Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 31 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
Way back when Twin Star Exorcists first began (seven months ago, if you can believe it), Kinako was one of the most divisive elements of the show, and it was easy to see why. As an anime-only character, the little familiar seemed to exist only as a simple mascot character/potential toy spinoff, a sidelined source of one-off quips. If he had been removed from the series entirely, I'm not sure how many people would have noticed. For a very long time, Kinako did little to change many viewers' negative perceptions about him.
That changed in this most recent Dragon Spot arc, however. I don't think it's a coincidence that the anime-only arc gave the anime-only character more time to shine, and Kinako did stand out more positively. Kinako the Brash and Overconfident Spirit Truck was a much more likable and engaging supporting character, and he was given several funny lines and character beats that worked to justify his inclusion in the story. This week, Kinako has finally gotten his very own feature episode, and while it certainly isn't perfect, it does a great job to help transform Kinako from a one-note gimmick into an honest-to-goodness character.
The story was pretty slight overall. Kinako passes out from exhaustion after spending so much time bussing the Twin Stars, but awakens to find himself distressingly separated from Benio. As he scours the city for her, he reminisces on how he and Benio first came into each other's lives. The general beats of this extended flashback were predictable, yet I was still surprisingly engaged in watching Kinako and Benio grow closer after their initial acerbic introduction. It was just the right level of sappy, and it helped define Kinako's character in a way we haven't seen until now. Before, Kinako was essentially a grumpy Kegare radar. Now we get to see him as a devoted, if not overly stubborn, servant who's willing to go out of his way to get the job done. When he learns of the tragedy that has left the young exorcist without her family, he finds a way to get her to open up and ends up not only serving as her familiar, but also her friend. Familiar as this arc was to see unfold, it makes Kinako as interesting as he's ever been. It isn't peak anime storytelling, but it certainly helps Kinako serve as a functional character.
It's the end of the episode that really sold it for me though, where Kinako gets an opportunity to grieve Sae's loss, and Benio takes comfort in her new, weird, makeshift family. Post time-skip TSE has put an increasing amount of focus on the family angle of the story. It's no longer an issue of whether Benio and Rokuro will end up together, but how they will, and I like that a lot. It places less emphasis on setting up the plot and more emphasis on character development, which benefits the show overall. Rokuro, Benio, and even Kinako are better characters because of this shift in focus.
Since this episode essentially served as an epilogue to the Dragon Spot arc, it makes sense that we'd get an after-the-credits stinger introducing us to Tsuchimikado Mikage, who's taking over as head of the Exorcists while the Guardians search for Arima. Who is this new character, and how is he related to the Tsuchimikado we all know and love? Look like we'll find out next week, as the show dives back into the action. Kinako's time in the spotlight served as a nice breather, but I'm definitely ready to dive back into the thick of battle with Benio and Rokuro.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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