Ao no Exorcist: Tokubetsu Bangai Hen Kuro no Iede (OVA)

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For an OVA I hadn’t even realized was coming until two hours ago, I’m amazed by just how good Tokubetsu Bangai Hen really was.

Let’s face it, how much you enjoyed this OVA is probably going to correlate to how much you enjoy Kuro as a character. If you’re one of those heartless, soulless bastards viewers who isn’t a fan, you’ll likely be bored by 24 minutes of straight Kuro. Fortunately for me, I love Kuro – he’s both funny and adorable, and the very underappreciated Takagaki Ayahi does a wonderful job bringing him to life. The Kuro stories always have a great mix of comedy and sadness, and this episode is no exception, with Takagaki-san really having a chance to shine.

The premise of this adaptation of a manga side story is that Kuro has run away from home after Rin cruelly takes advantage of his cat’s tongue (cat’s tongues are super heat-sensitive, for you non cat-people) to trick him out of his share of Rin’s delicious sukiyaki. Of course this is really an opportunity for AoEx’s own “Kuro’s Journey”, with cast members great and small having a chance to show their eccentricities. When Kuro goes to Yukio for help after the sukiyaki crisis, Yukio is obsessed with the fact that Kuro hasn’t been using the litter box – and Kuro doesn’t take too kindly to that tone, replying indignantly that he’s “121 years old!”

Of course the conceit is that only Rin and Shiro can understand Kuro, so the very hungry cat sidhe has a bit of a problem making his wishes knows. Izumi secretly longs to play with him, but carefully checks to make sure no one sees and claims she was only tying her shoe when Paku catches her in mid-pet. Shura – still undercover as this is set early in the series timeline – pulls a cold beer from between her boobs and is about to kill Kuro to protect her identity before Mephistopheles shows up in dog form and dunks his head in the fountain (and later shows up in human form in a pink limousine, scolding Amaimon for spilling food on the sidewalk) . Takara’s bunny puppet offers a long and rambling dissertation on… random nonsense. Konekomaru always has a cat toy at the ready, in case he runs into a feline eager to play. Only Shiemi figures out that Kuro is starving, but her cooking is so vile that Kuro keels over after one tentative lick. Even second-tier supporting cast such as Prof. Neuhaus get the chance to act oddly, and a cute little girl appears ready to adopt Kuro until she reveals her repulsive desires and he flees, relieved at his narrow escape from being “turned into a tranny”.

But this is a Kuro ep, so you know it has to end up with Shiro. The scene at Shiro’s grave is really well-done and captures all the pathos of both their characters, and it’s a genuine relief when Rin turns out to have been waiting for Kuro there, knowing that’s where the cat sidhe would end up. The apple really didn’t fall too far from the tree there. Make no mistake, this is a slice-of-life episode – but it’s a damn good one. If this had aired during the TV run I’d rank it in the upper half of all the aired episodes, and it makes a nice contrast to the darker and somewhat ponderous tone of the anime-only final arc. It’s small-scale, but AoEx can be really good when it’s small-scale – and this OVA reminded me of why I came to like this series so much in the first place. The humor is very sharp, the character interactions spot-on, and it feels very genuine and heartfelt. If you’re tempted to skip over this as a superfluous extra – don’t. It might not be essential to the overall plot, but it’s highly rewarding just the same.

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