Sousei no Onmyouji – 23

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Since Rokuro and Benio are the only ones who have been proven to be able to close dragon spots, they quickly find their services are in high demand. Hopping aboard a Mini-based Kinao-possessed RV, they head to Shinshuchuoshi, the next town choked by miasma and threatened by a spot.

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There, they meet the upbeat casual commander Kiyomi (who seems way too young to have such big kids, but whatevs) and Kumashiro, who has never met nor knows anything about Benio, but instantly condemns her as the sister of a traitor.

One of the high points of this episode is Benio assuring an angered Rokuro that as long as he knows the truth, she’ll be just fine. Sae is also around, the mystery about who or what she is continuing to be dangled around us like a cat toy.

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Shinshuchuoshi’s Dragon Spot has also resulted in a Basara showing up to start some shit; unlike Suzu, Moro doesn’t merely punish a guy who richly deserves it but gives scores of townsfolk a petrifying kiss of death.

Moro almost gets Kumashiro too, but Benio saves him, because she doesn’t need a reason to save lives. Maybe be a little nicer to her from now on, yeah Kuma-chan?

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Since she’s apparently safest by Rokuro and Benio’s side, Sae…spends a good deal of time away from said sides, but doesn’t come to any harm. In fact, the worst thing that happens to her is that she gets upset when Benio yells at her when she shows up in the battle zone.

The thing is, Sae has a backup talisman with her that helps them close the Dragon Spot, just before Moro retreats, so Sae is the heroine of the day. Benio later apologize and thanks Sae, but we’re no closer to learning what Sae’s freakin’ deal is, which is getting a bit frustrating.

That building frustration, the lack of any thrills or surprises, and animation that seemed a bit worse than usual, results in an overall MEH outing. On to the next Dragon Spot-afflicted town, I suppose.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 22

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This episode still had that zany fun factor that made it watchable, and it certainly seems to be (very gradually) setting up the next threats and opponents Roku, Benio & Co. will be up against.

But between the miasma, news of a “Dragon Spot” appearing, checking in on Arima and the 12 Guardians for a hot second, the appearance of two more bad guys—one of whom doesn’t speak and the other who’s just…bizarre—and the continued, but now less urgent mystery of who (or what) Sae is, this episode was also, at times, a bit of a disorganized mess.

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We meet our second Basara, Suzu, when she confronts a guy who shoved his lover into a group of kegare so he could get away. Man of the Year over here! We get it, SnO, the norms of this show are assholes. But Suzu, like Kamui, show’s she’s not just straight-up evil, so much as ravenously curious and unhinged, starting all of her lines in a measured, proper manner, then finishing them with a “wilder” dialect.

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But then…what is with all the theatricality? Was she once a human idol who turned into a Basara, I wonder? Whatever the case, she’s committed expressing herself; I admire that. Just as I continue to admire Mayura and her white hot pants participating in the battle instead of just cowering and waiting for rescue, which…aw dammit, she just cowered and waited for rescue…which comes not from Roku or Benio but Suzu.

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Upon experiencing Suzu’s strong, unique personality, Rokuro and Benio wear priceless expressions of bewilderment. Fortunately for them, Suzu isn’t interested in killing them or stirring up any trouble, only to observe and learn about them. Then yes, probably kill them.

After Suzu’s odd “hi!…bye!” encounter, the exorcists (wait, I thought Seigen couldn’t be an exorcist anymore. Which is it?) get to the matter at hand: sealing the “Dragon Spot” that’s basically a festering hole between this world and Magano.

Once Roku and Benio use Resonance, sealing the hole is a breeze, but the point is, it’s not the last one, and who knows where the next one(s) will show up, or when. Probably soon, and in the vicinity of innocent people. Plus some jerks, like that girlfriend-pushing guy.

Also, Sae was in the episode! Hi Sae! She’s cute…but yeah, still don’t know what’s up with her.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 21

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After the life-changing ordeal that was the battle with Yuto, and Rokuro’s gift of new hairpins for Benio, it was as good a time as any for this 50-episode series to have a time jump. It’s been two years: Mayura is now an exorcist-in-training, donning hot pants and being clumsy; Ryogo and Haruka continue to be a couple, and Roku and Benio are now a reliable and staggeringly effective duo.

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The time jump also means the love triangle is now in high school. Mayura and Benio learn that Rokuro has become pretty cool guy, and it’s nice to see a character who was so flawed and incomplete come more into his own, much like Ushio in Ushio to Tora.

Old crushes who rejected him are now smitten, and Mayura wants Benio to piss or get off the pot with regards to acting on whatever feelings she has for the guy. She has, after all, had the advantage of living and working with him for over two years. Also good to see Mayura won’t be giving up until the fat lady sings (or the Miko is born).

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Roku isn’t the only one who’s grown, as Benio is a lot more comfortable at least bringing up the possibility of conceiving a child with Rokuro…’way way way down the road’. Furthermore, she’s open about wanting to cherish the sentiment of that future. The two years they’ve spent together have had a profound effect.

This is the kind of long-game gradual development a long show like SnO can bear. There may have just been a two-year shift forwards, but nothing that we see her is out of the blue, but informed by everything that’s come before. Oh, and Han Megumi, so awkward as Five, was born to voice Benio, as her pipes provide a great balance of toughness, forthrightness, and vulnerability.

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As fate would have it, the couple gets a kid and the opportunity to train as parents far far far earlier than they expected, when after a routine exorcism trip to Magano, the gang finds a tiny young girl in the middle of a ruined playground, surrounded by an ethereal light.

