Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for Twin Star Exorcists Part 1.
While destiny dictates that one day they’ll be wed and give birth to humanity’s saviour, a more imminent shared fate confronts the young Rokuro and Benio in the long-awaited second volume of Twin Star Exorcists. With the wait for this follow-up being as long as the time required to conceive and bring the “Miko” to term, however, is this volume worth the wait? With the series’ best moments to date vastly outnumbered by its worst, the answer to that question is unfortunately, no.
Rokuro and Benio’s worlds were shattered when they discovered that her brother was behind the tragedy he suffered, and with a sudden rise in similar cases, it’s clear that Yuto is on the move again. As the exorcist worlds prepares to take on their biggest threat, the coming battle is personal for Rokuro and Benio, who find themselves confronted both by the responsibility of what they must do, and the fear of what that entails.
In my Part 1 review, I noted my discomfort at the series’ premise effectively revolving around adults egging on teens to get intimate, but this volume naturally develops Rokuro and Benio’s relationship into the series’ greatest strength. After watching them gradually grow together and learn to support each other in their darkest hour, I can now see this pair that used to throw around how much they disliked each other, becoming a genuine couple.
I was really impressed that the series even tackled this head-on, with the two having a mature discussion about their relationship, but then was quickly disappointed that Twin Star Exorcists remembered that it’s an anime, so clearly they had to become flustered and walk back the entire discussion, because, apparently, the medium can’t have actual progress in its romantic comedies.
Once the pair resolve to take down the twisted Yuto, we’re treated to one of the most thrilling action sequences in modern shonen anime. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the Twin Star Exorcists in perfect sync as they deliver a swift stream of tag team beat downs, only for that confidence to be quickly overcome by paralysing fear when the tables suddenly turn.
The effectiveness of this sequence is more down to the editing than actual animation, however. While character close-ups superbly capture the extreme emotions on display, the series retains an annoying flaw it’s had since the beginning: that it’s an action anime, without any real actions. Like with Volume 1, when attack names are called out, the screen becomes mostly occupied by stylised video game-esque cutaways, that look nice but clearly mask Pierrot’s inability to keep up with the fluid pace intense action requires. This is especially noticeable in an earlier fight featuring Seigen, where his powers are depicted as mere finger flicks before the enemy just falls into pieces. Honestly, despite Seigen’s cool appearance, it’s just boring to watch.
The action wasn’t the only aspect severely held back by disappointing decisions however. I suspect Japan’s TV broadcast guidelines were behind one critical moment being obscured from view, but Pierrot’s choice of framing and perspective made the scene so unintelligible that only prior knowledge of the event kept me in the loop. The opening theme, however, features some of the best animation in this release (and the song’s an absolute banger). The character designs, most notably a certain sequence involving Mayura, and the neo-futuristic Twelve Guardians member Cordelia Kasukami, are really unique and cool too.
Studio Pierrot’s anime adaptation was already known for deviations from Yoshiaki Sukeno’s original manga (like adding an annoying mascot character) but issues similar to those that plagued their adaptations of Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul come in at full force halfway through this set. Following the spectacle of the Twin Star Exorcists’ struggle against Yuto, the anime suddenly swerves off the road to set up its own anime-original arc that, for lack of a better word, is cringe-inducing.
When portals called “Dragon Gates” open across Japan and kegare cross over into the material world, it falls on the Twin Star Exorcists to travel across the country in a Kinako-possessed camper van to seal these rifts and fend off that particular location’s villain of the week Basara (high level kegare), whose designs range from a screamo idol with kegare back-up dancers, to an off-brand Doflamingo. One episode, where Rokuro and Benio team up with a washed-up baseball player, even feels like something I’d expect from a cheesy straight-to-DVD Scooby Doo cartoon.
Did I mention that throughout this arc, Rokuro and Benio are accompanied by Sae, a toddler they found happily wandering Megano? No? Probably because she’s so bland that I have yet to be interested in whatever story they’re building up to with her.
At this point, Twin Star Exorcists just became embarrassing to watch – and I’m only in the second quarter of a 50-episode run! With such a strong end to the last arc that could have been a perfect stopping point, and some earlier meat prime for trimming (like the opening recap episode), I wonder why Studio Pierrot didn’t just make the series a single “cour” show.
Where the series deserves praise however, is in the strong performances of its Japanese cast. Benio in particular has to confront a range of emotions like fear, pain, and even comic embarrassment, which Megumi Han channels in every syllable. Ayumu Murase similarly shines as the villainous Yuto, bringing an unsettling, twisted logic to a character not dissimilar to his later role as Cartaphilius in The Ancient Magus’ Bride.
The English dub included in this release is one of the better ones I’ve heard in recent years. While his presence in the cast may be uncomfortable for some, Vic Migogna really captures Yuto’s creepy charisma, while Bryce Papenbrook’s Rokuro is a perfect match for Natsuki Hanae’s – both being perfect fits for the character. Starring opposite, Cassandra Lee Morris delivers a powerful and emotive performance, but I just can’t shake the feeling that she was miscast as Benio. One small issue with the dub though, is that the actors clearly couldn’t agree on how to pronounce “Mayura”, with some actors making her name sound like “Myra” or even “Moira”.
In regards to the Anime Limited discs, there is a slight audio issue with Episode 16 on the Blu-ray, where one of Rokuro’s lines during a key dramatic moment is absent, yet the background music remains and the subtitles play. This isn’t present in the English dub, or the DVD version. The higher definition picture of the Blu-ray disc still makes it my preferred viewing option, however.
Concluding the Twin Star Exorcists’ origin story in an exciting yet emotionally charged climax that surpasses anything the series has produced thus far, the first disc of this release will satisfy and excite fans of the series. Pierrot really should have just ended on a high note instead of letting old habits take over. Its intermittent issues, combined with my reluctance to even recommend the second disc as a coaster however, leaves me ultimately unable to recommend this release. At the least, I advise stopping after the first disc, and just picking up the manga instead.