Assassins Pride – 03 – A Fight in the Museum

What initially appeared to be a rest episode following the excitement of the tournament suddenly becomes much more in a well-structured, satisfying outing that elevates the series and makes me excited to keep watching.

The foreshadowing for what’s to come is right there at the start, as Melida echoes our curiosity about Kufa’s mysterious past. She rightly points out that there’s almost nothing he doesn’t know about her, so she wants to learn more about him. He even casually mentions he hails from “the land of eternal night”, beyond any safe human habitations.

That exploration has to wait, as Melida has a festival to attend, in which all the girls in her class wear the same dresses handed down by their senpais. Melida is looking forward to wearing the same dress as Elli, and vice versa, but Elli’s maid Othello has other ideas, and hand-makes a garment that, while gorgeous and of higher quality, brings bitter tears to Elli’s eyes as she has to run from her classmates’ harsh gazes and comments.

Melida and Elise aren’t just related, they’re the best of friends going way back, so it’s heartbreaking to see the adults (other than Kufa) treat them as if they’re enemies and pawns in the struggle for control of the Angel family. Neither of them want to fight one another; they want to support each other and have good times together. Is that so much to ask in a world of eternal darkness?

When the two are kidnapped by the Grimface Guild, their bond is tested once more when the shady man with the bandaged face announces his plan to forcibly take Elise’s Paladin Class and graft it onto Melida, overwriting her current Samurai Class. A dastardly plan, but good thing the guy isn’t too great with details.

While he sealed the mana of both girls, he failed to realize that the materials in Elli’s fancier outfit and tiara are packed with mana. Applying Kufa’s lesson about using whatever you can to survive, Melida fashions a torch with which she dispatches the low-level Lancanthropes of the kind Elli has always been afraid.

Melida’s pluck and resourcefulness buys time for the big guns to arrive and mop up, and it’s in his fight with Bandage-face that we learn that Kufa Vampir is, well, a half-vampire, or half-the strongest of Lancanthropes. It’s great to finally get a smirk out of the guy, and now I know why he had such a sedate performance in earlier episodes; he was repressing his true vampiric nature.

It could also explain why Melida is so smitten with him (since vampires can glamour humans), though I chalk that more up to the fact that among adults, he’s the only one to actually put faith in her abilities and not treat her like a pawn to be discarded if she doesn’t shape up. He’s also handsome, well-spoken, kind, and doesn’t forget that the one festival thing Melida was looking forward to most (other than being with Elli in the parade) was have a dance with him, so they do.

He also reiterates his undying commitment to her, having told the bad guy earlier that even if she ends up surpassing him and will set about hunting him, he’ll gladly stick his neck out. He’s all in on Melida, and I can’t blame him; the girl hustles and never gives up. She’s got nowhere to go but up…as long as Kufa can keep other assassins off her back!

P.S. Elli eventually changes into the same dress as Melida. Daaaaaaaaw.

Assassins Pride – 02 – The Right Time to Shine

In a welcome scene of student and teacher bonding, Melida learns that despite his stoic look and manner he’s both embarrassed to have to examine her body (her being a girl and all) but has been trained to hide his true emotions. While that was implied last week, it’s good to hear him actually voice it, as well as voice his sincere hope for her success.

While Melida’s mana has awakened, she’s not a Paladin, but a Samurai class, like Kufa. Kufa warns her to keep her awakening secret and forbids her from using mana against anyone but him. Since he estimates she’s currently only able to summon half of her mana, she’ll rely on the element of surprise to win in the school tournament.

Keeping cards close to one’s vest, and waiting for the opportune time to reveal them, are all part in parcel of what Kufa is all about. But he learns something about her too when she defends him against the mocking words of her “friend” Nerva: she’ll more readily summon what strength she has for others before herself.

When the tournament begins, even Melida’s allies aren’t aware she can use mana, and she doesn’t use it until Nerva is at the very height of her arrogance. Thankfully it’s not a one-sided affair, as there’s a lot of back-and-forth as Nerva ups her game. But in the end, there’s a card in Melida’s hand she kept even from her tutor, taking a page from his book.

That card is a phantom-blade technique he only demonstrated to her once, meaning she either learned it from that one time, or trained a bunch on her own. She thought mutliple moves ahead in her fight with Nerva, making it seem like she was totally out of mana, only to summon the rest of it when Nerva opened herself up to finish her.

In the end, Melida surprised Nerva to the point that after their match she returns the book she took from her and apologizes, apparently continue to value the “friendship” she said they’d have no matter what happens. I appreciated that extra dimension to Nerva, who isn’t just a sneering, bullying bitch after all.

Melida also addresses her father and master of the house, and as Kufa remarks, just the fact her father responded to her (by basically telling her not to get too cocky until she’s accomplished more) is another victory. If she continues to improve, it’s looking less and less likely Kufa will have to kill her, or worry about getting killed himself for failing.

But even with a chastened Nerva and an semi-acknowledging father, Melida faces a lot more adversity, both from her overachieving Paladin cousin Elsie to some unsavory lancanthropes lurking in the shadows.

Assassins Pride – 01 (First Impressions) – Change of Heart

Right away, Assassins Pride impresses with its striking setting: a world coated in unending darkness but for Flandore, a city-state in the form of a massive chandelier with city blocks within its lanterns. Even within these lanterns there’s an eerie feeling that it’s the middle of the night and always will be.

It is a world in need of a protagonist slightly more interesting than Kufa Vampir, who despite his cool name and profession (assassin), is dull as dry toast. At least he’s good at healing cats and catching clumsy young women like Melida Angel, whom he’s to serve as tutor and attendant. She’s a little more interesting thanks to her story, which is provided through Kufa’s narration as he writes in his journal.

Like him, Melida is a member of a noble family. Only nobles possess mana which is used to fight the lacanthrope hordes outside (and sometimes inside) the city. Her dream is to join the elite Crest Legion as a battle maiden, but…things are not going well.

While mana awakens in most noble children at around seven years, Melida’s has yet to awaken. As such, she’s an easy mark for mockery by her mana-using noble peers at the academy, and pity by her cousin Elise from a branch family, who has already surpassed her.

As Kufa watches Melida try in vain to best her particularly arrogant classmat Nerva and run off in tears, he considers his duty should it be determined Melida has no chance of ever awakening her mana: he’s to assassinate her. The rumors going around are that she’s not a true member of the Angel family, but the illegitimate child of her mother and a man who is not Lord Mordrew, explaining her lack of mana.

Watching Melida initially disgusts Kufa, to the point he believes offing her would be a “professional mercy” (and referencing the show’s title), since he’d be ending her suffering, knowing she’ll never be rewarded for it due to her true lineage. But when he enters her room to do the deed, she’s not there. Instead, she’s being chased through the streets by low-level Lacanthropes in what could be an attempt by her father to get her mana to awaken through combat.

But with zero mana, Melida is no match against the three pumpkin-headed scarecrow monsters. Kufa very much is, and exhibits a small measure of his power in dispatching them before they can cut her hair, which she cherishes as her mother’s legacy.

Watching her endure the beating, too proud to call for help, causes a major shift in his thinking, from pity bordering on disgust to admiration and a powerful desire to support her, even if it means hiding secrets from his bosses. He sees his own pride in her pride, and wants to validate if he can…because no one else will.

When Melida firmly agrees to do “the one thing” that could awaken her mana, but could also end up killing her, Kufa administers a dose of a potion to her (through a kiss), and for a moment, she seems to die, falling backwards into a deep, dark ocean, all of the color peeling from her body.

But after the end credits, not only is she still alive, but is impressing her maids with mana tricks. Was her mana really awakened, or did Kufa simply transfer some of his to her? Perhaps only by transferring some of his is there a chance to awaken hers? In any case, he knows he’s treading carefully, and the day may yet come when he’ll have to kill her. He just hopes it doesn’t.

Assassins Pride is…fine. It’s a no-nonsense opener that introduces the place, the players, and the stakes, but often lacked energy. The stateliness and good repair of Flandore calls into question the seriousness and urgency of the Lancanthrope threat (especially as we only see Level-1 scarecrows). The atmospheric setting and clean animation/character design did most of the heavy lifting, while Kufa and Melida felt more like archetypes than distinct characters. I’ll stick with it for now, but so far it’s nothing life-changing.

Ao no Exorcist 24

Yukio is possessed by Satan, who swears a lot and laughs like a jackass. Shura, Shiemi, and Rin try to get Yukio to snap out of it, but only Rin succeeds, after sufficient yelling and a few tears. They manage to free Yukio, but Satan is still on the loose, and the massive Gehenna Gate remains open.

The Satan in this series just doesn’t work for me as a character. I just hate him. I know, we’re supposed to hate him, but he’s so implacably evil and unlikable, there’s never any doubt that he will ultimately be cast aside and defeated. I hate that he’s a weak, goofy, one-dimensional villain. Why there was a flashback episode with Yuri and Satan I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t rouse any sympathy for the Satan character. He’s a big jerk, period. And yet this whole episode does nothing but prove that point ad nauseum, along with provide the predictable heartfelt beseeching Yukio to wake up.

Thankfully, Cardinal Ernst didn’t have any stupid longwinded religio-political speeches, but the line of the episode had to be (former) Paladin August’s: “But genocide using a weapon of mass destruction contradicts the Order (of the True Cross)’s principles!” Seriously? That line was written? And it actually had to be spoken by somebody?


Rating: 2.5

Ao no Exorcist 22

Ernst overthrows the existing bureaucracy and names himself Pope, and rises Yukio to the rank of Paladin and head of the Japanese branch. Rin and all the other members of True Cross Academy are armed and given a new edict: kill as many demons as possible. The weapons absorb demon blood for a ritual to open the Gate of Gehenna and destroy Satan for good. Rin is the sacrifice to unlock the gate, while Yukio transforms into a demon himself.

This episode covered a lot of ground. One could almost say the series is now in a hurry to wrap things up. Ernst showed up a couple episodes ago, and we have no idea who he is or what made him so evil; all we know is, he’s a Bad Guy with plans for world domination, and he’s ensnared an extremely naive (and stupid) Yukio with a promise to save Rin by restoring his full humanity. The force of all the sudden change is so great this week it sweeps everyone up before they can even complain.

This episode also sets a firm morality concerning the fundamental role of exorcists. They’re supposed to slay demons, but not all demons. There are good ones, like Kuro the Cait Sith, Izumo’s foxes, and countless demons who protect forests, rivers and the like. In this regard, our protagonists should be on the side of Princess Mononoke. Like humanity, there is an entire spectrum of demonhood stretching from good to bad. What Pope Ernst has ordered upsets the balance of things. He’s bad, and our ragtag group of students – and Rin, if he’s still alive – must stop him.


Rating: 3

Ao no Exorcist 21

Neuhaus’s wife ends up at Shiemi’s place, where Shiemi takes care of and takes a liking to her. Rin & Co. learn Neuhaus that she’s a “quickened”or resurrected corpse possessed by a demon, but he didn’t do it. The Paladin gets wind of her and he and his men arrive to kill her, but Rin stalls him until he’s summoned back to the Vatican and met not by the Grigori, but by Ernest Frederick Aegin, who’s taken over with Yukio by his side.

My God, the volume of pseudo-religious political babbling that goes on in this episode brought back bad memories of the most tiring episodes of Index. This week a little bit of Gundam megalomania was sprikled in, with the new Phantom of the Opera (Frederick) revealing an enormous church armory that will be used as a base for a new offensive against the demons. The implication is that up until now the Vatican had only fought defense against Satan; he means to take the fight to them. But this week those larger considerations are only the bookends.

Michelle the spider-woman hangs with Shiemi until everyone descends on her quaint little garden wanting her head. Shiemi convinces Rin not to hurt her, though, and it’s her wishes that drive him to defend Michelle from August and his henchmen, though in vain, as Michelle ultimately takes a bullet for him. More importantly though, Yukio seems to have changed his allegience behind Rin’s back. The imminent face-off between brothers will either be as dull and predictable as another religio-political speech, or something more consequential and satisfying. Here’s hoping for the latter.


Rating: 3

Ao no Exorcist 20

The attacker of Rin and Yukio’s monastery is a masked stranger who writes in Polish and uses a nasty spider-web like silk to envelop his victims. When Rin gives chase he immediately has his ass handed to him, and has to be saved by Yukio, who continues the chase and runs into Professor Neuhaus, originally believed to have retired.

After a “rest” episode, it was good to get back to the main story, but I feel like most of this episode was simply rehashing what’s already been said, done, and/or established. Rin should know by now he can’t just rush headlong into threats he doesn’t understand. He almost gets killed in the first five minutes thanks to his impatience and hardheadedness. He should know by now he can’t just do what he pleases – the Vatican has him on a tight rope as it is. All this just…seemed to have slipped his mind this week. At least later in the episode he finally gets the candle training right, and uses his flames like a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to remove the webbing from his allies.

The enemy-of-the-week is also pretty boring at first. I mean, spiders crawling across his face? Seriously? Rin has already fought the Paladin and the Earth King…after those bosses this guy never seems like much of a threat. Things do get a little more interesting when a hostage standoff ends with the Paladin arresting Pheles for suspected illegal research, while Neuhaus shows up again, claiming the then un-masked woman is his wife. Yukio, getting more angsty for not being able to protect Rin, is suddenly summoned by…his grandfather, of all people. One we didn’t know he had…


Rating: 3

Ao no Exorcist 16

The last fifteen weeks have basically been building up to this: Rin’s friends now know the truth: Rin is the son of satan. I honestly didn’t know how all the various characters would react to this news, but fortunately for him, most of them sided with Yukio and Shiemi, who want to save him. The new Paladin, Arthur August Angel, shows up to take Rin into custody and put Pheles on trial with the Grigori court for treason.

This episode keeps two distinct story points – Rin’s trial and his friends’ efforts to repair the sword that seals his blue flames – and it keeps them both interesting. During the trial, Mephisto Pheles goes to bat in Rin’s defense, and though we still aren’t sure we can trust him, it’s clear he’s the only one who can save Rin. He and his angry brother Amaimon, who shows up just in time for Pheles to suggest they sic Rin on him to prove he will be useful fighting against Satan & Co.

Yukio also does Rin a solid by telling everyone the whole story, and how Rin himself has only known about his lineage for a few months. Shiemi in particular is, predictably all for saving him no matter who is dad is, but it was good to see at least one dissenting voice…but to my surprise it was neither Izumo or Bon! In fact, Bon recognizes the sword as once belonging to his temple, and suggests a trip to Kyoto to get it fixed by the 11th Yoshikuni, a girl with purple hair and a really weird accent.

The mission to retrieve jewel steel for the repairs is interrupted by a battle with Mara demons who try to lead Yukio and Bon astray, but Renzo and Izumo are right there to snap them out of it. In all, this was one of the best Ao no Exorcists to date. It was action-packed, well-paced, never boring, and was a very good payoff to all the building up to date. But it isn’t over: Rin still has to wake up and defeat Amaimon, and his sword still needs to be fixed. But so far so good.


Rating: 4