Episode 22 of Neon Genesis Evangelion , titled in English as “Don’t Be”, is one of my favorite works of art, of any medium, ever, so you can bet that I was happy to see “Destiny” drawing from that well of inspiration a bit for Izumo’s character arc in this season. Don’t get me wrong, Blue Exorcist isn’t suddenly going to become an avant-garde deconstruction of an entire genre that also functions as an emotionally devastating reflection on its creator’s collapsing mental health—at least, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I still noticed the way that Izumo’s dreamlike confrontation with her unwell mother was framed, though, not to mention the telltale shot of young Izumo running towards the camera against a striking red backdrop that closes the episode. I see what you’re doing, Blue Exorcist!
Truth be told, I honestly wouldn’t have minded if Blue Exorcist really was willing to get a little weirder and creepier with its storytelling this week, because it turns out that Izumo’s story is supremely messed up. Her battered and tortured mother has been broken by years of Illuminati experiments at the hands of the freaky Dr. Godain, and now whatever deal Izumo made with them to hold off on inheriting her mother’s role until she became a fully-fledged Exorcist is off the table. The Illuminati simply needs a vessel for demonic possession and anyone from the Kamiki clan will do. Naturally, Izumo volunteers for tribute in place of her younger sister, Tsukumo.
This is dark stuff; arguably as grim as Blue Exorcist has gotten so far as main characters are concerned, and that’s before you factor in all of the trauma that comes with Renzo’s betrayal. Our poor girl was just getting to the point where she was going to try maybe, possibly, just a little bit opening up to her allies, and now she’s got this nonsense to deal with. It’s all good stuff, but Blue Exorcist’s art style (combined with the show’s generally workmanlike direction) just can’t capture the emotional weight and potential for genuine horror that this storyline has. It’s still really compelling, but I can’t help but imagine what could have been, you know?
The rest of the episode is primarily concerned with getting the gang to Inari to try and pursue whatever leads they can find about what the hell the Illuminati wants with their friend. It’s cute, for sure; the plane travel sequence is funny, and you know I was cackling when Nemu got a giant fox bunraku puppet to cover his free hand and argue with the bunny puppet. Still, the end of the episode makes it clear that the real meat of this half of the story will come when Izumo’s backstory is shown in full. Considering how much this season is raising the stakes and challenging its characters, I’m eager to see what we end up learning, and what steps our heroes will have to take to overcome such a powerful foe.
Blue Exorcist: Shimane Illuminati Saga is currently streaming on
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.