Sousei no Onmyouji – 29

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Whew…I knew we were going to get some answers and stuff was going to go down once Rokuro, Benio, and Sae arrived in Kyoto…I just didn’t know we’d get those answers and everything would go down so quickly. The episode even teases the possibility of a “rest episode” in which Sae and her two de facto parents soak in the city and its many choice ohagi spots.

Then Arima calls them and tells them to get over to Exorcist Union HQ pronto. Rokuro and Benio have to put their plans for fun on hold, but they promise Sae they can go wherever she wants…once the Dragon Spot problem is taken care of. This promise, and the lingering long shot of the three in near silhouette against the river, felt like pretty strong death flags for Lil’ Sae.

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As Roku, Benio, and Sae head for HQ, Arima finds himself ambushed by Kuranashi, and we finally get to see what Arima is made of when he dodges the initial strike, then sends fire and ice summons after Kuranashi when he tries to flee to Magano. Kuranashi, whom we learn for the first time is a Basara…and the most interesting one since Kamui, to boot.

A furious, top-level duel ensues, highlighting SnO’s strengths: hard-hitting action with an above-average score and sound design that really makes blows and magical effects pop. We also see just how wet behind the ears our Twin Stars are, considering all the incantations they have to do in order to launch attacks. Here, Arima exorcises lesser Kegare with a look or a thought; I bet he just said “Begone” for effect.

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But then something happens I did not expect: Arima falls into Kuranashi’s trap, something called a “seman” that drains all of his spell power, which is then absorbed by Kuranashi. As Arima slowly descends into his apparent demise (though I doubt we’ve seen the last of him), he wears a defiant grin: Merely getting rid of him won’t give Kuranashi what he wants (to cover the world in darkness). This is his faith in the Twin Stars talking, for as he says, stars shine brightest in the darkest darkness.

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Of course, Arima’s faith doesn’t automatically mean Rokuro and Benio are ready to deliver the world’s salvation, as the most important answer to this cour so far is finally answered: Who or what is Sae? Turns out, she is a broken-off branch of the legendary tree Ame-no-Mihashira, the tree that forms the barrier between Magano and the real world. The dragon spots were caused when she was broken off by Kuranashi.

In the Miyazaki-esque deep core of HQ, Subaru and Tatara are there to explain all this too Rokuro and Benio, and to tell them that the only way to stop the Dragon Spots, and by extention save the world, is for the branch to return to the tree; for Sae to cease being a person.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, and the Twin Stars’ initial shock and denial is replaced by knowing, as Sae has demonstrated time and time again she’s no mere lost girl. Now, it would seem, the fate of the world depends on whether they’re willing to say goodbye to someone they’d come to see as their own child—’pre-Miko’, if you will, bringing the couple that much closer together.

It looks pretty likely Sae is not long for this world in her human form. But who knows? Maybe restoring the branch isn’t the only way. Whatever decision the Twin Stars come to, they’ll have to come to it fast, as the largest Dragon Spot yet opens over Kyoto. What will they do?

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 28

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Ya know, when the first Basara Kamui first showed up – a super-powerful, sentient Kegare with something of a distinct moral code, I was a bit excited. But like the Arrancar in Bleach, there have now been so many different Basara with such short lifespans, they’ve become less fascinating and more, well, boring. This week’s Basara Kinasa doesn’t help matters, even if he’s got impeccable manners and a gun from Puella.

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The predictable Roku and Benio pattern of encountering a foe, throwing everything they’ve got at it to absolutely no avail, and getting bailed out by a third party, is similarly wearing thin; not a good sign considering there’s so much more show left.

Kinasa is merely filler to stop our heroes in our tracks, but they don’t really learn anything or gain any new strength: they’re merely saved, once again, by Sae’s mysterious powers, after Sae disobeys them for the hundredth time. I’m also baffled that Kinako never conjures child locks while in RV Mode.

