Sword Art Online: Alicization – 21 – Love Isn’t Control, But Friendship Is Power

One would think a duel as significant and built-up as the one between Kirito and Eugeo would last an entire episode, but that assumption gives Administrator too much credit. Eugeo’s hasty synthesis was willing, not by force, and it happened in a profound moment of weakness for Eugeo.

He and Kirito cross swords and give each other matching cuts, but once Kirito asks Eugeo to recall who gave him his Baltio-style moves, not to mention all of the people waiting for them to return home with Alice, Eugeo’s piety module is quickly exposed.

But while Eugeo wakes up and even says Alice’s name, there’s still something off about him, and I dreaded Kirito dropping his guard, and with good reason: Eugeo uses Enhance Armament to bury both Kirito and Alice in ice before returning to the top level.

There, a skeptical Chudelkin asks if Eugeo eliminated the rebels, to which Eugeo responds the Pontifex only ordered him to stop them, and stop them he did. That’s not sufficient for the Prime Senator, who heads down below to finish them off, thereby playing right into Eugeo’s hands.

Without Chudelkin, Eugeo is all alone with Administrator, who assumes that while his piety module was compromised, he’s still loyal to her. But when she removes it outright in order to recalibrate it, she’s only freeing him to recall more memories, which motivate him to break free of her emotional and magical hold and attack her with the dagger provided by Cardinal.

Administrator is taken aback, but her shielding is close to perfect, and tells Eugeo that no blade, even one fashioned by Cardinal, can pierce her skin. As we know from the OP and flashbacks, Administrator prefers to hang around in the nude, and once her “loving partner” gig is up, she dispenses with the clothes and provokes Eugeo by mocking Alice’s ordeal (her synthesis was forced over many agonizing days).

That’s when Chudelkin returns all beat up to warn his Pontifex that the other two are free, and Kirito and Alice arrive on the top floor. Eugeo intended to make up for his initial betrayal by taking care of Administrator alone, but she’s too strong. In fact, it will be a miracle if the three of them working in perfect harmony can overcome her knowledge of nearly every cheat code in the world.

Still, Administrator isn’t interested in fighting the three directly; not while she has one last subordinate standing in Chudelkin. She fires him up by agreeing to let him have every inch of her body for one night if he can eliminate the rebels, and he uses his fingers, toes, and eyes to summon his trump card: a monstrous fire genie.

Chudelkin has always been a wild card since his first appearance (which is only fitting as he looks like a Joker), so I honestly don’t know how Eugeo’s ice, Kirito’s black sword, and Alice’s scattering blades will hold up against this boss, but the important thing is that the three are finally fighting on the same side.

P.S. We get new OP visuals (same theme) as we’ve completed Alicization “Rising” and begun Alicization “Uniting” – featuring Kirito trying to hold his own against a very capable (and very nude) Administrator.

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Sword Art Online: Alicization – 20 – Student vs. Teacher

Kirito carries Alice and climbs up to the Cloudtop Garden, whereupon Kirito casts a spell to track the Blue Rose Sword. Find the Sword, Find Eugeo is his logic. The spell leads them to the bathhouse, still covered and ice, and to the petrified Bercouli, whom Alice affectionately refers to as Uncle.

They cannot free Bercouli from his stone prison; their options are either to get Prime Senator Chedulkin to break the spell, or kill him for his refusal to do so. Bercouli gives Alice his blessing, telling her she has nothing more to learn from him.

Alice and Kirito ascend to the Senate level, where Kirito learns that the weird bald headed dude who appeared after he attacked the noble rapists was a Senator. They observe and detect breaches of the Taboo Index, then dispatch Integrity Knights as needed.

The existence and function of the Senate is something previously unknown to both Kirito and ourselves, and even Alice is a bit fuzzy about it. But it makes sense for Administrator to leave the day-to-day operations to proxies in the form of the Senate rather than be hands-on about everything and never get any beauty rest.

They locate Prime Senator Chedulkin’s tacky chambers (which somewhat resemble those of the giant baby in Spirited Away), but when Alice confronts him, he merely reminisces on the day four years ago when young Alice first appeared, tearfully begging not to have her memories of those she loved erased.

Chedulkin’s deeply goofy appearance is matched by his boundless cruelty and sadism, but when Alice runs him through with her sword, he merely explodes into a puff of smoke. Getting rid of the little chud won’t be so easy.

More distressingly, he largely succeeded in his mission to stall Alice and Kirito with stories that only served to further boil Alice’s blood. And clearly, Administrator used that extra time wisely, quickly transforming Eugeo into her thirty-second and newest Integrity Knight.

