How Music Enhances To Your Eternity’s Gut-Wrenching Storytelling

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for To Your Eternity Episode 1, “The Last One,” now streaming on Crunchyroll.

Episode 1 of To Your Eternity is a powerful series premiere with masterful storytelling -- but it's the music that drives it all home into a truly emotional experience. In an episode in which, out of the two starring characters, only one of them -- who isn't even the protagonist -- speaks, the soundtrack has to convey a lot of emotions that ordinarily come from expressions. But, with the boy's perennial smile and Joaan being a wolf, it can be difficult to know what they're truly thinking and feeling. To Your Eternity proves that when words fail us, music will not.

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Transforming into Joaan

to your eternity joaan wolf transform

Right from the get-go, we're thrown into a cosmic journey when a God-like creator drops an orb onto Earth. It begins with a solo cello with an ancient sound playing a soulful melody as the orb transforms into rock and moss. It isn't until a Reshy wolf, who we later find ou is Joaan, appears that a new instrument, possibly a piccolo, joins the cello along with other stringed instruments playing a muted motive in the background, building in anticipation. This invokes a sense of a new possibility -- a new beginning.

When the orb takes on the form of the wolf, the string orchestra rises into a crescendo with cymbals crashing. As the wolf walks, the music rises, escalating, making it sound like the wolf has embarked on a quest. And the fact that this is the first time that Joaan has ever possessed a consciousness, these sounds also mark the beginning of Joaan's journey to find out what it's like to be alive.

Looking for Paradise

When the boy makes the choice to follow his family after they left in search of paradise -- five years ago -- the music shifts into a more homely melody, using only strings and a wind instrument. The melody and harmony are more reminiscent of folk music, accompanying them as the two of them travel. Through the montage, we can see how attached Joaan is to the boy in the way he looks at him: Joaan would clearly be happy to remain at his side forever.

When the boy falls through the ice, the music abruptly cuts off. The boy laughs it off and even dances around so as to not worry Joaan, but because there's no accompanying music, it's clear that the situation is bad -- even if we don't know how bad. It's not until we see the boy's leg bleeding with what looks like pieces of wood poking out that we understand what he was trying to hide with his smile.

The Nameless Boy's Grief

to your eternity boy crying

When the boy finds the shattered remains of his family's carts, we don't see his face but we do hear a slight shift in the music as it crescendoes and transitions into a minor mode. The melody soars in an emotional arc as the boy approaches the little stone graves. Although the boy plasters on a grin and acts like this is all good news -- it means they're on the right track -- we know that he's lying.

When he finally breaks down and cries, begging for Joaan to help him, the scene is completely devoid of music and sound. The choice of using silence instead of music, in this case, is telling with the boy's realization of the fact that he has always been alone. After waiting for five years, the boy has just lost his entire family, and without his knowing, his wolf Joaan in one instant.

Remember Me Forever

to your eternity joaan boy drawing

The journey back home is much more somber with the boy struggling with the weight of his grief and his swollen leg. The orchestral music that plays in these scenes feels much tenser and wound up as if the boy is trying his best to hold himself together. The music crescendoes into a heartbreaking peak as the boy wails on his bed, his back facing the wall of his now-dead family, with Joaan standing in front of it.

There's something utterly final and almost... mundane when the boy's dead body slips out of his chair and falls onto the ground.  When Joaan transforms into the boy, the music builds up, practically billowing out to follow his change. It dips into a more melancholy horn melody with Joaan having propped the boy back in his chair, which he couldn't have done before in the form of the wolf. The music shifts to majestic orchestral music in the scene of Joaan walking away from the boy, reminiscent of the same music that first began To Your Eternity's story -- thus bringing it almost to a full circle. The orchestral music of the ending has a bittersweet tinge to it because, although the boy never got to live his dream of seeing the world, Joaan can -- for him.