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What makes Roku and Benio look even weaker is when Unomiya Tenma, the most powerful of the 12 Guardians, arrives, just ’cause, and dispatches both Kinasa and the Dragon Spot with one swing of his sword and one word (“Close!”).

We’ve been led to believe that with resonance this duo can really make things happen, but it’s almost as if they’ve regressed. Granted, perhaps the Basara are getting more powerful, but the same pattern has played out each time, and I don’t really care about the Basara, so it’s hard to gauge how tough an enemy is. They seem to either defeat it instantly, or are totally overpowered and in need of outside help.

In any case, this last dragon spot drop until Kyoto, and Tenma will be their escort. Sae seems eager to go, so Benio and Rokuro follow.  Mayura’s episode was a nice change of pace, but a return to the same-old-same-old just didn’t do it for me. I want to see more movement in the plot and less disposable Basara.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 27

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This week Rokuro and Benio merely bookend an a rare episode that focuses on Mayura. When Twelve Guardians member Ikaruga Shimon shows up in Narusaki, she can’t resist the opportunity to become stronger with his instruction. Of course, not before she accidentally barges in on him in the nude; a welcome inversion of the cliche.

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Shimon also happens to have been trained by Seigen (and his praise is one of the only things that brings a smile to his face), so Mayura quickly finds the same style she’s seen her father employ, both on her and on Rokuro. He’s not immediately impressed with Mayura, but can’t deny she learns fast.

When the Dragon Spot appears in town and one of Mayura’s friends is caught in the miasma, Mayura blasts right through Shimon’s logical reasons she shouln’t go in there. To hell with that; protecting people, especially those she cares about, from harm is the reason she’s an exorcist.

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She does what she needs to to to ensure her friend’s safety, leading a near-basara away, then Shimon takes care of the rest, using his Vermillion Wing ability to scoop her to safety with a “princess hold”, then acing the baddie.

Mayura convinces Shimon that she’s definitely exorcist material, even if she doesn’t dream of being The Strongest or creating a world with no kegare. She’s more about realistic, achievable goals, like keeping people safe, even if her pristine skin gets scuffed.

I’ve never minded Mayura, and here she even gets a whiff of a romance with someone not utterly oblivious to her. Plus, she’s already seen him naked, so that’s out of the way! I can’t imagine will see a lot more of the two anytime soon, or if anything more will come of their new friendship, but this broke up the monotony of the Twins’ road trip nicely.

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P.S. I dug the new OP, with an almost Monogatari-style aesthetic and a thumping theme by the band Back-On. The new ED was pretty, if a bit dull.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 26

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At last, an episode that somewhat moves the needle a little in the overall story arc, while answering some questions about Sae. Sure, there’s a pair of lame Basara twins involved, but we also finally get to meet the great Kuranashi, proving that it’s not Sae (kind of a flimsy theory I had, but I’m glad I can eliminate it at least).

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The basara twins, while generally lame, still manage to overpower the Twin Stars pretty easily in their first encounter, wrapping them up in their spider-like silk. Things get so bad Sae has to run out to take the twins’ next strike, and to the surprise of everyone, Sae is able to summon a barrier that negates the Basaras’ power.

The intent of showing how easily Roku and Benio are beaten, and how easily Sae’s shield stops that same power, is clear: Sae is totes powerful; enough to have me thinking she’s starting to look like the Miko, even though Roku and Benio didn’t technically conceive her.

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Three more of the 12 Guardians show up, and like the others they have their little quirks, but I still refuse to learn their names; not until we start seeing more of them for more than one episode at a time. It also feels like we’ve been introduced to more than 12, even though we haven’t.

These three guys don’t even do anything, since Roku and Benio are committed to exorcising the basara who tried to hurt Sae, who is as near as makes no difference their adoptive daughter at this point.

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The Guardians did do one thing: move the battle to the real world, which combined with their anger over the threatening of Sae, provided Roku and Benio the boost they needed to defeat the twins, who are taken back to Magano by Kuranashi, finally showing himself to the guardians in the process.

