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Blue Exorcist Volume 1

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Blue Exorcist Volume 1 by Kazue Kato from Shonen Jump / VIZ Media

Blue Exorcist Volume 1

AO NO EXORCIST © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA Inc.

The Bottom Line

Scrappy Rin Okumura and his studious twin brother Yukio both grew up under the care of Father Fujimoto. But at age 15, Rin discovers a secret: he’s the half-human/half-demon son of Satan. After a brush with his father, Rin vows to fight evil by becoming an exorcist.

Boy vs. demons? Not exactly a ground-breaking premise in shonen manga land. I was skeptical, but Blue Exorcist won me over with its likeable characters, fantastic Europe-Japan-Harry-Potter world-building, and astonishingly well-crafted artwork. It’s hard to say if it’s worthy of a long-term commitment, but it's definitely off to a good start.

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Pros

  • A quirky mix of action, humor, drama, and supernatural fantasy
  • Wonderfully rich and detailed world-building that mixes European and Japanese influences
  • Rin and Yukio are intriguing characters with believable brotherly affection/friction
  • Fun character designs that evoke the whimsy of Tim Burton and the magic of Harry Potter
  • Dynamic, expressive artwork and a few curveball twists makes for an engaging read

Cons

  • Plays it fast and loose with Christian symbols and traditions, without much thought to their meaning
  • It’s a shame that many of Kato’s lovely color pages are reproduced in muddy grays.
  • The action scenes are bit chaotic, and sometimes hard to follow

Description

  • Original Title: Ao no Exorcist (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Kazue Kato
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-1421540320
  • Cover Price: $9.99 US / $12.99 CANADA
  • Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for guns, violence and demonic possession.
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: April 2011
    Japan Publication Date: August 2009
  • Book Description: 200 pages, black and white illustrations, 2 color pages
  • More Manga by Kazue Kato:
    • Boku to Usagi
    • Robo to Usakichi

Guide Review - Blue Exorcist Volume 1

Hot-headed Rin Okamura can’t seem to catch a break. Compared to his twin brother Yukio, Rin’s grades are mediocre, so he’s got slim prospects for getting into a good high school. His guardian, Father Fujimoto encourages him to get a job, but he can’t even get to the interview without getting into a fight. But Rin soon comes to realize how unlucky he truly is when he finds out that he’s the bastard son of Satan.

After a brush with his demonic dad, Rin makes a fateful pledge: he'll become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto to prevent Satan from invading the world of the living. Does Rin have the right stuff to fight hellfire with fire, or is will his demonic bloodline be his downfall?

When I first read the description of Blue Exorcist I was not that impressed. Teen boy fights demons? So what else is new in shonen manga land? Despite its hokey premise, this first volume of Blue Exorcist managed to rise above to meet and exceed my expectations.

First off, the art. Kazue Kato does a fabulous job of creating a rich, multi-dimensional world that melds European architecture, Japanese culture, modern technology and Tim Burton-esque whimsy. If you dissect the parts, it doesn’t really make sense that an elaborate Harry Potter-style academy with a headmaster who looks like he escaped from Cirque du Soleil exists in a Japanese town with the gritty urban decay of Blade Runner one minute, then an idyllic garden worthy of Alice in Wonderland the next. This multicultural mishmash shouldn’t work — but somehow, Kato’s masterful draftsmanship and attention to detail helps to pull it off.

Next, the characters. At his core, Rin is a classic shonen manga protagonist — he’s a scrappy misfit who must overcome his limitations to become a real hero. However, his fiery temper, his essential goodness and his self-deprecating sense of humor makes him likeable without being too predictable. His relationships with Father Fujimoto and his studious fraternal twin Yukio are also full of the kind of friction and affection that only family members can generate with each other.

Finally, the storytelling. In this first volume, Kato wastes little time setting up her premise and kicking the story into gear. The action scenes are dynamic, but also a bit chaotic, in addition to being bloody and violent. However, with Satan as Rin’s main enemy in this series — well, that was probably a given. Kato also throws some surprising twists, to keep things engaging.

It's a little odd that a story that has exorcists, priests and Satan never mentions God, or the church very much. Coming from a culture that is primarily Buddhist/Shinto, Kato seems content to depict exorcists as a cadre of kick-ass demon killers rather than holy men on a spiritual mission for a higher power.

Cultural quirks and bizarre anachronisms aside, Blue Exorcist is a fun read. Is worthy of a long-term commitment? That remains to be seen — but so far, I’m impressed, and that’s gotta count for something.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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