Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga’s 9th episode, Through Thick and Thin, Yukio Okumura struggles to fend off Saburota Todo’s physical and emotional attacks until the Exorcist reaches a breaking point. Izumo Kamiki and Shiemi Moriyama fight to keep the injured Tatsuma Suguro free from the corruption of the Impure King. Rin Okumura, Ryuji Suguro, and the super-sized Kuro reach their target but have no idea how they’re going to win against such a monstrous foe. Renzo Shima shows his true colors to Konekomaru Miwa.
What’s In This Post
As Rin and Ryuji ride Kuro towards the heart of the Impure King, Todo hammers at Yukio with an emotional attack. It’s almost like Todo can read Yukio’s memories of every injustice he ever felt in relation to Rin. Throughout his taunts, Todo easily dodges Yukio’s bullets. Seemingly exhausted by his emotions, Yukio pauses, much to Todo’s delight. That delight turns to astonishment when Yukio reveals that all along, his shots weren’t wild. He was setting up a magic circle so he could summons water demons called naiads. Remembering Shura Kirigakure admonishing him to be honest with himself, he tells Todo that he both loves and hates his brother; but the one he really hates is himself. Then he triggers the naiad water prison, which envelops Todo in a globe of water.
Whenever Kuro lands and touches the Impure King, fungus-like protrusions immediately attack him. Ryuji worries that if they can’t find a clear spot, he won’t be able to cast his barrier spell. He’s also worried that Rin won’t be able to draw his sword. Both of the ExWires both try to deal with their fears in their own ways. Kuro finds the last rock outcropping and lands. Rin, using his sheathed sword, and Kuro, using his powerful paws, try to hold back the flood of Impure King. Ryuji recreates Tatsuma’s chant and raises the flame barrier. Now, he and Rin are trapped inside as the Impure King gets closer and closer to erupting. But Ryuji’s strength won’t last forever, and the Impure King continues its attacks. Spores begin to erupt and send miasma everywhere.
Miwa and Renzo find themselves stuck as the fungus tendrils trap them in a tree. Miwa tries frantically to think of a way to rejoin their friends, but Renzo’s courage snaps, and he tries to convince Miwa to run away with him. Renzo’s sick of responsibility and sick of expectations that end in people’s death. He begins his retreat as Miwa tries to hold back the tendrils with a single flaming stick. Renzo becomes more and more angry as he reflects on the pressures he’s tried to deal with all his life. But when he hears Miwa being overwhelmed, before he even consciously knows what he’s doing, his k’rik bursts into flame and he beats back the flood threatening his friend. Together, they begin to gain the upper hand.
Kamiki calls upon her fox spirit familiars to help carry Tatsuma down the mountain. As she’s trying to concentrate to maintain her control, she begins to question her own motives for helping her friends — even Moriyama. But she doesn’t notice that the Impure King’s tendrils as they rain down from the tree above. Before she knows it, she’s captured. The fungus encases her and her familiars disappear. Desparate, not having been able to summon her own familiar since losing her talisman last season, Moriyama uses her own blood to draw a summoning circle. Nee answers her pleas, and together they try to free Kamiki.
Todo gathers his power and evaporates the water prison. He expresses disappointment that he’s going to have to kill Yukio now. But as Todo tries to land the fatal blow, Yukio’s eyes begin flowing with a blue flame. Todo backs away, yet Yukio is too terrified to act. Just then, Juzo Shima and several other monks, who had seen the fighting from afar, arrive. Meanwhile, inside the barrier with Rin, Ryuji, and Kuro, the Impure King releases its spores.
What I Liked
The contrast between Rin’s reaction and Ryuji’s reaction to riding the flying Kuro made me laugh. Rin was thoroughly enjoying himself (maybe too much — covering up his own fears?) while Ryuji made no secret of how terrified he felt. I can’t blame him. Kuro in Super Sized form is huge, and riding on an enormous cat as it leaps through the air could not have felt safe.
Yukio’s admission that he hated himself surprised me. I was afraid he’d more go the route he did at the end of the previous season. I understand that ending wasn’t canonical (i.e., wasn’t in the manga), but it seemed to be the direction this series was going. Of course, he’s still in danger from Todo, and we’ve seen his Satanic nature peek out. I wonder how this’ll change his relationship to Rin?