When Eugeo appears before Kirito and Alice, he has no memory of his relationship to either, nor does he care. The Pontifex has given him something he’s apparently been missing his whole life, and something neither of his friends could provide to his satisfaction. So Kirito and Alice are naught but rebels and enemies of his Pontifex to be eliminated without delay.

While Kirito warns Eugeo that he’s the master and Eugeo the student in their imminent duel, I imagine Admin didn’t send Eugeo to fight Kirito without a few tricks up his swanky new sleeves Kirito might not be able to predict. And then there’s the whole matter of Kirito not wanting to go all out lest he accidentally kill Eugeo, while Eugeo is completely wrapped around Admin’s finger. In any case, it should be some duel.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 08

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It was great to watch Shiemi finally kick some ass after sitting on the sidelines for so long, and for the gang to get back together and head out as a team. The question was, could this episode keep the momentum going as we draw nearer to the final battle with Todo and the Impure King? The answer, unfortunately, is not really.

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Sure, lots of things happen: the exorcists summon a fire vajra to give them more strength against the rot, the kids find Bon’s dad, who Kurara is keeping alive, Kurara is transferred to Bon, which is a pretty big deal, and Bon and Rin ride MegaKuro closer to the place where they’ll have to destroy the Impure King’s heart.

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But none of it feels that significant; it’s as if the show is intentionally holding back and content to show us more preparation for the fight. We’re told many tens of thousands of innocent people are at risk, and the billowing rot of the Impure King is a nearly constant and menacing presence, but the fact remains: the episode felt slow, almost plodding, and I didn’t like Rin’s group splitting up so soon after getting back together, even if it makes sense to the plot.

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Yukio has never been my favorite Exorcist character, what with his occasional temptations to cast away the burdens of his family and cross over to the dark side. Todo spends a lot of time toying with him in an interminable one-sided duel, with the apparent intent of bringing Yukio over to his side. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, he could have killed him many times over.

Chances are Rin will be able to unsheathe the Koma Sword, but only in the moment he needs to the most. That means the Impure King’s heart is probably not long for this world. The true wild card is Todo, especially if he manages to turn Yukio. But it wouldn’t be particularly satisfying if he could be turned so easily by a brief monologue.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 07

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Once Yukio has finished reading Tatsumi’s letter, Shura puts her trust in the master, removing the sword from safekeeping (within her body) and handing it to Rin, who wants to help defeat the Impure King, and heck, may be the only one who can.

There are only two problems: in Rin’s current state of fear and lack of confidence, he can’t physically draw the sword, and Mephisto Pheles pops in and throws Rin in an even more impenetrable prison, as the Vatican has sensed his tail seal from when he flared up, and have sentenced him to death.

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rin is not going to be executed. Shura and Yukio don’t want that, but they can only do so much in their positions. So Shura appeals to Rin’s friends, gives Bon his father’s letter and the sword, and tells them to go bust Rin out. If he’s their only hope, they’re his.

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Shiemi is the first to grab a camo poncho, and does so without hesitation. One by one the others agree with various levels of grudging. But once they reach the prison, the sentient door freezes everyone in their tracks, except the one person neither armed nor bearing hostile intent.

That’s right: Shiemi’s purported weakness is a strength here, as she can casually open the door to the prison and stroll in. Her gentle nature and loyalty and affection for Rin are the X-factor that enables everything that follows to occur.

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Once in Mephisto’s prison, there’s supposedly no way out, but Shiemi takes things one step at a time. First, she finds Rin, who starts wondering if maybe he should die before hurting more people; maybe that’s the best way for him to be useful.

Bollocks to that, says Shiemi. Just as she told all the others they’d all regret not trying to save Rin, she knows Rin will regret dying here and now. She also, for the first time, truly sees the weight of his flames, and when he lashes out to try to make her leave, rather than run from the blue flames, she leans into them, and they’re not hot…they’re warm.

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She believes Rin is keeping the flames controlled so as not to harm her, without even thinking about it. Sometimes, you gotta stop thinking and just be, and that seems to be the case here.

Rin’s flames won’t hurt people he cares about, so there’s nothing to fear. To drive the point home, Shiemi draws Rin into a big hug, showing him he has nothing to fear; she’s just fine.

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With that, Rin blasts them out of the “impenetrable” prison with ease Methinks Mephisto knew the conditions under which Rin could escape, and possibly even counted on it. For to get Rin out, his friends would have to band together, set aside their fears (either about him or repercussions from the Vat), and, as Shiemi did, get him to realize he can control his power.

