Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 12 (Fin)

With the Impure King defeated and the Kyoto Saga all but in the books, I was up for pretty much anything Ao no Exoricst wanted to do in the post-battle epilogue episode. It turned out to be chock-full of nice character moments, and felt like a thank you to the audience for watching. For instance, there’s no such thing as too much Mamushi, and her lovely scene in which Juzu comforts her kicks things off nicely.

Rin comes to in a room with Kumo resting beside him, but he soon spots Shiemi lying right next to him. They have a nice exchange, until she seemingly permanently friendzones him, and we learn that Renzo, Izumo and even the ventriloquist kid are also in there. It’s a need little gradual reveal.

After Mephisto has a chat with Yaozou (who gives all credit for the victory to Rin), a seemingly tipsy Shura comes onto him, but he sniffs out her intent, and soon she has a kunai at his throat, wondering if the Impure King was yet another test for Rin (which it most certainly was). Mephisto isn’t forthcoming with details, but his polite threat sends Shura flying off him, then warning him she has her eye on him…from a safe distance.

The next morning, Bon is headed to the room where his dad is resting, only to find him in an inn uniform sweeping the floor. It would seem Master Tatsuma has hung up the sutras, and wishes to live a simple life helping out around the inn. This irks Bon, who thinks it’s up to Tatsuma to re-unite the Myoda sect.

Turns out, neither Tatsuma nor Bon had to do anything for that to happen, as Juzu announces his intention to marry Mamushi. I’ll admit I wasn’t really shipping these two, but I can’t deny they work as a couple, and the scene in which he convinces her to agree to the marriage represents a nice melding of tradition and modern sensibilities. The protesting from Mamushi and Juzo’s siblings are also delightful, while Mamushi’s eyepatch is very chuunibyou.

The students have the day off, so they spend it together, this time not fighting for their lives, but sightseeing in Kyoto, the city they all helped to save from turning into the toxic forest from Nausicaä. It’s mostly a montage of stills, but they’re pretty stills that contain a lot of nice little character moments. I also liked how Rin’s friends did a running gag of having to do what the “son of satan” says, or else he’ll fry them.

Finally, Yukio meets Rin by the riverbank so Rin can tell him he’s still committed to becoming an exorcist and leaving his little brother in the dust, despite being the son of satan. Yukio doesn’t approve, and he has lots of good reasons, but Rin’s going to keep training nonetheless. So he tells Yukio he can go ahead and keep having his back, and he’ll have Yukio’s in return. With that, the brothers return to the group and they continue their pleasant, and well-earned, day off. Not a bad way to end.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 11

Ao no Exorcist wasn’t going to be able to sustain my interest in the battle without resolving it for two more episodes, so I’m glad it was finished in one. And what a finish! All the little separate parts of the battle came together wonderfully, and Rin finally figures shit out.

As Shura says, the only think he lacks is confidence. He’s been holding back all this time because he was scared of who he truly was: the spawn of Satan. As the Observing-from-on-high Mephisto quotes: sometimes to defeat a monster you have to become one.

Dealing with Todou certainly requires vicious and vigilant attention, as Kurara enables him to regenerate right quick; if it wasn’t for the heavy rain (and added effectiveness of naiad bullets) Yukio & Co. would have been in bad shape. Again, though, this fight seems a bit of a distraction beside the Impure King threat, and Yukio’s realization that he shouldn’t be listening to the temptations of a demon comes curiously late in his battle.

Sick of watching Rin ineffectually hack at the seemingly infinite tendrils of the King, Ucchusma, noticing the Koma Sword, agrees to lend his power to Rin, shrinking in size, turning blue, and perching on the tip of the sword as a result.

But while Ucchusma wants the two of them to completely obliterate everything on the mountain—including all those who have been “contaminated”: Rin’s friends and comrades—Rin has something less destructive in mind; something only he can do: use his flames to defeat the Impure King without harming anyone or anything else. When he does so, the flames threaten to overwhelm him, tearing away his humanity.

