I’m a little bit behind on some of my reviews, including Ao no Exorcist. If you’ve been keeping up, the newest chapter, 79, is here: http://www.mangapanda.com/ao-no-exorcist/79/
In some ways, it made a more satisfying read to read both of these chapters together. I think that otherwise, chapter 78 might have left me with a very unsavory taste in my mouth thanks to this:
To be fair to Kazue-sensei, I think Shura Kirigakure is intended to be a complicated character. I think we’re supposed to finally understand that her overly sexual/sexualized nature comes out of a desperation to experience all of life’s pleasures before she dies (and, now we know, first is raped and forced to suffer through a pregnancy) at the hands of an ancient snake/dragon god. So, you know, if I had that to look forward to, I’d be a bit f*cked up, too.
She is also, we now know, literally unsocialized in how to be a human/act within normal norms, etc., having been mostly raised by a snake demon.
That being said… while I can sympathize with her plight, I still don’t really like her. Shura is never going to be a favorite. She reminds me just a little too much of the mentally unstable crazy ex-girlfriends in my life, and so… you know, she’s just…. off-putting, even when I’m attracted to her bad-assery, cute hair, big boobs, etc.
At any rate, the conflict with the evil snake god ends somewhat predictably, in that Shura is freed and no one dies. There was a running gag about how Rin was such a dork that telling him “don’t look in the snake’s eyes, he could hypnotize you” was pretty much the same what happens when you tell someone “whatever you do, don’t think of a blue elephant right now.”
Otherwise, I kind of ended chapter 79 feeling… sad. Hachiru (the snake god) is reduced to being a mindless beast (at least for a while–probably centuries). Everyone is “free” of their various curses, but life is just living–putting one foot in front of the other until it’s over. There’s a little moment of hope with Shura’s line
And of course we see her cute new pixie cut, and manga is all about cute hair.
My friend and I tried to figure out why this left us with such a feeling of vague sadness, and I think there’s a couple of things going on. She pointed out that, this was an arc that really kind of had no ‘meat’ to it, at least none that reflected back to the main story lines or characters. Rin was dopey and Yukio was sly and Pink-haired boy was annoying.
Shura changed… but we don’t know how significantly yet.
And I think all that’s legit–I think it’s true that not much heavy came out of this arc. I think Kazue-sensei tells very… rambling, meandering stories and this was one of their meanders. I mean, in the course of the whole story we did learn a few things. We now know that Rin is fully in control of a lot of his techniques (and they all have stupid names for a reason.) Earlier, at the in, the boys–Rin and Yukio–got a chance (kind of) to start to talk. Rin, at least, told Yukio that he knows that something is going down and he wants to be there for him. We know Yukio heard him.
Yukio had an opportunity to put himself in harm’s way in order to find out the extent of his demon power, but he didn’t do it. Maybe this will mean the end of the whole “bullet to the head” thing he’s been doing to test his limits… or maybe not. But I think the reader has been very clearly shown that he’s not actually suicidal (and won’t even let anyone else be on his watch) which was worrying me a little bit.
We also learned a bit about the nature of Kazue-sensei’s universe in that it is possible to break a curse by refusing it. This is not always the case in a lot of fantasy settings, but I think the moment Shura won was when she cut her own hair and declared she no longer needed the snake god’s power. She (and Rin) declared herself her own woman.
And the spell was broken.
With effort, yes, but it was broken…by her strength of will (and help from her friends.) They could not destroy the un-destroyable, but they could walk away from a family/generational curse.
These are good world-building bits to know. Immortal = immortal, but curses can be broken. I think, too, there was some kind of foreshadowing about Rin’s status as “between the worlds” in the last line, but the translation was a bit unclear, so I’m hoping MangaStream will make something different of it.
So, it was a quiet meander of a mini story arc that didn’t give us HUGE moments, but I think there were enough to feel satisfied by it…? Thing is, I still very much trust Ao no Exorcist’s mangaka to tell a good, heart-felt story. I also know that they kind of like to bomb around their own world, sometimes seemingly exploring its edges for the sake of nothing more than exploring the edges.
Even in moments like this when I’m not sure how I feel about a particular storyline, the meander is kind of what I love about this manga.