Continuing to look at anime set in schools that would never exist in real life, we have a look at a third, and for now last, school connected with the supernatural. This time however, unlike Vampire Knight and Soul Eater, this is a school which is keen on getting rid of monsters, even though such creatures work and study there.
Blue Exorcist began as a manga in 2009 and is still going today. The anime TV series ran for 25 episodes in 2011, including a special straight-to-video episode, and there was also a feature length animated film in 2012. The creator of the series, Kazue Kato, says the story is partly inspired by the work of the Brothers Grimm.
The tale begins with two twin brothers: older brother Rin Okumura is a boy great strength and a short temper, while his younger, bespectacled and mole-faced brother Yukio is the more intelligent. Their parents are no longer alive and thus they live with a Catholic priest Father Shiro Fujimoto, who also happens to the “Paladin” – the world’s most powerful exorcist, a job that Yukio also wants to do. But then Rin discovers who his biological father is: Satan himself. Rin’s strength is as a result of his demonic powers, which are sealed by the demon-slaying sword Kurikara, whilst Yukio was too weak to take on the powers himself. Satan ends up possessing Father Shiro and Rin uses the Kurikara to attack Satan, at the same time unleashing Rin’s full power. Shiro is able to fight back and defeats Satan, killing himself in the process.
Following this Rin decides to follow his father and his brother’s footsteps and become an exorcist, using his power to kill Satan. However, Rin has several problems, including the fact that his body now has a demonic appearance. After he first uses Kurikara Rin’s ears becoming pointed, he grows fangs and a tail. When his sword is removed from his scabbard these features becoming even more pronounced, and he is covered in Satan’s own distinctive blue flames, including flaming horns.
Not only that, but there are now many exorcists who believe the best thing to do is to kill Rin and stop his Satanic powers from doing anything destructive. One individual ordered to carry out such a killing is the equally demonic and strangely dressed Mephisto Pheles, the chair of the Japanese branch of the True Cross Academy, a school which trains exorcists. However, instead of killing Rin, he takes the boy up on his offer and decides to train Rin as an exorcist, hoping that with his powers he could actually be used to go on the offensive against Satan rather than the defensive. Thus Rin goes to the True Cross Academy, a school the size of large city which takes over the area of a whole hill. Rin even finds himself in the same class as his brother Yukio, but is shocked when he learns a terrible truth: Yukio has already studied, trained and qualified as an exorcist. He is not only the youngest exorcist in the world, young Yukio is also old Rin’s teacher.
While some people have criticised Blue Exorcist for using several anime clichés in terms of its plot (e.g. the main character having one big central goal which is the driving force of the whole story) and the first DVD release of the TV series in the Britain only came with subtitles, which also has some errors in it, there are a few plus points. One aspect is that in a way it is slightly niche. You have to remember that Japan is not a Christian country, so for an anime series to feature so much reference to Christianity and Catholicism is very rare. Most of the episodes feature at least one character quoting the Bible in order to defeat a demon.
The characters are rather fun too. Aside from the ones mentioned previously, there are some of Rin’s fellow students which include Shiemi Moriyama, a girl with a love of gardening who serves as the main love interest; and Ryuji “Bon” Suguro, a stubborn, slightly thuggish-looking guy who is actually the top of Rin’s class.
If there is one major problem that I do have with Blue Exorcist it is this: for most of the story Rin has to hide his demonic powers from everyone at True Cross Academy. Now hiding his tail is easy – either tuck it down your trousers or wrap it around your torso. But how come he is able to walk around with pointy ears and a tail, but no-one will question him about it? My guess is that Japan tends to stereotype itself as a rather polite country, and thus everyone around him would think it too rude to ask. If you had a British student in that class, Rin’s identity would have been found out in about five minutes.
Blue Exorcist has its ups-and-downs. You also have to remember that the manga is still being written, so there is every chance that will see more of the Brothers Okumura on screen.
The TV and film version of Blue Exorcist are now available on both DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga Entertainment.