Rin eventually calms down and remembers what happened to Shiemi when his flames enveloped her in Mephisto’s prison: nothing. So after Shiemi herself, after losing Nee again, climbs the rot that has enveloped Izumo, ignoring her insults, and pulls her free, and after Rin’s blue flames pour out in all directions and envelop them both, Shiemi is not afraid; everything will be fine.

Bon, Shura, Renzo and Koneko; everyone is bathed in the blue flames. At first they feared it would mean their death, but the flames are harmless, and only destroy the King and his Impurity. High above the mountain, Mephisto applauds the “bonfire” Rin created, happy the powers of the Blue Exorcist have finally awakened.

Shura, Renzo, Koneko, and the Myoda monks are all smiles in the aftermath of Rin’s great achievement, but there’s one guy who rains on the parade with a brutal punch to Rin’s face is Yukio, who is furious that he’s out of his cell. Obviously, he’s not up to speed, and Rin’s puckish grinning and laughing doesn’t help matters.

So Rin gets serious, and shows his little brother who he truly is; the thing he’s no longer afraid of facing himself. Shino never directly told Rin what he should do with his life, but left it up to him. So he chose: with the power he always had, but could not control because he feared it, he will keep his friends and family safe from the forces of evil, using Satan’s own flames against them.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 10

It seems like the tide is about to turn with the arrival of Juzo & Co., but because Todo has a stronger fire-element demon, all their attacks are absorbed. Bummer! Yukio (whose guys stop glowing blue before anyone sees them) has a plan: let Todo absorb their fire…all of it.

In a well-planned gambit, the youngsters take Todo on as a distraction while the others chant, and Juzo drops a huge fireball down upon Todo. The Phoenix absorbs so much that Todo can’t handle it, and his body turns to ash, which is then soaked by the rain, slowing down his regeneration considerably.

That being said, it’s not the end of Todo, which was a bit disappointing, as he goes all muddy T-1000 on Yukio, Juzo, and the others, who dilly-dally in storing and separating his pieces to keep them from joining. I tellya, what’s it going to take to get this guy and make it stick?

We don’t learn that, though Koneko and Renzo manage to inform Shura that Rin and Bon are within the barrier, with Bon just barely keeping the barrier up to prevent widespread disaster.

When the super-ugly “pizza roll”-like Impure King advances, Bon has to cast a second spell to force him back, considerably weakening him in the process. Shura can’t come soon enough. Even Kuro’s in trouble.

When Shura finally does get there, Bon had dropped one of his two spells and let the miasma cover him, confident that Rin—his friend—will find a way to unsheathe his sword and save him. And what do you know, he does! And not a moment too soon.

In doing so, Rin seems to be doing exactly what Mephisto—his “older brother”—had hoped he would do: unleash the power of the blue flames for good, and show the Vatican that the son of the devil, once under control, is a vital asset in their struggle. But first thing’s first: Rin’s gotta pierce the king’s heart.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 09

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Todou’s “join me” schtick doesn’t work, as Yukio tells him he loves Rin as much as he hates him, but hates the old Yukio who was a sniveling little punk always in need of Rin’s help.

Yukio summons a coven of naiads and puts Todou in a water prison. I’m glad Exorcist isn’t playing the “Yukio switches sides” angle here, and that Yukio actually gets one over on Todou in what had been a laughably one-sided match.

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As for Rin, he’s trying to stay positive and cheerful while riding Kuro to the sproangium, but Bon can tell from his shaking hands that Rin’s just trying to keep it together, like he is. Kuro gets them into position, and Bon is able to put up a giant fire barrier to contain the sporangium (during which a phoenix screams like a red-tailed hawk for some reason).

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As all his family and friends fight what looks like a hopeless battle, Shino is consumed by fear and self-preservation, even going so far as to abandon Koneko when he refuses to run away. Shino only gets a few paces away before Koneko is about to be killed and he swoops in with his staff. As much as he wants to run from this situation—and his blood—he just can’t. He’s a part of this.

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Meanwhile, Izumo lets her guard down while admonishing Shiemi for not letting herself be protected by someone stronger, and gets covered in spores. Using the “if not now, when” argument, a desperate Shiemi finally manages to summon Nee-chan, and prepares to free Izumo, who takes time to ponder why she agreed to all this in the first place.

