To Your Eternity Season 1 Is a Case of Diminishing Returns

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for To Your Eternity, now streaming on Crunchyroll.

Season 1 of To Your Eternity begins with an incredibly strong opening episode. It puts viewers through the emotional wringer as it depicts the final days of alone yet relentlessly optimistic boy attempting to make a journey to find his people -- one that is already implied as being futile, given that the boy’s tribe is likely long dead and that his own days are numbered without food, warmth, and human company, even were he to remain in his now deserted village.

Fushi, the main character of To Your Eternity, begins his journey in human form when the unnamed boy dies from his injuries, which allows Fushi to replicate this body. From there, the first major arc of the series begins, which takes viewers to a village where March, a young and lively girl with big dreams, is selected to become a human sacrifice -- supposedly in order to appease a local spirit.

This first story arc is hugely impactful, in large part because Fushi begins to learn what it’s like to be human, with all the drawbacks this means: hunger, pain, fear, and loss. He also learns to communicate, albeit only as a baby might, with vague sounds and gestures, and he gains an inkling of what it’s like to be part of a family.

Despite her tender age, March takes Fushi under his wing, gifting him his name and looking after him as best as she can in an almost mother-like fashion. This makes March’s eventual death especially painful, both for Fushi and the viewer -- all the more so because those adults who should have stepped up to protect the life of a vulnerable child, including her parents, are too cowardly to do so.

However, the following story arcs of To Your Eternity become progressively weaker. This is in part because the story becomes rather formulaic and predictable -- viewers are able to guess well ahead of time which characters will die and when, greatly lessening the emotional gravitas of these events.

More to the point, as the series focuses more on the supernatural element of the Nokkers, it offers less time to demonstrate Fushi’s development in a world he is still largely unfamiliar with, particularly in terms of social norms. By instead emphasizing its supernatural action elements, To Your Eternity unfortunately loses much of what was once the very heart and soul of the show: a sincere and relatable depiction of what it means to be human, including experiences of unspeakable loss and deeply-felt grief.

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By the time the final Jananda Island arc rolls around, Fushi’s development seems to have largely come to a standstill. He can now communicate fluently and procure all the necessities of life for himself, yet with one or two exceptions, his psychological growth has more or less stalled. Moreover, the Nokkers have become such an integral presence that important side characters such as Pioran are shelved to make room for this aspect of the plot, with largely unlikeable characters like Tonari taking center stage.

Ultimately, this means that, with the exception of the season finale, To Your Eternity fails to live up to the emotional payoff showcased so heart-wrenchingly within its first episode. While the series delivers a fitting sendoff that portrays the final days of Pioran -- and Fushi’s refusal to leave her alone, despite not understanding that the sudden changes in her mental state are the result of worsening dementia -- it’s an otherwise prime example of the show’s diminishing returns.

Perhaps, in setting such a high standard for itself at the beginning, To Your Eternity could never have quite matched the quality of its own narrative set-up. On the other hand, since each main story arc becomes gradually less and less impactful right up until the end, the shifting focus from slice-of-life drama/tragedy to supernatural action possibly doomed To Your Eternity from the start. While this doesn’t mean the upcoming Season 2 lacks potential, it does mean the series may need to find a new emotional core on which to pin its ongoing story.