Sousei no Onmyouji – 14

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After last week’s big battle and catharsis, we were due for a break at the show’s midpoint. SnO tries to make the recapping medicine go down easier by surrounding it with Tanabata festivities, but they only comprise about half of the episode, making this a half-recap requiring lots of fast-forwarding.

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The Tanabata content also rehashes Rokuro’s triangle with Benio and Mayura, but there just hasn’t been enough of Mayura for me to harbor any hope whatsoever that Mayura will have any success in that arena, despite the wish on the back of her tanzaku.

As for “Ohagi-Man”, the bit is funny at first (especially Rokuro’s running commentary), but grows repetitive fast. Checking in on the various adults guiding Rokuro and Benio doesn’t really result in any new insights; they’re just here to recap what’s happened.

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The episode ends on a nice note, with both Rokuro and Benio, having procrastinated what to wish for all night, gaze up at Altair and Vega, and both privately wish for the same thing: to become stronger with one another.

It seems they will certainly have to become stronger, with many foes and battles looming on the horizon. But whether they’ll ever become a true couple capable of producing a child—the Miko—is not addressed here.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 09

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At the end of last week, Rokuro and Benio’s slowly burgeoning friendship looked to be in absolute tatters with the news that Rokuro indeed killed everyone at Hinatsuki Dorm, including her twin brother Ijika Yuto.

It seems like the only thing that can turn things around is if Yuto were to suddenly show up, not only not dead, but so frikking evil that Benio would be left wondering how the hell she ever cared for him in the first place.

Well…that’s pretty much exactly what happens! Though I’m sure why Yuto is showing up right here and now just as Seigen is in the middle of a story that was painting Rokuro in such a bad light, only to go “that’s not the whole story!”…except to put poor Benio through the emotional wringer.

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And speaking of emotional wringers, Rokuro certainly went through one two years ago. The night of the Hinatsuki massacre, when Yuto shows his true colors and turns all his fellow trainee exorcists into Kegare, is straight out of a horror film, complete with drab palette and grisly deaths of cute girls.

Frankly, I don’t see what Rokuro could have done in this situation. As Seigen states with certainty, the only thing for a person who’s been corrupted by Kegare is to give them a quick death before they can commit any atrocities that further mar your memory of them.

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Yuto speaks of these times with such detachment and nonchalance, grinning his stupid evil grin the whole time, to the point that Rokuro simply can’t take anymore, arms up, and starts attacking him.

A stunned Benio looks on but sees that Rokuro is only doing damage to himself (Yuto, who has a blue gauntlet to Roku’s red, parries every strike with the flick of a finger), so she stops the fight, taking a hit that Rokuro can’t hold back in time.

Then Yuto…kinda calls it a day and fucks off, hoping Rokuro will “entertain” him better next time.

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When Rokuro and Benio emerge from Magano and Seigen takes Mayura home, Benio can’t think to do anything but prostrate herself before Rokuro and ask that he forgive her for all of the pain and grief and trauma her brother caused.

Rokuro is stunned by this sight, and repeatedly tells Benio to raise her head; they were both hoodwinked by the little blue-haired bastard, all their lives, and if anything, they share the blame for being ignorant to the evil within him.

Still, I think they’re being a bit hard on themselves. These two strike me as too young to feel responsible for what happened years ago when they were still younger and less attuned to the world, let alone their own selves.

I liked their commitment to becoming stronger together at the end, but Yuto is a brutally dull and tired manic villain archetype, and a great deal of the episode was merely exposition and reaction shots.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 08

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As expected, Mayura confronts Rokuro and Benio over their sudden change in living arrangements. What I didn’t expect is that the episode didn’t go for goofy comedy in the sparring between the girls. Instead, they represent two different philosophies of life.

Mayura thinks Rokuro’s suffered enough already; Benio respects his abilities and believes he’s obligated to use them, and Rokuro, when pressed, sides with Benio, believing the benefits of being an exorcist outweighs any personal costs.

While Mayura rushes out, believing she’s been rejected all over again, the reality is both she and Benio make good points.

As for Rokuro failing to notice her feelings, well girl, that’s because you have to tell him, in no uncertain terms, about those feelings, while he has your undivided attention. Mayura should know this having spent most of her life by Rokuro’s side.