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Despite everyone’s efforts, the sporangium still bursts, and it feels like a huge setback when it happens. Fortunately the barrier holds, but that Bon can’t move if he wants to keep it up is a huge challenge for Rin and Kuro.

Rin almost felt like he could unsheathe his sword when Kuro was in trouble (Kuro gets out of it on his own); I imagine the time is quickly approaching when, like Shiemi with Nee-chan, Rin can’t go without its blade any longer.

As for Yukio, his water prison crumbles and he’s about to get burnt alive by Todou, but his eyes suddenly glimmer with blue flame—like Rin—which causes Todou to instinctively jump back.

Before Todou can get back to killing Yukio—or Yukio can determine what the hell’s up with his eyes—Juzu & Co. arrive to fight Todou. But yeah, those blue eyes are definitely an interesting development.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 08

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It was great to watch Shiemi finally kick some ass after sitting on the sidelines for so long, and for the gang to get back together and head out as a team. The question was, could this episode keep the momentum going as we draw nearer to the final battle with Todo and the Impure King? The answer, unfortunately, is not really.

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Sure, lots of things happen: the exorcists summon a fire vajra to give them more strength against the rot, the kids find Bon’s dad, who Kurara is keeping alive, Kurara is transferred to Bon, which is a pretty big deal, and Bon and Rin ride MegaKuro closer to the place where they’ll have to destroy the Impure King’s heart.

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But none of it feels that significant; it’s as if the show is intentionally holding back and content to show us more preparation for the fight. We’re told many tens of thousands of innocent people are at risk, and the billowing rot of the Impure King is a nearly constant and menacing presence, but the fact remains: the episode felt slow, almost plodding, and I didn’t like Rin’s group splitting up so soon after getting back together, even if it makes sense to the plot.

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Yukio has never been my favorite Exorcist character, what with his occasional temptations to cast away the burdens of his family and cross over to the dark side. Todo spends a lot of time toying with him in an interminable one-sided duel, with the apparent intent of bringing Yukio over to his side. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, he could have killed him many times over.

Chances are Rin will be able to unsheathe the Koma Sword, but only in the moment he needs to the most. That means the Impure King’s heart is probably not long for this world. The true wild card is Todo, especially if he manages to turn Yukio. But it wouldn’t be particularly satisfying if he could be turned so easily by a brief monologue.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 07

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Once Yukio has finished reading Tatsumi’s letter, Shura puts her trust in the master, removing the sword from safekeeping (within her body) and handing it to Rin, who wants to help defeat the Impure King, and heck, may be the only one who can.

There are only two problems: in Rin’s current state of fear and lack of confidence, he can’t physically draw the sword, and Mephisto Pheles pops in and throws Rin in an even more impenetrable prison, as the Vatican has sensed his tail seal from when he flared up, and have sentenced him to death.

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rin is not going to be executed. Shura and Yukio don’t want that, but they can only do so much in their positions. So Shura appeals to Rin’s friends, gives Bon his father’s letter and the sword, and tells them to go bust Rin out. If he’s their only hope, they’re his.

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Shiemi is the first to grab a camo poncho, and does so without hesitation. One by one the others agree with various levels of grudging. But once they reach the prison, the sentient door freezes everyone in their tracks, except the one person neither armed nor bearing hostile intent.

That’s right: Shiemi’s purported weakness is a strength here, as she can casually open the door to the prison and stroll in. Her gentle nature and loyalty and affection for Rin are the X-factor that enables everything that follows to occur.

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Once in Mephisto’s prison, there’s supposedly no way out, but Shiemi takes things one step at a time. First, she finds Rin, who starts wondering if maybe he should die before hurting more people; maybe that’s the best way for him to be useful.

Bollocks to that, says Shiemi. Just as she told all the others they’d all regret not trying to save Rin, she knows Rin will regret dying here and now. She also, for the first time, truly sees the weight of his flames, and when he lashes out to try to make her leave, rather than run from the blue flames, she leans into them, and they’re not hot…they’re warm.

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She believes Rin is keeping the flames controlled so as not to harm her, without even thinking about it. Sometimes, you gotta stop thinking and just be, and that seems to be the case here.

