by Emily Reuben
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for all previous episodes of this series.
“Shine Bright as the Sun” is the climax of season 2 of Blue Exorcist. Rin has just drawn his sword after struggling all season long with his confidence. Todo is still trying to get under Yukio’s skin figuratively and literally. Shura has just arrived to help Rin and Bon. Despite the main cast collectively coming together to fight the Impure King, the episode is rife with annoyances.
The first problem of the episode that becomes apparent is the writing. For some reason, every character feels the need to give exposition during the action. The rule “show don’t tell” is being blatantly ignored, making for a dull fight replaced with words rather than animation. While just about every character engages in this, the worst example by far is Mephisto Pheles, who has spent the last few episodes watching the action unfold while lounging about. One of the most blatantly distracting lines he utters is one wherein he just spells out the meaning of the show’s title, Blue Exorcist, for those who hadn’t caught on. A bit subtler yet also more annoying, toward the beginning of the episode, he recites a quote from Nietzsche that encapsulates the main theme of the entire series: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” This on-the-nose moment really breaks the tension, because the quote brings the struggles of the two sons of Satan into sharp focus, revealing just how predictable the story will end up. After this statement, it is difficult to imagine that any viewer will have difficulty determining the future sequence of events.
Rin is shown in this episode to have a Jekyll/Hyde complex when it comes to the character we have been with for most of two seasons. Besides Human Rin, his body also houses some deeper-voiced demon entity that represents Rin’s demon side. The thematic problems that this raises regarding Rin trying to overcome and embrace his demonic heritage aside, this contrasts to the treatment of Yukio as his relationship to his brother and father are repeatedly called into doubt by Todo. The writing for Yukio’s scenes has been the best of the season so far, but the writers really drop the ball in episode 11. While certainly not as bad as Shiemi’s dialogue, the writing lacks the weight and sense of import that it bandied just weeks ago, which is really a disservice to the awesome character the writers were building up. The way the show is framing these two, they are dealing with virtually the same problems, and while Rin has been shown trying to embrace his heritage, Todo’s jabs at Yukio suggest that he is dealing with his problems in the opposite way, allowing the abyss to gaze back into him.
The other obvious problem in this episode is the entire scene with Shiemi and Izumo. In addition to prolonging the audience’s exposure to these two, there is a lot of imagery in this scene that’s only apparent function is to stimulate the audience of this shonen, action anime. This exchange between Izumo and Shiemi is not only painful in how much it wants you to care about the feelings of these underdeveloped archetypes of femininity, but also in just how much time it takes away from the action.
On a side note, it’s also weird that Izumo is trapped at the same time Rin and Bon leave to fight the Impure King and while Shima and Konekomaru descend from the mountain to find help. All of this action is happening, but these two are still struggling after everyone else seems to have accomplished far greater feats. How long has Bon’s dad been bleeding in the grass? Needless to say, this anachronistic handling of these two exorcists doesn’t do the show any favors.
Failing to learn from its past mistakes, “Shine Bright” inexplicably reintroduces the practice of unnecessary flashbacks back into Kyoto Saga. Episode eleven commits fully to its folly in a way past episodes had not. Instead of showing clips from past episodes to remind the audience of basic plot moments, “Shine Bright” boldly shows viewers clips from mere minutes before in the same episode.
Not all of the episode is fault worthy. In the fight between Todo and Yukio, some of the designs used to show Todo slowly regenerating are appropriately unnerving. Instead of solely showing amorphous ash reconstituting itself as Todo’s body, there are shots where the ash can be seen forming his skeleton, which adds a lot to the grim tone of his scenes with Yukio. Though this concession is small, it is deserved nonetheless.
Instead of delivering a big finish, “Shine Bright as the Sun” brings the action to a close with a resounding “Meh.” With some of the worst writing of the series on display and clumsy character writing, “Shine Bright as the Sun” does anything but, barely able to muster a paltry glow. After the momentum of the previous two episodes building to a well written culmination of intercharacter tension, episode 11 of Kyoto Saga feels like even more of a letdown.
All Images From: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, Episode 11 - Shine Bright as the Sun
“Shine Bright as the Sun” just fails at delivering a climactic end to its story. The writing lacks grace and impact, and it continues making the same mistakes as past episodes.