After a couple of false starts, we finally got the school life episode this week. Given that this is likely to be the setting for a bunch of the remaining episodes, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done in terms of introducing new characters and establishing the routine.
The only classmate (other than Shiemi, of course) who’s had a chance to expand beyond background animation so far is Suguro. He’s your arch-typical shounen punk – piercings, died hair, stubble… But this bad boy is also an A-student, on the same scholarship as Yukio was. He resents Rin’s lackadaisical attitude – falling asleep in class, flunking tests, etc. He resents Rin even more after his PE teacher tells him Rin was admitted under special orders from the Principal.
While that was all very standard, the one nice touch was the dare. When Suguro taunts Rin by daring him to try and touch one of the Leapers – giant frog demons – Rin flashes some maturity and refuses to be goaded into doing something so obviously stupid. Suguro proves himself the more immature of the two by taking his own dare, requiring Rin’s assistance to save his butt in the process. The rest of the class is pretty much background noise at this point – in the case of the kid with the bunny puppet quite literally, as I don’t think we’ve even seen him animated in motion yet. We have Suguro’s two henchmen, the snotty girl and her sidekick, and Shiemi – terribly insecure and socially inept and obsessed with Yukio.
We also get some interesting background info. Apparently there was some sort of catastrophe 16 years (hmmm…) earlier where a bunch of top exorcists spontaneously began to bleed and then erupted in blue flame (the sign of Satan) and died. Suguro’s connection is spelled out – he chose to pursue the exorcist path because his father was the Priest at one of the temples affected, and it became known as the “Cursed Temple”. Rin’s involvement is certainly connected to the timing, but we don’t know just how yet. We also know that the Principal, Mephisto, is clearly in communication with the top dogs in Gahenna. He even refers to Rin as his “youngest brother”. What’s up with that, one wonders? Shiro certainly appeared to direct Rin right into his clutches – there are obviously a lot of competing motives and interests as play here.
The weak link of the series so far for me is Yukio. I find him an annoying, arrogant little snot – and while I realize that’s sort of his role, I don’t especially enjoy him as a character. But he’s obviously a crucial part of the story, so I’ll hope he becomes a little easier to take.