Rin’s flames won’t hurt people he cares about, so there’s nothing to fear. To drive the point home, Shiemi draws Rin into a big hug, showing him he has nothing to fear; she’s just fine.

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With that, Rin blasts them out of the “impenetrable” prison with ease Methinks Mephisto knew the conditions under which Rin could escape, and possibly even counted on it. For to get Rin out, his friends would have to band together, set aside their fears (either about him or repercussions from the Vat), and, as Shiemi did, get him to realize he can control his power.

Hell, even Ryuuji is ready to fight with Rin, and the two apologize for their earlier fight. Ryuuji reveals that he’s only mad at Rin because he bore his burdens alone for so long without telling his friends. No more of that. If they’re going to take out that Impure King on the mountain, they have to do it as one.

The second straight great episode from Ao, bringing us back into the present and getting Rin and friends to finally make up as a great battle looms. But Shiemi was the star, doing things no one else could or would do. Honorable mentions go to a gravely injured Mamushi racked by guilt, and a forgiving Juzo who’s not going to let her die.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 05

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Alright: I’m officially frustrated with how slowly this arc is moving. It’s one thing to spend an episode or two in one place, but this is getting ridiculous. Yaozou holds another tedious meeting to bring everyone up to speed, and we keep seeing the same flashbacks of Rin flaring up and standing trial. The show seems to be spending so much time reminiscing while setting the table, I’m starting to lose my appetite.

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Mamushi, still being portrayed with the possibility she could still be redeemed, if barely, is having difficulty bearing the evil of the Right Eye, but Todou claims he can’t bear them both alone. Mamushi honestly thinks she’s doing what’s best for her order, so a little suffering is par for the course.

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The sitting around back at Myoda HQ is all the more frustrating because no one, save Tatsuma, seems to be in any hurry to follow Todou and Mamushi. Granted they vanished without a trace, but…you’re exorcists. Do something exorcisty to detect and find them! Instead we get more meetings, then are treated to Yukio reading a letter by Tatsuma that’s as big as a goddamn book.

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Granted, at least the book-letter takes us to a different place, namely the Myoda Temple years ago, when Tatsuma was a young man with a dying pregnant wife and preparing to take over from the master, his ailing father. We also learn that Rin’s Koma Sword was once the main relic of the Myoda sect…until one day Rin and Yukio’s dad…stole it.

Now that sounds like an interesting story. But in the back of my mind, I know that back in the present Rin and Yukio and Shura are sitting around in a jail doing nothing. What little momentum had been built up isn’t likely to survive such a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 04

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Bon is our eyes and ears for most of this episode’s first half as he follows Renzou’s bro Juuzou, suspicious of his movements (and of the trail of bodies in his wake), until it’s revealed those exorcists were knocked out by Mamushi, not Juuzou.

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Having been told about the eye when she was a student of Todou’s, her general argument is that neither Saguro Tatsuma nor her own father can be trusted; that they are the real traitors, and she’s acting in the best interests of the Myoda Sect.

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I for one am glad the obviously more sinister-(and awesome!)-looking suspect, while indeed the traitor, at least has halfway viable reasons besides “I’m just evil BWAHAHA!”, though it does take quite a bit of exposition to get her somewhat complex positions and accusations out.

Meanwhile, Rin is making progress with the candles on the roof when the whole earth shakes. He starts to run off but Shura catches him and forbids him from moving and acting on his own, lest he be “put down” as per the agreement that spared his life (for now).

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It’s also good to see Todou back so soon, even if he claims Mamushi is acting on her own (clearly he’s been manipulating her for some time). There’s something appealing about his frumpy, unexceptional, harmless functionary look; especially contrasted with everyone else’s more traditional garb (Shura aside). Mamushi grabs the eye, and she and Todou skedaddle.

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Tatsuma prepares to go after them, but Bon wants a goddamn explanation out of him, now. Tatsuma, for whatever reason, won’t or can’t give him one, only saying “it’s a secret” and other fatherly platitudes to stay out of trouble and be patient. It’s not enough, and Bon all but disowns him, warning if he runs away he better not come back.

