Twin Star Exorcists
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Twin Star Exorcists ?
Now that's what I'm talking about.
In my early reviews, I was a bit apprehensive over the long game Twin Star Exorcists was trying to play. The characters were fine, and it sported a fun concept with some especially compelling art design, but the overall foundation of the plot was just a little suspect. Last week, the show surprised me by putting the pedal to the metal instead of spinning its wheels, and it continues that winning streak this week, delivering an episode that is emotional, visceral, and thrilling in equal measure.
The show wastes absolutely no time with its secondary characters or plot recapping, instead diving right into the fallout from last episode's big reveal of Rokuro's involvement in the death of Benio's brother Yuto during the Hinatsuki Incident. I expected the show to take a little time to play out this emotional friction, but Yuto himself shows up instead, back from the dead, to help Seigen explain what's really going on. While I can see a version of TSE that got to have some fun with Benio and Rokuro's enmity, I can also see why the writers opted to lay all their cards on the table right now. The show's opening arc has moved in fits and starts, feeling more like an extended prologue rather than the beginning of a larger journey. With Yuto Ijika being revealed as the true mastermind behind the Hinatsuki Incident, the show sacrifices some potential character drama to gain a much needed adrenaline boost for the plot.
I think it's a smart decision, even if the amount of information we get this week might have been better spread out across multiple episodes instead of just one. Between Rokuro's extended flashback detailing Yuto's fall into darkness and Benio's suffocating horror at the realization of her brother's true nature, there's a lot to unpack in not a whole lot of time. Benio's role felt the most in need of some breathing room; when Yuto first arrived, so much of the emotional response was placed on Rokuro's shoulders that at first I wasn't sure he was Benio's brother after all. I understand that Rokuro is the more hot-headed of the pair, and in a lot of ways Benio's understated response to the worst news of her life makes sense for the character. I just think that if the show had given this reveal a little more breathing room, her arc would have felt even more satisfying.
Still, when this episode needed to deliver, it delivered. The flashback detailing the Hinatsuki Incident was not the highlight of the episode, but easily one of the best sequences the show has produced so far. It took the frightening flair that the series has been flirting with and briefly transformed into full fledged horror. Ever since it was first brought up, I wondered how horrible this tragedy must have been to traumatize Rokuro so badly. Given the show's prime-time slot and target audience, I was surprised at just how gruesome and visceral this scene turned out to be. It wasn't Gantz-level gore or anything, but there were a couple of moments that actually managed to shock me. In just those few minutes, Rokuro's angst, Benio's sorrow, and Yuto's villainy were all given bloodcurdling legitimacy.
If Twin Star Exorcists didn't grab your attention over the past couple of months, that's understandable. The show has been fighting an uphill battle against its own bad habits, too willing to stick to familiar tropes and aimless storytelling to ever be better than "Kind of Good". But this is the perfect time to give this anime another shot. The one-two punch of the past two episodes has elevated both the emotional stakes of the plot and the bond between our two heroes. It's still not perfect by any means, but the series has transformed from "Pretty Okay" to "I Can't Wait to See What Happens Next." Like Rokuro himself, our underdog shonen of the season has revealed its own set of sharp, glistening teeth.
Twin Star Exorcists is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter.
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