Hell, even Ryuuji is ready to fight with Rin, and the two apologize for their earlier fight. Ryuuji reveals that he’s only mad at Rin because he bore his burdens alone for so long without telling his friends. No more of that. If they’re going to take out that Impure King on the mountain, they have to do it as one.

The second straight great episode from Ao, bringing us back into the present and getting Rin and friends to finally make up as a great battle looms. But Shiemi was the star, doing things no one else could or would do. Honorable mentions go to a gravely injured Mamushi racked by guilt, and a forgiving Juzo who’s not going to let her die.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 06

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Who’s cuter than Mamushi? LIL’ MAMUSHI! XD

As soon as we were in flashback mode with Mamushi, I knew Ao no Exorcist had a better story to tell than her turn to the dark side and ultimate demise. It was also an early indicator I was in for a good episode, and this turned out to be the best Ao 2 to date. For once, I wasn’t feeling impatient or shortchanged during the credits. Instead, I was pumped up.

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Whether intentional or not, the backstory of Master Tatsuma meeting Fujimoto, and the resulting expanding of his world (and evolution of his beliefs) is, at least so far, the best thing to come out of this Ao 2. I’d say it’s done Rin & Co. a disservice by sidelining and outshining them, if it wasn’t such a good backstory.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people.

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Despite his bluster and stated plans to kill a kid with the Koma Sword, Fujimoto spends enough time with Fujimoto to know he won’t actually kill the kid he speaks of (the, ahem, spawn of satan, as it turns out). And Tatsuma is done praying to a sword he knows is empty, having unsheathed it as a curious youth.

By being exposed to Fujimoto, Tatsuma learns there may be a better way to protect his people other than strict, at times self-destructive orthodoxy. So ever since his father died and passed on the ultimate secret of the Myoda sect to him, he’s been looking for a way to exit the sect from its 150-year obligation.

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To Mamushi’s surprise, that obligation turns out to be holding the shriveled body of the Impure King, employing the power fire demon Karura and removing the King’s eyes to keep him in a dormant state. Karura not only demands but draws its power from the secrets of men—the more and bigger the better.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people. Those secrets have done nothing but allow the Myoda to keep, essentially, a nuke in their sub-basement.

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Mamushi, who is also determined to protect her people, is quickly betrayed by her former teacher when he takes the eye she was carrying and re-awakens the Impure King himself, Akira-like in form and expanding to ginormous size.

The twist is that the titular Fujouou isn’t even Todou’s target. He only awakened the King to force Suguro Tatsuma out and compel him to summon Todou’s true target: Karura, whom Todou devours and from whom he gains youth and vigor.

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Todou is now more powerful than ever, but to my relief, Mamushi is no longer his acolyte, now that she knows their interests don’t align at all. Before Karura is taken from him (and before he’s stabbed through the throat) Tatsuma manages to seal the Impure King with a powerful spell. But using that spell means he can no longer defeat him.

He entrusts that task, in his hastily-scrawled letter, to Rin, knowing it’s an unenviable task to be saddled with, and indeed that it could result in Rin’s death, either by failing to take down the King or by being executed by the authorities for using his blue flames. Of course, we all know Rin isn’t just going to sit back and save himself.

Tatsuma saw a good man in Fujomoto, and clearly saw a good young man in Rin. I doubt Rin will let him down.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 05

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Alright: I’m officially frustrated with how slowly this arc is moving. It’s one thing to spend an episode or two in one place, but this is getting ridiculous. Yaozou holds another tedious meeting to bring everyone up to speed, and we keep seeing the same flashbacks of Rin flaring up and standing trial. The show seems to be spending so much time reminiscing while setting the table, I’m starting to lose my appetite.

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Mamushi, still being portrayed with the possibility she could still be redeemed, if barely, is having difficulty bearing the evil of the Right Eye, but Todou claims he can’t bear them both alone. Mamushi honestly thinks she’s doing what’s best for her order, so a little suffering is par for the course.

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The sitting around back at Myoda HQ is all the more frustrating because no one, save Tatsuma, seems to be in any hurry to follow Todou and Mamushi. Granted they vanished without a trace, but…you’re exorcists. Do something exorcisty to detect and find them! Instead we get more meetings, then are treated to Yukio reading a letter by Tatsuma that’s as big as a goddamn book.