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Those sentiments set Rin, who had been pretty passively in the background, off. Understandably so, as he had a similar falling out with his dad Shiro that was never able to be resolved, since Shiro died. Rin may want to repair his friendship with Bon, but trying to stop him from making the same mistake, something he’ll regret forever, takes precedence.

Of course, Rin gets so worked up, his blue flames come out, scaring the crap out of everyone who didn’t know about them and forcing Shura to knock him out with the shock collar-like ring on his tail, but not before he calls her a hag and tells her to buzz off. I admire Rin’s passion regarding Bon, but he really does need to realize how short his leash has become.

Honestly, I wanted to rate this episode higher, but it had a bit too much standing around talking/explaining, the flashbacks to the trial seemed redundant, and I’m bummed Mamushi’s pretty much a bad guy right now and it’s not certain at all whether she’ll be redeemed.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 03

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In the dining hall, Konekomaru is taken aback by Shima’s rediscovered chumminess, and later calls him out for it, but Shima repeats his assertion from last week that it’s far more hassle to avoid Rin than simply slip back into their friendship; that, and Rin’s a good guy.

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Meanwhile, the Impure King plot gets mired in infighting when the gathered families gather and it’s believed there’s a traitor in their midst. My first instinct is to go for the snake-people, but that’s kinda profiling; besides, it could just as easily be Shima’s brother…or Bon’s father, who is absent.

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The resulting meeting is tense and full of accusations. This is not how you want to see a group of exorcists tasked with protecting a dangerous artifact like the right eye. But it also creates a sense of intrigue: we’ve got the suspects, but I, at least, will need more info in order to determine whodunit.

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And now, your weekly Ao no Exorcist Shiemi Report: Does Shiemi actually have lines in this, the third episode? She does! Unfortunately, most of them are used running herself down for being so “useless” and “underfoot.” Izumo counters that she shouldn’t stress, since she’s strong, or rather resilient, like a weed. Shiemi is a big greenthumb, so she takes it as a compliment and as motivation to try harder.

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Later, Shiemi spots Rin training, and recommits herself to trying her best so she can catch up to him. So yeah, no contact between the two quite yet, but she’s well on her way to getting there. As is Konekomaru, whose hard line fades when Rin assures him he’ll prove to him he’s not a threat, despite his blue flames.

Of course, the toughest friend in whose good graces to get back into is Bon, who is currently occupied with wondering if his Dad is the traitor in their midst. Another decent episode that balanced Rin’s efforts to make up with his pals with the right eye plot.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 02

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I for one found it refreshing that Rin & Co. didn’t immediately end up in the middle of a war zone upon arriving in Kyoto. There’s definitely casualties whom they must tend to, but the main battle feels far away. Instead, Rin finds himself in the hometown of three friends of his who are feeling very uneasy around him.

He meets Bon’s parents, who are nothing like he imagined. After two minutes with his dad, Rin is prepared to label him a “degenerate monk”, which just so happens to be what a lot of others in his sect have called him for years, much to the frustration of his son Bon.

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Rather than end up in the middle of a fight against the forces trying to revive the Impure King (or whatever), Rin and his mates perform relatively menial tasks, but those tasks still have to be performed, as they’re important.

During their service we see the long-standing rivalry between different clans within the sect, one of which is really into snakes. Bon’s dad is nowhere to be found, so it falls to him to break up fights – and hear what people call Pops.

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We get some nice peaks into Bon’s past, and see how much he loved and admired his dad, who always kept to himself chanting sutras. Bon learned those sutras, but he also watched as the order his father belonged to wither away, to the point they had to align themselves with the True Cross Order in order to stave off oblivion.

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Meanwhile, Rin tries to think of a way to mend fences with Bon, as well as his other spooked friends. Unfortunately he and Shiemi don’t say a peep to each other for the second straight week, but hopefully they’ll reconcile at some point.

For now, Rin has to be content with Shima, who ends up the last person with Rin with no excuse for slinking away, but also finds that it’s a much bigger hassle to avoid Rin than to talk to and treat him like he did before Rin went berserk. Shima’s are probably the easiest good graces to return to, however.

