Matoi Sumeragi has the simplest of wishes, for her delicate adolescence to be normal. But this dream has been impossible since her mother mysteriously vanished, leaving just her and her father to look out for one another. Even with the shadow of grief without closure looming over their every day, it’s about to become a whole lot harder to try and live in an average happiness. Matoi is marked by fate to become an exorcist, a body and spirit unified with the power of gods to defeat demonic Nights.
In this process of becoming, with its awkwardness, confusion and unexpected post-transformation nekkidity, there are all the usual allusions to puberty and coming of age. But Matoi the Sacred Slayer’s lack of commitment to its narrative sacrifices the touching themes that could have been. Beginning as a supernatural murder mystery in which humans possessed by Nights go on crime sprees, this episodic development gives way to government intrigue spliced with soul-seeking drama. As inter-dimensional tears rain a parade of bland nasties on the world, the show gives repeated mid-narrative recaps of how this happens, and why, and what Matoi’s role is in this tangled mess of clichés.
While her supporting cast blathers the show to total deflation, Matoi fears growing up and becoming something other than the child she was. When her first transformation somehow dissolves the clothes she had been wearing, she cries that she “can’t go home like this”, knowing it would upset her father. She’s coerced by her friend Yuma into going to school in her magical-exorcist-girl outfit, and videos and pictures of the new celebrity hero flood the internet despite her repeated protests.
Her achievement of Divine Union is a supressed and buried telling of how scary it is to approach sexual maturity and be exploited for it, as the show itself does for the sake of some silly titillation. She misses and needs her mother, and yet the search for her is made secondary to Matoi offering herself up to the gods and the needs of the Earth. Combat with the Nights does little to support these themes, when its spiritual nature could have done so with minimal effort. Instead, generic eyes-in-blob monsters fall down in so much as a stiff breeze, and further undermine Matoi’s strength as a character.
So much half-arsed clutter leaves the entire cast almost no room to move the viewer. Matoi’s back-up team of Yuma and gov-representative exorcist Clarus are left as empty shells, despite each bearing the loss of missing loved ones. The human concepts that just bud through – grief, raw responsibility, the sadness of leaving home behind – are trampled by so many beasts, and so Matoi the Sacred Slayer never flowers to maturity.
Extras: OVA & bonus episode; commercials & promos; clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks