Sousei no Onmyouji – 03

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Despite the fact Arima has made a match of Rokuro and Benio and the two have moved into the same space, they’re no closer to becoming, well, closer, at least the way Arima would like.

Indeed, aside from crossing paths a couple of times at home and school (naturally, Benio must transfer to Rokuro’s school and class…because.) the two spend the majority of the episode apart, doing their own thing.

As Benio senses kegare and joins Rokuro’s exorcist pals in Magano to battle a boss-type they can’t quite handle, Rokuro stays behind, and is snatched up by Otomi Mayura, his childhood friend.

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We can tell who Mayura is going to be from miles away: she’s the tragic childhhod friend character who would make a great match for the MC except for the fact he simply doesn’t see her that way (he makes it clear to his buds that he sees her more as a cousin or sister, and thus out of bounds).

His position on Mayura is not unreasonable, but it doesn’t make Mayura’s feelings any less valid. Proximity and time are just as capable of making the heart grow fonder as absence, and Mayura has known Rokuro long enough to know when he’s bothered by something.

In this case, it’s his predicament with Benio, and his old reflex to charge forward towards danger fighting with his desire not to repeat his past sins and live as peaceful a life as he can.

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Whatever those sins are, they seem to involve a traumatic ordeal in which several of his friends are lost and he ends up prostrate and in tears…but Mayura is right there, also crying, but trying to comfort him. And so here, in the present, she decides it’s her job to cheer him up.

To that end, she takes him to an amusement park they haven’t been to in years, and have what looks like a great ol’ time. I liked how when it comes to carnival rides, Mayura is a lot more brave than Rokuro. I also liked how there were moments Rokuro sees Mayura as more than just a platonic relative, but a kind and beautiful young woman.

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This week, in what came as a pleasant surprise, Rokuro and Benio’s stories stay separate. Benio doesn’t run into trouble and need bailing out again; she handles the boss with relative ease (in another great battle sequence).

The only “crossover” between their days is when during the battle the kegare rams into the roller coaster in Magano, which causes a small rift between Magano and the normal world. When two kids are trapped on the coaster as it dangles precariously, Rokruo does not hesitate to scramble up there and save the kids before they fall to their deaths.

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True to the title, both heroes proved their worth this week: Rokuro with ordinary heroics in the normal world; Benio with her exorcist enhancements in the otherworld. Mayura succeeds in cheering Rokuro up, and inadvertently gets him to prove to himself that the heroic drive is still within him.

When Rokuro and Benio reunite in the evening, they don’t detail their days, but Benio can tell from Rokuro’s dirty uniform that he was up to something, and Rokuro asks how things went with Benio out of earnest curiosity, almost as if he cares. 

Sure, they still turn away from each other and harrumph at the same time, but both really do respect each other on some level; they just need to master dealing with one another, a skill that will come to them in time and proximity.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 02

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Oji-san has passed SnO to me (he was not a fan), but I’m a little more amenable its jaunty juxtaposition (or sometimes, smashing-together) of super-serious and super-goofy tones. But hey, it’s hump day; I don’t need to be transfixed by high art or anything (that’s Sunday!)

I find SnO competent enough in what it’s trying to do, which is capitalize on the success of similar ‘dark-and-funny’ shows like BleachBlue Exorcist, and Akane ga Kill! to entertain without too much thinking. It is not as good as any of those, but I found myself charmed enough to sit through the entire episode.

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There’s a kind of cheekiness to watching Benio— her pride hurt by someone who has all the ability but none of the interest in being an exorcist that she has—shuffle off after exchanging names…then ending up at Rokuro’s house, where she’s to begin living. It reminds me of Rukia helping herself to Ichigo’s closet…she even has a fiery familiar who could well be a friend of Kon’s.

Rokuro didn’t steal all of Benio’s power the way Ichigo accidentally did to Rukia, but like Rukia she’s a rich, privileged, mildly arrogant kid whose kegare-killing parade was rudely rained on. Seeking redemption (and some restored confidence) she goes with Rokuro’s roommates to Magano, but is disappointed to find a far weaker foe than Rokuro took out.

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Naturally, since they’re now living together, Rokuro walks in on Benio, but she’s all covered up with a towel, not nude, and she responds not by screaming, but by arming herself and going after Rokuro, whom she’s already established is tough enough to endure such behavior.

Rokuro ends up plowing into a dude in his underwear who turns out to be Head Exorcist Tsuchimikado Arima. Believe it or not, I’m not done referring to Rukia yet, because just like her Arima uses crude but expressive crayon drawings to explain things, like why he’s inj his underwear (prior to arriving he was caught in flagrante delicto with a yakuza’s girl, and had to split sans threads)

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But while his manner of arrival is silly, the message he bears via oracle is not, and he summons both Benio and Rokuro (along with their grizzled guardians) to the subterranean Five Mirror Chamber. There, he presents the two as dual candidates for the Miko, the savior of exorcists over the Kegare. Then he makes them duel.

Rokuro wants no part of this, but Arima eggs him on by spuring his dead friends (the once who caused him to cast off exorcising in the first place) and he joins a fierce battle with Benio. Seriously, the best part of this show is its stylish, quick, and punchy combat, as demonstrated here. A steady helping in each episode will go a long way to mitigating the well-worn character traits and plot elements.

What’s also interesting: Arima never intended for one “candidate” to kill the other, making the survivor Miko. No, he intends to marry Benio and Rokuro together, and the child they produce will be the Miko. I didn’t expect they’d be anything other than grudging allies who gradually form a bond. This raises the stakes and makes things a little more interesting, if a bit neat and tidy.

In spite of an already heavy workload which includes another superior show I’m far more invested in, Ushio to Tora, I shall tune in at least one more week, then attempt to peel myself away.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Tokyo Ghoul Root A delivers a finale as still and austere as the previous episodes were flashy and frenetic. It was a hauntingly gorgeous episode so quiet and deliberate, every gesture and breath and ambient sound contained multitudes. Aside from the insert song, a stripped down version of the first season’s OP, there isn’t even any music telling us how to feel. It’s all in the artistry of the camerawork, lighting, and, of course, the characters we’ve come to know.

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More than anything, there’s a palpable feeling of finality to this finale, that a page is about to be turned. Ken starts in a kind of limbo, in the place that held so many happy memories for him. It’s as good a place as any for Hide to finally tell Ken that he knows he’s a ghoul.

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But Hide is in a bad way. The reveal of is injury is a masterpiece of careful unveiling, and the first sign that this truly is the end. Hide was an almost casual, neutral observer of everything Ken and Touka and everyone else have been through. Now that the show is ending, there’s no longer a need for such an observer, so in a way it makes sense for him to die here.

For Ken, his connection and lasting friendship with Hide, someone he had been estranged from going back to the first season, is the only bridge forged between ghoul and human. It was a bridge that was there from the start. If everyone in the CCG had a loved one turned ghoul, they’d likely all be a little more tolerant…and vice versa.

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Touka arrives at Anteiku to find it ablaze, apparently the work of Ken, again closing a door to the past before walking out with Hide. Touka sees his human eye and moves to meet him, but wreckage nearly crushes her; wreckage that came loose due to a ghoul’s weapon.

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Touka still follows Ken and finds him approaching the fortified CCG staging area bearing Hide, who may or may not be dead. At this point Touka’s path is barred again by Yomo, and my suspicion that Ken and Touka might never meet again is confirmed.

The episode really takes its time with Ken’s slow walk, both to and through the CCG ranks, but while it’s not perfect pacing-wise, it’s still some very powerful work, and it’s a credit to the show that it was able to slow things down so we could savor the end rather than choke it down.

Like a carefully-made cup of coffee, it takes quality ingredients, the proper tools, patience, and restraint, and TG exhibited all of the above with aplomb.

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Ken’s final scene is carrying Hide (echoing the show’s promo art) as various CCG soldiers gawk at him and helicopters swoop menacingly above him. These moments were suffused with thick tension as I pondered if and when the CCG would make a move.

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Ultimately, it falls to Arima to face Ken, who stops and puts hide down. But true to this finale’s minimalist atmosphere, we never see a fight, one-sided or no; only the click of the briefcase containing Arima’s quinque. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence they both have white hair.

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Dawn rises upon Tokyo, Anteiku’s fires are out, and only Arima and a rapier-like quinque stand where Ken once was. The snow has stopped falling, the storm is over, and peace has returned to the city. Was it peace attained by Aogiri’s tactical withdrawal, in which case it’s only temporary? Was some kind of deal struck between Ken and Arima?

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“All we can do is live as we endure loss,” Yomo says to Touka as he stops her from going to Ken, who wasn’t coming back. And he’s right. You can’t just stand still and wallow in despair until it consumes you. The fact som many people on both sides did just that is what put them all on that costly collision course.

After the credits we see Touka has opened a cafe of her own. While cheerfully opening up, she allows a brief moment to gaze wistfully out at the block before her; perhaps she saw something or someone in the corner of her eye? But it’s only a brief moment that passes, and she goes on with her morning with a smile on her face, remembering, but enduring and living. Because that’s just what you gotta do.

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