In recent years we’ve had a large increase of Shounen titles available to UK viewers; not only we are continually getting DVD releases for Naruto and Bleach, but thanks to legal streaming sites such as Crunchyroll, we have access to even more Shounen shows such as Gintama and Beelzebub. It doesn’t look like this increase will slow down since this time we are getting a DVD release of the increasingly popular manga adaption of the supernatural/action series Blue Exorcist.
The director of the series, Tensai Okamura, is fairly familiar to the supernatural/action genre since he also directed both Darker Than Black projects and Wolf’s Rain and A-1 Pictures, the studio, has been behind anime hits such as Fairy Tail and Black Butler, so I was certainly intrigued with Blue Exorcist since it had such a strong production team behind it. But does the first part of Blue Exorcist impress?
The concept of Blue Exorcist is interesting right from the start, there are two dimensions – The Real World (Assiah) and The Demon World (Gehenna ), these dimensions never have had contact with each other until recently. We are introduced to Rin Okumura, a 15 year old teenager who lives with his brother Yukio and Father Shiro who is head of the church the siblings are living in. Although Rin is short-tempered you start to see that his a good person at heart, however his bad attitude leads him to fail at getting jobs despite his surprisingly useful high strength, however as soon as Rin starts to see demons gather around him, we start to see that he isn’t actually human and we soon find out that he is the son of Satan! Shiro already knows this since he is an Exorcist, someone with the power to slay supernatural beasts with prayer or various holy weapons.
As one of the big demons known as Asteroth attacks the Church, Shiro and the members of the church attempt to defeat the demon and after some really cool action scenes, they succeed. However suddenly Father Shiro is possessed by Satan in front of Rin and attempts to send Rin back to Gehenna, but with the Koma Sword that was given to him by Father Shiro, Rin’s demon power is awakened, and just after that, Father Shiro sacrifices himself to stop Satan from taking Rin to the demon world.
Briefly after Shiro’s funeral, Rin is introduced to Mephisto Pheles and the Exorcists from True Cross Academy, knowing that he is the son of Satan, they were planning to kill him, but Rin argues that he wants to join them to become an Exorcist to defeat Satan, his words strangely interest Mephisto and who allows him to join True Cross Academy to train to become an Exorcist.
There’s a lot to describe in the first episodes of Blue Exorcist, but that’s one of the series big strengths, there is a lot of character and ‘world building’ which is mostly done with dialogue and flashbacks, but it’s done well when you mix the action scenes into it, the world of Blue Exorcist becomes even more intriguing because of it. Brothers Rin and Yukio are obviously the ones with the most development and their relationship throughout is something you want to learn and the show certainly delivers.
After episode 2 ends, Rin starts to attend True Cross Academy where he meets other teenagers in “cram class”, who also want to become future exorcist’s as well, this leads to some interesting developments as Blue Exorcist continues to builds its characters in the cram class, most of them are very likeable for the most part (Izumo development was one I didn’t really like at all, though) and it also gives an in-depth look on how veteran Exorcist’s use and create their powers.
Thankfully not everything in the 1st part of the series is incredibly serious, there are some genuine light-hearted funny moments that take a break from all the demon slaying, and it allows the characters to feel more human, which I appreciated.
The presentation side of the show is another big plus, it looks huge and visually impressive wherever the location is, add to that the well animated action scenes, plus the character and demon designs look varied and interesting. This release of Blue Exorcist is sub-titles only, but the Japanese Seiyuu cast do a fantastic job, some of my favourites include Kana Hanazawa who voices the shy Shiemi Moriyama and Hiroshi Kamiya who voices the entertaining Mephisto Pheles.
Gripes however turned up around the later episodes of Blue Exorcist, with some of them feeling more like filler, for example there’s a beach episode which doesn’t advance the plot at all, and it might have given the tsundere character Izumo some development, but she continues to be a bland and unlikeable character for the most part, the episode just felt like a wasted effort.
Another gripe are the missing subtitles, which start to set in when you get past the fourth episode, I noticed around six, it’s all right at times since, I knew what they might be saying, but it’s a bit frustrating at certain parts, so a caution warning there.
The OP (Core Pride by Uverworld) is your standard Shounen opening introducing the characters, but doing it very well, again I’m not a fan of rap in these kinds of songs, but it does feel suited to this J-rock theme. The ED (“Take off” by 2PM) is a straightforward electronic track which takes the viewer through a CGI town, nothing really special about that, but the simple tune is catchy.
Extras include a unaired episode called “Kuro Runs away from home”, which is again another filler episode but an entertaining one – There are five 1 minute episodes called Ura-Ex, which are funny shorts that put a certain character in a silly situation – Some very short Web Previews that aren’t really worth your time and both Textless OP & ED’s.
For the most part I really liked the first half of Blue Exorcist; if you’re a fan of the Shounen animes, then this is worth a look into.