Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
First things first, ladies and gents: this week's Twin Star Exorcists is a recap episode.
*cue ominous music*
I can think of few other trends in anime that so consistently inspire dismay than the recap, and it's hard to blame the fans for feeling that way. Recap episodes are speed-bumps in the road of narrative progress, and far too often they rank among the most lazily written and executed episodes a show can produce. While I understand the need for shows to conserve their animation budget and stop to catch up new viewers, especially in longer shonen-type shows such as this one, it just seems like such an outmoded practice in this day and age, at least to me.
So imagine my surprise when the episode turned out to be good. Being a recap episode, it still suffers from the awkwardness of having the characters drop what they're doing to ham-fistedly recall what most of the audience already knows. That pretty much always comes across as sloppy, even in the best recaps. Still, given TSE's own rough track record when it comes to cutting corners, I was honestly kind of shocked that this episode turned out as entertaining and well-animated as it did. We've even got brand new opening and ending themes, and they're both quite good. The new opening in particular features excellent music and very impressive animation. It remains to be seen if the battles and enemies it foreshadows will be executed anywhere near as well as they are in this teaser, but I would be lying if I said the sequence didn't get me just a little hyped.
Overall, this is probably one of the best-looking episodes the show has put out in a while. Not only are all the characters on-model for almost the entirety of the episode, but the coloring has a lush and rich feel that even some of the more action-packed episodes of the show have lacked. Not to mention that, for a recap, we got a surprising amount of original footage; I clocked the episode in at about 80% new animation to about 20% flashback-material. Despite pumping the brakes on the overarching storyline, this recap episode put a surprising amount of effort into producing a gently entertaining and aesthetically pleasing half hour of anime.
The writing on the whole was terrific, actually. One of the most common criticisms against recap episodes is how forced and artificial it can be to have the characters get together and summarize their adventures to one another. TSE dodges a lot of that awkwardness by setting the episode during Tanabata, Japan's Star Festival. It makes sense to have our heroes reminisce and joke around with one another during a holiday that's explicitly about looking back on the past and making wishes for an even better future. Ryogo and the other Exorcists are as endearing as they've ever been, and Mayura gets to pop back in again too, after being absent for several episodes. The love triangle the writers are forming between her, Rokuro, and Benio can be seen from a mile away, but it's lighthearted enough to work, at least for now.
Rokuro and Benio also get moments of reflection that actually make sense for their characters, showcasing how far they've come in their partnership together. One of the main ways TSE has been able to sidestep a lot its central premise's potential weirdness has been by taking the time to show that Benio and Rokuro form a truly compelling partnership that grows and matures realistically. Both Benio and Rokuro's personalities and interactions are very much rooted in familiar tropes, but their chemistry has helped elevate them into two genuinely compelling protagonists. Twin Star Exorcists may have plenty of rough edges, but it rises above them because of how well Benio and Rokuro work, both separately and apart.
Most Twin Star Exorcists episodes can be neatly divided into two categories, choosing to focus primarily on either action and drama or romance and comedy. This episode of TSE might is among the best of the romance/comedy entries the show has put out. It might even be the best in terms of entertainment value. Leave it to Twin Star Exorcists to save some of its best material for the episode that should have been its most disposable. It's actually a pretty good representation of the series at large: definitely not perfect, and occasionally kind of sloppy, but I'm always pleasantly surprised by how much it can win me over.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter.< /em>
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