Ryuji looked at the sporangium and saw an insurmountable structure; Rin looked at it and saw it as a huge meat bun. Those reactions were so in character for both of them! Not only was the moment humorous, but it became obvious that their reactions were representative of how both of them were dealing with their fears. Ryuji focused on his sense of responsibility; Rin tried to keep everything at a distance and focus on mundane things like hunger to keep his mind away from the fear.
Quote of the episode: Ryuji saying, “And if you can’t draw that sword, you’re just a strong guy with a stick!” Ryuji’s a very practical young man.
Rin and Ryuji are quickly reestablishing the teasing camaraderie they had built before the revelation that Rin’s the son of Satan. Rin calling him “Princess Suguro” and Ryuji’s raging reaction just felt perfect. So did Ryuji’s response when he saw Rin’s hand trembling as it grasped the sword: he understood Rin was trying to keep a handle on his own fears.
The animation this week was beautiful, just as it has been all season. Between the Impure King’s creepy grotesqueness and the ethereal beauty of Ryuji’s flame barrier, this episode was a visual treat. Towards the end, when the Impure King was beginning to erupt miasma, I thought the effects were so realistic that I felt actual disgust.
One of the things I’ve always liked about this show is the strength of its characters. They’re so fully realized that they even have flaws that I can identify with. I could identify with Renzo as he tried to escape his own sense of responsibility; that means I could cheer all the more when he overcame his dread and saved Miwa.
I have to agree with Moriyama this week: the little fox spirits were amazingly cute! For a moment, it was raining pure cuteness!
What I Liked Less
How convenient! One last rock outcropping in the middle of the huge Impure King’s expanse, and Kuro happens to find it. Of course, I understand that without the outcropping, the end credits might as well have started rolling. Still, it seemed too convenient to me.
After a lot of emotional setup, the action really picked up in this episode, on multiple fronts.
Yukio pleasantly surprised me this week. I honestly thought that he’d give into self-hatred and turn his back on his fellow Exorcists. But instead, he was honest with himself and was able to overcome at least Todo’s emotional attacks. I’d like to think that Kirigakure was a good influence on him, but it’s hard to say. He doesn’t seem to like her very much, and I think he sees her as a rival. I was also glad to see that even though he was able to face his own inner demons, he still wasn’t able to defeat the more powerful Todo. Characters with reasonable limitations are more dramatic.
I was glad to see Moriyama throw off some of her insecurities and get into the fight. I’ve said before how much I like her despite her nearly negative combat capabilities. She’s concerned about her friends and she has a good heart. I think that any Exorcist team should have that kind of positivity around. I imagine that fighting demons all the time would build up a lot of negativity.
Speaking of negativity, there were two things that stood out to me about the Ryuji/Rin front in the battle. First, both of them fought to deal with their fear and anxiety — their negative emotions — in the best ways they knew how. Even though they were terrified, only Ryuji would admit it, and neither of them were about to retreat. Bravery’s a lot more interesting when there’s a real chance a character’s courage might break, and it was clear in this case that both of them were on the edge.
Second, remember Ryuji’s explanation that he was most angry that Rin hadn’t confided in him during previous episodes? It’s almost like that outburst has cleared the air between them. Their banter and teamwork were even better than they had been before. Ryuji seems to have accepted Rin’s friendship, even to the point of being able to see how scared Rin really was. Because of that, he was willing to bet his life that Rin and Kuro could keep the Impure King back so Ryuji could keep the barrier active.
So for me as a fan of the show’s investment in its characters, I really enjoyed this episode.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts of Interest
- The 2016 Holidays Are Gone – Must Be the Winter 2017 Anime Season! Preview Part I
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 1: Small Beginnings
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 2: Strange Bedfellows
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 3: Suspicion Will Raise Bogies
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 4: Act of Treachery
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 5: Mysterious Connections
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 6: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 7: Like a Fire Burning Bright
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 8: From Father to Son
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 10: Unbowed and Unbroken
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 11: Shine Bright as the Sun
- Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Episode 12: Candid and Open