3-gatsu no Lion – 34

Despite all of the good vibes sent Hina’s way by her sisters, her grandpa, and of courses, Rei, the bullying is still going on, and it has cast a pall of black, miasma-like mist over the entire classroom and school. Takagi Megumi won’t stop stirring the shit, and Hina won’t stop bravely confronting it head-on. Both can probably keep the battle going indefinitely, but their teacher has had enough.

This isn’t the first time her class has been thrown into shadow and chaos by one shit-stirrer and one defiant victim, and the stress that comes from her helplessness to ever resolve such situations, combined with the dread that comes with the certainty it will happen again, proves too much for the poor woman, who unleashes a desperate rant before passing out.

Now that Takagi has not only sent a victim off, but the supposed authority figure as well, one would think she’s “winning” this particular war. But whether she actually really wants this to go on or not, she seems almost as powerless to stop this as her victims. That makes whatever victory that might come feel not only hollow, but Pyrrhic.

This is some Scorched Earth-kinda shit going own, so who better to deal with averting apocalypse than Ikari Gendo himself? Just kidding; a 3GL-Eva crossover would be too weird (though not altogether unwelcome!) But the ruined teacher’s temporary replacement Mr. Kokobu is voiced by the same guy, doing a more causal performance more indicative of Zaraki Kenpachi.

Kokobu comes in not only knowing pretty much exactly what’s going on, but on whom to pin the blame. He laments that a class so close to high school entrance exams must be disrupted by a faculty shake-up, but also says, basically, “you little shits have no one to blame for not making a peep when one of their classmates had to change schools because of the bullying.”

And of course, he’s right. Takagi and Hina aren’t as powerful as a classroom united against bullying and conflict. But Takagi has spent so much time and effort neutralizing them with threats of retribution that they’ve kept quiet all this time. But it’s not like I expect the class to en masse decide to take a stand.

The overarching problem is that no one is in a situation they can control or pull themselves out of alone. It will take a unity of will and intent, and Kokobu likely hopes the unpleasantness of the situation to date will start bringing this mess to an end.

The last thing Hina wanted to do was bring her sister Akari into this, but that’s what has to happen, and Akari doesn’t shrink before the task at hand, nor does she hesitate to spoil Hina with some of her favorite foods (some kind of french toast drink and a beef croquette) on the eve of their parent-teacher conference.

Akari even fends off Grandpa, who has an important sweets order to take care of, so seriously does she take her promise to her dying mother that she’d take care of Hina and Momo. That she made this promise in her uniform, showing she’s still a child herself, makes it the dream much more heartbreaking.

It’s a dream that keeps Akari up late, so even if she had a particular game plan against the eventuality of encountering Takagi’s formidable mom in the hall (and she does not), she wouldn’t be at 100% to execute that plan.

Any thoughts of Takagi losing her hold on the class anytime soon are dashed when two of the classmates lure Mr. Kokobu away with a lie about a broken window, leaving the two students and their guardians alone together. Takagi’s mom immediately sets to work telling Akari to sort Hina out, and Akari falls all too easily into a trap where the mom asks her for proof of her daughter’s malfeasance, for which there is only Hina’s word.

Unaccustomed to such aggressive confrontation, overwhelmed by the promise she made to her mom, and fatigued from last night’s lack of sleep, Akari quickly falters, but before Mrs. Takagi can finish her, Kokobu returns, and it is Hina who takes Akari’s hand and sends her of to calm her down, not the other way around.

In this horribly shitty situation, Hina maintains her composure and is able to stand and endure the black mist. In the nurse’s office, she vows, like a shounen hero, that she’ll survive and graduate, she wins, so she’s not going to spend a second of her life worrying about the words and actions of c-words like Takagi again. Even if that’s better said than done, Akari is heartened.

Meanwhile, Kokobu calmly listens to Takagi’s Mom’s grievances, but cannot accept them without proof Hina is lying (which she obviously isn’t). The burden of proof both Takagi and her Mom were touting works both ways, and without the opportunity to pawn all the shit her daughter stirred up on to someone else, neither are ever going to be happy about the situation any more than Hina and Akari.

That means we have something of a stalemate.  Hopefully the escalation has been halted, the miasma somewhat cleared, and that with Kokobu’s guidance, the possibility of productive peace talks isn’t as remote as it once was.

