Plenty of good ideas and directions end up being tossed the side for a bad turn.
It’s been a while, but it is time for us to return to Twin Star Exorcists and see how things have gone down after a dangerous villain got a bit of a power boost. Is it good?
While Twin Star Exorcists has certainly thrown things for a loop throughout its run with things like a time skip or a revelation in a character’s background, the ninth volume is perhaps the biggest game changer the series has had to date. This volume brings a close to the fight between Rokuro, Benio, and Mayura and the Basaras, while setting the stage for the next big development: heading to the island where the exorcists and Kegare have been fighting for centuries. The conclusion to the fight is spectacular, giving the arc’s villains a good send-off and having Rokuro and Benio deliver the final blow in the kind of amazing team-up moment that’s been sorely lacking. Sayo even manages to escape with her life, which, while nice, does make the cliffhanger from the previous book feel somewhat cheap and pointless. Point is, the arc goes out on a good note and leaves us with a lot of neat ideas and developments that will be fun to explore going forward.
But then comes the final chapter here and everything is promptly flipped on its head — even the core idea of the series itself. After killing the villain, Sayo and Benio’s Spirit Guardians got into a tussle and nearly killed one another, only being stopped by Rokuro. A few days later, it’s revealed that Benio had lost all of her spiritual power and thus, cannot go to Tsuchimikado Island. This is a gigantic twist for the story as it sidelines its main female protagonist. It’s a turn that devastates everyone and sends her into a dark slump, losing almost all will to live since she cannot continue to work alongside Rokuro or defeat her brother. She manages to recover and lift her spirits by the end, but the story moves on without her, changing up the dynamics quite a bit. If this was almost any other manga or story, this would be an amazing and intriguing twist, one that changes the entire spirit of the story and sets up for some potentially stellar character arcs.
However, this is Twin Star Exorcists, and the twist felt more lacking in potential due to its continued treatment of Benio. I may sound like a broken record, but I will never stop harping on this: Benio is a fantastic character, but is also perhaps the most horribly underused female character I have ever seen. Her being tossed to the sidelines while Rokuro gets all the focus, despite her having such a strong connection to one of the big villains and an exciting reveal about her own spiritual powers, just feels so typical of the writer. She never gets any focus or growth on the level of Rokuro — most of the story is from his perspective and around how things affect him, even when there’s a huge connection to her. She never wins any fights despite being stated to be very powerful, even having her own unique abilities. Whenever she gets a power-up to fight the villains, she’s still never able to win and has to be bailed out by someone. To see her losing her powers and being relegated away from the action doesn’t come across as a big shocker, but rather the logical conclusion of the creator’s apparent disinterest in her growth and development. This status quo change would have been so more effective if it happened to Rokuro, who has had the lion’s share of the growth and development.
Oh my god, he’s becoming a clown!!)
The rest of the manga is a mixed bag as well. When it comes to Mayura, there definitely seems to be some curious implications in how she’ll be progressing in the future. The way Arima talks to her and his interactions with Rokuro and Benio almost seem to indicate he is looking to replace Benio with someone else to make the “true” Twin Star Exorcists, saying Mayura’s path has been decided. That would be an intriguing direction for her character growth, since compared to almost anyone else but Rokuro, she has developed and grown more than anyone. It would also further twist the core of the series in a way that could actually work. Otherwise, the pacing of the series remains a bit too quick for its own good and the romance angle is the same way, where it just doesn’t have the impact the creator wants it to have. Rokuro and Benio don’t feel like they have enough chemistry between the two and their interest in their roles in the prophecy seem to have completely flipped inorganically. It feels less like them naturally growing to love each other and more like the writer just says that they have to. For all the good that there is in the manga, it feels like it needed a few rewrites or extra chapters focused solely on character interactions.
Art-wise, the volume looks fine — the only real problem lies in the awkward uses of fanservice in more serious moments. The action is still exciting and thrilling to look at, though it lacks that power and sense of motion from the previous volume. There are still some great shots with how images are laid out, like Rokuro and Benio taking out the final Basara. The characters are drawn well and the book does a wonderful job capturing the mood and drama, especially during the dour final chapter and showing how broken Benio is over what happened. The layouts are a bit crammed and chaotic in some places, but the book reads fine at other points. The art does its job, but the manga isn’t firing on all cylinders like in previous outings.
Twin Star Exorcists Vol. 9 is a volume that could almost be good if not for the fact that its biggest and most shocking twist feels more like the usual disinterest that the creator has for his own female protagonist. As such, plenty of good ideas and directions end up being tossed the side for a bad turn. While there are certainly great elements to this book that one can enjoy, I find the biggest obstacle and hurdle that the manga has is its own creator.
Twin Star Exorcists Vol. 9 is a volume that could almost be good if not for the fact that its biggest and most shocking twist feels more like the usual disinterest that the creator has for his own female protagonist.