Toji no Miko – Episode 11 and 12 Review (Flash Anime-tion)

…I have very mixed feelings, right now.

Katana Maidens: Toji no Miko
Studio: Studio Gokumi
Genre: Action, Supernatural

Toji no Miko is such a weird experience for me. Equal parts great and meh. It’ll have bursts of awesomeness and then lulls of mediocrity. This mid-season finale is basically a perfect representation of this. It was both extremely entertaining and oddly unsatisfying, despite wrapping up presumably everything so it could move on to a completely new arc.

Episode 11 focuses on the beginning of the attack on Origami, aka “The Great Aradama.” This pretty much leans on the final confrontation between our heroes and the Elite 4. Buut here’s the thing. The fights, while all technically very well done (what we got to see of them, anyway), were… really just not very satisfying at all. Especially where it concerns Yume, who is probably the biggest case of wasted potential in the entire cast. But we’ll come back to her.

Toji no Miko

“…well, crap. I know what that means.”

The primary fight is between the Kanami and Hiyori and the main two members of the four. Yume takes on Kaoru and Eren, leaving Yomi to Mai and Sayaka, which is a fight not resolved until the next episode, so we’ll talk about it later. The battle between Kanami, Hiyori, and the main two was… fine. Visually impressive (for this show), thematically warranted, and all that. But there are two key problems with it. On the one hand, this is really how you should set up a fight of this nature. These characters actually have a level of history with one another, making for a much more engaging battle. It also features some shining moments in the techniques of our two leads. Particularly Kanami. Buuut there’s just one problem. The resolution is a bit… weak. These big, bad, super powerful Miko were taken down with relative ease. I suppose my problem is that for all the ceremony that went into the setup of the fight and the start of it, that same grandness didn’t really endure throughout the entire exchange.

Then there’s the Yume fight, which… was also fine. Again, technically it was definitely good. Good animation, good techniques, the works. But it’s compounded by us very suddenly getting all of her backstory all at once. Which is never a good sign. On the one hand, it’s incredibly jarring. She was this prodigal Miko, chosen at an incredibly young age and blah blah blah, but she suddenly came down with… an obligatory terminal illness. She was abandoned by her family in the hospital because… yeah, they never tell us. And thus the alarm bells got a little louder. She goes on to win the fight and struggle off to find another one. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t make it and eventually she succumbs to her illness. She dies. Making her, thus far, the only character in the entire series to bite the dust on-screen. (Seriously. Even the main villain’s supposed demise happens off-screen.)

Toji no Miko

So. Here’s where my immense aversion to death in stories comes in. Here’s the thing. I don’t mind characters dying. I mind because so many writers are terrible at doing it. Yume died for literally no reason. At all. The, bar none, most entertaining character in the entire series, dead because… reasons. Her death added absolutely no thematic weight to anything (they later try to pretend it does, but it doesn’t). She didn’t die for some in-story purpose. She barely even did anything in the grand scheme of the narrative. She was literally just a body, exclusively there to die. And giving us all of her backstory at once just makes it all the more annoying. Why? Because at that point we know it’s there exclusively for the purpose of emotional manipulation. Knowing her backstory enriches us to absolutely nothing else. It also doesn’t really make sense in the grander scheme of things. She wound up accepting the Noro from Origami… why? She never used it. Why didn’t she just join Origami while refusing to accept the Noro at all?

My point is that Yume, as a character, could’ve meant far more to the story overall. But in her current state, she had no purpose. She was barely even a roadblock in her last moments. The team split off to have two of the party deal with her, and those two members don’t even contribute to the resolution of the main objective. I don’t even mind the idea of her dying. As I don’t particularly mind the idea of any characters dying. But death is a finality unless the story takes place in a “death is cheap” universe like Dragon Ball, which this presumably doesn’t. Other missteps can be fixed. A poorly executed character death is extremely hard to salvage in any way.

Toji no Miko

“So… this is my fate. Totally wasted potential. Huh. I guess that is bitterly ironic.”

And to top it all off, the ultimate irony is that Yume’s whole drive as a character was to show the world how amazing she was. She wanted to go out shining like a star, dazzling the world with her brightness or whatever. So for her death to be so underwhelming just feels like an overall disservice to the character, adding salt to the wound, as it were. Yes, it could be argued that this was the point. But even if it was the point, the rest of the series has absolutely nothing to do with that, thematically. So if it was on purpose, it’d have just come out of nowhere and been equally as irritating.

But. On from that. It’s on with the show as episode 12 rolls around. Kanami and Hiyori take on Origami, 2 on 1… and it isn’t going great. But let’s leave that bit alone for a while and talk about Sakaya and Mai. Basically, Sayaka refused to leave Mai to fight Yomi in the last episode. So here they are. Sayaka uses her weird, presumably Aradama-based power to push back the little Aradama that Yomi keeps spawning. That way Mai can cut her down. Non-fatally, of course. They spend a little moment telling the annoying president from the Renpu academy that they pity her. Though I frankly would’ve liked to see someone actually tear into her. But that’s probably just me being spiteful, so whatevs. Ultimately this clash had to happen, and I get that. The similarity between Yomi and Sayaka was significant enough to warrant it on a thematic level. And Mai and Sayaka had become close enough throughout the course of the series that it only made sense for Mai to also be there.

