter of the To Your Eternity manga.
Soon after meeting, the boy makes the decision to leave his village — of which he is the only remaining member — to brave the ice and snow in search of the people who originally left. He hopes to find them and the warm, green paradise they went in search of.
With “Joaan” by his side, the boy sets out on foot. The way is tough, but he soon finds stone markers in the snow that point the way. After a few days, however, the final marker is crossed out and surrounded by bones and ruins.
They return to the village, but the boys’ injuries and fatigue lead to his death. After he passes, the orb shifts from wolf to boy, and leaves the village on two feet in search of… anything. He dies many times but comes back to life repeatedly as his search goes on.
To detail any other specifics of the plot would be to spoil things. It’s not every manga that can be spoiled so early and easily, but the emotional power and poignancy of the To Your Eternity manga can’t be overstated.
That said, it’s the character-led events of To Your Eternity that make it such a manga masterpiece. After leaving the snowy wastes, we meet March: a young girl lined up to be sacrificed. March is pure and good and hopeful and kind.
March is kept company and looked out for by Parona, a fantastic young woman who is tough but patronised by the men of their village. Parona shows genuine courage by not being the toughest, but rather by standing up for herself and March in spite of the odds.
With the To Your Eternity manga, Yoshitoki Oima isn’t afraid to let her characters go. Death plays a vital role in both the narrative and the themes of this manga. We will become attached to characters, only to have them ripped from us at the cruelest of moments.
This approach to death is somewhat reminiscent of Game of Thrones, but it feels more mature and pointed in Oima’s hands. She uses Fushi (the name which our orb is eventually given) and his powers carefully to test our relationship with death.
[Side note: I’m not sure using he/him pronouns when talking about Fushi is wholly accurate, but since Fushi spends the majority of his time in the form of the boy, it seems like the simplest option.]
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Fushi being able to take the form of things he has touch and have since died often comes across as a manifestation of the concept that those who have died are still with us. In Fushi’s case, he gains their strengths and skills. They literally make him stronger.
It is this relationship to death that makes the To Your Eternity manga so powerful. But with that also comes a poignant approach to found family.
Many readers of genre fiction, myself included, have a soft spot for the found family trope, and that trope is handled expertly by Oima in To Your Eternity. The people Fushi meets are complex and unique; they teach him and help him to grow. They stay with him as he goes.
Special attention should also be given to the world-building of To Your Eternity. The gods and spirits, the traditions and communities, the places and people of this manga are so well considered but not overly heavy. Fantasy world-building at its finest.
The Art of To Your Eternity
To Your Eternity, like A Silent Voice before it, has been given the anime adaptation treatment, and the To Your Eternity anime, courtesy of studio Brain’s Base, is, thankfully, excellent.
As an adaptation of the story, events, tone, and characters of the To Your Eternity manga, its anime adaptation is almost flawless. Line for line and shot for shot, it is often identical. That can be a double-edged sword, however, since the anime almost seems superfluous.
What helps the anime stand out, however, is its stellar soundtrack. The music that accompanies its most sombre moments, as well as its big action scenes, is truly outstanding.
However, it is in the art department where the To Your Eternity manga really wins out against its anime adaptation. The art of To Your Eternity is gorgeous. The anime is serviceable, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the manga.
One thing that will strike you first about Oima’s art in To Your Eternity is how she manipulates shades of grey. There are very few absolute blacks in To Your Eternity.
Instead, she often manipulates empty white space through thin and minimalistic line work, allowing for the space in the pages and panels to get some breathing room.
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In her more detailed pages and panels, she uses thin lines and grey shading to add depth and texture to the world of To Your Eternity. None of this texture can be captured by Brain’s Base’s anime adaptation.
One final point on the art of To Your Eternity is that the graphic moments, the violence of the manga, hits a lot harder than in the anime. It is more detailed, gruesome, and discomfiting. There is a rawness to the gore, blood, and violence that feels far more smoothed out and cartoonish in the anime adaptation.
If you’re a fan of the To Your Eternity anime, the question of whether or not it is still worth it to also read the To Your Eternity manga will of course be on your mind.
And the answer is: yes, absolutely. Especially if you appreciate good manga art. Oima has a unique manga art style that I wholly appreciate and have a lot of time for. This alone makes the To Your Eternity manga absolutely worth reading, for anime fans and newcomers alike.