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 – 17

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Like Roku and Benio, I was tired after last week’s battle, hoping there’d be a respite…and then Ijika Yuto had to show up…again. I know he’s pretty much the big bad of this show so far, but I’ve been on record since he showed up that I simply do not care for the singsongy little twerp, because unlike other well-worn elements of SnO, he hasn’t been able to expand or subvert his generic smirking villain nature. I don’t like how he talks, and I don’t like how he holds back for dramatic effect.

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Seigen looks more than capable of overpowering Yuto, and Yuto’s expressions suggest the same. However, Yuto’s just messing around; in reality, he’s far more powerful than Seigen. But he’s just too in love with foreplay and dragging a battle out. In addition to Yuto, I also don’t like it when the show spends extended periods in Magano—it’s cool-looking, but too abstract and fantastical to carry much weight as a setting.

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Seigen is down, but not out, so after taking another hit for Roku and boxing up Roku, Benio, and Mayura in a protective barrier, he launches an apparent suicide attack in order to stop Yuto from harming the future parents of the Miko. I do like how Seigen, for all his bad attitude, has become a believer in the Twin Stars, which I guess is why he felt confident that the end of his life wouldn’t mean the end of the cause.

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Naturally, his near-suicide attack has little to no effect on Yuto, meaning Yuto is clearly strong enough to have already done everything he could want to do—including kill everyone here in the first minute of the episode. But he doesn’t, because he still wants to see Roku unleash the full potential he sees in him…if only to turn him into a corruption as he did the Hinatsuki dorm kids and Mayura.

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One more gripe against this episode: it pretty much sidelined our Twin Stars, who for most of the running time can only react to Yuto and Seigen, and in Rokuro’s case yell and scream far too much for one episode. However, when they finally get some time at the end, they don’t waste it.

Jiisan gives Roku what Seigen prepared for him—a special elite exorcist armor that’s hella cool-looking—which Roku quickly puts on and tells Benio (still grieving over what’s become of her brother) he’s not going to wait for a four guardian task force to arrive and deal with Yuto. It’s something “he has to do himself.” Hopefully, he actually means himself and Benio.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 05

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Like Bungou Stray DogsSnO aims to provide a combination of seriousness and levity, though Oji-san doesn’t think BSD is successful. I haven’t been keeping up with it, so I don’t know, but as relatively brainless, usually amusing, occasionally touching hump day entertainment, SnO fits the bill quite nicely, even if it isn’t blazing any trails.

A part of my enjoyment is that I’m rooting for both of the twin star Exorcists, and totally get where they’re both coming from and why they both clash and harmonize so often. I won’t say their similarities as strong,  fundamentally good-hearted people outweighs their differences, but they complement each other extremely well, and aren’t fooling anyone when they insist they hate each other (which they don’t even come out and say, it’s more of an exchange of barbs).

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Benio is stuck-up, but, well, why wouldn’t she be? She’s been the best at everything she’s ever done, and has to maintain a certain air of confidence bordering on arrogance considering the burden her slight shoulders bear.

To be paired up with someone who, while undeniably strong when he needs to be, has some serious motivational problems stemming from past trauma, and can’t just say he wants to join an exorcism mission, but comes up with a bunch of half-assed excuses to mask his enthusiasm—it’s gotta be frustrating to Benio, who knows exactly what she wants to do and is firmly on the path to making it happen.

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But like I said, Benio doesn’t hate Rokuro. He’s got his flaws, but when it counts, he’s no slouch. He puts the big Kegare boss away, motivated by a desire to stop others from getting hurt anymore for the day. He’s fed up.

So when Twelve Guardians member Ikuruga Shimon shows up to clean up, Rokuro moves and takes care of it before him, and Benio has Rokuro’s back. She wants Shimon to see what she’s seen: great potential, hampered by persistent wishy-washiness.

Shimon and Benio share a kind of monk-like calm that Rokuro sorely lacks. And while Rokuro seems to become more powerful the more up against the wall and desperate to end things he is, he could stand to learn a few things about keeping one’s cool and minding one’s surroundings, things both Benio and Shimon possess in spades, owing to their experience.

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I especially liked Benio’s little smile when Rokuro meekly accepts the heartfelt thanks of the boy’s soccer team he helped save (with Benio and Shimon’s help). Benio sees that the key to keeping Rokuro focused is a healthy awareness that his actions keep people safe; that his strength is necessary to protect the weak, and he can’t be content with the way he is now.

As such, Shimon, who was Rokuro’s age when he became one of the Twleve Guardians, should prove to be a valuable goal for Rokuro going forward; one not hampered by the whole betrothed thing, as he is with Benio. The fact they’re arranged to marry some day is kinda kept in the background, as it’s still clearly a way off, but everyone is right that the two are already bickering like an old couple.

As for Arima, he’s a guy who’s clearly powerful enough to goof off with swimsuit mags as much as he wants. You get the feeling something seriously messed-up has to go down in the world for the guy to break a sweat…especially when he has Shimon, eleven others like (or better) than him…and the Twin Stars, slowly building their sheen.

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