Whatever you thought of the entertainment value of this episode of AoEx, there’s no denying that it was slight. Given that and the fact that it was anime-original, I’m sure there won’t be a lot of excitement in the ranks of the manga readers this week.
I enjoyed the episode myself. I think I’m in the lucky group not having read the manga, because it allows me to vie every ep on its own merits and not how it slots into the bigger picture. Even for me that’s still important, of course, especially now that we’re down to a month to go and a long way from any discernible conclusion. But I’ll take good filler over crap if given the choice, and this was pretty good.
I was under the impression from the preview that this might be “the Shima episode” but really, he wasn’t the center of attention for most of it. He does set things in motion by determining Izumo’s birthday via his fortunetelling, which inspires Shiemi to suggest a surprise party. Shiemi and Paku set off to find a gift (after stopping at “Magnaria” to discuss it) while Rin and Konekomaru bake the cake and Bon and Shiemi make the decorations, and Bunny-kun… Well, does nothing as usual. The misunderstandings and misadventures are amusing if pretty standard, but the more humorous elements surround Shiemi and the Okamura brothers’ ignorance about birthdays. Rin and Yukio were told by Shiro that they were born on December 27th, so Rin doesn’t even know a birthday cake is different from a Christmas cake – and poor Shiemi doesn’t even know what happens at a birthday party.
A little trial and error leads to Mephisto and his hamster-brother enjoying a Christmas cake and the irony of that, and Izumo declaring that the party should be a joint affair for everyone since she doesn’t want to be left out of the planning. But all is not fun and games for Yukio – his “black spot” is spreading quickly, a fact that he hides from the others even as he labors to find a cure, but Shiemi senses something’s amiss with his behavior. She seems to have moved past the crush stage (and transferred that affection to Rin) but she and Yukio still have a relationship that pre-dates her time as his student.
There’s really not much else to be said about an episode that was about as straightforward as one can get. If it weren’t for Yukio’s issues and a bit of focus on Konekomaru’s doubts about Rin, it could just as easily have taken place well-back in the first cour, and if you enjoy seeing these characters interact with each other you’ probably found it pleasing enough. What it did it did well, but what it didn’t do is bring me any closer to a confident guess about how this adaptation is going to end.