Tuesday, April 26, 2011


We continue our look at the newest anime shows for Spring 2011 with Blue Exorcist, an A-1 Pictures animation based on the manga running in Jump Square.

Storyline: 4

Based on the manga written by Kazue Katô, Blue Exorcist (Ao no Ekusoshisuto) is about the lives of Rin and Yukio Okumura, twin brothers who are about as similar as Cain and Abel. While Yukio is quiet and quite capable in studies, Rin is more of a reckless, hot-headed marauder. While his strength is uncanny and his personality sparkles before people, his temper and one-track mind have made it impossible for him to hold a job for long.

However, it appears that Rin's torments are also in the form of demonic spirits he can see. He and Yukio's guardian, Father Fujimoto, is one of the most powerful exorcists in Japan and often deals with the uprisings of demons trying to pass over from the Demon World (Gehenna) to the Human World (Assiah). During one rather brutal scuffle with a ruffian possessed by a demon, Rin discovers the secrets locked inside him, his anger manifesting in a blue flame that encapsulates his body. Father Fujimoto, upon exorcising the demon, eventually admits the truth—Rin is the son of Satan himself!

While the idea of possession to invade a parallel world were explored in Dream Eater Merry last season, Blue Exorcist now takes a similar step into a much darker void and does it by allowing the plot to dictate direction. This show certainly has staying power by introducing an element where the main character will have to confront his evil identity, all while having to support and defend his brother. Simple? Maybe, but it's certainly clean.

Animation: 3

The animation so far is pretty much on par with Fractale and Occult Academy, the last two shows produced by Sony's animation studios, A-1 Pictures. There is some decent work to keep the show moving, but at the moment the animation isn't quite what keeps the series together. Considering that veteran animator Takahiro Chiba is Blue Exorcist's main animator, the show shouldn't suffer any bad blips in animation and should get better as time moves on.

Characters: 4

Most of the charm in the characters comes from the acceptance that this series is not for fan service. Aside from the supermarket ladies who work with Rin and the little kid he helps, there isn't a dominating female presence in this show. We're already given the sense that this will be an action show splashed with comedy in the right places, and the characters created for it are fit for the fight. Rin (Nobuhiko Okamoto) and Yukio (Jun Fukuyama) are played pretty well by their voice actors, and considering Hiroshi Kamiya is again on to play a snide character, the future characters should be equally colorful.

Track: 4

Some solid musical tracks decorate Blue Exorcist with plenty of quieter orchestral music in the background. Hiroyuki Sawano has directed for some strong live-action and anime shows in the past (Gundam UC, Sengoku BASARA), so the drama is framed well. The opening theme sung by UVERworld (Bleach, Blood+) and the ending theme sung by the Korean boy-band 2PM give the show its own vocal split personality, as well.

"Hype": 5

Of all of the shows advertised for the Spring 2011 season, Blue Exorcist is one that may have received the most fuel from its manga release in the US (Viz Media, April 2011). Blue Exorcist is also getting some high-caliber direction from Tensai Okamura (Darker Than Black) and scriptwriter Ryôta Yamaguchi (Escaflowne). Perhaps the best hype that it can enjoy is the fact that it is associated with Aniplex, one of the heavier marketing-oriented production units in Japan (Durarara!!, Fullmetal Alchemist).

Overall: 20/25
Blue Exorcist has one of the more enjoyable first episodes of the season, using a good chunk of time and comedy to develop Rin as a lovable loser, only to put him on display as the key to everything in the end. I like where this show is going, even though the opening animation to Episode 2 seems to indicate that this could turn into an Occult Academy where most of the show takes place on a school campus. While there is a risk the story could become soggy from being soaked in comic tropes a little too much, the action should become rather dramatic in the end and make for some action-packed suspense.

(Blue Exorcist is simulcast on Crunchyroll every Wednesday at 1 PM EDT.)

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