Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
Twin Star Exorcists took a surprising turn this week, resisting the urge to jump right into the fray and taking some extra time to prepare our protagonists (and the audience) for the battle to come.
I had some words to say last week about the effect of TSE's erratic pacing and focus, but I really appreciated what the show did this week. Instead of coming across as rushed setup, Benio and Rokuro's training together felt very focused and necessary. As the two realized when they began to practice consciously activating their Resonance skills for the first time, neither of them have had any time to soak in everything they've learned the past few weeks. Having the Twin Stars take stock of their growing powers, and their growing relationship, was a smart move indeed.
It's that last part that especially struck me this week. If one thing has really gotten to me over the past eighteen episodes, it's how consistently and carefully the show has handled the development of Benio and Rokuro's partnership. For a premise that's rooted in fairly tired tropes for both romantic comedies and shonen series, TSE has been really good at taking the high road and treating the friendship/partnership/romance between our two leads with a lot of class and care. That isn't to say there haven't been plenty of cheap gags and shenanigans, because there have been, but all of it has come with a degree of sincerity that I can't help but find endearing. For example, when Benio falls asleep next to Rokuro in a moment of intimacy, the obvious punchline is the comical overreaction, which the show definitely goes for. But then it takes it one step further and has the pair recognize the silliness and laugh it off together. They've been living together and risking their lives together for weeks now. What's a little nap between them at this point?
It's that one extra beat that shows just how far these two have come, both as individuals and as a couple. Benio's grandmother points out that Rokuro brings out a refreshing bluntness in her, and Rokuro himself admits that he was genuinely moved when Benio told him that she would stand with him in battle against her brother. I find this kind of nuanced, well-paced relationship development truly compelling; as far as I'm concerned, it's the bedrock of everything the show does well. Without Benio and Rokuro's chemistry, TSE would be a rather unremarkable, run-of-the-mill action series. With that element in place, it's kind of special.
This was a pretty great week for Benio in general. So much of the focus has been either on Rokuro's reaction to the last couple of weeks or on fleshing out side characters, Benio was beginning to feel a little lost in the shuffle; this episode does a lot to address that. I felt the show was constantly underselling Yuto's identity as Benio's brother, and we finally get to see a little bit of how much this kind of personal betrayal hurts her, which I really appreciated. We also got a scene with her grandmother, which is especially nice because I had almost forgotten she was a character at all.
If there was any moment that didn't quite work for me, it was the scene where Rokuro fully explained how his arm is the result of a partial Kegare corruption. The scene itself wasn't bad at all, but it felt out of place in the episode, as if the writers realized that this was information they needed to get out but couldn't find a good place to fit it, so they just stuck it in right before the Big Fight. The animation also hit a couple of rough spots throughout the episode, but this was much more about character than spectacle, so it didn't detract from the experience too much.
Overall, this was a great episode. It set the stage in a much more natural way than last week's did, and it featured some of the best character writing we've seen from the show in weeks. Last week, I was looking forward to the fight because I was tired of the show dragging out its conflict. This week, I'm pumped because I can't wait to see the Twin Star Exorcists kick Yuto's ass. That's a much better place to be.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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