It starts out as a normal training exercise for the young Ex-Wires from True Cross Academy – and then Amaimon, demon lord of the earth, appears. Driven beyond his limits as his friend are targeted, Rin loses all control and the startling blue flames – proof of the fact that he is Satan’s son – burst out. Arthur Auguste Angel, the Paladin, appears to arrest him – and Rin is taken away to stand trial at the Vatican. Twin brother Yukio and his friends are desperate to protect him, for the punishment, if he is condemned, is execution. But Shura Kirigakure (the Senior Exorcist who never seems to wear more than an inadequate bikini) has a plan that might just work…
Episode 19 ‘An Ordinary Day’ brings a welcome lull in the rising tension as the students find that it’s not so easy to make secret party plans to celebrate the prickly Izumo’s birthday, especially when the overly suspicious birthday girl suspects that they are plotting something quite different. But this domestic interlude doesn’t last for long as the shadows hovering around the portals of the Academy begin to lengthen and an unanticipated visitor from the past appears. Does an elderly gentleman, Ernst, really hold the key to the boys’ past – and how genuine are his intentions toward the Okumura twins? Or are his plans about to set off a disaster of apocalyptic proportions?
The creators of manga and anime have been merrily plundering the symbolism of Christianity and Judaism for a long while now with series as varied as Evangelion, Chrono Crusade, and Trinity Blood. Now along comes Blue Exorcist which includes the Vatican, True Cross Academy, the Faust legend, and the Kabbalah, all set to a soundtrack of tolling bells and doom-laden quotations from the Book of Revelations, which is probably still quite exotic for viewers in Japan, but less so for us in the West. Luckily – for us – the underlying story is strong enough and the characters well enough developed to drive away any doubts. Blue Exorcist achieves a pleasing blend of exorcist school camaraderie and top-notch, edge-of-the seat fighting fantasy as the young trainee exorcists are tested to – and beyond – the limits of their abilities. But if you’re looking for character-driven drama or for the rather over-familiar religious tropes to be approached in a new and exciting way, then you’re going to feel a little let down.
However, Blue Exorcist manages to do what few anime based on ongoing manga series achieve: it delivers a decently satisfying resolution to the questions posed at the beginning of the story. If you’re hoping to find out the full truth about the Okumura twins’ parentage, then you won’t be disappointed; there’s a well-managed and illuminating flashback. What is rather more disappointing, however, is the way the final conflagration builds and resolves – although, I have to admit, that it makes thrilling watching; it’s a great piece of battle animation. It’s just – probably – not what mangaka Kazue Katō is planning to do with her ongoing story.
Viewers of Part 1 already know that there’s no English dub available – but at least there’s a better subtitle experience than in Part 1, with clearer lettering and only the occasional typo or missing word (although with some strange choices; Rin defiantly challenging the swarming denizens of Gehenna as ‘pissants’ isn’t in character at all!) Jun Fukuyama is good as always as Yukio, and relatively new Nobuhiko Okamoto (Ivan in Tiger and Bunny) portrays conflicted Rin sympathetically; however, it’s Hiroshi Kamiya as the flamboyant (and deeply suspicious) head of the Academy, Mephisto Pheles, who easily wins the prize for the most entertaining performance.
There’s a new Opening Theme; “In My World” by ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D struts its stuff in a fittingly belligerent manner, whereas new Ending Theme, “Wired Life” by Meisa Kuroki, offers a more gentle, reflective mood at the conclusion of each episode.
The powerful score, enhanced by the obligatory tolling bells and chanting choirs, is from rising star Hiroyuki Sawano, who also composed the music for the Sengoku Basara series.
Extras include the usual textless Opening and Ending Themes, the amusing Ura-Ex (bonus short movies) and several Web Previews.
So will there be more animated Blue Exorcist? In Animeland # 184, producer Takamitsu Inoue reveals that the film will be released on December 28th in Japan (although, sadly, without director Tensai Okamura at the helm this time.) He also reveals that Kazue Katō has expressed the wish to continue the manga for another ten years! So…who knows?
Exciting and well-animated, Part 2 of Blue Exorcist, delivers an exhilarating shounen series experience – but, as the supernatural subject material is not as original as one could have hoped, it’s probably best to disengage your higher critical faculties when watching and just go with the flow.