It’s clear Kuranashi is the kind of guy who prefers to use others as his tools without involving himself in direct fights. The episode ends with him killing one twin to repair the leg of the other, and giving the suriving twin a reason for vengeance against the Twin Stars. But even Kuranashi is intrigued by the wild card that is Sae. Now knowing what she isn’t is better than nothing.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 25

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I was hoping for some kind of movement of the Sae mystery—will she turn out to be the Big Bad, Kuranashi?—here at the halfway point of the show (assuming it only goes 50 episodes). Instead, we got another relatively generic dragon spot-of-the-week, this time a big one that opens in the middle of a domed baseball stadium in Aichi. Chief among the hordes of kegare that emerge is our Basara-of-the-week, Yamato, who creates a giant kegare suit to stomp around and fight in.

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Joining the Basara-of-the-week are the Twelve Guardians-of-the-week, Ioroi Nasumi and Kasukami Cordelia, who like Yamato are painted in the broadest of strokes due to the time constraints. Ioroi can’t help but laught heartily before saying anything, while Cordelia speaks with electronic voice in single English words she spells out first. Okay, sure, why not?

The guardians meet with Roku and Benio, then go off to fight Yamato’s giant kegare suit with Cordelia’s giant celestial suit; a tactic we haven’t seen from exorcists before.

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They don’t fare too well though, and before long Roku and Benio realize that “what they need to do” is what they, like the former ace pitcher, and only they can do: close the spot.

They do so, getting a small (microscopic) assist from the old pitcher in the process, and in doing so, gain the respect of two more Guardians, who, like Yamato, wander off in the end, leaving Roku, Benio, and Sae free to tackle the next crisis-of-the week.

I’m putting myself on record as not being the greatet fan of this latest string of episodes; they tell small stories that aren’t really progressing the protagonists’ development in any meaningful way. Not to mention Sae continues to be head-scratcher the show is annoyingly in no hurry to resolve.

Of the 25 episodes of SnO I’ve watched, only 12 have scored 8 or higher. If that trend continus, that means a minimum of 24 sub-recommended episodes when all’s said and done. That’s a lot of mediocrity to sift through, and I’m quietly starting wonder whether it’s worth it.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 24

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SnO continues its episodic format as Roku, Benio, and Sae continue their “country tour” across the country, sealing dragon spots as they go. Last week was a bit of a drag, but this week presents us with Lio, not yet a Basara but by far the least hostile Kegare we’ve yet encountered.

The “non-evil enemy” is a fairly common convention, but it’s well-executed here, as Sae becomes the non-hostile go-between that allows for a moment of peace between warring species, however brief.

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I like how Roku and Benio’s instincts have them shooting Leo on sight, especially when they find Sae with her. But all it takes is a word from Sae, and Leo won’t fight with the exorcists anymore. All he wants is to “see something beautiful”; indeed, it seems to be his only purpose in life. We’ve never seen a Basara just before they became a Basara, so this is new and fresh territory in terms of building the (other)world of the show.

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Roku even ceases charging Leo on sight when he sees tears in the Kegare’s eyes. Somehow, right on cue, the amusement park comes to life, and the seed Roku planted in Sae’s head (and Sae planted in Leo’s) of a “sparkly, beautiful” place comes to fruition…just in time for Leo to get pierced through the chest by an arrow of light.

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That arrow was fired by Sada Sakura, who along with Zeze Miku are members of the 12 Guardians, who don’t know why Roku and Benio are just standing around with a near-Basara. They’re very far away, and allow no time for explanations, shooting first like the Twins, but with far deadlier attacks.

Zeze could be fun if she wasn’t just a deadpan foil for the manic Sada, whose yelling and passion for RULUSU wears thin fast. As for Sae, she flashes a look we see, but Roku and Benio don’t: a knowing expression that, like her ability to learn and make things so easily, is far beyond her years (if she is indeed a little kid and not…something else).

