Reviewby Theron Martin, Oct 13th 2011
Sub DVD 1
15-year-old Rin Okamura has often, over the course of his life, been called a “demon child” because of his penchant for getting involved in fights and mayhem (not always intentionally so), unlike his twin brother Yukio, who has earned a scholarship to the prestigious True Cross Academy. When Rin starts seeing supernatural things, however, the truth eventually comes out: he actually is a demon child – the son of Satan by a human woman, to be precise. (He inherited all of the demonic traits, thus preventing his twin from getting any of them, you see.) The exorcist that he and his brother have lived with all their lives valiantly defends Rin as the awakening of his demonic side also attracts the attention of demons who either want to eliminate him or take him back to Gehenna to be Satan's successor, but ultimately only Rin's own power allows him to resist. Determined to avenge the man he actually regards as his father, Rin embarks on a quest to become an exorcist himself, which results in him also winding up at True Cross Academy under the sponsorship of its chancellor, one Mephisto Pheles. (Yes, really.) While keeping his demonic heritage hidden and pursuing studies that he isn't naturally cut out for, Rin must also learn to get along with his fellow exorcist trainees and contend with his brother, who not only turns out to be one of his instructors but also isn't happy with Rin for a number of reasons.
In almost every respect Blue Exorcist has the look and feel of a typical shonen action series. It focuses on a 15-year-old protagonist who's quite the misfit, discovers that he has hidden reserves of skills and powers because of something special about his nature, and seeks to harness those powers for an objective that audiences can easily sympathize with. He is a knucklehead who must struggle to integrate in amongst others who have and/or are developing similar powers, which naturally results in him having a bull-headed conflict with at least one of them, while also trying to figure out a way to get the attention of girls. And, like many recent protagonist delinquents, he can cook remarkably well, too.
So why does Blue Exorcist work so much better than a lot of its kindred? Production values have a lot to do with it. This is one of the sharpest-looking shonen action series in recent memory, especially in its art design; True Cross Academy is a wonder of over-the-top fantasy-styled architecture both inside and out, while the garden scenes are also beauties to behold and even the cluttered store has its own charm. Character designs for Rin when passing as a human, his fellow students, and the Exorcists are more typical (although Shiemi is drawn with an unusually broad face and no one is portrayed at extraordinarily handsome/pretty), but Mephisto Pheles is a garish pimp par excellence, Rin looks suitably nasty when his demonic side shows, and some of the demon designs are very cool. Action scenes sizzle as characters, weapons, and power releases smoothly flash about, with scenes like an attack on a church sanctuary packing all the demonic ambiance one could ask for. The overall rendering job by A-1 Pictures is splendid, too, with characters only going off-model intentionally. A hard rock-laden score whose dramatic swells hit all the right notes also helps.
But there's a little more to it than that. The dynamic between Rin and Yukio seems rather bland in the two episodes based in the church, but it becomes dramatically more interesting when events move to True Cross and Yukio finally lets his long-restrained concerns about Rin and Rin's true nature as the son of Satan show. Shiemi's efforts to find a friend when she's never had one before, and the catty way that some other girls react to her familiarity with Rin and Yukio, ring painfully true, and prideful Izumo surprises a little with the weaknesses at her core despite her outward confidence. Granted, these and other events generally play out in predictable fashion, as does the way stubborn, hot-tempered Ryūji quickly becomes a foil for Rin, but the developing relationships have at least some degree of honest feeling to it. An effective sense of humor finds a sufficient balance with the heavier elements, too, while fan service remains at a minimum; one female character (appropriately) in her undies in one scene is the extent of it, and even then that scene does not play out as if actively attempting to be titillating.
Aniplex' release of the title, as per the norm for their releases, does not have an English dub, which is a disappointment since the original Japanese dub is not a sterling effort. (For instance, Nobuhiko Okamoto does an acceptable job as Rin but seems like he's straining in some scenes where his character shouts.) On-disk Extras include a trio of “Ure-Eku!” comic shorts, Web previews for the series, and clean opener and closer. Like with their coinciding release of Oreimo, Aniplex outfits the case with a reversible cover and a mini-poster which features Rin and Yukio in an action pose on one side and Rin with Mephisto on the other.
The only place where the first seven episodes truly stumble is in the sixth episode, which focuses on Rin getting into a stupid series of cooking-related conflicts with the demonic familiar who runs the kitchen of the dorm where Rin and Yukio stay. Otherwise this is a solid start to a promising shonen action series.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Art design, action scenes, some good use of humor and character relationship development.
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