Ao no Exorcist – 02 & 03
Yes I am extremely late in deciding what I wanted to blog – the main reason for that is that this season, while extremely busy, hasn’t really got any series in it that scream ‘you must write about me now!’ The only show I get excited about is this one, Ao no Exorcist, and I was reluctant to blog it after being burned by Bakuman – blogging an anime adaptation for which you’ve already read the manga is dangerous, as even though I tried not to, I still got sucked into the ‘They changed it, now it sucks!’ mindset (which is why I dropped blogging Bakuman midway through).
However I’m much, much happier with this Ao no Exorcist anime – its got a decent budget as it’s the flagship anime this season, and so far they’re really keeping true to the atmosphere of the manga; generally it just feels like a much more competent adaptation. As such I’m going to cave to my ‘Inner Shounen Fangirl’s’ wishes and blog the show – nothing else really had the same pull. Now since I’ve left my decision for so long, we’re already on episode three of this show (and four/five of everything else) so I’m merging these two episodes and starting properly from next week.
In contrast to the comedy and lightness that prevailed through most of episode one, this episode takes the darker more serious tone that crept into the end of the previous episode and builds on it. Ao no Exorcist really shows its teeth in this episode as it fires a lot of information at us very quickly, by the end you’re reeling almost as badly as Rin – yet it doesn’t feel like information overload due to the great pacing and writing displayed in this episode.
Rin does an awful lot of shouting, throwing a teenage tantrum when he doesn’t really understand just what his adoptive parent Fr Fujimoto, is telling him about his true identity and the existence of whole other unseen world. However its pretty understandable that Rin would react in this way, he hasn’t exactly shown any propensity to think before acting, and Fr Fujimoto is telling him that his real father is Satan, all while being constantly under attack by ever-increasing hordes of demons, hell-bent on dragging Rin off to meet his biological dad. Denial and lashing out at the closest target are really forgivable in this kind of situation, I doubt I’d be in any way calm even if I was sat down with a cup of tea and told nice and gently!
The episode doesn’t let up on the drama at all, from Rin’s emphatic denial of Fr Fujimoto’s right to call himself Rin’s father to Fr Fujimoto’s possession by Satan, Rin’s self-aware transformation into a full demon and Fr Fujimoto’s ultimate death by his own hand; its heavy hitting without being heavy-handed. It would be all too easy to lay the angst on with a trowel, but thankfully that doesn’t happen and while Rin is understandably crushed by the loss of his father and daunted by the new world he’s just been thrown into without much of a security line, Rin still stands on his own two feet and states his wishes clearly to the representative of the exorcist order that comes to take charge of him (incidentally Mephisto Pheles is probably one of my favourite characters in this series and Hiroshi Kamiya is perfect casting!). I do like shounen protagonists like Rin – they’re all rough & tumble without being overly idiotic or angsty.
Episode three sees the story move to True Cross Academy, the real setting for the action for majority of this series. I love the design of the school – such a mish-mash of buildings all stacked on top of each other, and all with pretty distinctive features; it’s just really cool looking (and Rin seems to agree given the fact he wanders about most the episode in slack-jawed awe). I also like the way you access the Exorcist training school by turning a special key in any door on the premises (and the fact Mephisto spends most of the episode transformed into a cute little doggie). Rin for his part seems to be trying very hard to keep himself under control, especially since his twin brother seems to be too busy being the perfect student representative to hang about with him. Yukio is calm and methodical where Rin is emotional and wild, the twins are polar opposites yet balance each other well and Rin is very proud of his younger brother’s intelligence and ambition.
The kicker in this episode comes when Rin discovers that Yukio is not only aware of demons and Rin’s true identity as the son of Satan, but is also a fully qualified exorcist and teacher at the Academy…….and Rin’s a touch upset that Yukio and Mephisto didn’t find this information worthy of sharing before turning up in front of the class. The series is told from Rin’s perspective so us knowing how much Rin admires Yukio, makes Yukio kind of look like an arsehole; but the twins are only 15 and have just lost the only parent they’ve ever known in extremely tragic circumstances, Yukio’s coping mechanism and professional training seems to have made Rin the scapegoat for his pain.
Yukio has had it tough himself, having been affected by Rin’s demonic aura at birth, Yukio has grown up seeing all those scary, creepy demons constantly – probably being bullied by them like the little girl in the first episode as well until Fr Fujimoto started teaching him to be an exorcist. Yukio has had to hide this from his brother all his life, causing mixed feelings as the oblivious Rin is the source of all Yukio’s issues, but also the entity that provides the most comfort and protection outside of their adoptive parent. All these turbulent emotions are sealed away behind Yukio’s calm, professional exterior; but that mask got a serious crack in it when Fr Fujimoto died, because Yukio knows that Rin was the root cause, even if he is otherwise blameless – you can’t change your blood after all. Still its hard to be forgiving when Yukio is pointing a gun at his obviously upset brother – there’s just some things you don’t do to family (even if they are the spawn of Satan).
Still the brothers do get all their feelings out in the open (in classic shounen style mid battle!), Rin’s a big-hearted idiot so he easily gets over Yukio threatening to kill him, and Yukio remembers that just because Rin’s demonic blood has been awakened, doesn’t mean Rin’s personality has changed any and his protective, mother-hen side comes out. Again I’m glad the show doesn’t dwell on the conflict, it would be easy to have the twins be at odds with each other for much longer, but its better to have them resolve their differences early – Rin will need Yukio’s help to both protect his secrets & help him with the academic side of becoming an exorcist.
Next week has Kana Hanazawa’s character in the spotlight (because if this season really needs something, it’s yet more Kana Hanazawa!) and the show should start building its cast and setting properly – looking forward to it!