Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 41 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
Kuranashi dealt his final hand this week, and I'm of two minds over how it all played out. On one hand, it was good to see his almost two dozen episodes of scheming finally come to fruition, and having the entirety of the twelve guardians sacrificed in the name of Kuranashi's ascent to power was certainly one heck of a punctuation mark to cap off the game he's been playing. On the other hand, as a resolution to everything that the Dragon Spot Arc was building towards, I still couldn't help but feel underwhelmed.
Put simply, neither Kuranashi nor a majority of the Twelve guardians have been developed enough for this grand climax to feel as impactful as it should at this point. Seeing the guardians absorbed by Kuranashi is an effective ploy from a plot standpoint, but outside of Seigen, Shimon, and Subaru, I can't say I was all that emotionally affected by the Guardians' loss. Knowing how this series has a tendency to pull off happy ending saves at the last minute, I'm hard pressed to believe they're actually dead for keeps, which robs the scene of even more emotional impact. It wasn't a bad turn by any means, but like so many of the story developments that have occurred in the back half of Twin Star Exorcists, it could have been executed with more panache.
The same goes for Kuranashi himself. As a character, he has barely been defined, occupying the role of Most Evil Basara without having any real reason for why he's doing what he's doing, outside of the ol' “I want to rule the world” shtick. As a rule, I'm not inherently against the use of well-worn tropes, even such familiar archetypes as Kuranashi's, but my forgiveness of cliché is directly proportionate to how expertly that cliché is handled. Kuranashi is a perfectly adequate villain, but the end of this episode reveals a “surprise” that should surprise absolutely nobody, an antagonistic switcheroo that shows just how disposable Kuranashi has been all along. He was a placeholder through and through, and with his job fulfilled, we have the return of an old villainous face that should hopefully ratchet up the tension as the series draws to a close.
But before we get to that, I should probably talk about the one genuinely surprising turn this episode, which is Tanata's unexpected (and pretty badass) Last Stand. I'll be the first to admit that it's a little cheap to take the most minor of minor characters and all of a sudden reveal him as a ridiculously powerful shikigami (a sorcerer's summon or familiar). The turn doesn't completely work, because there was absolutely no foreshadowing to build up to this moment, made even more noticeable by the show's sloppy attempt to hash out some kind of long-standing feud between Tanata and Kuranashi. The animation in this episode was also surprisingly lacking, given its place as a Big Set Piece Episode, so the fight was choppier and rougher-looking than I would have liked. Still, Tanata's unrelenting charge at Kuranashi was probably the highlight of the episode, the only time I can actually say I was surprised at what was going down. It was a fun (if hackneyed) reveal, and I'm glad Tanata got to have his own little moment of heroism before the end.
All the same, the end of the episode reveals that everything that's occurred over the past few weeks has been a protracted fake-out, time spent on a villain whose only real job was to pave the way for the return of the true antagonist: Yuto. I won't lie, I'm glad to see him return, since he's easily the most effective antagonist the series has ever had. While I'm not sure how well this anime-only storyline will handle his reintroduction, Yuto still has the benefit of a whole season's worth of backstory and evildoing to hold him steady.
My biggest issue isn't his sudden return, but the insinuation that every single thing that's happened since the time skip has all secretly been Yuto's doing. The show will have to take at least another episode to explain exactly how that works, otherwise the last two dozen episodes will risk feeling like a monumental waste of time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy overall, though. Twin Star Exorcists began with Yuto doing everything he could to ruin Rokuro and Benio's lives, so it's only fitting that it ends in the same fashion. There are roughly nine episodes to go; let's see how well TSE can wrap things up now that everything is coming full circle.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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