This appears to be a critical time for AoEx. The series is doing very well in terms of ratings and BD/DVD sales, and the manga is selling well in the US. Yet the manga is nowhere near far enough along to support a second season of the anime. So which direction does A-1 choose – an anime-original ending à la Kuroshitsuji, or perhaps a total “jump break” like Deadman Wonderland with the intent of waiting at least two years and hoping the audience is still there? I haven’t read the manga so I won’t be able to answer that authoritatively, but judging from the reactions I’m seeing it looks like this was the week where two roads started to diverge in the yellow wood, and the anime began making major changes.
The episode split up the cast into two storylines, connected but independent, with Rin, Shura and Mephisto off to deal with the matter of the church authorities. Meanwhile the others headed off to Kyoto (via Yukio’s magic door), there to try and find a swordsmith to repair the cracked demon blade and contain Rin’s powers again. Yes, you can infer from that that the others seem willing to overlook the fact that Rin is the Son of Satan and stand by him anyway. Shiemi is unsurprisingly the most forgiving (she is in love with him, after all) but it’s Konekomaru, surprisingly, who’s most resistant to the idea. The most severely injured of the group, he stays behind with Tanaka while the others zip off up Mt. Hiei to find the swordsmith who forged the demon sword, Kurikara.
I can’t help but feel that the decision to stand by Rin was a bit too one-sided and considerably too quick in the making. Bon, especially, seemed to go along much more quickly than I would have thought – though I would have expected him to go along eventually. It’s his childhood crush who’s taken over as the Yoshikuni swordsmith, and she’s the one who’ll have to remake the sword. She speaks in a very odd accent which to my very poor Japanese sounds something like a cross between an Osaka dialect and Hideyoshi from Baka Test, but she reveals all sorts of embarrassing things about “L’il Ryu” so I’ll forgive that. The most interesting element of this thread was probably the appearance of Mara possessing the Buddha statues at the temple where the sacred nail the swordsmith needs to remake Kurikara.
Meanwhile, Mephisto in on trial in front of the Grigori, the top authority of the Church. Leading the arguments against him (and for executing Rin, encased in a kind of holy carbonite) is Arthur Augusto Angel (Ono Daisuke), the newly appointed Paladin and no fan of the last one, apparently. The whole issue of Mephisto and what his true intentions are is really at the heart of things. He claims to be grooming Rin as a weapon against Satan, and even the Grigori admit they don’t have any real weapons in that battle at the moment. Arthur is considerably more skeptical and believes Mephisto has betrayed Assiah altogether. Just as Mephisto appears to be winning the argument Amaimon shows up, intent on taking his revenge against Rin. Mephisto is unflappable as ever, suggesting that Rin be released to demonstrate his powers by battling Amaimon.
Considering everything that was going on, that actually played as a pretty low-key episode I thought. Perhaps a calm before the storm. There’s a ton of uncertainty at the moment, much of it stemming from the fact that we don’t know whether A-1 intends to wrap up this story in 8 episodes or not. There’s the matter of Arthur’s spy at the Academy, as referred to by Shura – and it occurs to me that there’s one cast member (and his puppet) whose purpose at the Academy has not been explained. Mephisto – as he usually does – seems to be at the center of things, and he’s the great wild card in all this. I’m not sure whose side he’s really on except his own, and his agenda probably transcends either that of the Church of or Gehenna. But what he really wants is another matter, though I suspect he needs Rin alive to obtain it. It seems likely he gave Yukio the demon sword specifically with the belief that Yukio and the students would get it repaired.
Basically the entire episode played out with Rin immobilized, and it was odd not having his intensity as part of the dynamic. Given the greed in the voices of the Grigori at the prospect of such a powerful tool in their hands, my suspicion is that they’ll rule to let Mephisto develop Rin, choosing the wishes of the last Paladin over the current one.