This is a series I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. With it’s relatively recent debut on Toonami, it seemed like as good as a time as any to crack open the A-1 Pictures production, Blue Exorcist.
The story centers around Rin Okumura, a young exorcist in training who also happens to be the son of Satan. Rin is a half human, half demon who has inherited the demonic powers of Satan, the most powerful demon. He also has a twin brother Yukio (which I just keep hearing as “Yu-gi-oh” in my head) and an adopted father, Shiro Fujimoto. Both Shiro and Yukio are exorcists as well, both much more accomplished than Rin. Rin is completely unaware of his demonic heritage and the world of demons and exorcists for his entire life. One day, when he’s 15, he is attacked by a boy possessed by a demon and his demonic powers awaken which causes him to manifest blue flames (a clear sign of the power of Satan) and fangs. During the same incident, Shiro steps in and reveals himself as an exorcist, exorcising the demon. Rin is, understandably, shocked by all of this and lashes out at his father. Unfortunately, Satan chooses this moment of weakness in Shiro to possess him. Before this, Shiro, a man who holds the highest exorcist rank of “Paladin”, was previously known as the only human that could not be possessed. The whole possession incident costs Shiro his life and forces Rin to seek the help of Mephisto Feles, an old friend of his father’s. Mephisto (who is obviously an incarnation of Mephistopheles from the Faust legend) is a demon that works for the True Cross Order as headmaster of their school for exorcists. When he arrives, instead of helping Rin, he reveals that he is to be executed for being the spawn of Satan. However, when he hears Rin’s declaration that he wants to “kick Satan’s ass”, he rethinks the proposition and takes him in to True Cross Academy in order to train him as an exorcist.
The show is basically a supernatural / superpower high school set up. Mephisto acts as the headmaster and places Rin under the care of his younger twin, Yukio who is also entering the academy despite already being trained and fully certified as an exorcist by their father. Once enrolled in the academy he quickly meets his team…er, I mean classmates. The crew consists of:
- a Sensei (Yukio)
- a quiet nerdy monk
- the hopeless romantic and coward
- the rival (Ryuji “Bon” Suguro)
- the Kamidere (Izumo Kamiki)
- the Dojikko (Shiemi Moriyama) who somehow seems to have a crush on both Rin and Yukio simultaneously
- Rin’s mentor Shura Kirigakure who’s also playing the role of the drunken letch in this series.
This is all rounded out by Mephisto who plays the role of the aloof puppet master throughout the whole thing as he manipulates the True Cross Order into accepting Rin as a weapon that they can use against Satan. As the events unfold at the school, the team starts to pull itself together and things lead up to a final battle against Satan. After finding out more about the history of Satan, his mother, and the True Cross academy, Rin and his brother spearhead a final battle where they finally get to confront their demonic father.
Even though the characters follow closely to their archetypes, the story line is a bit of an unusual one for an anime since it deals with a lot of Christian themes. This is pretty much unavoidable since the show deals with exorcists and unlike many anime before it, this one actually pulls it off in a way that doesn’t make me cringe (I’m looking at you Kenshin). The religious elements of the show aren’t really much more than names pulled in for some vague context. Knowing anything about Christianity won’t affect your viewing of this show in anyway other than thinking, “hey that name sounds familiar.” Now, if you are of the mindset that nothing mentioned in the bible should ever be pulled into entertainment for any reason then, obviously, avoid this show. Otherwise, don’t be concerned about the idea of this show being weighed down with too much religion and offending your sensibilities in some way.
Now, outside of the religious themes, it sticks pretty closely to the “battle high school” formula. We get to see the awkward introductions where everyone feels each other out and the steady increments of the characters becoming a team while having to constantly fight their way through situations that they shouldn’t be in in the first place. Ultimately, it’s a ramp-up to fighting the ultimate big-bad at the end of the season. Of course, with the big bad being Satan, the stakes are pretty high. The series does a really good job of illustrating that, especially in the action scenes. With all the non-human designs of the demons and the fire and magic and swords and fists and explosions and….well you get the idea, there’s just a lot of stuff going on. The action never feels dull and never feels confusing in this show even when things escalate to the highest level. I would say that these scenes are what brought the show to the forefront of the genre for a time (the music isn’t bad either). I would fit the quality of action in this show somewhere between Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
The only thing that kept me from completely enjoying this show was the pacing of the second half of the show. While the first 13 or so episodes feel pretty consistent, the later episodes suffer from jumping in and out of some parts of the story without feeling like it completely resolves or introduces them. For instance, the introduction of Rin and Yukio’s grandfather seems to be really out of place. So does the way that he escalates things to trying to drop a nuclear bomb into hell (because that seems like a reasonable thing to do that couldn’t possibly backfire). By this point at the show, it feels like they’re banking on you being enthralled enough by what you’ve already seen to just kind of accept what’s happening. The one exception in the second half for me was the story of the relationship between Rin and Yukio’s mother and Satan. The story manages to solidly expose the “evil” of the True Cross and the folly that had led them to the point where the show began. It was also a strangely believable story of a woman being able to fall in love with Satan although it was a little more like something out of Greek mythology. It is kind of undone by Satan’s overly malevolent nature the entire time that he’s fighting the brothers and possessing Yukio’s body, but when it’s happening it seemed to work.
The show’s original run was only three years ago (2011) and, for a while, it seemed like the series was at the forefront of the Shonen genre. It’s since been overshadowed by several newer series (like Attack on Titan and SAO) as well as the continuation of some the longer running ones (like Naruto and One Piece). Even so, it’s a solid show all around that has a lot of unique qualities even though it does suffer from a lot of cliches. It’s unfortunate that the series didn’t extend to cover the entirety of the manga run because the story definitely feels cut short. Even so, it feels like it covers all its bases well and delivers an ending that’s satisfying enough to wrap things up without being completely resolved. If you’re the type who’s willing to pick up a manga after watching a series then this shouldn’t worry you at all. Even if you’re not, I’d say the show stands well enough on its own to warrant watching it.