Don’t think we don’t see what you’re trying to pull, To Your Eternity. We weren’t born yesterday. First, you give us March, a Very Good Girl™ if ever there was one, and then you cruelly rip her from this mortal coil, all so that you can revel in your audience’s pain and suffering. Now, in “The Boy Who Wants to Change”, you introduce us to Gugu, a Very Good Boy™ if ever there was one, who wears a funny metal helmet that kind of makes him look like a chameleon, and who also may or may not be a zombie. You think we don’t know what’s coming next, To Your Eternity? You think we don’t know that Gugu exists only for us to love him, and for us to be broken when his inevitably dark fate is thrust upon us? We’re getting wise to your tricks, show!
I mean yeah, it’s still a fool proof plan that will absolutely destroy us, and we’re all trapped in the labyrinth of your sinister whims like rats chasing after the saddest of cheese…but still!
If one thing continues to impress me with To Your Eternity thus far, it is the simple yet powerful economy of its storytelling. “The Boy Who Wants to Change” covers a lot of ground when you get right down to it, but it never feels overstuffed or undercooked. Gugu, the aforementioned Good Boy™, didn’t start life as a behelmeted abomination; he was once just a sweet, poor kid that worked extremely hard to help his brother save up enough money so they someday could buy their way out of the vagabond life. His brother, Shin, turns out to be a bit of a shifty gadabout, but poor Gugu doesn’t know that when he’s out selling vegetables at the market, or rescuing the wandering pups of local rich girls. Even after Shin abandons Gugu and makes off with their life savings, the kid still thinks that he can change his life for the better. That is, until a comically misfortunate incident with a rolling log ends up with Gugu getting his skull crushed.
Whether or not Gugu actually died is left ambiguous for now, but weirdo old man that rescues him sure seems like the type who might practice some casual necromancy on whatever boy corpses he comes across in his drunken wandering. The Booze Man, as he is delightfully named, is the partner of old Pioran that we heard so much about before, and though he managed to save Gugu from death’s cold embrace, he couldn’t help so much with the boy’s face. His newly disfigured features, along with a permanently distended belly that surely isn’t a horrible sign of things to come, cause Gugu to retreat from society and live with the Booze Man. That’s also why he wears that nifty little helmet of his.
It might seem strange for so much of the character’s success to hinge upon how neat his metal helmet is, but Gugu is one of those characters who could only exist in animation, with skilled craftsfolk at work to bring him to life. Though I never expected To Your Eternity to be so playful with its art when I saw that first episode, I’ve come to love how cartoony the show is willing to be. March was herself a veritable cornucopia of wonderful facial expressions and physical flourishes, and her depth of character has been passed along to Gugu. His helmet follows the same rules as Alphonse’s metal body does in Fullmetal Alchemist; it can squash, stretch, blush, emote, and generally behave in ways that would be impossible in a more literally minded show. Gugu would already be a likeable protagonist without his newfound visage, but the way the Brain’s Base animators take advantage of his anthropomorphic qualities bring the character to the next level.
He also makes for a perfect foil and companion for Fushi. Older than March, and not so much affected by any maternal instincts, Gugu makes for a reliable friend to the Orb-Thing while still maintaining enough distance to keep their interactions lively and interesting. He is defensive of Fushi when Pioran and The Booze Man scheme to exploit Fushi’s incredible powers for profit, and he’s more than happy to act as Fushi’s teacher and mentor. Gugu’s got his own hang-ups though, and the way that Fushi innocently parrots Gugu’s self-deprecating description of himself as “ugly” hints at the conflict to come.
Gugu is too decent to get legitimately mad at Fushi for what happens when they meet Rean, the girl that Gugu has a crush on, and who was the unknowing cause for his present condition. Still, you can’t blame the kid for being crushed (metaphorically, this time) when Rean comes by the brewery and instantly falls for Fushi. Gugu tries a bit too hard to be impressive, and he also has the whole “weird helmet for a face” thing going on, and then there’s the fact that Fushi can barely string a coherent sentence together without a lot of prompting and guidance from Gugu. Gugu isn’t a monster just because fate conspired to mangle him so, and it sucks to see him struggle with what he perceives to be his lot in life.
It sucks even more to see him become so determined to commit to an exercise and self-improvement routine. Not because he isn’t a Good Boy™ that deserves to feel loved and accepted – he is – but because we know what kind of show To Your Eternity is. Even if the preview for the next episode didn’t lay the ominous foreshowing on real thick, it’s clear that there’s more going on with Gugu than just his facial injuries, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that the awful truth will be the sort of thing you can’t just will away with some pull-ups and crunches.
Yet, here we are, and we will continue to follow Fushi and Gugu on this perilous new journey, no matter what tragedy is waiting for them in the wings of their stage. Any anime can get away with being a little predictable or emotionally manipulative, so long as it is all in the service of a story worth telling. To Your Eternity continues to be just that, a heartbreaking odyssey that is exceptionally told. It’s going to break our hearts, but nobody can say that we weren’t given all of the proper warnings, right from the very start.
Orbs and Ends
• Like I said, To Your Eternity has a very strong face game, so it’s hard to pick a favorite from episodes like this. I think this week is a tie between two of Gugu’s “I’m helplessly in love and I don’t know what to do about it!” reactions: This one from his pre-helmet days, and this delightful Helmet!Gugu expression.
• Reiji Kawashima continues to impress as Fushi, this time by finding an incredibly variety of ways to say “I don’t know” and all the variations thereof. I can’t wait to see what he does when Fushi is given more complex emotions to express.
• Fushi also manages to successfully mimic human laughter this week, and the results are…well, I won’t lie to you. It’s pretty horrifying.
• Rean can’t be any older than, like, twelve, but goddamn does she get fresh when Fushi is around, telling Gugu that she’d be more than happy to teach him some words…and to teach him how to take off his clothes, too.
• Speaking of clothes, I am curious to know how exactly Fushi’s clothes situation works. The outfits of his human forms are always remade exactly as they were when Fushi copied them, which thus far tends to mean that they are covered in blood and dirt, and when Gugu takes of Boy!Fushi’s outfit, it’s once again made clear that it’s all still part of the goop that the orb uses to make his…stuff. When the clothes come off, do they dissolve back into Orb Goop? Can Fushi feel what happens to them when they’re not fused to his body? Will he someday be able to replicate materials based on his whims, or will it only ever be what was literally attached to the corpses/things that he copies, when he copies them? There’s so much to ponder!
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