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Granted, at least the book-letter takes us to a different place, namely the Myoda Temple years ago, when Tatsuma was a young man with a dying pregnant wife and preparing to take over from the master, his ailing father. We also learn that Rin’s Koma Sword was once the main relic of the Myoda sect…until one day Rin and Yukio’s dad…stole it.

Now that sounds like an interesting story. But in the back of my mind, I know that back in the present Rin and Yukio and Shura are sitting around in a jail doing nothing. What little momentum had been built up isn’t likely to survive such a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 04

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Bon is our eyes and ears for most of this episode’s first half as he follows Renzou’s bro Juuzou, suspicious of his movements (and of the trail of bodies in his wake), until it’s revealed those exorcists were knocked out by Mamushi, not Juuzou.

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Having been told about the eye when she was a student of Todou’s, her general argument is that neither Saguro Tatsuma nor her own father can be trusted; that they are the real traitors, and she’s acting in the best interests of the Myoda Sect.

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I for one am glad the obviously more sinister-(and awesome!)-looking suspect, while indeed the traitor, at least has halfway viable reasons besides “I’m just evil BWAHAHA!”, though it does take quite a bit of exposition to get her somewhat complex positions and accusations out.

Meanwhile, Rin is making progress with the candles on the roof when the whole earth shakes. He starts to run off but Shura catches him and forbids him from moving and acting on his own, lest he be “put down” as per the agreement that spared his life (for now).

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It’s also good to see Todou back so soon, even if he claims Mamushi is acting on her own (clearly he’s been manipulating her for some time). There’s something appealing about his frumpy, unexceptional, harmless functionary look; especially contrasted with everyone else’s more traditional garb (Shura aside). Mamushi grabs the eye, and she and Todou skedaddle.

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Tatsuma prepares to go after them, but Bon wants a goddamn explanation out of him, now. Tatsuma, for whatever reason, won’t or can’t give him one, only saying “it’s a secret” and other fatherly platitudes to stay out of trouble and be patient. It’s not enough, and Bon all but disowns him, warning if he runs away he better not come back.

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Those sentiments set Rin, who had been pretty passively in the background, off. Understandably so, as he had a similar falling out with his dad Shiro that was never able to be resolved, since Shiro died. Rin may want to repair his friendship with Bon, but trying to stop him from making the same mistake, something he’ll regret forever, takes precedence.

Of course, Rin gets so worked up, his blue flames come out, scaring the crap out of everyone who didn’t know about them and forcing Shura to knock him out with the shock collar-like ring on his tail, but not before he calls her a hag and tells her to buzz off. I admire Rin’s passion regarding Bon, but he really does need to realize how short his leash has become.

Honestly, I wanted to rate this episode higher, but it had a bit too much standing around talking/explaining, the flashbacks to the trial seemed redundant, and I’m bummed Mamushi’s pretty much a bad guy right now and it’s not certain at all whether she’ll be redeemed.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 03

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In the dining hall, Konekomaru is taken aback by Shima’s rediscovered chumminess, and later calls him out for it, but Shima repeats his assertion from last week that it’s far more hassle to avoid Rin than simply slip back into their friendship; that, and Rin’s a good guy.

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Meanwhile, the Impure King plot gets mired in infighting when the gathered families gather and it’s believed there’s a traitor in their midst. My first instinct is to go for the snake-people, but that’s kinda profiling; besides, it could just as easily be Shima’s brother…or Bon’s father, who is absent.

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The resulting meeting is tense and full of accusations. This is not how you want to see a group of exorcists tasked with protecting a dangerous artifact like the right eye. But it also creates a sense of intrigue: we’ve got the suspects, but I, at least, will need more info in order to determine whodunit.

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And now, your weekly Ao no Exorcist Shiemi Report: Does Shiemi actually have lines in this, the third episode? She does! Unfortunately, most of them are used running herself down for being so “useless” and “underfoot.” Izumo counters that she shouldn’t stress, since she’s strong, or rather resilient, like a weed. Shiemi is a big greenthumb, so she takes it as a compliment and as motivation to try harder.

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Later, Shiemi spots Rin training, and recommits herself to trying her best so she can catch up to him. So yeah, no contact between the two quite yet, but she’s well on her way to getting there. As is Konekomaru, whose hard line fades when Rin assures him he’ll prove to him he’s not a threat, despite his blue flames.

Of course, the toughest friend in whose good graces to get back into is Bon, who is currently occupied with wondering if his Dad is the traitor in their midst. Another decent episode that balanced Rin’s efforts to make up with his pals with the right eye plot.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 02

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I for one found it refreshing that Rin & Co. didn’t immediately end up in the middle of a war zone upon arriving in Kyoto. There’s definitely casualties whom they must tend to, but the main battle feels far away. Instead, Rin finds himself in the hometown of three friends of his who are feeling very uneasy around him.

