Sumimasen! I have been completely absent from my job here at MangaKast. I blame the U.S. election and Kubo Tite’s crappy ending of Bleach. Both knocked me back so hard, it’s taken me forever to recover (and I’m not completely there, but I’m slowly catching back up with my manga reading, at least. My thoughts about SnK 88 in a bit.)
Chapter 84 is called “Fundamentals,” and has probably one of the coolest–I’m not sure what to call it, exactly, puzzle-solving (?)–moments in Ao no Exorcist so far. Katou-sensei seems to be at the top of her game, lately, IMHO (although that might be only my impression because we’re going deeper on Suguro/Bon than we ever have before and he is one of my all-time favorite characters.)
In the way of Ao no Exorcist, the story meanders its way to the point. We’d ended the previous chapter with a rather ominous image of Bon’s concerned face behind a crazed-looking Lightening:
Just look at this for a couple of seconds. I absolutely love all the emotion and storytelling that happens in this one panel. You get that hint of demon-fire (is it??) in Lightening’s eyes, but he’s in shadow. The person actually in the spot-light is Bon, who looks… well, you could read his expression a couple of ways, but my first impression was: deeply dubious. Like, Bon is thinking, “This guy… his methods… I’m really not f*cking sure about this guy.”
This chapter starts with Bon rushing back to join the pity party (for Rin’s attempted asking out of Plant Girl/Shiemi). What I love about AoE, honestly, are these moments. I mean, the story is great, but we really get a wonderful sense of character in the kinds of interactions. Rin talked random character #2 into buying Bon’s favorite for him (which tells you a bunch of things about Rin–like, that he’s kind of weasel mooch, but YET thoughtful in terms of remembering people’s favorites.) Then there’s this fascinating back-and-forth about how Umiamon got introduced by the name Ambrosius, which seems to have rung a bell for Bon, but before he can talk about it, the Okimura brothers discuss the death of the monk they grew up with, and he clams up (because he was there and knows that it wasn’t just some random old-guy heart attack and feels guilty). Then, he’s called away by Light again.
A quick Google search on the name Ambrosius doesn’t really provide much of interest, although apparently there are versions of King Arthur’s tale where Ambrosius is Merlin’s surname. But, it’s odd for Bon to suggest the name is German, when it’s clearly Greek. So, I’ll be expecting a connection to some German demon at some point here.
Then we get a scene where Light confronts Mephesto in the bath. We see a LOT more of Mephesto than I ever wanted to (and we see that he’s… rotting (?)…which is fascinating), but the scene itself is cute. Mephesto either nicely leads Light to the answer or is genuinely surprised by how quickly Light figures out his obtuse clues (you really can NOT tell with Mephesto.)
Next is the cool hand in key thing, which I LOVED, followed by the world’s saddest funeral for Monk-guy (not well-loved, apparently. Like six people? SAD.) Yukio overhears talk about what happened to cause Monk-guy’s death and now knows that Bon knows sh*t he isn’t telling, so that should be interesting in upcoming chapters.
We get a mini-cliffhanger with Plant Girl/Shiemi where grandma is about to lay something at her feet–my guess is some origin story or other (possibly that she’s a demon clone, but we’ll get to that in a second.)
The final scene in the chapter is a confrontation between Bon and Light. Light says some really weird sh*t, like kind of confesses that he’s a high-fuctioning sociopath? And that maybe people thought he was a demon as a child because he loves demons way more than people–but, oh, I mean, I’d do anything for the human race….
Oooo-KAY. Sure, Light. I believe you. You’re SUPER sincere.
But, like the manipulative player he is, Light pushes Bon’s loyalty buttons in all the right ways to make Bon agree to stick with him even though this is clearly a bad, bad idea.
The dun-dun-DAH moment is when they see Cousin It and It leads them to a mysterious figure in the doorway!
Cue: curtain fall!
When we raise the curtain again in Chapter 85, we discover that mysterious figure is none-other-than Dr. Igor Neuhaus (an actual German name). Dr. Neuhaus is all cagey, but points them in the direction of Section 13. We find out, too, that we’re in an alternate time line, which, frankly, is super-cool. The title of the chapter is “Heterophylly.” which the translators say (and Wikipedia confirms) is the phenomenon of different leaf-types on the same plant (a plant reference, which I think is going to circle back around.) But on the surface, it’s also a lovely real-life, scientific metaphor for the branching off of timelines.
Ah, sensei, as if I needed a reason to be MORE in love with you!
We get a creepy tour of the Cram School pre-Blue Night. They find the research records for the elixir, but also there’s a lot of evidence that points to human experimentation on… orphans… or maybe… clones.
We get a kind of half-confirmation at the end that maybe my Lucifer guess is right, because Light says, “Let me get this straight, basically before it was destroyed on the Blue Night, Asylum was a cover for a research facility called Section 13, where they conducted illegal human experimentation for the elixir and created mass-produced clones of the Demon Kings.”
I’m too afraid to search through the Wiki to uncover who else is a demon king (because there are spoilers) besides Lucifer, but I did, at least confirm that Lucifer is listed as a demon king.
My guess is that, in February (looks like there’s a month hiatus), we’re going to hear that Plant Girl/Shiemi is a demon-king clone. I might be absolutely way off base about this, but if it happens, I want you to know I called it. It seems super-likely, what with the pictures and with the title of this chapter being related to plants. But, I could be reading too deeply into something that isn’t there, since people also always talk about time as having “branches.” And there is some connection between Time and Mephisto. Light brings it up in the bathtub scene (somehow light went from Death as Time’s servant to Mephisto. I feel like this Time connection is new, but AoE is actually DENSE and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed an earlier clue) and Dr. Neuhaus underscores the time/Mephisto connection when he mentions that Mephisto’s magic created this “garden.”
Who who knows? But Katou-sensei has me wrapped around her little finger. I might actually fight someone over the fact that I think, depending on how this lands, Ao no Exorcist might be the best written manga in current years.