To You, The Immortal (不滅のあなたへ, Fumetsu no Anata e) is a relatively new manga (as of this writing, July of 2017) by author Ooima Yoshitoki (大今良時). Ooima-sensei is best known for her previous manga, Koe no Katachi, which for a while I considered to be one of my top 10 favorite manga. I did not like the final part of the series, however, nor did I like the ending. Nonetheless, it was definitely an amazing thing for a long time, being a mostly realistic, socially critical manga about Japanese treatment of the disabled (in this case, the deaf) and of those with ruined reputations. To You, The Immortal is pretty much nothing like Koe no Katachi.
To You, The Immortal is officially titled To Your Eternity in English, which makes no sense at all to me but whatever (the TL is good, and I paid for this in English, but that title is baffling). This is an action adventure fantasy/supernatural series about an immortal being that was created for some mysterious purpose and tossed to the earth. It can take the shape of other things around it, and can heal extremely well. However, it lacks knowledge, and needs to learn from the people on earth how to even function. We quickly learn that it can take the shape of living beings too, but it seems as though it can only transform into those who have died. The final category for this manga is definitely “tragedy”.
To You, The Immortal is very good at what it does, and what it does is present us readers with miserable lives and miserable situations where people manage to grow because of those bad things, but still succumb to untimely death in the end, after which our immortal protagonist takes their image into itself and carries that with it for the rest of its endless journey. Interestingly, like in Koe no Katachi, many characters in To You, The Immortal have very bad and sometimes even damning flaws; even the very cute little girl we begin to follow in chapter 2. This makes reading the series often feel very horrible. There are a lot of very silly moments of levity in this series, actually, but ultimately it will probably leave you feeling sad. I read all of what was available at the time while I took my plane flights into Japan and I probably looked rather silly crying in public. No regrets, though. I quite love this manga, at least so far.
To You, The Immortal begins in a snowscape, which is entirely my cup of tea. Our protagonist turns from an orb into a rock for a while, until it spots a wounded wolf. The wolf dies, and the immortal takes his form.
Not soon after, but for anything that could have been a few days to two months, the immortal stumbles onto a person: the person from the first pages of this article. Apparently that wolf, Joan, was his. I don’t think we ever get the guy’s name, but he teaches the immortal how to chew, how to eat, and even how to speak (though he doesn’t seem to grasp that his pet is speaking). The first chapter is about how this boy is all alone, but he wasn’t always. He determines eventually to seek out his people who had left long ago to find a better place of living. He also talks a lot. He doesn’t shut up, which is depressing. It’s clear that the boy is incredibly lonely.
But the journey doesn’t go well, the boy dies, and the immortal takes his place. The boy’s last words are a plea for the immortal to remember him forever, and so he will.
From here, the series takes somewhat of a surprising turn. I at first thought the boy might be one of the last humans alive period and the world a wasteland judging from the things he was saying, but that turned out to be not the case at all.
After a brief period where we learn that the immortal has been wandering around pissing and soiling itself, not eating, and dying from cold, starvation, and eventually a bear repeatedly (reviving because, hey, it’s an immortal), we switch to a very little girl from a village in a vibrant and very much alive forest. This is March, the new focus of the series along with Parona, a cool chick. The setting is, of course, much different now. March and Parona’s village lives under the thumb of a powerful and militaristic religious city from a ways away, which exerts control over these villages by sacrificing children to appease a fake god (and of course, the children don’t know that they’re being chosen for sacrifice until after some ceremony, while the adults don’t know the god is fake). Wouldn’t you know it? March gets chosen as the next sacrifice.
It’s handled with a strange amount of innocence since we’re mostly following March through this ordeal, but as silly as things can get during this storyline the grim reality of it definitely affects March despite her being very young. She doesn’t want to die, but goes through with it because if she doesn’t die someone else will die in her place.
Parona, who is incredibly fond of March for…complicated reasons involving matters of “family”, is not cool with this plan. She initiates a distraction on the day of the sacrifice, giving March the opportunity to run. And here’s the kinda fucked up thing —
Here is where March meets the immortal and the manga really begins.
What follows is a lot of stuff really. The series shows why it can be categorized as an action manga for instance, as Immo must fight off giant creatures and aggressive people, transforming between known forms as he does so (always with whatever wounds that body had for a little bit before regenerating) and fighting in some strange-looking ways. I like it a lot, but this isn’t a “fighting manga” exactly. While fights happen, they’re pretty rare. Instead of fighting, most of the manga is about the people Immo meets, and the sense of dread in knowing that inevitably, one of these people is going to die like what happened in chapter 1.
In this case, it’s clearly either going to be March, who sort of becomes Immo’s mother, or Parona who helps protect the two of them through the perils they will face and has a clear need to keep them all together no matter what. Of course I won’t say who dies, nor exactly how I felt when I found out. All I’ll say is that there are twists and turns, the villain is seriously supremely awful, there are many tense moments, the arc goes on longer than I expected, and I had a sense of “satisfaction” by the end of it. Then, Immo moved on.
There is a lot more to this series than that, but as my policy is spoiler avoidance I won’t say what. Here’s a link to a link that will tell you a few “spoilers” about the premise, and the “action” aspect of the series that you may want to see if you’re still on the fence about this manga: [link].
But sadly that leaves me unable to say much more about the series. Overall, I like the art, I like the weird story with its focus on preservation and memory, I like the characters, and I like how it makes you feel for them so hard before taking them away. If I had to criticize something, it’s the worry that Ooima-sensei will be predictable with the “premise”. Like, people Immo gets close to will always die. The latest arc, when Immo finds a “home”, might subvert it but if it doesn’t…well then, you lose some tension. If you think, “okay, someone’s always going to die” it’s tougher to risk caring about them. That said, Ooima-sensei is definitely very good at making you care, so I can’t be sure about that.
Really, this is an incredibly powerful work and is shaping up to be a fantastic story consisting of many smaller stories. While I was disappointed with how things petered out in Koe no Katachi, I’m not apprehensive about this, Ooima-sensei’s latest work, because it’s so severely different from that manga. I’m eager to see where this manga goes, even if the path is paved with tears. Highly recommended, let it become a favorite of yours as well.
And so ends the review. A bit late, and not THAT long, but it’s done! Hopefully I can write again soon. For now, thank you for reading. See you next time.