He meets Bon’s parents, who are nothing like he imagined. After two minutes with his dad, Rin is prepared to label him a “degenerate monk”, which just so happens to be what a lot of others in his sect have called him for years, much to the frustration of his son Bon.

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Rather than end up in the middle of a fight against the forces trying to revive the Impure King (or whatever), Rin and his mates perform relatively menial tasks, but those tasks still have to be performed, as they’re important.

During their service we see the long-standing rivalry between different clans within the sect, one of which is really into snakes. Bon’s dad is nowhere to be found, so it falls to him to break up fights – and hear what people call Pops.

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We get some nice peaks into Bon’s past, and see how much he loved and admired his dad, who always kept to himself chanting sutras. Bon learned those sutras, but he also watched as the order his father belonged to wither away, to the point they had to align themselves with the True Cross Order in order to stave off oblivion.

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Meanwhile, Rin tries to think of a way to mend fences with Bon, as well as his other spooked friends. Unfortunately he and Shiemi don’t say a peep to each other for the second straight week, but hopefully they’ll reconcile at some point.

For now, Rin has to be content with Shima, who ends up the last person with Rin with no excuse for slinking away, but also finds that it’s a much bigger hassle to avoid Rin than to talk to and treat him like he did before Rin went berserk. Shima’s are probably the easiest good graces to return to, however.

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Bon’s deal is that he always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he had the kind of father who didn’t want that, and so conflict arose between them, which hasn’t been sufficiently resolved since before he dyed his hair.

But Bon’s no innkeeper, and he never was. He’s an exorcist, a damn good one, and he’ll play a big role in the coming battle against pro-Impure King forces. I think when Rin learned Bon has been having a long fight with his Dad, he was heartened, a bit. Bon only butts heads with those who matter in his life. Relationships will have to be prepared if the good guys are going to have a chance. And despite having Satan as a father, Rin is a good guy.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 01

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Five years, three months, and five days. That’s how long ago I last laid eyes on Ao no Exorcist. Back then, we hadn’t even split up writer accounts yet! As such, I was seriously worried about not knowing what the heck was going on, and was both hoping for and hating myself for needing at least some kind of recap to bring me up to speed. Imagine waiting until 2021 for the next season Game of Thrones!

The first episode of this sequel, “Small Beginnings”, largely drops us right back in the world of the Okunuma brothers, exorcists, and True Cross, and to my relief, it’s like riding a bike: it all started coming back. By starting small as the episode title suggests, the show avoids the need for too much lengthy expostition about what has happened (though there is a bit of that, in addition to exposition about what will be happening this season).

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This is the Kyoto Fujouou-hen, or Kyoto Impure King Arc, and one of his eyes is stolen by Todo Saburota, one of the grizzled mid-level exorcists entrusted with guarding it. Todo is disaffected by his station, feeling it too small commensurate to the effort and loyalty he put in, so he’s gone over to the demons.

After saving a kid hostage Todo didn’t seem terribly interested in, Rin, Yukio, and Shura join the rest of the gang aboard a Kyoto-bound Shinkansen bound to locate and retrieve the eyes of the Impure King, lest they be used to kill more people. On the train, Rin encounters some fallout from going berserk last season, and his friends, even Shiemi, express various combinations of fear, anger, mistrust and betrayal.

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That doesn’t seem like the ideal dynamic for a team with such a seemingly important mission, but as Shura says this shouldn’t be the toughest mission (it isn’t as if they’re dealing with Satan himself; Todo seems to have traded one mid-level role for another) and perhaps the best way to mend fences is through work.

The only one who deigns to sit beside Rin is Kamiki Izumo, who (in her tsundere way) doesn’t feel it fair to condemn Rin simply for being what he is, which isn’t his fault. Lots of exorcists having demon lineage, after all (and I for one wouldn’t mind sitting next to a kitty on a train). That being said, Bon and Konekomaru have lost family to demons, and aren’t so quick to trust Rin.

I’m not so quick to start liking Rin either. He has a point, but he could be a little less brusque about it, just like he didn’t need to laugh back in the immediate aftermath of his friends discovering his true roots. One of the most annoying elements of AnE is having to endure Okamoto Nobuhiko’s harsh, petulant depiction of Rin, but otherwise this was a far smoother re-entry into the worl than I expected.

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