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Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00

Blue Exorcist

Rin Okimura is the son of Satan, which you would think would give him a certain affinity for the lord of hades. But no, for a variety of reasons Rin and his twin brother Yukio would be far more interested in kicking Satan's ass. Which sounds like a great idea for a series, but in practice... not so much...

Rin Okimura and his twin brother Yukio have been raised by an eminent priest, Shiro Fujimoto. The identity of their real father was always a mystery, but now the truth has been revealed - their father was Satan himself. As the border between Assiah (the human world) and Gehenna (the world of demons) is probed by the evils from his father's domain, Rin vows to become the ultimate exorcist, to protect the human world and defeat his own father - but before he can achieve that aim, he has some training to complete. Welcome, then, to True Cross Academy, where Rin will train with other exorcist candidates...

Blue Exorcist is one of those shows that the people behind (Aniplex in this case) clearly had high hopes for. It's had a ton of money splashed on it, and as a result it's one damned good looking series. The question is whether the material then lives up to the money that's been spent on it, and of that I'm not entirely convinced.

A large part of that is that the story and setting are not convincing to me. True Cross Academy seems to live in its own little alternate world - a huge complex, with travel inside being a maze of passageways and gateways that don't obey the rules of space and time. Why? Dunno. Just because. The principal, Mephisto, is a demon - which seems a bit strange, as he's in charge of training exorcists to fight demons, and Mephisto is clearly using his position to look out for no-one's interests but his own. Yukio is unbelieveably talented - the same age as Rin, raised the same way, he's managed to become a qualified Exorcist and instructor at the school without Rin even realising he attended the place - insert "Yeaaaahhhhh, riiiiight...." here. Rin wields a powerful sword which he is clearly warned Never To Unsheath, which of course is out in the first episode and in regular use thereafter. The whole setup of the series just doesn't feel right.

Which isn't to say that there's nothing here worth watching. While the setting is a bit off, some aspects of it are quite interesting - Rin and Yukio's origins, the setup of the church as it operates in this universe, and the at-school scenes, where Rin's classmates get their chance to shine, and that's probably where the series is most enjoyable. Herbal medicine geek Shiemi is downright adorable; tsundere girl Izumo brings aggression to the group (along with a rather destracting monobrow). We have characters whose families have been destroyed by demons, out for revenge; people just wanting to be stronger; people trying to provide backup to those who fight on the frontline; and some who just aren't sure what they're there for, and are trying to find themselves. They're a decent enough bunch, and while the episodes covering them getting to know each other and learning the value of teamwork aren't exactly anything new, it works well enough.

Essentially, the series is getting the little things right, but missing the mark on the major stuff. Yukio is too good to be true; the shenanigans going on at the Vatican that lead to the show's final battle happen too fast and too conveniently; Mephisto is used almost as a walking plot twist, there to observe events and throw the odd surprise in, when I can't help but feel that there should have been more too him. Part of that may be down to the anime diverging from the source manga towards the end (I haven't read the original myself, but I've heard plenty of complaints that the anime loses it a bit when it goes its own way), but whatever the reason, ultimately the series just feels incomplete, missing a few key aspects that would have made it something better.

Which makes the whole experience rather "meh..." in the end. There are good moments here, but they're overshadowed by the bits that just don't quite work right, in ways that I just can't quite put my finger on.

Rating - ***