*Clicks tongue*…surprise birthday party episode. But hey, I didn’t mind it nearly as much as the previous filler ep, the one with the kitchen demon. Perhaps because, like the best episodes of any series with a vibrant ensemble cast, it gives everyone something to do and allows for some very nice character interactions. Considering how much everyone’s been through the last three weeks, a break was inevitable, but also far better than expected. Also, by this point, we know everyone a lot better, making them more fun to watch even during filler.
When else would we learn that Bon is good at papercraft? Or that Konekomaru could work out his awkwardness with Rin by helping him bake? Or that Renzou and Paku have such great chemistry? The party is being planned for Izumo, who then keeps bumping into her friends as they plan. Most distressing is when she keeps seeing her best friend on an apparent date with Renzou, and her ill-fated undercover spy mission is cute, if misguided. I enjoyed the increased role of Paku; she may not exactly stand out, but she was fun to watch this week.
There are a whole lot of nice character moments in here, and I’m not going to pretend the episode was much more than that…but it did have at least a minor twist: the surprise was ruined (thanks to Izumo’s spying), so the party becomes one for everyone, not just her, by her request. Meanwhile, Yukio observes the festivities from a far, still having told no one about his ominous, worsening malady. Just to segue back to business, the episode ends with a report Rin and Yukio’s monastery is under attack. Wash down that X-mas cake and get movin!
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.
I ragged on this series’ sixth episode – the kitchen demon – as filler, and this week was also filler. But it was better filler. It came after we got to know a little more about the characters involved – particularly Izumo. She can act bratty and superior, but that facade conceals inner turmoil and vulnerability. She’s a tough nut to crack, but she can be cracked. This week, it took a Kraken…and a hard-headed local kid.
I should tip my hat the producers for at least not giving us what was expected – a full-on beach episode that’s all fanservice and little or no peril, where the major conflict is who has the sexiest swimsuit. That can be left to throwaway OVAs, or even better, DeviantArt. In fact, the cast is pared down to just Izumo, Renzou (pinkie), and Rin, with his new familiar Kuro (who sort of comes in handy). This gives these three characters more time to gel, but unfortunately the main character of this episode is neither of them.
It’s a punk kid. I don’t typically like little kids, especially when they sound like Black Star, whose voice is perhaps even more annoying than Rin’s (when he’s screaming). The kid is constantly belting out macho proverbs his missing dad taught him, and he gets a crush on Izumo after saving her life in the sea. But while there was a lot of build-up to the big bad of the week, the kraken turned out to be domesticated, completely deflating whatever peril the episode had. In short, if this series can keep it to two filler eps per half, it should still be okay. Rating: 3