「秘密の花園」 (Himitsu no Hanazono)
Take a good studio, add a good director, throw in some good characters and an ongoing manga and what do you get? From the looks of things, the potential for a very good anime-original ending that just might satisfy some very nervous fans.
I really have nothing but good things to say about this episode. It worked very well both as a stand-alone story and as a setup for this new route the anime appears to be taking. This was the most effective use of Shiemi since her introduction, a very fine and balanced portrayal of where Rin in his development, and an involving story that made Professor Nehaus a somewhat sympathetic character. Like that other shounen manga that had an anime-original ending the first time around, resurrection of the dead is the ultimate taboo in Ao no Exorcist – only this time it’s the Vatican enforcing the rules. With his wife dead and as the head of an artificial life lab, not even Nehaus was willing to cross that line for his dear Michelle, but apparently someone did – as she ended up walking around, attracting spiders and donning a mask to seek revenge against Satan for killing her family (and her).
The other storyline playing out concerns Ernst Frederick Egin (Toshihiko Miki) the man who claims to be Yukio and Rin’s maternal Grandfather. He has a scarred face and claims he was burned on the Blue Night, the same night his daughter – and the boys’ mother – Yuri was killed. But if all this is to be believed it wasn’t at the hands of Satan, but the Vatican, who burned his daughter as a witch for giving birth to the twins and imprisoned Ernst for 15 years. Now, out of the goodness of his heart, he’s come to take Yukio in because Mephistopheles has been arrested – though there’s apparently no room at the inn for Rin. Color me skeptical, but I don’t buy it. I’m skeptical of Ernst’s motives, if not his very identity – the guy wants more than to recruit Yukio to his cause (fighting what he says is the corrupted Order of the True Cross) and protect the brothers.
But then, I think a Fox Mulder philosophy is the appropriate one for AoEx at this point – trust no one. Everyone has their own agenda, and probably a selfish one at that – Ernst, Mepphy, The Grigori, probably even Shura. It’s a dangerous world for Rin and Yukio, and even if Yukio appears to be working for his “Grandfather” I’m not convinced he’s not doing it as a ruse. What we don’t know, among other things, is how Ernst supposedly was freed and better yet, how he’s managed to depose the Grigori and seemingly take all church authority into his own hands. My gut tells me of all the dubious parties vying for power at the moment, Ernst is the most dangerous.
As to the fate of Nehaus and Michelle, it’s clouded, but I suspect their part in the anime has ended apart from the matter of who quickened her. Shiemi’s green men helped them escape apparently, but she was wounded and Igor had already conceded she was nothing but an animated corpse, with little time left to her. I suspect their search for the Garden of Amahara means joining each other in death. Michelle’s interactions with Shiemi were lovely, especially since this was really the first time we’ve seen Shiemi in all her naïve, innocent glory for quite a while. it was nice to see her childlike joy at meeting another who knew of the Garden of Amahara. Her green men were quite the scene stealers, too, helping to save Michelle and even – in the form of what looks suspiciously like an Ent – to carry her. Rin coming to Michelle’s defense in the end might have been in deference to Shiemi’s wishes to some extent, but I also think his natural instinct to protect the weak guided him here. The Vatican – both in terms of The Order and Ernst’s group – is more and more looking like the real bad guys in a series when we’ve seen no evidence of Satan’s direct involvement since the first few eps. And AAA looking more than a glorified Yakuza hitman than a real Paladin.
With four eps left, I think it’s very possible A-1 and Okamura-sensei could give us a very convincing and emotionally satisfying ending. Hopefully it will be that, and one that doesn’t close the door on a continuation in two or three years to boot. As for next week, it appears as if Takara (Bunny-kun) may finally get in on the action at long last.