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Bon’s deal is that he always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he had the kind of father who didn’t want that, and so conflict arose between them, which hasn’t been sufficiently resolved since before he dyed his hair.

But Bon’s no innkeeper, and he never was. He’s an exorcist, a damn good one, and he’ll play a big role in the coming battle against pro-Impure King forces. I think when Rin learned Bon has been having a long fight with his Dad, he was heartened, a bit. Bon only butts heads with those who matter in his life. Relationships will have to be prepared if the good guys are going to have a chance. And despite having Satan as a father, Rin is a good guy.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 01

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Five years, three months, and five days. That’s how long ago I last laid eyes on Ao no Exorcist. Back then, we hadn’t even split up writer accounts yet! As such, I was seriously worried about not knowing what the heck was going on, and was both hoping for and hating myself for needing at least some kind of recap to bring me up to speed. Imagine waiting until 2021 for the next season Game of Thrones!

The first episode of this sequel, “Small Beginnings”, largely drops us right back in the world of the Okunuma brothers, exorcists, and True Cross, and to my relief, it’s like riding a bike: it all started coming back. By starting small as the episode title suggests, the show avoids the need for too much lengthy expostition about what has happened (though there is a bit of that, in addition to exposition about what will be happening this season).

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This is the Kyoto Fujouou-hen, or Kyoto Impure King Arc, and one of his eyes is stolen by Todo Saburota, one of the grizzled mid-level exorcists entrusted with guarding it. Todo is disaffected by his station, feeling it too small commensurate to the effort and loyalty he put in, so he’s gone over to the demons.

After saving a kid hostage Todo didn’t seem terribly interested in, Rin, Yukio, and Shura join the rest of the gang aboard a Kyoto-bound Shinkansen bound to locate and retrieve the eyes of the Impure King, lest they be used to kill more people. On the train, Rin encounters some fallout from going berserk last season, and his friends, even Shiemi, express various combinations of fear, anger, mistrust and betrayal.

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That doesn’t seem like the ideal dynamic for a team with such a seemingly important mission, but as Shura says this shouldn’t be the toughest mission (it isn’t as if they’re dealing with Satan himself; Todo seems to have traded one mid-level role for another) and perhaps the best way to mend fences is through work.

The only one who deigns to sit beside Rin is Kamiki Izumo, who (in her tsundere way) doesn’t feel it fair to condemn Rin simply for being what he is, which isn’t his fault. Lots of exorcists having demon lineage, after all (and I for one wouldn’t mind sitting next to a kitty on a train). That being said, Bon and Konekomaru have lost family to demons, and aren’t so quick to trust Rin.

I’m not so quick to start liking Rin either. He has a point, but he could be a little less brusque about it, just like he didn’t need to laugh back in the immediate aftermath of his friends discovering his true roots. One of the most annoying elements of AnE is having to endure Okamoto Nobuhiko’s harsh, petulant depiction of Rin, but otherwise this was a far smoother re-entry into the worl than I expected.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 02

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Oooo, it’s a pool episode! Except Hibike! Euphonium doesn’t really do straight up pool episodes. Yes, Kumiko and Sapphire are dazzled by Reina’s new swimsuit, but fanservice isn’t the sole point of the episode. Indeed, we get the same nuanced interactions between characters, regardless of garb.

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This is because Kumiko, seeing all the strife around her, can’t help but want to do something. She’s also not afraid to stand up for herself this week, when Nozomi asks why she and not Natsuki is in the competition group. She’s in because she’s better.

To her surprise, she doesn’t make an enemy of Nozomi right then and there. On the contrary, the two have a nice long chat that results in Kumiko promising to talk to Asuka. She even forgets she’s supposed to be having fun with Reina and the others.

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The pool segment is only half the episode. From there we get right to the practice camp, where Taki-sensei introduces another teaching assistant for the woodwinds, the very talented—and very stunning—Niiyama Satomi. The two seem to flirt a little, which just wrecks poort Reina. We’ve never seen her so out of it!

