Working my way alphabetically through my downloaded folder, next on the hit list was Ao no Exorcist (Blue Exorcist). Not having much of a clue over the content (bar an indication in the title), I jumped in ready for absolutely anything. Despite appearing as a multiple genre spanning series with numerous cliché moments, I have to admit that Ao no Exorcist kept my attention the entire time. Just a shame it simply wasn’t as good as it could/should have been.
|If only all exorcists looked this good|
Opening in the traditional anime way, the viewer will be somewhat flummoxed by the first few minutes of a group of priests chanting and sporadically bursting into blue flames as they attempt to hold back some evil. A swift jump introduces father Fujimoto: a religious man who has taken parental responsibility for a pair of orphaned twins. The elder boy Rin harbours a dark secret that he is in fact the son of Satan and his demon powers are controlled by an enchanted sword. The younger, bespectacled Yukio is readying himself to start at a renowned academy to study as an exorcist. After things go inevitably tits-up, the boys both take their places at the True Cross Academy and team up with a mismatched group of social rejects.
|The anime equivalent of a musical interlude|
Spending time introducing Suguro, Shiemi, Shima, Konekomaru and Kamiki takes quite some time; however I cannot help but feel that after a quick background for each character, there was little else done with them. Moving on from this, very few episodes are dedicated to a “monster of the week” theme, and more time is spent hinting at ulterior motives of the more influential side characters. There are some interesting twists and turns throughout Blue Exorcist, but many feel a little rushed and one boss battle that should have been a brutal bloodbath was quickly wrapped up in mere minutes.
Despite all of these short comings, Ao no Exorcist is a fun ride; there is a good measure of comedy thrown in with the action, as well as plenty of toned down fanservice after one busty character is introduced. A second season would definitely help make amends for the numerous plot holes left gaping as the final credits rolled; speaking of which, make sure you watch the conclusion to final episode that rolls in a little later than expected!
When CG was first introduced to more traditionally drawn anime, it really didn’t work. Ao no Exorcist is one of the first I’ve been taken aback by the subtle blending of the computerised effects and the sparseness in which they were used. In amongst the brightly coloured scenery, the characters sit perfectly at home with their well balanced features. The artists certainly had some fun with Rin’s comedic faces, Shura’s impressive breasts (which inexplicably fit into a bikini top roughly four sizes too small for her) and Shiemi’s surprise cup size. Scoring very highly from me, the animation is seamless and remains so throughout all episodes.
Typical of a shounen-style show, the opening and closing tracks are predominantly pop tracks, heavy on the guitar and finished with a dash of emo lyrics. Not terrible, not brilliant, just... there. On the other hand, the vocal talents of the cast are perfectly suited to each of the varied personalities; Mephisto’s dandy charm is brought out by Hiroshi Kamiya, whilst the delicately girlish Shiemi is brought to life by Kana Hanazawa.
Of all of the areas of Ao no Exorcist that stop this good anime from becoming great, I found the character section to be the one with the most unrealised potential. Focussing primarily on Rin and Yukio, the twin boys develop well throughout the show as they try desperately to piece their history together. Sadly, the group of sidekicks are woefully neglected and feel as if they have been thrown in as an afterthought. Despite having at least one episode dedicated to each member, there is no feel for certain motivations (such as why the intriguing Izumo is such a bitch!) and no real effort to show development of exorcist skills past the initial exam. As with the story section, there is hope that this could be resolved with another season!
In the last quarter of Ao no Exorcist I was suddenly reminded of the fellow supernatural drama Kekkaishi; young heroes fighting off a demonic force of evil. Unfortunately, Ao lacks the character development and humour of the latter. Despite being a fun watch, there were simply too many layers of story for a 25 episode series and more focus on the exorcist study group would have been a brilliant first series, with more to come later. That said, I would definitely recommend Blue Exorcist to shounen fans and those with an open mind to something different to the numerous moe titles that have recently sprung up.