Let us venture into a time-honored tradition of the shonen genre: a tournament arc! Let’s bring on some heavy action in the newest volume of Twin Star Exorcists. Is it good?
According to the back of the book:
The Hadarae Castle Imperial Tournament begins! Mayura’s opponent Subaru is more than she bargained for. Rokuro’s opponent Mitosaka has a secret weakness. Will Rokuro exploit it? And will making a shikigami help or hinder him in battle…?
Tournament arcs are a classic staple of the shonen action genre and are often there to show off how much the main cast has grown into their powers, flesh out the supporting cast and their abilities, set the stage for future character arcs, and occasionally get interrupted by the main plot for something big about to go down. Twin Star Exorcists Vol. 12 kicks things off with a more traditional, character-focused tournament with no real indication of the main plot interfering in it. As such, the story plays out how you may expect. Lots of characters fight and get their backgrounds expanded on, motivations are revealed, and we get some dimension for the one-dimensional characters we’ve had. There’s no real surprises to the story; most of the fights play out how you would expect them to go as well.
Now, that doesn’t mean the story and writing are bad. Outside of some speedy battles, this is a very competent, good read from start to finish. If you’re a fan of these storylines, you’ll enjoy this volume. Every chapter gives us one good fight to enjoy, showing off the side and supporting characters’ personalities and abilities. This development of people who’ve only been in the background or haven’t done much is appreciated. The fights are genuinely well-done and thrilling to watch, even if a lot of them are very much one-sided. There’s a lot of creativity on display with how each person fights, and the styles seem to fit everyone and their personalities dead on. The humor mixed in provides some good levity and can lead to some laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the last chapter. Outside of some really awkward sexual humor, the story and writing are great, even if you know what to expect from this type of story arc.
There is a lot of character work across the board and the majority of it is pretty decent, doing its job by adding depth to those without it or building upon existing characters. There is some good forward development with Rokuro, showing how much he’s been improving and growing. He’s far stronger than he was before, able to create his own shikigami and fight on an even playing field as one of the 12 Guardians (maybe). He’s a bit more mature as well, able to gauge his opponents better and know what the right thing to do is if a friend fails.
Mayura receives some more development as well; she is put up against the strongest female exorcist to really test her skills and get recognition from other members of her family, who see her as the successor to her dad. She’s much more powerful strength-wise, but her compassion and care for others, not wanting to hurt Subaru when she’s not putting up a defense, is what truly helps her out in the end. She’s fully determined to become a great exorcist and protect others, and Subaru recognizes her strength and courage, rewarding her for it. The only thing I’m a tad disappointed by is the outcome of the fight. Yes, it makes sense that it unfolds the way it does, but it would be nice for a main female character to get a win for once in this series.
As for the rest of the cast that get some focus, I really enjoy some of the small nuggets we get here. There’s Miku Zee and Sakura Saba, who seem to have this strong mentorship between them. Sakura greatly looks up to Miku, who in turn appears to be looking out for her as a favor to an old family friend. Subaru is pure cockiness, but with the power to back it up. She also respects strong resolve and determination, however, having been hunting for someone she can pass her knowledge onto. Keiji Ikaruga, despite being passed over by his younger cousin, Shimon, for his clan’s powers, seems to be doing alright and accepting it gracefully. He just wants everyone to know he’s not some weakling and that his family can still count on him.
The weakest of the characters is Shizuru Ioroi, who is let down more by the writing of the series than anything else. Her motivation is to fight stereotypes and show everyone that women can be well-respected exorcists, not having to stay home and worry about the men. Her line of thought comes from seeing her dad nearly get killed years ago and wanted to step up to fight alongside him. This is not bad at all and the motivation is solid. What I find faulty is that the manga really hasn’t established or shown the ugly amount of sexism within this universe that Ioroi would need to fight against. While sure, there are a lot more male exorcists out there than women, none of the female exorcists are shown in a bad light or disrespected for being women. They’re extremely well-respected and not belittled at all, with many of them making up family heads or being even stronger than most exorcists out there.
I think if this whole idea would have been much better executed if the manga spent more time expanding on this idea earlier. For example, it may have helped if Sukeno had sprinkled it in throughout the time spent on the island and actually having mixed battles, where Ioroi’s drive to prove she can overcome this sexist notion would really work well. Plus, Ioroi’s motivation feels a tad undermined when one of her biggest character points is her crush on the male hero.
Overall, the artwork looks as good as it usually does when it comes to things like the depictions and designs of characters, the layout work, and how scenes are angled within the panels. The big thing though is the action and nailing that down, since it’s the meat of the volume besides the characterization. The action looks pretty good for the most part. It’s a bit static and off in some areas, but it’s mostly on-point for the majority of the book. The energy and power in each blow feels right, panels flow well into others, there are excellent uses of full-page and double-page spreads that highlight the raw power going on, and the fun designs and visuals of the abilities are exciting. This is solid, highly enjoyable shonen action all the way through. Here’s hoping the rest of the tournament can keep that train going.
Is It Good?
Twin Star Exorcists Vol. 12 is a very enjoyable and fun outing, and one of the best volumes the series has had to date. While it certainly feels like a standard tournament arc in a lot of ways and there are issues in its writing, this is a very engaging, fun, and action-packed book with some strong or at least interesting character bits. I had a great time reading it and I look forward to reading the next volume in the coming months.