3GL always seems to know when I’m hankering for a Kawamoto-heavy episode, and this one pretty one delivered everything I could have hoped for, with phenomenal performances by Kayano Ai and Hanazawa Kana and  a sweet guest appearance by the always authoritative Fumihiko Tachiki— (not to mention some nice work from Yuuki Aoi as Takagi).

The episode leans on the 3GL habit of using stark contrasts in light, dark, water, and color as the mood of the episode changes. We also get a new OP sung by Unison Square Garden and a sensational new ED featuring “I Am Standing” by Ruann. Forget March, it’s January that comes in like a lion with this, probably the best episode yet of 3GL’s second season.

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 – 06

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Who’s cuter than Mamushi? LIL’ MAMUSHI! XD

As soon as we were in flashback mode with Mamushi, I knew Ao no Exorcist had a better story to tell than her turn to the dark side and ultimate demise. It was also an early indicator I was in for a good episode, and this turned out to be the best Ao 2 to date. For once, I wasn’t feeling impatient or shortchanged during the credits. Instead, I was pumped up.

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Whether intentional or not, the backstory of Master Tatsuma meeting Fujimoto, and the resulting expanding of his world (and evolution of his beliefs) is, at least so far, the best thing to come out of this Ao 2. I’d say it’s done Rin & Co. a disservice by sidelining and outshining them, if it wasn’t such a good backstory.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people.

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Despite his bluster and stated plans to kill a kid with the Koma Sword, Fujimoto spends enough time with Fujimoto to know he won’t actually kill the kid he speaks of (the, ahem, spawn of satan, as it turns out). And Tatsuma is done praying to a sword he knows is empty, having unsheathed it as a curious youth.

By being exposed to Fujimoto, Tatsuma learns there may be a better way to protect his people other than strict, at times self-destructive orthodoxy. So ever since his father died and passed on the ultimate secret of the Myoda sect to him, he’s been looking for a way to exit the sect from its 150-year obligation.

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To Mamushi’s surprise, that obligation turns out to be holding the shriveled body of the Impure King, employing the power fire demon Karura and removing the King’s eyes to keep him in a dormant state. Karura not only demands but draws its power from the secrets of men—the more and bigger the better.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people. Those secrets have done nothing but allow the Myoda to keep, essentially, a nuke in their sub-basement.

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Mamushi, who is also determined to protect her people, is quickly betrayed by her former teacher when he takes the eye she was carrying and re-awakens the Impure King himself, Akira-like in form and expanding to ginormous size.

The twist is that the titular Fujouou isn’t even Todou’s target. He only awakened the King to force Suguro Tatsuma out and compel him to summon Todou’s true target: Karura, whom Todou devours and from whom he gains youth and vigor.

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Todou is now more powerful than ever, but to my relief, Mamushi is no longer his acolyte, now that she knows their interests don’t align at all. Before Karura is taken from him (and before he’s stabbed through the throat) Tatsuma manages to seal the Impure King with a powerful spell. But using that spell means he can no longer defeat him.

He entrusts that task, in his hastily-scrawled letter, to Rin, knowing it’s an unenviable task to be saddled with, and indeed that it could result in Rin’s death, either by failing to take down the King or by being executed by the authorities for using his blue flames. Of course, we all know Rin isn’t just going to sit back and save himself.

Tatsuma saw a good man in Fujomoto, and clearly saw a good young man in Rin. I doubt Rin will let him down.

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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 – 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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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 23

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In the alleged second-to-last episode of Asterisk War (at least of its second season), Julis storms out of a lot of rooms. She feels overprotected and unconcerned with threats like Gustave Marlowe, confident she and her friends can take care of themselves.

However, whether she likes it or not, her Festa victory has skyrocketed her “value” to the IEF. When Jolbert asks if she’ll at least consent to becoming engaged to Ayato (so the IEF won’t marry her off to someone worse), and asks her not to participate in Gryps Festa (lest IEF put her on the throne, where she’ll suffer in frustration and futility).

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Meanwhile, Claudia continues her trend of talking in dark rooms, this time to Yabuki, who’s involved in a lot more than we ever get to see. While it sometimes results in things getting fairly jumbled up, I do appreciate that Ayato and Julis aren’t in the center of everything, and like us, aren’t aware of everything going on just beyond their periphery.

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Julis goes to her orphanage to cool down, and Sister Therese and the nuns seem like warm and pleasant folk. But when Julis’ long-lost friend comes up, she has to storm off again, only to find that friend—or whatever it is she’s become—driving past in a limo.

