Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 23 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
We dive deeper into the Dragon Spot Arc this week, as Twin Star Exorcists uses its current run of anime-only material to tackle aspects of character development and worldbuilding I've waiting to see more of since the show first began. While the results are definitely a little uneven (as we've come to expect whenever the show deviates too far from its source material), the episode still absolutely delivers an entertaining, emotional, and effective story.
One of the things I like most about this arc is how we finally get to see the exorcists as a functioning organization that acts as a part of society. The series has spent 90% of its time so far on Benio and Rokuro's story, which makes sense since they're the titular twin Star Exorcists. Still, that narrow scope of focus has often left the actual function of exorcists in the world they ostensibly protect feeling somewhat murky. I was never looking for an Exorcists Employee Orientation Video or anything, but I've long wanted to see how these magical fighters and the Kegare they wage war against actually affect the rest of the world. The Dragon Spot Arc has provided just that.
As The Twin Stars roll out to the infected city of Shinsu, we get a real sense of the impact that Kegare infections are having on the the general population. News reports try to pass off the rash of sickness as a new branch of influenza, and we even see a bunch of the Shinsu exorcists running relief at the local hospital and blocking civilians from the more dangerous areas of town. The sight of a lone girl trying to reconnect with her friend on the other side of the barricade reminds us of the human cost of this fight that Benio and Rokuro are embroiled in. Sure it's a little cheap, but not overdone, and when Benio finds that same girl's tattered clothes amongst a pile of ashen corpses, there's an honest sense of weight there.
Speaking of that pile of corpses, this episode definitely doesn't suffer from the low stakes that hurt last week's entry. From the outset, we get the feeling that this week's Basara, Moro, is an imminent threat, even before the Twin Stars bust her out of her oversized Kegare armor. The sight of mangled, drained bodies just tumbling out of her giant maw is one of the most genuinely disturbing images the show has given us so far, and I mean that in the best way.
That isn't to say that everything is doom and gloom this week. Sae's front and center after taking a backseat last week, and her developing bond with Benio is still one of my favorite developments of this entire arc. Rokuro seems to be a natural with children, but Benio struggles much more when she tries to connect with the mysterious young girl. This makes sense, given that her own childhood was so traumatically cut short, and seeing Benio try to navigate the murky waters of caring for a child is compelling stuff. Contrasting the vague idea of a prophetic marriage to the realities of taking care of a young child is a smart decision for the show to take. If you're going to base an entire story off the premise of a marriage bound by prophecy, the natural question to ask is whether or not our heroes will actually be able to make that kind of life work. This arc is doing a good job of exploring that.
Unfortunately, this episode suffers from some of the most inconsistent art direction and animation we've seen in a while, maybe since the first ten or so episodes. It isn't anything approaching a low point, but the janky character models and stiff framework definitely hurt the impact of the episode, especially when the battle heats up in the second half. The writing and voicework does a lot to save it, but it's still sad to see the show dip back into such rough visual territory, especially since it's been so strong over the last half-dozen episodes.
Twin Star Exorcists is a prime example of a show being more than the sum of its parts, and this is still a very successful episode despite its shortcomings. We get some valuable world building, a genuinely threatening villain-of-the-week, and some lovely interactions between Benio and Sae. No matter how Sae's story resolves, it has served as a great addition to the series so far, and I can't wait to see how it continues in the coming weeks.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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