Poor Gugu. Given that he is one of To Your Eternity‘s central protagonists, it was inevitable that his life would take a tragic turn – or at least, more tragic than getting his skull crushed by a log and then subsequently rebuilt by a drunken maniac – and so it goes in “Monster Brothers”. As it turns out, the only thing worse than being forced to hide your “monstrous” face behind a goofy looking mask is discovering that the crazy old coot who saved your life also turned you into a walking alcohol still. Why? According to the Booze Man himself, he added this horrendous new organ to Gugu’s insides out of a mix of “humor and curiosity.” So, you can hardly blame the kid for running away from the old man’s place for good; Booze Man and Pioran have already shown a callous willingness to exploit Gugu and Fushi for money, but this is one step too far even for ol’ BM.
”Monster Brothers” is another episode of To Your Eternity that struggles in the artistic department; it’s animation is mostly functional, but hardly captivating, and the story suffers a little when Gugu decides to cast off his helmet and live in the world as an unabashed “monster”. The stiff character animation isn’t quite up to the task of selling all of Gugu’s emotions, considering we never get more than the tiniest glimpse of his face. The larger story of the episode is also held up by the almost comical amount of cruelty poor Gugu is forced to suffer once he leaves Booze Man’s employ. His old master does try to offer him some work and respite, but literally every single other person is a torturous bastard to the kid. Gugu is beaten, harassed, insulted, and almost sold into slavery at one point. On two separate occasions the show stops in its tracks to remind us that his face makes babies cry and grown men cower in the corner of their huts.
Thankfully, these overly broad story beats are a minor hindrance when the character writing for Gugu and Fushi is so good, especially since Ryoko Shiraishi and Reiji Kawashima are so good with their performances. Fushi, especially, gets a lot more to do this week than ever before when it comes to expressing complicated emotions: He gets angry at Gugu for going to far with his immortality experiments; he is equal parts excited and frustrated when he tries (and fails) to step in and cover Gugu’s share of the chores; and my heart damn near broke when he admitted to being afraid of the forest when he went to rescue Gugu from the kidnappers at the end of the episode. It’s the most “human” Fushi has ever felt, and Kawashima continues to kill it in the voice acting department.
Likewise, Shiraishi does wonderfully at elaborating on what we all already knew to be true: Gugu is a very good boy indeed, and doesn’t deserve even ten percent of the shit that happens to him. While I grew a bit weary of the stock standard “mans inhumanity to man” stuff that he had to go through, I loved the scene where Gugu encountered an emaciated Shin in a back alley. The dumbass ran off with their entire life savings, and he’s still starving to death not a mile away from home, and yet Gugu has the decency to give Shin the precious ring that Rean gave him. Sure, it’s an act fueled as much by self-loathing as it is by Gugu’s last vestiges of brotherly love, but that’s such a complicated and interesting thing for Gugu to do, and much more compelling that seeing a bunch of strangers yell at Gugu for having a weird face.
I don’t know what To Your Eternity has in store for Gugu, and while I’m sure it won’t be good, I really hope it doesn’t end in total misery and death for the kid. He’s finally found a new brother in Fushi, one that will fight for him and grow with him as they go down their strange and dangerous paths together, and I’d love to see them have more than a few weeks together before To Your Eternity inevitably pulls the rug out from under them. Let’s hope I’m not damning them both by daring to be an optimist, eh?
Orbs and Ends
• Speaking of heartbreaking, you know what other moment completely destroyed me? Fushi handing Pioran those little brown dirt balls, which I read as his confused but earnest attempt to reach out to her (and the others) as his weird, found family. He doesn’t quite understand the bonds that he is trying to forge with these people, but he knows they matter, and he’s working hard to earn their trust and patience. What a good little orb he is.
• One interesting development I’m keeping my eye on is Rean, whose presence at the Booze Man’s place is conspicuously unexplained. The show makes a point of noting how her wound should probably be healed up by now, three months after the fact, and Booze Man goes so far as to explain how he shoved a liquor still into Gugu’s guts for no reason whatsoever. That has to mean she realizes that Gugu was the one who got his skull flatted on her account right? I’m guessing that she must be frequenting the establishment for more than just pickles and the disgusting radish mush that Fushi keeps trying to cook.
• For as much as I disliked seeing Fushi in pain, Gugu’s experiments were a helpful breakdown of Fushi’s replication powers. It seems he can only replicate things he comes into contact with, which makes sense based on his initial transformations, though it is unclear if being injured/penetrated by things like the torch and the spear is a definitive requirement, or of it is simply because of the stimulation brought about by the pain. We also learn that Fushi can’t replicate fire out of nowhere after getting burned, just the stick of the torch that burned him. Good to know.
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