First of all, coincidence much? Secondly, shouldn’t a fancy limo like that have tinting that would keep people from seeing who’s inside? Telephones project little “Sound Only” holograms in the air; you’d think this world would have window tinting down.

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With that somewhat sudden and clunky coincidence, Julis runs after the limo, ending up in the snowy mountains, and Ayato follows her because, well, what else is he going to do? She manages to find her quarry: a bored-yet-imperious white-haired girl named Ophelia, who quickly demonstrates that neither Julis or Ayato are any match for her.

Then Gustave, the assassin from last week, shows up, asks Ophelia if he can kill the two, Dirk calls and summons her home, and she splits, leaving a winded Ayato to juggle protecting an out-cold Julis and fighting not just a two-headed dog, but a three-headed dog as well! Talk about a weird, random predicament.

Claudia ends up rescuing Ayato and Julis and forcing Gustave to withdraw, but the battle lines have been drawn. Gustave will be back, and no doubt Julis will keep going after her former friend…if that’s indeed who she is. It’s looking more and more like we’re getting a third set of twelve eps (at least): there are simply too many balls in the air to catch them all next week.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 02

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Preparations for and the start of Nanami’s trip to Izumo for the Divine Assembly provide plenty of fodder for comedy and intrigue alike, kicking me back into that “Oh yeah, that’s why I liked this show so much!” gear that I wasn’t in last week.

Like Tomoe pretending it’s a chore to help Nanami with her necklace, yet jealously defending the duty when Mamoru takes human form (“grade school size” as Nanami cheerfully puts it) and offers to do it for her. Or Tomoe and Mizuki bickering to the point Nanami gets smacked in the head with some random wooden box.

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She leaves the two to play a game of shogi (a game neither has ever played) to determine who will accompany her to Izumo as she runs errands with Mamoru. She’s jumped by a host of former gods who warn her not to go, but she stands her ground. When a human male in the park gets injured, she uses Mamoru to dispatch the baddies, but the dude is more annoyed at her than anything else, then tries to steal a kiss, forcing Nanami into swift retreat.

That dude turns out to be more than just a random guy, but a god in human form who is scheming to leave it so he can once again rule the world (or something). Someone to watch out for later, to be sure.

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That dude turns out to be more than just a random guy, but a god in human form who is scheming to leave it so he can once again rule the world (or something). Back home, Tomoe beats Mizuki, but Nanami picks Mizuki to go with her anyway, fearful that if the other gods pick on him or her, things could turn ugly.

Tomoe must pose as Nanami while she’s gone, and while her classmates are fooled he’s her, they feel his nasty aura, one of the details I forgot from last season, but now that my memory has been jogged, I remember how much I liked that fact. Body-swaps done right, are the best.

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Of course, we don’t see much of that at all, because the focus here is Nanami. Mizuki promptly drops her on the way to the Grand Shrine, and she wakes up without Mamoru or her bag in front of a huge procession of gods.

The only one who even speaks directly to her is the war god, but when she can’t impress him, he zooms off with the others, warning her not to speak to him, or anyone else. It’s hardly a warm welcome for lil’ Nanami, but to her credit she sounds super-serious when explaining her gift for white talismans.

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With Mizuki stuck at the gate with a by-the-book guardsrabbit, Nanami is alone, and soon gets lost in the strange space between the world of the living and the divine. Even her guiding flame goes out, she seems on the edge of panic, but a glowing butterfly god leads her the right way.

That’s not all he does: Nanami was unable to give the war god a straight answer about her special skill, but the butterfly guy knows what it is: among all the myriad gods, she’s the only one who can see and feel with the eyes and heart of a human. That makes her just as special and valuable as all of them, and it’s something she should carry with pride.

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Buoyed by those kinds words of the nameless butterfly, Nanami enters the assembly hall with her head held high and with big, pretty brown eyes unclouded. Her reception is cool, save the assembly’s host, who “chooses” her on the spot. Nanami wondered what kind of god lived in such a grand shrine; it’s looking like he’s some kind of casanova.

While last week was pleasant and charming enough, it didn’t really enchant me; this episode remedied that by stripping Nanami of her protection and plunging her deeper than ever into the surreal realm of the divine, while reinforcing her worth and right to stand among them. Intolerant gods underestimate this high school girl at their peril!

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