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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Sousei no Onmyouji – 01 (First Impressions)

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Within its first two minutes, SnO leaps from a wounded boy apologizing to a burning pile of children-corpses, to a young girl taking a bath while a Ranma 1/2 style ‘micro old woman’ talks to her about foreboding exorcist politics, to an over the top confession/rejection scene on a school playground, which ends with Rokuro running head-first into boobs.

SnO is the definition of jarring, awkwardly composed, tone deaf anime.

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Even the character name text boxes are over active—they literally pulse into life, zoom the camera, wiggle, and morph out. It’s an interesting play on the convention of having characters named graphically and avoids expositional dialog but it feels out of place during the setup scenes.

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What’s the gist? Rokuro was a super prodigy exorcist but he lost a lot of friends in a monster fight gone wrong and now he refuses to be an exorcist. Benio has been the best of the best in her small world outside Tokyo, where she’s been summoned for some meeting.

Several monster fights ensure, first at a train, then when kids are stolen by the river. Benio is super good but not good enough to beat the final boss, which Rokuro obviously beats with one punch, a bunch of angst, and roll credits.

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The fighting is stylish and character designs are okay, if not slightly over designed and slightly generic. The way the monsters laugh and occasionally eat each other is pretty rocking too.

But SnO’s real hindrance is Rokuro & Benio: his obnoxious, girl crazy, ‘tragically wounded’ archetype isn’t likable and her stoic yet selfish, self-indulgent superiority complex isn’t likable either.

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In short, SnO is paint-by-numbers anime. It’s well-built visually, it keeps the T&A relatively tame, and its easy to follow. But you’ve seen the show before and can predict almost every line of dialog as it comes—you could even snap your fingers on cue for the boss to arrive or Benio to bump into Rokuro for the first time or for Rokuro to win the day and say his pithy ending line.

If that’s good enough, that’s all it has to offer.

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