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Kumiko knows less about romance than Reina, so she decides not to touch that lest she cause more harm than good. Instead, she ends up in more one-on-one talks, first with Natsuki, who thanks her on Nozomi’s behalf and states her undying admiration for her, and Mizore, who expresses how much she hates competition, and how it causes her pain.

Kumiko, for her part, answers as forthrightly as she did regarding Nozomi’s question about why Natsuki wasn’t ahead of her. Their music is judged the way it is…because that’s just the way it is. She’s fine with it. You may not know exactly what a judge likes on any given day in any given competition…but neither does anyone else. You simply have to play as well as you can, and live with things outside your control.

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In perhaps my favorite scene of an episode full of nice conversations, Kumiko returns to her futon next to Reina, who is still awake and still worrying about Taki and Satomi. This time Kumiko has an answer, which is that they have no way of knowing how Taki feels unless he’s asked.

That brightens Reina’s mood somewhat, and the two simply join hands and stare at each other for a while. IMO there is no friendship deeper or more well-realized than these two this Fall. The voice actors and animators weave their usual magic here, nailing every little gesture and subtle change of tone.

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When Kumiko tells Reina she seems more grown up “inside and outside”, it also self-motivates her to try to emulate Reina, by following through on her promise to Nozomi to confront Asuka and get some answers. It’s not going to be easy, or likely pleasant—Asuka’s a damn hard nut to crack, and loves to cut conversations short with curt responses—but I look forward to seeing if Kumiko can achieve her goal.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 07

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Now that he’s found his rakugo, Kikuhiko works like man possessed – or a man who thinks his success will be snatched away if he rests for a moment. He has increasingly less patience with Sukeroku’s easygoing lifestyle (though continues to spend the lion’s share of his free time with him, and seems to enjoy it).

As for poor Miyokichi, every time Kiku is with her he only seems halfway there and in a hurry to get away. It’s not that he dislikes her, per se, just that for all the stories related to romance he knows, he may not realize he’s in the middle of one, and he’s not pulling his weight. Or maybe he’s well aware of Miyokichi’s intentions, and simply can’t devote any time or thought to them, so caught up in his rakugo.

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Of one thing I am certain: Kiku doesn’t notice the hypocrisy he exhibits in spending so much time with Sukeroku (while complaining that he can’t stand him the whole time) while insisting he has no time for Miyokichi. This results in a confrontation when Kiku puts Sukeroku to sleep in his usual way, and Miyo finds Sukeroku’s head in Kiku’s lap.

It’s intolerable to her that these two are so deeply, effortlessly close, but such are brothers. Even if they’re nothing alike, they’re also everything alike in that they need and feed off one another. They are family; she isn’t, and she just isn’t finding any kind of success in squeezing her way into Kiku’s heart or his life.

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Yakumo’s dedication to his professional and artistic success and his unconscious monopolization by Sukeroku is isolating him from everything else out there in life. When his master chooses him and not Sukeroku to accompany him on a sprawling tour, he becomes singularly focused on that. Miyokichi, desperate for his company, asks him to come whenever he can.

Her intense frustration and his cold reaction causes her to break into tears, causing her geisha makeup to run. I’ll admit, I wanted to punch Kiku right in his foxy face for so treating such a beautiful, complex creature with such frosty disdain.

This is who he is, who he’s always been, and shameful displays such as this certainly help his future ward’s case that he’s a prickly, self-involved wretch of a man, undeserving of Miyokichi’s tender love. But there’s a difference between being this way on purpose and not knowing any other way to be.

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Sure enough, the Kiku we see hanging out with an already-drunk Sukeroku probably doesn’t know how cruel he’s being to Miyokichi, who waits all night and probably many nights for him to come, when in fact he’ll be away for a long time. He’s so excited for his trip and pleased that the master chose him, nothing else matters.

Well, not nothing. At the end of the day, Kiku cares for his brother, and clearly worries about what will happen if he’s gone. Without him there to scold him about dressing better and eating solid food and bathing and cleaning up the place, Sukeroku will go full feral on him.

Kiku promises he’ll join Sukeroku in an independent two-man show that will capitalize on their newfound popularity. But that will be later rather than sooner. Deferred, just like his next meeting with Miyokichi, in favor of further aggrandizing himself.

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