There’s a definite sense of irony to what’s happening on Ao no Exorcist as we enter the final stretch. After all the debate about anime-original material, it looks as if the series would have been better off diverting from the manga sooner.
I base that on the premise that the anime has done – and is doing – a generally good job coming up with original material. I think what we’re seeing now is the prospect of a very interesting and involving anime ending that’s suffering from rushed pacing. I almost got whiplash, things were happening so fast this week – yet that didn’t stop me from being interested and invested in the plot. The episode felt like it flew by and the cliffhanger was pretty agonizing, and those are all signs of a good premise. But it’s all just too much, too fast – it would have worked so much better if there’d been adequate time spend on setting all this up. As it was, the physical events seemed to happen way too quickly and the motivations of the characters – especially Yukio – didn’t feel realistic.
t didn’t take a genius to figure out that Ernst Frederick Egin was a dangerous chap. I’m still not exactly sure how he deposed Benedict and the entire Grigori and took over the whole Vatican operation, but he’s made Yukio a Paladin and put him in charge of the “Operation Jacob’s Ladder”. The goal? To wipe out demonkind in Assiah, open the gate to Gehenna and destroy it using some sort of doomsday weapon called “The Messiah” (heh). I suppose Yukio’s gullibility in getting swept up in all this might be explained by his desperation at seeing himself turning demon – Ernst is promising that once Gehenna is gone both Yukimara twins will return to full humanity, after all. But honestly a ten year-old with above-average intuition could have seen through all that, and I just don’t think Yukio is that stupid. I could see him getting to this point – just not this quickly. As is, the notion of him trying to kill Blackie, coldly eliminating Forest Gods and turning Rin over to Ernst’s goons just seems out of character.
In that light it didn’t come as a surprise to me that Ernst had altogether nastier plans for Rin, family ties (if they really exist) or no. He needs the blood of demons to help open the gate to Gehnna – thus the Transylvanian blood-sucking weapons he makes all exorcists start using – but it’s obvious that he needs Satan’s blood as the final key. So that means Rin is to be executed in rather grisly fashion, on the cross no less (though for PC’s sake, this one is more like a railroad crossing than the true cross). Naturally Yukio is upset when he finds out the truth – and that anger seems to have turned him fully demon, in an ironic twist. But with Rin in the shape he’s in, it might just be too late. This is the week for cliffhanger endings regarding major character deaths, after all – that makes four of them in nine days.
All this is a really good story, in my view – a very interesting twist on the manga plotline and an effective extension of the existing character arcs. The prospect of seeing the child exorcists turned into butchers was every bit as bleak and disturbing as it should have been, and it did an effective job of blurring the lines between good and evil (which were already pretty fuzzy in this series). I just wish it had evolved more organically instead of being shoved down our throats with extreme prejudice. There are three episodes left, so perhaps there’s time to wrap this up in something resembling measured style. Rin is obviously not dead – I mean, come on – and of course Mephisto is still out there, having turned into his Dr. Seuss dog form and escaped the Vatican’s dungeons (leaving Rin behind, I might add – but any dungeon with takoyaki can’t be all bad). I can’t imagine Gehenna being destroyed would do his prospects any good, and he doesn’t seem like the type to accept fate with grace and resignation. And then there’s Shura, doing battle with AAA (is he still a Paladin, with Yukio promoted?). I’m especially interested in their battle, as it appears to present the possibility of his toupee being forcibly removed.
One major disappointment – still no explanation for just who or what Takara is, and what his role in the story is – the important-looking appearance in the preview was just a troll (leave that to HanaIro, Guys). I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t get at least a bone thrown to us on that score.