This story originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Otaku USA Magazine.
it’s OK, he’s a good guy, we swear
What is it that causes teenagers to act the way they do? To lash out in anger. To go from being an outgoing child to an introverted young adult. Whatever the “affliction” may be, symptoms of youth in revolt come in many forms, and a lot of it simply boils down to hormones and growing pains. Rin Okumura is different, though. Sure, he’s going through what all of us currently are or have in the past, but there’s more bubbling inside him than the wavering woes of pubescence.
Rin just found out he’s the son of Satan, and he’s got a bone or two to pick with his old man.
They Made Me Do It
Life wasn’t always so cripplingly dark for Rin, but he’s been around evil in some form for as long as he can remember. Along with his younger brother Yukio, Rin has lived among exorcists under the wise tutelage and guidance of Father Shiro Fujimoto since birth. At 15, however, he’s hit somewhat of a fork in the road, facing the inevitable question of what to do about his future. It’s something everyone can relate to, as is the crummy job he’s forced to apply for at a local supermarket. Typical teenage livin’, for the most part.
Outside of his home life, Rin is the quintessential pseudo-ruffian. He can be kind, but he’s no pushover. He’s brash, and he gets into fights, but he’s not a tried and true delinquent like, say, Yu Yu Hakusho’s Yusuke Urameshi. Instead, as we discover early on, most of Rin’s altercations tend to come about in the name of a worthy cause, whether or not that’s readily apparent to those in the position to punish him. Rin’s tendency to act before thinking carries over into his gig at the supermarket, and that’s where things begin to take a turn for the macabre.
Rin spots a little girl being taunted in the store and, being the stand-up fella that he is deep down inside, he rushes to her aid. Only it’s not a schoolyard bully doing the tormenting, it’s an impish little demon that only Rin can see. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and such is evidently the case as Rin’s ability to see the ghoulish spirits that evade the naked eye comes fully into being. He can even see them on a near microscopic level, like something out of a demonic spin on Moyashimon. Imps are the least of his worries, though. During a back-alley brawl not long after, his opponent reveals himself—to Rin and Rin alone—to be a demon; gnarled horns protruding from his skull and all. Unable to contain it any longer, Rin’s true form bursts forth in blue-flamed glory. Behold, the son of Satan.
With that black cat out of the bag, all is revealed. Father Fujimoto has been dreading this day, having protected Rin from the truth—and those who would literally rip the world asunder once it was discovered—since he took him into his home. It turns out there are two worlds: The material world we live in is Assiah, and the empty world of the demons is Gehenna. Those demons are now intruding, having possessed all material things in our world. Worse yet, they know of Rin’s awakening, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the unholy son.
Rin, however, isn’t fully invested in this battle yet. It’s going to take some kind of gruesome tragedy to get him on board, and he’s not keen on simply running away from the problem per Father Fujimoto’s wishes. His change of heart is triggered in the most unfortunate of ways, as Satan possesses and ultimately kills Fujimoto, severing his closest family tie and providing a sorrowful catalyst for all that’s to come.
As Rin so eloquently puts it: “I’m gonna beat the shit out of Satan!”
Of course, one doesn’t simply proclaim something so bold and act on it immediately. This is the moment where Blue Exorcist begins its drive toward Rin’s ultimate revenge, and it’s not through a season’s worth of solo forest training montages, but through one of the last places most thought Rin would ever end up: True Cross Academy. Billed as one of the biggest exorcism cram schools, True Cross is a colossal building located in the sprawl of “academy town.” If it helps at all, consider it a Hogwarts of sorts, only in place of would-be wizards we’ve got countless young demon-exorcisers in training.
As if the one-two-THREE punch of finding out you’re the son of Satan, losing your only father figure, and then being shipped off to some stuffy academy wasn’t enough, Rin discovers that he’ll be taking lessons under the guidance of his younger brother. Yes, Yukio is a regular boy genius who’s worked his ass off to make the grades, and now teaches Anti-Demon Pharmacology to Rin and the rest of his class. Yukio may not have inherited any of Satan’s sinister powers, but, thanks to Rin, he did receive a mashou at birth, thus allowing him to see demons and study to be an exorcist from an extraordinarily early age.
It wouldn’t exactly be a fun shonen romp if everyone just sat in class and nodded obediently at True Cross, so you’ll find no shortage of strange lessons here, along with the inevitable demonic encounters that come with the territory. Physical education, for example, takes place in a bowl-like arena, where Rin and his classmates must flee the chomping maws of giant man-eating toads called Reapers. “Staying alive” may end up being the prerequisite for every course to follow.
As much as the title begs for some head-spinning, projectile-vomiting action, the devil ain’t gonna go down like Linda Blair. Demons can’t be wished or prayed away, so the kids of True Cross are essentially tasked with kicking ass for the Lord. Rin is equipped with the Koma Sword, the sheath of which acts as a portal to Gehenna. Therefore, he must never draw the blade around others, lest his true demonic identity be revealed. It may complicate matters for our hero, but there are many other ways to skin Satan’s wicked warriors. Yukio, for instance, fires enough slugs in Episode 3 to satisfy even the most trigger-happy of anime fans.
This is where A-1 Pictures’ production truly shines, though the series in general is looking pretty darn slick so far. Under the direction of Tensai Okamura (Darker than Black, Kikaider, Project Blue Earth SOS), the staff delivers a solid balance between action, levity, and the more serious and somber moments of Blue Exorcist’s narrative. The series isn’t even in the double digits, episode-wise, at the time of this writing [re: mid 2011], but if what’s aired up to this point is any indication, the remainder of its 24-episode run should prove worth exorcising from its various digital vessels.
Blue Exorcist is currently being streamed online via Hulu, Anime News Network, Crunchyroll, and Viz Anime.