2017’s To Your Eternity, Volume 1 is the first volume collecting a run of Yoshitoki Oima’s fantasy manga. Originally published as Fumetsu no Anata e, the series has run since 2016 in Weekly Shōnen Magazine.
A remarkable object — Fushi — falls to Earth. Able to mimic other objects, Fushi becomes a rock and then moss. Since neither rock nor moss are self-aware, it does not learn anything from these transformations.
One day Fushi encounters a dying wolf. When the wolf dies, it copies the wolf’s form. This new proves far more educational than its previous forms. Chief lesson learned: while Fushi is immortal, the beings he meets have transient lives.
Warning: if kids dying upsets you, this is not the manga for you. It’s slightly less child friendly than Grave of the Fireflies.
Clad in the wolf’s form, Fushi is welcomed into a nameless boy’s home. No doubt the boy once had a name but now he has no need of one, as everyone else in his isolated arctic community has either left for more clement territory or died of old age. The boy lives alone, hoping that the family that left him behind five years ago will return. Consequently, the boy is overjoyed to see his pet wolf return after long absence.
Five years of waiting is long enough. The boy resolves to repeat his family’s journey. Assembling the supplies he needs for the trek, armed with boundless optimism, the nameless boy sets out with Fushi. They must cross a dangerous frigid wasteland. Surely determination and a sunny disposition will enable the boy to rise above every impediment: weather, starvation, injury.
Taking the form of the dead boy, Fushi wanders the land. He has no idea how to act like a human. He is speechless, incapable of using his hands. Predators have no problem stalking and killing him. Death claims Fushi only temporarily, since it can reform the living bodies it copies. As time passes, the speed at which it can rebuild itself increases. Comprehension of certain basic concepts still eludes the entity.
Eventually, Fushi encounters a young Ninanna girl, March, alone in the woods. Too young to understand just how peculiar Fushi is, enamored with the idea of being a mentor, March teaches him how to use his hands and sets Fushi on the path to mastering language.
Even as she is teaching Fushi how to human, March’s Yanome guardians are desperately searching for the girl. March is a girl with a very special destiny and the Yanome warriors are determined to lead her to it. After all, if March escapes, they will have to find some other child to feed to the Oniguma bear.
I must emphasize that children do not have plot immunity in this series. Infection and arrows work on them just as they would on adults; incessant cheer does not confer plot armour. If that would be too harrowing, perhaps this is not the manga for you.
Keeping the audience’s interest in a character who by the end of volume one has only just mastered controlling their bowels could be tricky. Author Yoshitoki Oima manages to sustain interest by surrounding the as yet immature Fushi with a rich, vibrant cast about whom the audience will care (even if only as a hate sink, as is the case with March’s nasty guard Hiyase). It’s a pity so few of the characters make it through any given story arc.
To Your Eternity seems like it should be an enormous downer, given the premise. Fushi’s immortality means the entity will outlive every being to which it becomes attached. If disease, bears, sociopath warriors, and entirely pointless religious practices do not claim Fushi’s friends, old age certainly will. Somehow the manga isn’t as depressing as logic suggests the story should be. Perhaps it is because the characters are endearing, even if their lives are brief.
The lesson here might be to appreciate what you have while you have it, because it will soon be gone. Also, that before sacrificing adorable children to bear-gods, verify that the being in question is in fact a bear-god and not just a bear.