2017’s To Your Eternity, Volume 2 is the second tankōbon for Yoshitoki Oima’s fantasy manga. Originally published as Fumetsu no Anata e, the series has run since 2016 in Weekly Shōnen Magazine.
Setting: a fantasy world that looks a bit like Tokugawa Japan (buildings, clothing, food). The geography, however, is not at all Japanese: high cliffs and pinnacles above flatlands. Featured: two cultures: the Yanome, who rule an empire with large cities, and the Ninanna, who live on the edges of empire and are the target of Yanome imperial expansion.
The Ninanna worship a bear god, Oniguma; they practice human sacrifice. In volume one, a young Ninanna girl, Marsh, was to have been the next victim. However, she has been taken under the protection of Fushi, a protean being with an as-yet rudimentary mind, and rescued from death.
A Yanome soldier (Hayase) carries off Marsh, Marsh’s friend Parona, Fushi, and a badly wounded bear said to be Oniguma; she is taking them to Yanome lands as trophies.
Once in Yanome, Oniguma is considered an odd zoological specimen; it is treated with unthinking cruelty by the Yanome but tended by kind-hearted Marsh.
Fushi is closely studied by Yanome who are intrigued by the being’s ability to heal after injury. Prisoners are offered freedom if they can slay Fushi. While it is impossible to kill Fushi, he does feel pain; the process is tantamount to torture.
Parona is treated as an enemy captive. She’s imprisoned and condemned to forced labor for life. She plots an escape for herself and her captive companions. The escape is only partially successful. Two of the party die of their wounds.
Among the survivors: Parona and Fushi. They reach the Ninanna lands. Hayase, determined to recover Fushi, is close behind, accompanied by an army. One of the pair may escape pursuit … but only if the other is willing to sacrifice themself.
Perhaps I shouldn’t generalize on the basis of two volumes, but it seems as if the humans are determined to take the lead in resisting attacks, even though they are accompanied by Fushi, who cannot be killed. Granted, Fushi does his best to protect his friends … but as he has only recently mastered bowel control, he doesn’t yet have the wits or the power to save everyone.
Fragile humans who hang out with Fushi tend to die. Readers should not get too attached to characters who are not Fushi.
Kudos to the author for a brave attempt at a narrative focused on an inarticulate (and for a significant part of his existence, non-sentient) entity. The manga is an absorbing read, thanks in large part to the rich cast of supporting characters, all of whom make good use of their limited time on stage. Reader engagement is also aided by the art, which is detailed and eye-catching.
By the end of volume two, the author has begun to reveal the larger plot that will no doubt occupy much of the rest of the run of the manga. The glimpse is intriguing enough to keep me pursuing the series.