Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 46 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
I'll be honest, I didn't really think this show had many surprises left in it. Its predictability and reliance on well-worn tropes have always been some of the series' weakest qualities, especially in its anime-only latter half; even in its most entertaining high points, the show has never really been about wowing the audience with twists and turns. This week, only a few episodes away from the grand finale, Twin Star Exorcists managed to truly surprise and impress me.
I thought I had this final arc pegged. With Yuto back, Rokuro was going to use his power as the Cataclysm King and take him on, one on one. As last week demonstrated, Rokuro would get precariously close to losing control, tiptoeing to the edge. His love for Benio would pull him back from the brink, and in the final handful of episodes, they would take Yuto on together, perhaps even managing to wring some small kind of redemption from him before saving the world from his schemes.
That isn't quite what happened. The series even plays on the audience's expectations, showing Rokuro's memories of his friends slowly blinking out as his battle with Yuto gets more and more out of hand. As we learn this week, Yuto is essentially a mistaken castoff of Yin energy, blessed with all of Rokuro's inherent power but cursed with a lack of purpose or meaning. Knowing that he won't be able to fulfill his purpose as the arbiter of mankind's destruction, Yuto has taken it upon himself to get Rokuro to that place instead, drawing the monster out of him until there's no going back. After a brutal (and very well-produced) fight, Yuto is fatally wounded, and it seems like Rokuro might finally lose his humanity and give into the fatal curse that plagues him. Then Benio shows up, an angelic vision, and everything seems like it will turn out okay.
Then Rokuro's heart explodes, his blood reforming in a surreal halo that coats Yuto's face in a paradoxically sincere parody of weeping. It's an unexpectedly haunting and terrifying sequence, made all the more poignant by Yuto using his dying breath to sing the song of the children's game he and Rokuro once played so many years ago, while Rokuro ascends into a visage of apocalyptic fire. The whole scene is more than a little reminiscent of Evangelion, and the craziest thing of all is that TSE manages to pull it off. I was on the edge of my seat, genuinely taken aback by the development.
The artfulness and excellence of the last half of the episode helps me forgive some of the episode's shortcomings, though there aren't too many to be found. The flashbacks with Yuto and Rokuro weren't as revealing as expected, simply showing that Yuto's poisonous ambition was once much less villainous. While it doesn't really give us anything new, it does help humanize the character, which makes sense given his fate at the episode's end. I also thought some of the backstory involving Abe-no-Seimei's plans and the circumstantial creation of Yuto as a second manifestation of yin-energy felt a little rushed and last-minute. Also, the reveal that Mikage is actually an incarnation of Abe-no-Seimei seemed weirdly casual. Did I miss something last week? Was this already common knowledge? I imagine they'll address more about that next week, but it still came across as weird to me.
Honestly though, I'm just so impressed with how the last act of this episode was handled, these complaints feel more like nitpicks than anything. I was worried that TSE wouldn't produce another legitimately great episode in its final run. Boy, am I ever glad to be proven wrong.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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