Blue Exorcist Part 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 302 minutes approx.
Rin Okumura has always felt like a bit of an outsider. Even as a young child the other kids wouldn’t play with him and the mothers would refer to him as a “Demon child” because of his brooding demeanour and short temper. In contrast, his younger twin brother Yukio is studious, well mannered and a source of pride for their guardian, the Reverend Shiro Fujimoto, causing some resentment. After a terrible day Rin returns to the church to find it under attack from demons which he can miraculously see. How is this possible? Shiro had been keeping something a secret from Rin – he really is a demon child! Oh and there’s more – his father is actually Satan!
Had his name been Damien, maybe Rin would have embraced this news with a lot more enthusiasm – although this is not that Satan, this one is still a powerful, malevolent demon; instead Rin is distraught to learn of his true heritage (his mother was a human but Rin still inherited his father’s powers) and goes into denial. Now, with Satan invading the church, Rin finds himself in a challenging position when Shiro informs him that the only way to destroy Satan is with the mythical Koma Sword, a powerful demon weapon only Rin has the power to wield, even though Shiro doesn’t want Rin to unlock his latent demonic side. But when Shiro is possessed by Satan he makes the ultimate sacrifice Upon which selfless act Rin grabs the blade, wipes out the demons and vows to slay Satan. To do this, Rin has to enrol at True Cross Academy where Yukio studies, and joins the cram group who are training to become exorcists.
While the concept of Kazue Katō’s creation, which first appeared as a manga in 2009, of the main protagonist being the son of Satan while living under a church roof is certainly a novel one, the show is a thoroughbred shonen fantasy adventure which will have some seasoned viewers ready with their checklist ready to tick of the various familiar components as they arrive during the series. Think Bleach crossed with Soul Eater with a touch of D. Gray-Man and Fairy Tail and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect form this show.
Rin is a typical shonen hero – a misunderstood loner trying to fit in, unaware that he possesses hidden powers which will save humanity so he goes to school to learn how to harness them. Whenever he unsheathes the sword he is enveloped in blue flame (hence the title) revealing his demonic powers, something he strives to not expose in public but ends up doing so anyway. Despite being younger, everyone mistakes Yukio as the elder brother (FMA anyone?) and he even ends up being an instructor at the Academy, much to the chagrin of Rin. The academy is run by the painfully named Mephisto Pheles (yes, really), a capricious and seemingly air headed exorcists who was originally due to kill Rin but decided to accept the challenge of letting the son of Satan train as an exorcist. Despite a suspicious dark side which is sure to be exposed later on, Pheles is largely on hand to provide some levity.
In Rin’s class at the academy is your pick and mix of anime troupes. In the role as antagonist who later becomes a close ally is hot headed Ryuji Suguro; the exemplary tsundere female student is Izumo Kamiki and the clumsy, busty shy girl is Shiemi Moriyama, although the fan service arrives late in this set, courtesy of bikini top wearing, boob monster exorcist Shura Kirigakure. The class are expected to produce a magical spirit called a “familiar” to assist them in their exorcising, with former garden maiden Shiemi’s being a tiny little plant man! Later, a twin tailed black cat arrives at the academy which transforms into a giant version of itself which again Rin is the only one who can communicate with it. The cat is named Kuro and was once the familiar of Shiro’s. Having established a bond, Rin adopts Kuro as his own and the cheeky feline even gets an OVA of his own, found in the DVD extras.
While the lack of originality should be a handicap, the show at least looks good, courtesy of A1 pictures who deliver some slick looking fight scenes, and there is a lot of fun to be had with this series. The first two episodes are a pure rush of supernatural drama and comedy with things slowing down a bit to focus on establishing the additional charter at the academy. From then on its the “task of the week” formula which sees the aspiring exorcists put their underdeveloped skills to the test as one demon or another runs amok. Make room for a couple of filler episodes and you’ve got a fairly solid colourful and energetic action series.
As the show is a little over a year removed from its TV debut in Japan, the quick turnaround for this UK release is due to Manga taking a punt and releasing this in subtitle only format, avoiding the usual delays while waiting for the US licensee Viz media to record their dub. Apparently a dub is forthcoming but at the moment it will be through Viz’s online streaming service only. But I’m sure most of you reading are good anime fans who prefer the original Japanese dialogue soundtracks anyway!
Blue Exorcist is a show which ticks all the boxes for an entertaining shonen action show but hasn’t the courage to step outside of those parameters. By no means a bad watch just an occasionally generic one and could find itself standing in the shadow of loftier competitors such as Fairy Tail instead of running alongside it, as per the potential of the central premise.
Japanese Language 2.0 with English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Unaired Special Episode
Ura-Ex 1-5 Bonus Short Movies)
Ratings – **** /5
Man In Black