R.I.P. Leo. You were threatening at first, but in the end you were an ‘ol softie, and you were okay by me. Glad you got to see something beautiful before you were taken out.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 23

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Since Rokuro and Benio are the only ones who have been proven to be able to close dragon spots, they quickly find their services are in high demand. Hopping aboard a Mini-based Kinao-possessed RV, they head to Shinshuchuoshi, the next town choked by miasma and threatened by a spot.

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There, they meet the upbeat casual commander Kiyomi (who seems way too young to have such big kids, but whatevs) and Kumashiro, who has never met nor knows anything about Benio, but instantly condemns her as the sister of a traitor.

One of the high points of this episode is Benio assuring an angered Rokuro that as long as he knows the truth, she’ll be just fine. Sae is also around, the mystery about who or what she is continuing to be dangled around us like a cat toy.

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Shinshuchuoshi’s Dragon Spot has also resulted in a Basara showing up to start some shit; unlike Suzu, Moro doesn’t merely punish a guy who richly deserves it but gives scores of townsfolk a petrifying kiss of death.

Moro almost gets Kumashiro too, but Benio saves him, because she doesn’t need a reason to save lives. Maybe be a little nicer to her from now on, yeah Kuma-chan?

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Since she’s apparently safest by Rokuro and Benio’s side, Sae…spends a good deal of time away from said sides, but doesn’t come to any harm. In fact, the worst thing that happens to her is that she gets upset when Benio yells at her when she shows up in the battle zone.

The thing is, Sae has a backup talisman with her that helps them close the Dragon Spot, just before Moro retreats, so Sae is the heroine of the day. Benio later apologize and thanks Sae, but we’re no closer to learning what Sae’s freakin’ deal is, which is getting a bit frustrating.

That building frustration, the lack of any thrills or surprises, and animation that seemed a bit worse than usual, results in an overall MEH outing. On to the next Dragon Spot-afflicted town, I suppose.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 22

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This episode still had that zany fun factor that made it watchable, and it certainly seems to be (very gradually) setting up the next threats and opponents Roku, Benio & Co. will be up against.

But between the miasma, news of a “Dragon Spot” appearing, checking in on Arima and the 12 Guardians for a hot second, the appearance of two more bad guys—one of whom doesn’t speak and the other who’s just…bizarre—and the continued, but now less urgent mystery of who (or what) Sae is, this episode was also, at times, a bit of a disorganized mess.

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We meet our second Basara, Suzu, when she confronts a guy who shoved his lover into a group of kegare so he could get away. Man of the Year over here! We get it, SnO, the norms of this show are assholes. But Suzu, like Kamui, show’s she’s not just straight-up evil, so much as ravenously curious and unhinged, starting all of her lines in a measured, proper manner, then finishing them with a “wilder” dialect.

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But then…what is with all the theatricality? Was she once a human idol who turned into a Basara, I wonder? Whatever the case, she’s committed expressing herself; I admire that. Just as I continue to admire Mayura and her white hot pants participating in the battle instead of just cowering and waiting for rescue, which…aw dammit, she just cowered and waited for rescue…which comes not from Roku or Benio but Suzu.

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Upon experiencing Suzu’s strong, unique personality, Rokuro and Benio wear priceless expressions of bewilderment. Fortunately for them, Suzu isn’t interested in killing them or stirring up any trouble, only to observe and learn about them. Then yes, probably kill them.

After Suzu’s odd “hi!…bye!” encounter, the exorcists (wait, I thought Seigen couldn’t be an exorcist anymore. Which is it?) get to the matter at hand: sealing the “Dragon Spot” that’s basically a festering hole between this world and Magano.

Once Roku and Benio use Resonance, sealing the hole is a breeze, but the point is, it’s not the last one, and who knows where the next one(s) will show up, or when. Probably soon, and in the vicinity of innocent people. Plus some jerks, like that girlfriend-pushing guy.

