With March dead and Parona back home in the village with her people, a new chapter of Fushi’s life has begun. It is, for the first time since the premiere, that Fushi has been framed as the story’s central character, its protagonist. Even in that premiere, the Orb was such an inscrutable thing that it was little more than a narrative device, and this didn’t change much when March and Parona took the center stage for their four-episode long storyline. Now, however, even though it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for Fushi to catch up with the feisty old Pioran, the Orb is no longer a mere observer. His survival – his moving forward – is not just a byproduct of his instinctual wandering. Fushi isn’t quite actualized enough to bear the entire weight of To Your Eternity‘s narratives, but he’s making great strides.
If anything, what I appreciated the most about “Our Goals” is that it delivers exactly what it says on the tin: We have a stronger sense of Fushi’s goals, and we get our first real outlining of what The Beholder’s long term plans are; that alone is enough to supercharge the plot in the wake of losing both March and Parona. Before, Fushi’s acquisition of knowledge seemed more-or-less accidental, and it served mostly as a series of interesting footnotes while March and Parona did all of the emotional heavy-lifting. When Fushi encounters Pioran in the forest, though, he displays an active interest in learning how to communicate. Pioran, being a kindly sort in spite of her difficult life, is also a shrewd enough woman to know that it would behoove her to make friends with an immortal shapeshifting Orb-Thing, so she begins to teach him how to write, and the words he needs to give voice to his increasingly complex thoughts.
The show makes the smart choice of not dwelling too much on the specifics of how long Pioran spends teaching Fushi, and how much of his knowledge is acquired through vague Orb-Thing magic. If I remember correctly, an offhand bit of dialogue from last week’s episode explained that over half a year had passed between March and Parona being taken to Yanome and now. It certainly didn’t feel like half a year, but I’m willing to accept a certain elasticity in To Your Eternity‘s pacing. Given that this story could literally span, well, an eternity, it makes sense to condense Fushi’s vocabulary lessons into the span of a single episode.
This is also a great time to highlight the excellent direction and vocal performances that have helped keep Fushi feeling appropriately inhuman. I’m assuming that Reiji Kawashima is still responsible for Fushi’s dialogue when he’s in the form of The Boy, and he’s doing an excellent job of selling the complex mix of puzzlement and joy that has to bubble under every one of Fushi’s words. The Orb is clearly beside itself to have so many new noises to make in relation to the world and its experiences, yet its sounds and mannerisms are still that of an alien creature that is wearing humanity as a skin that hasn’t been broken in all the way. It’s great stuff, especially when paired with Rikako Aikawa‘s very naturalistic and charming delivery as Pioran.
Equally exciting for me is how we the audience have finally been given an opportunity to understand Fushi beyond simply reading physical cues or trusting in the summaries that The Beholder gives us every week. Beyond just describing how much he likes to eat and drink, Fushi can now answer Pioran’s question about why it wants to grow up: “Growing up is to learn.” When she asks about the face he usually chooses to wear, Fushi explains, “I walked all by myself. Then I met him. He gave me food…I don’t know his name. Shapes, sounds, smells… I remember. I became that person. The end.” It isn’t very useful information for Pioran, and we already know the details of that adventure, but it is revelatory simply to understand that Fushi is now aware enough to not just recollect what happened to him, but to ponder over the boy and his fate, and to give the story shape and definition.
At least, he can do all of that right up until he and Pioran encounter the Plant-Thing in the woods, a creature that leeches the sense-memory of Fushi’s forms right out of his body, so that he cannot even take the shape of The Boy, The Wolf, or Unigama. This is a stellar sequence, not just because it brings back some of that frightful body-horror I love so much when the Plant-Thing gets its tendrils into Fushi’s body, but because it marks the first time since the beginning of the story that The Beholder has stepped in to intervene on The Orb’s behalf. His narration switches from past tense to present – a subtle shift that knocked my socks off in the moment it happened – and he takes the time to explain to Fushi what exactly is going down.
The Beholder’s goal is to “preserve the world”, whatever that might mean. To that end, some unseen and unknown entities have decided to put a stick in the spokes of the Beholder’s Plan, and the Plant-Thing is one of the obstacles Fushi must now face, not just to keep The Beholder’s goals from falling apart, but to preserve his sense of self. Now that his existence has come to be defined by the memories and the parting gifts of the creatures and people he has stolen the forms of, Fushi actually has a “self” to defend. Sure, his body cannot ever die, but a piece of his soul is killed when he loses the face and the smell and the feeling of the boy who took him in. When The Beholder bends down and implores that Fushi must fight, and that he must win, you absolutely understand why.
It’s a good action scene for what it is, but even more importantly, it is a brilliant way to humanize the Orb and to give it a reason to fight the enemies in its path. Fushi’s story now has weight to it. It has teeth. When Pioran asks what the hell happened once Fushi finally wins the day, Fushi smiles and exclaims: “I don’t know! That was weird!” That might partially be on account of the Orb still not quite understanding the nuance of human emotion, but it also makes perfect sense for Fushi to be kind of thrilled to discover that it has something worth fighting for. I’m thrilled, too. Now in the land of Takunaha, Fushi has a new set of friends that will join him, including Pioran and the mysterious helmeted boy that resides in her home. I can only assume that Fushi will end up fighting for them at some point, but he will also be fighting for himself, too. That’s a hell of an important step in the journey, I think.
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