Just like that, we get a little Amaama in our Sousei. The little girl mostly acts like a little girl: mimicking everyone and not giving clear answers. Where she isn’t like an ordinary little girl is her ability to quickly absorb and apply information.

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Rokuro takes an instant shine to “Sae”, as he deicides to call her when she points to those particular sounds on newspapers. Benio, less so, but she proves a lot better with the kid than she initially gives herself credit for.

Considering their personalities, Roku was always going to be better with the kid (as he’s more of a kid himself), but if there’s one person who appreciates Benio’s Ohagi-man, it’s Sae.

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But yeah, Sae is suspiciously smart, reading whole books, scaling up and building a cardboard dinosaur skeleton, and even picking up a bit of English. She’s also suspicious because of where she came from (Magano), how Seigen looked at her (with a stink-eye), and what’s going on around her (a worsening epidemic of some kind of fog-like infection).

The 12 Guardians are also on their guard due to the possibility someone named Kasukami (said with the same dread as “Voldemort”) is gathering Basara to wreak havoc. Is Sae really Kasukami in mini-configuration? Is she a Basara, like Kamui? A very full and enjoyable episode leaves us to ponder these possibilities. A strong start to the next chapter for the Twin Star Exorcists.

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GOD EATER – 10

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GOD EATER is back. Repeat: GOD EATER is BACK. And just when I was about to give up hope. Turns out they waited until the point in the season when the rest of the Winter shows were in their final quarter, either because they needed more time or because they didn’t want this show to end when everything else was at episode 4 or 5.

You know what else? My patience was handsomely rewarded. This was the best episode of GOD EATER (and one of the best of the entire Winter) yet, using Lenka’s ordeal with adjusting to a new God Arc as the framing device for a heretofore untold story of Lenka’s childhood, starting with when he was found in the mud by a kind family who tested negative for entry into Fenrir.

More than a story, it is an often horrifically heartbreaking tragedy that is epic in scale, stretching across the fifteen years that precede the show’s present day, and being far more emotionally powerful than any of the black-and-white flashbacks that came before.

A lot of this episode’s power comes from our amassed knowledge of the previous nine. And yet, this could very well have been the first episode of GOD EATER—or even a completely standalone short film—and still been effective.

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After Lenka was rescued and named by his new big sister Iroha, his family lived in a shanty town living off rations and constantly at risk of Aragami attacks. When his mother develops a cough and becomes bedridden, he and his sister strike out with other town members to find medicine, but are ambushed.

Lenka, who wants to become strong enough to protect everyone, hits an Aragami with a stick, but it has no effect. Still, he’s bailed out by a God Eater – Lindow, specifically. Lenka is both jealous of Iroha’s attention towards Lindow, and of Lindow’s strength to protect. Lenka’s father doesn’t like the Fenrir system in which “people choose people” and leave others to die due to limited resources, but that’s exactly what happens in the shanty town as well.

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When Lenka grows ill and there’s only one dose of medicine, Lenka’s mother demands it be used on him, for he is the future. That’s confirmed when they test him for the first time and he reads positive, making his dream to become strong a more real possibility. It’s Iroha who injects the drugs, as both she and their father weep uncontrollably over tacitly condemning their mother to die. They bury her not long after.

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A few years pass, and Lenka is on the cusp of fifteen, the age when he can join Fenrir. His older sister has also grown more beautiful, and still quite close and protective of her brother. But she’s also mature enough to slap Lenka when, after an Aragami attack, their father is trapped under wreckage. All they can do is escape on a motorbike their father prepared for such an eventuality. Like his mother, Lenka’s father died so that he could live.

But while escaping the Aragami on the bike, one manages to scratch Iroha’s leg. It doesn’t look that bad, but the wound bleeds and festers, and before long, she can no longer walk (an analog to a similar desperate journey he’ll go on with Alisa later on). Once they check the wound and it’s riddled with maggots, once more a choice must be made.

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Lenka can’t make that choice—Iroha is all he has left—so she chooses for him, by slitting her own throat, forcing him to leave her. Before they part, she tells him to go to Fenrir, because he tested positive, and always was positive. That didn’t do the family any good, however, because they weren’t related by blood. But no matter how Fenrir cruelly defines it, Iroha always considered Lenka her brother – she even named him, because like a lotus, they found him in the mud, where lotuses bloom.

To twist the proverbial knife once more, before and then in the process of being devoured by Aragami, Iroha briefly envisions the world she always dreamed of, a beautiful pastoral paradise where plants have returned, and where she’ll be together with her dear brother forever. She looks like a Studio Ghibli character in this fantasy, before a devastating smash cut to her being eaten. No point in trying to hold back the tears here; this was utterly dejecting. Rest in peace, Iroha.

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The Utsugi family, then, sacrificed themselves one after another to save a boy who wasn’t even related to them by blood. But if any of the three of them, including Iroha, had to do it all over again, I doubt they’d change a thing. The choices they made led to Lenka being in the position to “overturn” the world they had no power to change.

When Lenka stops re-living the memories of losing his family members one by one over the course of his life, he awakens to find the adjustments for his new God Arc are complete. All that’s left is to re-declare what he means to do with his newly-resotred (and likely greatly increased) power: to kill Aragami. But also, to be someone whom people can entrust their hope for a better world, the way his family was for him.

GOD EATER is back; with brutal, gorgeous, heart-rending, unyielding authority. Episode 11 has its work cut out for it.

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