WARNING: The following contains spoilers for To Your Eternity Episode 1, “The Last One,” now streaming on Crunchyroll.
From the mangaka of the critically-acclaimed A Silent Voice comes new anime, To Your Eternity, which promises a philosophical and thought-provoking approach to the meaning of life and death. The first episode is strong in its overall narrative, pacing, music, and for bringing about a myriad of emotions in its audience: curiosity, happiness, a quiet sense of dread, and finally, heartbreak. If the premiere is any indication, To Your Eternity will resonate with all its viewers (and bring the tears).
Episode 1 begins with the protagonist being dropped down to Earth by an unseen creator in the shape of an orb. It's unclear why the orb was created, but it changes in response to what's happening around it. It first becomes a rock, then moss, and then an injured wolf who dies shortly after. In other words, it lacks its own individuality and mimics everything else. When it takes on the wolf's form, it experiences everything for the first time -- its first injury, first steps, and its first feeling of coldness.
Eventually, the wolf arrives at a snow-covered village that's abandoned...or so he thinks. A young boy flings the door open, light flooding across the snow, to welcome the wolf whom he calls Joaan. Despite Joaan not knowing who this boy is, or pretty much anything about where he is, there's something warm and inviting about his demeanor that speaks of home and acceptance. The boy chats constantly with Joaan, carrying a conversation with the wolf even though Joaan can't respond.
As time passes, Joaan realizes the boy lives alone while his family has set off on a journey to seek "paradise" -- a place where there's lots of food and, most importantly, something sweet called "fruit." The boy was left behind with the older members of his family while the rest embarked on this quest. And so he waited. Months and years passed, and soon there was no one left except for the boy and Joaan.
The boy has been waiting for five whole years in his little hut, with only his wolf for company. As a reminder that people had once lived there, and for the boy's sake as well, he draws little pictures of his family on the wall. Soon, the boy tells Joaan, they'll join his family in paradise.
The two of them set off, loaded up with supplies and rations. When the boy spots a rock with an arrow indicating the direction, he's overjoyed because it means they're heading the right way. It wouldn't be long before the boy and Joaan found their family again. The journey is long, but not once have the boy's enthusiasm and optimism waned. Every time he spots another rock, he gets more and more hopeful.
But the weather worsens and the journey grows more treacherous. A slight misstep and the ice below the boy's feet breaks. He falls into the icy waters, cutting his leg in the process. Even then, his injury barely deters him -- still smiling through it all.
But tragedy befalls when he spies another rock, but this one is different -- a large 'X' has been crossed over the arrow. Numerous broken carts are littered across the snowy fields, buried under snow without a soul in sight. Everything the boy had been trying to keep within himself breaks free as he sobs, asking Joaan if he can even continue on this journey anymore.
Although the boy talks to Joaan as if he's a person, he's only projecting his loneliness. The "Joaan" the boy thinks he's with isn't the same Joaan who had been by his side for the past five years. The boy truly is alone. It's why he set off on this impossible journey, searching for a "paradise" that doesn't and will never exist -- because he's scared.
The boy has no choice but to go back home. But as the cold combines with his injured leg getting infected, the boy gets sicker and it's clear that he will soon die. With the last vestiges of his strength, the boy drags himself into a chair, beside the wall of his family's pictures. He turns to his beloved friend Joaan and asks him to remember him before he dies.
We will never know this boy's name -- the boy who gave Joaan his first name, his first home and was his first friend. But with Joaan now taking on the boy's form, he can fulfill his friend's deepest wishes: to go out and see the world.