Toji no Miko

But onto the main event. Kanami and Hiyori take on Origami and…! It was fine. Throughout the fight, we learn more about what, exactly, happened during the incident twenty years prior. Why Origami made that deal with the great Aradama. And, true to my prediction, she didn’t want to do it. The monster tricked her into a situation where it was basically the only option. That or it guilted her regarding her (extremely pained) decision to sacrifice one of their own to seal it away. Point is, Origami’s still kind of inside. But she only sticks around long enough to tell them to cut her down so this creature is slain with her. Too late.

It takes over completely but that’s okay because the gang’s all he- well, nevermind, then. As quickly as they arrived, Mai, Sayaka, Eren, and Kaoru are all defeated by this thing. Not killed, mind you (despite it having every capability of doing so and just… not, for some reason), just beaten. We’ll just go with the idea of “Origami is still in there somewhere, sabotaging this thing with all that’s left of her own will.” Yeah. That’s the ticket. Even still, pretty disappointing that it wound up going this way.

Toji no Miko

Of course, then this thing just decides to doom itself by ridiculing the good guys. You know, eventually villains will learn to stop doing that. Anyway, it goes on that whole “Good, but not a good as your mothers,” card. And, wouldn’t ya know it, at that point Kanami… somehow just suddenly starts channeling her mother’s spirit or something. It’s ridiculously unclear exactly what’s going on, but the short version is that she suddenly enters god mode and starts to completely wreck the monster. Then she passes out. I dunno if it hit her or if she just got tired from pulling a limit break out of her backside, but with her down, it’s just Hiyori. Luckily, Kanami weakened it. A lot. Giving Hiyori that chance to try what her mother did, all those years ago – sacrificing her life to seal this monster.

Buuut Kanami ain’t havin’ none of that. History seems to be thoroughly intent on repeating itself and… I’m honestly not sure what any of this means for the series, going forward. Presumably, their mothers shortened their lifespans by doing this. So are they now going to wind up dying young? What’s up with Kanami’s ability to channel her mother? Does it have something to do with her sword? What’s going to happen now that Origami’s gone? The remaining members of the Four evidently all know what went down. One of them even looked like she was about ready to fight Origami, herself. So what happens with them?

So let’s break down a few of the other problems I had with this finale. These being a return to the Yume problem and a look at Mai taking the lead. See, for all that talk about Mai leading the team in Episodes 10 and 11, literally nothing comes of this. Her leadership doesn’t ultimately amount to a single solitary thing. So why was that bit even in there? The best I can gather is to validate her presence. Because, as I’ve said before, she really had no reason to be there. Or rather, she had the least significant reason to be there. It basically just boiled down to following her friends, at the end of the day. Kanami and Hiyori are perpetually linked to the events seemingly on a spiritual level. Eren and Kaoru are with the Mokusa. Sayaka is tied to the Renpu president and all of these Aradama experiments. Mai’s just… there. And, unfortunately, her presence just fails to have much of an impact on the overall conclusion of things.

The other issue I have is their hamfisted means of justifying Yume’s death. Narratively, not canonically. They essentially used her as a means of explaining that anyone who undergoes this Aradama procedure will inevitably become an Aradama upon dying, provided their remains aren’t properly dealt with. I’m sure this will come to matter somehow in the latter half of the show. But in its current state, this amounts to exactly nothing. Furthermore, the Four already knew this. The one who this was being explained to had absolutely no reason to not know this as it was another of their members who had to explain it to her. And it was treated in a very “as you know” fashion. So at the very least, this should’ve been explained to the main cast for whatever reason.

Toji no Miko

“Wait! I can totally come back and fix this!” Yeah… doubt it.

Maybe because of Yume’s inherent power or whatever, and her refusal to use the power in the first place, the Noro in her system could’ve stocked up on enough power to activate far quicker and she could’ve become an Aradama right then and there, forcing the heroes to fight her in that state, which leads to the remaining members of the four explaining this. And that’s just my fishing for a means of making her death impactful in some way because, again, she really shouldn’t have been the one to bite it. Tragic though it may be, considering her own victim status in this whole thing, Yomi would probably have been a far better candidate for this thread, especially given her tangential connection to Sayaka and her little tantrum a few episodes ago.

As a whole, these episodes were a mixed bag. A lot of good and a fair amount of not-so-good. Yume was wasted, the arc revolving around Mai being made “leader” went nowhere, and the fights were really cool to watch, with a lot of good storytelling. Buuut they were also not as satisfying as I’d have liked. Especially with two-thirds of the main cast just being excised from the final battle in such an unceremonious fashion. Even so, the series holds up its status as enjoyable, albeit not particularly excellent Junk Food entertainment. It took a while to get going, but it found its stride eventually and managed to stay consistent since then. It’s better than can be said for the likes of Maerchen Maedchen.

Toji no Miko

“W-w-wait, don’t you think that’s a LITTLE unfair?!” No. No, I don’t.

The first cour has come to its end, but Toji no Miko still has a ways to go. If you wanna get caught up before Cour 2, be sure to check it out on Crunchyroll. And check back for the Simulcasts once the new Cour begins, Fridays at 10:00am EST.  That’s all for me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.

Take care,
C. Voyage