“A Girl Named Tonari” doesn't actually shed much more light on Tonari as a character, aside from what we've already figured out about her by now: She kind of sucks. Not in a “This character is dislikable, and I wish she weren't a part of the story” way; I think she's a good character for what she's meant to do, and what she's meant to do is be the first companion of Fushi's that kind of, well, sucks. For all of his brief life, Fushi has been paired up with people who are fundamentally good and decent at their core, and whose lives were all marked by their willingness to sacrifice their own lives for some greater purpose. That's not quite Tonari's bag, though.
As this week's episode of To Your Eternity makes very clear, Tonari does have a larger goal in mind beyond simply serving herself, but in order to realize her little gang's dream of escaping the desolate island of Jananda, she's had to learn to be a little shitbird when the times call for it. She'll lie, she'll manipulate, and she'll keep her partners in the dark, so long as all of that work is useful. She's not the avatar of lonely suffering that The Boy Was, nor is she the same unfortunate paragon of kindness that Fushi found in both March and Gugu. Tonari is a tough kid who was dealt one of the worst hands imaginable, and the lessons she's learned along the way are not the kind that Fushi wants to hear.
“Some people deserve to be killed,” she tells our immortal hero, and that only convinces Fushi all the more that Tonari is bad news. He isn't just wincing at the thought of having to fight in the arena again, either, because his acquisition of Parona's form means that another one of his friends is now dead. I initially missed this crucial detail when Parona!Fushi first took the stage last week, and though part of the blame simply lies with my own processing of the story (I've always been slow on the uptake when it comes to “rules” and such in fantasy stories like this), I think another reason that Parona's death failed to register with me was the poor direction and production that has afflicted the show these last couple of weeks. The moment barely felt like it was meant to signify anything at all, so my brain simply jumped to the easiest reaction available: “Hey, I know her! She's cool!”
Those slipshod production values are just as obvious in “A Girl Named Tonari”, too, and they hurt the impact of the story just as much as before. To be blunt, most of the episode barely even feels like it is animated, and the editing is frequently sloppy and jarring as well. This has the cumulative effect of draining all of the drama and weight out of every meaningful conversation. The Beholder's mouth has never moved when he's spoken before, so the reveal of Parona's death was still technically functional, but Fushi's reunion with Pioran is a total drag. I get the importance of her imploring Fushi to carry on Parona's legacy by helping the needy and so on, but the whole sequence features a barely-moving Fushi having a conversation with a literal brick wall. Even if the manga never cut to an interior shot to give us some insight to Pioran's emotions and whatnot, there are a dozen different ways that the storyboarding and direction of this scene could have been elevated beyond the barest possible minimum of presentation.
The same goes for the big battle against the Oniguma!Nokkers, which should have been a thrilling interjection for a story that was otherwise very introspective and static feeling. The fact that Tonari and the other islanders are the ones who band together to defeat the beast and retrieve all of Fushi's lost forms is a great development—another paradigm shift for the roadmap of Fushi's evolutionary journey, so to speak—and the battle gives Tonari the chance to cement her role in the story. Instead, the episode barely squeaks across the finish line, and without mustering so much as a single clap or cheer. It's simply another scene. It's fine.
Except, for a story that is as incredible and moving as To Your Eternity often is, “fine” isn't good enough. “Fine” is a disservice to the material. When an anime is adapting a manga, it has two jobs, one of which is practical, while the other is far more idealistic. At the very least, so far as the shareholders in charge of funding the animation studios are concerned, the anime needs to get more readers to the bookstands so they can purchase the manga and generate some kind of return on investment (this also includes keeping enough eyes glued to the screen, so the advertisers and subscription peddlers stay happy, too).
In that respect, I guess To Your Eternity is doing its job. Since the show will doubtlessly end before covering the rest of the comic, I'll definitely be eager to continue the story in any medium that I can. That said, in an ideal world, an anime should also elevate its source material by making use of the sights and sounds and colors that simply can't be experienced on black-and-white pulp. If To Your Eternity can't bring itself back to the standards of quality it managed in previous arcs, I'm worried it will end up failing at this particular goal, and that will be a damned shame indeed. As far as I'm concerned, the word “mediocre” shouldn't be allowed within 500 yards of To Your Eternity, and yet…
To Your Eternity is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history