Also, Sae was in the episode! Hi Sae! She’s cute…but yeah, still don’t know what’s up with her.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 21

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After the life-changing ordeal that was the battle with Yuto, and Rokuro’s gift of new hairpins for Benio, it was as good a time as any for this 50-episode series to have a time jump. It’s been two years: Mayura is now an exorcist-in-training, donning hot pants and being clumsy; Ryogo and Haruka continue to be a couple, and Roku and Benio are now a reliable and staggeringly effective duo.

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The time jump also means the love triangle is now in high school. Mayura and Benio learn that Rokuro has become pretty cool guy, and it’s nice to see a character who was so flawed and incomplete come more into his own, much like Ushio in Ushio to Tora.

Old crushes who rejected him are now smitten, and Mayura wants Benio to piss or get off the pot with regards to acting on whatever feelings she has for the guy. She has, after all, had the advantage of living and working with him for over two years. Also good to see Mayura won’t be giving up until the fat lady sings (or the Miko is born).

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Roku isn’t the only one who’s grown, as Benio is a lot more comfortable at least bringing up the possibility of conceiving a child with Rokuro…’way way way down the road’. Furthermore, she’s open about wanting to cherish the sentiment of that future. The two years they’ve spent together have had a profound effect.

This is the kind of long-game gradual development a long show like SnO can bear. There may have just been a two-year shift forwards, but nothing that we see her is out of the blue, but informed by everything that’s come before. Oh, and Han Megumi, so awkward as Five, was born to voice Benio, as her pipes provide a great balance of toughness, forthrightness, and vulnerability.

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As fate would have it, the couple gets a kid and the opportunity to train as parents far far far earlier than they expected, when after a routine exorcism trip to Magano, the gang finds a tiny young girl in the middle of a ruined playground, surrounded by an ethereal light.

Just like that, we get a little Amaama in our Sousei. The little girl mostly acts like a little girl: mimicking everyone and not giving clear answers. Where she isn’t like an ordinary little girl is her ability to quickly absorb and apply information.

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Rokuro takes an instant shine to “Sae”, as he deicides to call her when she points to those particular sounds on newspapers. Benio, less so, but she proves a lot better with the kid than she initially gives herself credit for.

Considering their personalities, Roku was always going to be better with the kid (as he’s more of a kid himself), but if there’s one person who appreciates Benio’s Ohagi-man, it’s Sae.

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But yeah, Sae is suspiciously smart, reading whole books, scaling up and building a cardboard dinosaur skeleton, and even picking up a bit of English. She’s also suspicious because of where she came from (Magano), how Seigen looked at her (with a stink-eye), and what’s going on around her (a worsening epidemic of some kind of fog-like infection).

The 12 Guardians are also on their guard due to the possibility someone named Kasukami (said with the same dread as “Voldemort”) is gathering Basara to wreak havoc. Is Sae really Kasukami in mini-configuration? Is she a Basara, like Kamui? A very full and enjoyable episode leaves us to ponder these possibilities. A strong start to the next chapter for the Twin Star Exorcists.

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Winter Cleaning – A Couple of SS’s Go Kaput

Since our total watchlist has ballooned to fifteen series (sixteen once Black★Rock Shooter comes around) we’ve felt it necessary to trim some fat. First on the chopping block: Inu x Boku SS. We were not impressed with this. We likened it somewhat to Otome Youkai Zakuro, in which both Zakuro and Agemaki were immediately more interesting than the girl and slave-like servant in this. The former couple had decent chemistry that lifted an otherwise average series, this latter one doesn’t.

As for Amagami SS+, the fact the glutton girl’s arc is up next is the perfect opportunity for us to quit cold turkey. We were always more irritate then charmed by both the one-note Rihoko (I eat a lot! Teehee!) and Sae (I’m shy! Teehee!) We may have stuck with such shows in the past a little longer, but with not one or two but three quality sci-fi shows to keep track of, we couldn’t justify keeping these two around.