by Emily Reuben
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for all previous episodes of this series.
The final episode of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, “Candid and Open” is easily the worst of the season. There is no point in beating around the bush. In fact, in the spirit of openness and candidness there will be spoilers here for episode 12. Don’t let that deter you, dear reader; read on. Read on about the utter failure that capped off an intensely disappointing season.
As the season’s climax has passed, it is apparent that the aim of this episode was to tie up loose threads between characters while building anticipation for another season. Episode 12 does this with all the grace of a cat that’s rolled in catnip. “Candid and Open” haphazardly jumps from attempts at comedy to attempts at tense intrigue multiple times. The comedic scenes have the cloud of cheap genre tropes hanging over them, with none of the inter-character jokes landing because of the lack of meaningful development for the characters over the course of this season. The same problem plagues the tense scenes.
Another problem with this episode is that it was entirely unnecessary. Most of the dialogue feels like filler. All of the tense scenes with Yukio fail to move forward or develop his character in any way at all; he just repeats what he’s said before in previous episodes with no new context. The entire dramatic scene between Shura and Mephisto feels forced, because it was plain that the only reason for the scene was to drop hints about the drama for the next season. Otherwise, there was no reason for their exchange to be as verbose as it was. In fact, the whole exchange could have just been replaced with Shura looking at Mephisto’s usual veneer of smugness with distrust for an instant to convey the same message.
Aside from the odd dialogue choices, the fan service in this scene was incredibly distracting. To be frank, Shura was never designed to be subtle. Her design has always been about showing as much skin as an anime can without wandering into softcore hentai territory. Her interaction with Mephisto, where she wears skimpy clothing and tries to seduce him for all of ten seconds, majorly clashed with every moment Shura has had on screen. It really speaks to the quality of this season that the studio just threw in a sexy scene when there wasn’t anything else going on to keep the audience’s attention.
For some reason, one of the exwires is given his first and only closeup of the season as his name is dropped in “Candid and Open”. Shura singles out Takara, one of the exwires who was surprisingly absent from almost every episode of Kyoto Saga in her talk with Mephisto. This character who had participated in none of the action is brought back and even gets a line later in the episode. His only prior appearance seems to be him sitting next to Shiemi on the train to Kyoto in episode 1. This clumsily shoehorned reintroduction of his character is yet another element of the episode that just doesn’t work.
The only dramatic scene that did hit its mark was the exchange between Bon and his father. This makes sense, since these two characters have undoubtedly been shown as having gone through the most growth this season. Bon grew to appreciate his father and the work that he does for his family, and Tatsuma finally finds his place in the world where he can be happy. (While Yukio looks like his character is going somewhere interesting, he didn’t go through an arc this season.) This has arguably been one of the biggest problems with Kyoto Saga as a whole: it is Bon’s story told as though it was Rin’s. In a series that follows a single protagonist, this loss of focus is a disastrous for the story telling.
Take this episode as an example. After Bon has a heartfelt scene with his father about his future with the Myoda sect that comes off as the genuine culmination of all of the growth shown throughout the season, Rin talks to Yukio, repeating the same dialogue from episode 1. This reincorporation seems to be meant to add significance to the conversation, but since neither character has grown this season (Rin’s resolute acceptance of his Satanic heritage from the end of episode 11 is absent here, replaced with his oblivious optimism and naïveté) none of the dialogue carries any meaning and thus leaves no impact.
All Images From: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
Had Kyoto Saga been six episodes long, it could have trimmed a lot of the content that ended up weighing this season down. Though the first season deviated from the manga and upset fans about the direction certain characters were taken, it still carried out each episode with a style, grace, and budget that Kyoto Saga clearly lacked.