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While storming out, however, Mayura leaves her good luck charm behind, which is actually a legit charm that hides her spiritual power from hungry Kegare. Considering how important it is, I can’t imagine how she could have misplaced it so easily, unless she’s unaware of how important it is to her safety.

In any case, she gets captured and yes, tentacled, by a nasty little Kegare that becomes a nasty BIG Kegare, chortling the whole time. Of course, I never thought for a second Mayura was going to buy it (as gutsy a move as that would’ve been), and right on cue Rokuro swoops in to save her, then swears to protect her no matter what.

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Losing Mayura would have been a brutal blow to a kid who’s already received a few, but we simply didn’t know the extent of the trauma in his past…until this week, when his former master (and Mayura’s Dad!) Seigen appears to clean up Rokuro’s mess, run him down a bit, and challenge him to a duel in which he must exhibit intent to kill; a tall order for someone who’s still getting back on his exorcist feet.

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We cut away from the reunion of master and student in Magano numerous times to check in with the guys at the dorm, who prove far more useful at asking questions that lead to extensive (but unfortunately inartful) info-dumping by Jissama (Seigen’s father-in-law).

The final third of the episode suffers from being bogged down in all this exposition, but things do pay off a bit at the end, if you were someone who wanted a fresh wedge between Rokuro and Benio (for the record, I’m not that someone).

Benio learns the tragedy that killed numerous promising students at the Hinatsuki dorm was not the result of a Kegare attack, but the result of Rokuro killing them, the victim of something called “Kegare corruption.”

Since Benio’s whole reason for being is to destroy the Kegare who took away her family, learning Rokuro is to blame for the tragedy, this is definitely an, er…setback for the future parents of the Miko.

Of course, the jury’s still out about whether Rokuro chose to go berserk or if it was something outside his control—I’m guessing the latter—I’m still not convinced Benio’s twin brother is dead. Let the kid explain, Benio! Well, if he’s even willing or able to.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 07

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This episode’s Arima-heavy early scenes (and why does every show need someone dressed like a proper English lady having tea?) were a little troublesome, but I liked the end result, as well as his very serious underlying goal: he wants to bring about the prophecy of the Miko; to do that, he needs to bring Rokuro and Benio together.

So this week, the two would-be lovebirds graduate from being two roommates in a dorm of many to two occupants of palatial villa, in order to grow closer to each other. Thus continues SnO’s emphasis on character over plot or action (though the short bit of action still packs a punch)—something I’m on board with, because I happen to like both leads.

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A big part of why I like them is that while they do spar a lot of the time, they also spend a fair amount of time not sparring. They also can suck it up and work together when they have to, and the floors of their two once-separate bedrooms literally turn on an incline and create a sidescroller-style physical challenge, the two know they need each other, and as they figure out how to overcome the various obstacles involved, they find themselves thinking alike more often than not.

A challenge that could have been sigh-worthy in less careful hands also adds to the enjoyment and complexity of their trial, as Benio just happens to be going commando today on account of her panties being in the wash. This means she has to be careful what happens with her skirt, and Rokuro has to be careful where he’s looking. But when he accidentally sees something, she doesn’t go berserk and beat the shit out of him. They simply deal with it, in a reasonable fashion.

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Indeed, Arima meant for this trial to bring the two closer together in several ways, and when they do, Rokuro and Benio are what you’d expect two kids to be: embarrassed, a little excited, but also respectful. Rokuro doesn’t try to sneak another look, and Benio doesn’t hold it against him when gravity causes him to fall on her.

Because they work together, they get out of the combined room without too much trouble, and when they face another trial in the air ducts in the form of a question involving numbers of hiragana and strokes, the two put their brains together again to come up with the correct answer.

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It’s a good job they do clear the trial as quickly as they do, because their “exorcist” pals need bailing out once again. Seriously, is there ever going to be an episode where these guys can handle a Kegare on their own? Until they do, I’m putting “exorcist” in quotes when referring to them.

Rokruo and Benio work together again to bring down the giant mantis-like beast, but Benio starts to panic when she realizes her hair tie is gone, one of the two her brother gave her. Rokuro stops her desperate search and takes her back to the villa, where he finds the tie in the air duct (and I noticed the glint when they fell out of it the first time, a neat little visual detail that went unexplained at the time).

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The day over, the two have their baths (ladies first, says Rokuro, but again, no funny business with peeping), and prepare to go their respective, once-again separate rooms to turn in. But before that, Rokuro asks about Benio’s brother. She wonders why, but the amount of importance she placed on her hair tie made him curious.

She sits down with him and talks about her beloved twin brother, from whom she was separated and believes to be dead—though I think we might have caught a glimpse of him a couple episodes back. Maybe if he reappears, he’ll be Benio’s version of Mayura?

Rokuro’s desire to learn more about Benio means he’s starting to care about her, just as Benio is starting to care about Rokuro when she tells him to make sure to brush his teeth, and assures him that even if he’s not the heir to a great family, his skills are remarkable…even if he’s usually “mostly useless.”

That last jab that leads to bickering at the end wasn’t all that necessary, but it’s clear she’s half-joking, and just giving Rokuro shit. If she didn’t like or care about him, she probably wouldn’t bother. As goofy and insufferable as Arima is, he may be on to something here.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 06

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After spending much of the show on the sidelines (other than an episode alone with Rokuro that established their dynamic), Mayura officially crosses over into the Benio side of Rokuro’s life, but what’s interesting is that it happens quite by accident. Mayura isn’t prying into Rokuro’s life; she merely believes Benio is skipping out on school to hang out with delinquents.

Mayura’s vivid imagination is a constant source of amusement this week, but even more appealing is the fact she simply wants to be friends with Benio, in hope of steering her away from bad seeds; to “show her the light”, so to speak.

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Benio isn’t one for friends. She’s sworn them off as a waste of time; time that is better spent training to become the strongest exorcist. And yet…she’s witnessed firsthand the strength Rokuro is capable of…and HE certainly seems to have friends, like the other, hapless dorm-mates.

When Ryogo is back at nearly 100%, he casually mentions that it sure would be nice if someone other than Benio would accompany them on their routine trips to Magano to exorcise Kegare. Rokuro gets the hint, but is also interested, in his tsundere way, in lending a hand anyway.

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Ryougo requests Benio sit out a mission or two so he can determine how serious Rokuro is, and she does…but not without a degree of resentment: she’s serious too, dagnabbit!

It’s good then, that Mayura catches up to her while on a run (a scene reminiscent of the beginning of Winter Soldier), and provides a destraction Benio didn’t expect, but still welcomes, especially in the form of quality ohagi. I don’t know what’s more adorable: Benio’s look of blissful satisfaction, or Mayura waiting for Benio’s stoic armor to crack.

Shogo and the other two exorcists again prove that with Kegare increasing in number and strength, they simply can’t go to Magano without either Rokuro or Benio—preferably both—to bail them out. They only have Rokuro at first, but he does a fine job breaking out his demon arm to dispatch a particularly tough boss.

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I worried when a tear between reality and Magano opened in the very restaurant where Benio and Mayura were eating, but Benio slips in, takes care of business, and comes back out without any harm to either girl. Benio fully expected to return to find Mayura had run off, fearful of the supernatural phenomenon…

…Only she didn’t. Mayura rushes to Benio’s arms the second she reappears, far more concerned with her well-being than her own. Benio realizes: this is what it means to be a friend: even if Mayura couldn’t do anything, she wasn’t just going to leave Benio. That feels good, and it’s good to see Benio give in and reciprocate the hug.

Of course, in explaining how she knows about exorcists and isn’t scared of this kind of stuff while walking Benio home, Mayura discovers that her beloved Rokuro has been living with Benio all this time. Naturally, Mayura seems to blame Rokuro and only Rokuro for this situation, but while she’s angry now I’m sure she’ll listen to the full explanation, even if she won’t accept their betrothal any more than they do.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the warm Mayura-Benio interactions and their newly-formed friendship (even if it may take a hit now that the two are “rivals in love”), as well as Rokuro getting back on the exorcist bike. Mayura may have the hardest fight of all before her, even if it’s not of the world-saving kind…but she’s certainly not one to shrink from a challenge.

And she’s got bigger boobs than Benio, so there’s that!

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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