Anime Reporter prepares its soul for a glance into part 1 of the Definitive Edition Bluray of Blue Exorcist (Japanese title: Ao No Ekusoshisuto), the anime series based on Kazue Kato’s manga series of the same name, directed by veteran director Tensai Okamura.
15 year old Rin Okumura (voiced by Tiger & Bunny’s Nobuhiko Okamoto in Japanese and Vampire Knight’s Bryce Papenbrook in English) is not having a good time. His adoptive father, Father Shiro Fujimoto (Voiced by Keiji Fujiwara of Death Note, Fairy Tail in Japanese and Kirk Thornton of Akira and Bleach in English) is pressuring him to get a job and stop getting into fights, while his twin brother Yukio (Jun Fukuyan of Deadman Wonderland in Japanese, Johnny Yong Bosch of Bleach, Wolf’s Rain in English) is preparing to go to True Cross Academy, an elite private school and study to become a doctor. Add this to the fact that Rin has started seeing little demons around him and there’s cause for concern that Rin’s life may not be going somewhere entirely positive. Once Rin finds out that these demons are real and that he himself is the son of, not just a demon, but Satan himself, his life takes an irreversible turn into dark, demonic territory. Demons start to hunt Rin down, with his demonic energy now released and soon even Satan joins the fray, eager to claim Rin as his weapon on earth. With both demons and exorcists eager to hunt him down, Rin makes a desperate decision; to become an exorcist himself and kill Satan. He’s enrolled by an old friend of his father’s, Mr. Mephisto Pheles (No really, that’s his name), at True Cross Academy alongside his brother. Here, Rin starts on the difficult path towards becoming an exorcist.
This is the premise left after the first couple of episodes, with a wonderfully driven and dark story setting the scene for the story to come. Unfortunately, Rin is assured that within the confines of True Cross, no demons can reach him and the horde is more or less kept at bay, with only occasional demon-sightings as the plot demands. The twisted and intense tones are soon replaced by a softer, broader anime tone as Rin gets to know his fellow classmates and the less terrifying beasties that an exorcist should learn to overcome. Episodes often allude to something more sinister in the making but the presence of this threat is largely unfelt and after twelve episodes it feels a little like the series is finding its feet at last. Rin’s character is more often than not overly childish and aloof given his situation and the humour of the show, while affective, does often detract from any real tension. The show undeniably retains some of its darkness and the imagery for many of the demons is disturbingly beautiful when it’s not simply disturbing but it can feel like a little bit of a letdown following the heart-pounding opening to the series.
The characters themselves are given enough depth and emotion (for the most part) to develop beyond the stock characters they may appear to be at first and the episodes focusing on the supporting characters are entertaining and interesting enough to hold attention though this can make the show feel somewhat slower than it could. In particular, the character Shiemi Moriyama (voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who played Shiro in Deadman Wonderland, in Japanese and Christine Marie Cabanos, who played the title character in Squid Girl, in English) benefits from characterisation and her character can be seen developing across the series.
Visually, this anime is very sleek and modern in terms of animation, with exquisite attention given to the design of demons, with some in particular feeling a little bit reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke. The Bluray edition features crystal clear HD visuals, bringing the characters and big bad demons new life. The blue flames which are Rin’s calling card in the series look particularly haunting in contrast to the usually darker environments and the character himself looks quite shocking in his more demonic moments. Included in the definitive edition, for the first time ever in the UK, are both English and Japanese audio tracks (with only the Japanese tracks available on the earlier DVD releases). Also included are three Ura-Eku, or comedy shorts and an exclusive OVA which seems to take place before episode 12 but shouldn’t be watched until after the other episodes for those who don’t enjoy spoilers.
Blue Exorcist has many strengths as an anime and is well worth watching though it lacks some of the grittiness and horror that might be expected from its beginning.
Blue Exorcist Definitive Edition: Part 1 is available on Bluray from Manga entertainment.
Visual Effects: 9
Enjoyable Characters: 8
Tension and Intrigue: 6.5
Satanic Horror: 6
76% “A Fierce Start”
Blue Exorcist Part 1 is an intriguing set up for the series as a whole, with dark plots and darker characters scattered throughout.
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