One can’t really be surprised by what happened in this episode of Fumetsu no Anata e, whether they’re a manga reader or not. In addition to the heavy foreshadowing, the overall pattern with this series isn’t hard to ascertain. That’s going to be a problem for some viewers I’m sure (it was for some manga readers) but I’d encourage folks to withhold judgement for as long as they can bring themselves to. There’s a larger arc to To Your Eternity, one that transcends all the supporting characters, and I think there comes a point (it had already come for me) where you either buy into that or you don’t.
That’s not to say that this episode didn’t kick like an angry mule. Gugu’s death was everything March’s was not, because the feelings that came along with it were totally earned by the narrative. No emotional manipulation was necessary here – that’s the difference between pathos and melodrama. Of course Fushi was infinitely more aggrieved over what happened this time – Gugu was a part of him (in the symbolic sense) in a way only a true family member can be. They were brothers of the soul, and for that reason among others the close of this arc raises some interesting philosophical questions about the story that the end of the previous arc did not.
Unlike with March, it was the Nokkers that were the cause of death this time. And it would have been a lot more if it hadn’t been for Gugu and Fushi’s bravery. These two are heroes for each other but they’re also just generally heroic. The evolution of the Nokkers outstripped the evolution of Gugu’s attacks – this time around, Nokker-Oniguma surrounded itself with an armor of rocks that was resistant to fire. Gugu – ever resourceful – found a way past it, but that was only a holding action.
Fushi and Gugu certainly do make a strong team, but it’s all they can do to keep themselves alive as Nokker 2.0 rips the mansion to shreds. I especially loved the bit where Fushi adopted March form to allow Gugu to throw him to safety as the Nokker was trying to crush them in a fissure, then switched back to Fushi form to pull Gugu out. Interestingly, once Fushi transforms (for the first time in four years, remember), when he changes back his “base” form has now reverted back to the age it was when he arrived in this town.
Gugu’s sacrifice comes protecting Rean, which is probably the way he would choose to go out if he was forced to choose. Gugu is selfless to the end, and at least before he goes he gets to hear Rean (effectively) return his confession of love. And a kiss, of course. Fushi, meanwhile, experiences the pain Gugu is enduring, which is new information to be sure. When he changes into Gugu form Fushi understands what’s happened, and it’s a bitter pill for him to swallow. Gugu is easily the most important person in Fushi’s short life as a human, and facing a future without him is hard for this immortal child to bear.
Just what exactly happens with Gugu – and March, and the northern boy, and even Oniguma and Joann? With March at least it’s implied that she remains with Fushi spiritually in some way – and now, it’s further implied with Gugu. What does that mean, exactly? We often talk of those we love remaining a part of us after they pass on, but not in the literal sense we seem to be seeing here. Mysticism is an explicit part of Fumetsu no Anata e, so no explanation can be dismissed out of hand. But it certainly seems as if it would be a complicated emotional burden for Fushi to carry.
As I noted, expected or not the loss of Gugu really hurts. He was a great character – the best of the entire cast so far, if we’re honest – and the impact he made on the audience is mirrored in the impact he made on those who loved him. Even old Booze Man and Pioran came to love him as a grandchild, as their grief betrays. And while Fushi initially seems to be fooling Rean into thinking Gugu is alive and Fushi is dead (not by premeditation, but happenstance – and in the process giving everyone a chance to say goodbye) she clearly figures out the truth (as she surely would have found out soon enough). She may know it’s not Gugu she’s telling she loves, but she still means it – and somehow, it seems as if he hears her, too. Farewell, Gugu – you were a mensch, and your loss will be deeply felt.