Blue Exorcist, vol. 1

6 - CoverFifteen-year-old Rin Okumura means well, but he can’t seem to do anything right. While his twin brother Yukio has earned a scholarship to the prestigious True Cross high school, Rin gets into fights. Father Fujimoto, who raised the brothers, pushes him to get a job, but who is he to talk? The man exorcises demons for a living, and everyone knows demons aren’t real!

That’s before Rin finds out he is one.

In fact, Rin is the son of the biggest, baddest demon of all: Satan. (Yeah, it’s a little more Judeo-Christian than I expected, too.) His brother Yukio is human; as the firstborn and physically stronger twin, Rin was the only one to absorb the demonic power in the womb. He didn’t know anything about that until now, when one of the bullies he recently fought comes looking for a rematch – and turns out to be possessed by a demon. Suddenly fighting for his life, Rin is as surprised as anyone when his own power manifests in the form of blue flames. The shocks keep on coming as Father Fujimoto shows up to exorcise the demon and save Rin – followed by Satan, who appears to claim his son.

Rin manages to send his demonic dad packing, but not before Satan kills Father Fujimoto. At a loss, Rin turns to the last thing the exorcist gave him: a cell phone programmed with one number. That number, when called, summons the flamboyant Mephisto Pheles, a demon who runs a league of exorcists. Rather than help, though, Mephisto tells Rin apologetically that the son of Satan is too big a threat to live. Rin counters by asking to join the exorcists. Amused by the idea, Mephisto agrees, but says that Rin must start by attending school: specifically, True Cross, where Yukio is about to start. Rin is glad that at least his twin – always the sensitive, bullied one who needed his brother’s protection – hasn’t been pulled into all this. Then he enrolls at True Cross’ secret school for exorcists and finds himself in a class taught by none other than Yukio, who has been secretly training as an exorcist for years.

This is a seriously fun shonen title. The scene of Father Fujimoto’s death is a little bloody and disturbing; it’s establishing just how nasty Satan is and setting up Rin’s desire to avenge his adoptive father. Outside of that, the action is exciting – none more than the excellent, and surprisingly character-revealing, scene in which Rin and Yukio fight demons together while arguing over Rin’s decision to become an exorcist. The loosely Judeo-Christian elements – Satan, crosses, and the prayer Father Fujimoto uses to exorcise a demon – are combined with goblins, plant demons, and a distinctly Japan-flavored setting. The resulting story doesn’t seem to criticize or affirm any specific religion; this is just the way the wacky world of Blue Exorcist operates.

Rin and Yukio’s relationship is a blend of mutual protectiveness and teasing. When they’re not working together to take out minor demons around the school, Rin is swiping Yukio’s manga. