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?
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.
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.
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…
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.