Immortality is not a blessing but a cruel curse. To live forever is to live a lonely life full of painful moments of parting. "To Your Eternity" directed by Masahiko Murata written by Shinzō Fujita based on the same name manga created by Yoshitoki Ōima, makes it very clear on the first episode with the tragic end of a once positive boy (Reiji Kawashima) who lives alone in the frozen tundra. The animated film explore theme of loneliness with its solid character writing, well-made animation, thoughtful music and setting. This make "To Your Eternity" one of the best show for Spring 2021 season.
"To Your Eternity" begins with an immortal sphere which is sent to earth by an omnipotent figure. It has an ability to transform into an object or a being that stimulate it. Initially, the sphere has no consciousness and take a form of a rock. One day, a wounded white wolf named Jooan dies in front of it. The sphere takes shape of the wolf and begin to develop awareness. The role of the sphere in the first episode is a good plot device for the story.
The setting takes place in the frozen tundra far to the north where extreme freezing weather destroys vegetation, animals and forces migration to the south. The use of somber music in this desolation setting not only creates the sense of isolation but also the sense of incoming blizzards. Indeed, the weather becomes so severely freezing and cloudy as time passes on.
The story is told from the perspective of the immortal "sphere" who initially knows nothing about the world. One day, It takes the form of the white wolf Joaan after the wolf dies of a wound in its leg and travels until it meet the white haired nameless boy at the abandon village.
Five years prior, the villagers left to seek for a paradise "where there are plenty of food and good people." Initially, a white hair boy was left in the village to take care of the elders who could not take the trip until the rest of villagers return band bring them to the paradise. Eventually, the elders all passed away, leaving the boy the sole survivor.
The episode realistically portrays the effects of long time isolation to a human. To deal with loneliness, the boy convinces himself that the villagers are still there for him. He tricks himself into thinking that the wolf Joaan can convey conversation with him. In fact, those conversations are actual him talking to himself. He uses them to tell himself it is too soon to worry about the villagers not coming back because they have left recently. That "recently" is actually five-long years. When the boy decides to leave the village, he devises a new reason: villagers has not come back yet is because the paradise is so good beyond their widest dream that they don't want to leave yet. Yet his unreasonable thoughts are the only one that prevent him having a mental breakdown.
When the boy sees the villagers' demise with his own eyes, he falls to despair. The voice actor Reiji Kawashima did a fastantic job of potraying the stages of breaks down from positive hopefulness to denial and eventually hopelessness in less than a minute. His performance gains attention and sympathy from the audience toward the nameless boy.
The manga artist Yoshitoki Ōima is also well known for writing works related to loneliness. Her previous works "A Silent Voice" centers around two protagonists whose bully-bullied relationship in the past makes them friendless and becomes targets for discrimination on day-to-day basis. They have to work together to rebuild their friendship and connection to overcome their emotional scars. "A Silent Voice" was later made into a movie. Both the manga and movie received awards and praise for the emotional journey on the heavy-hearted setting. Ōima's story- telling experience makes the audience carve for more future episodes of "To Your Eternity".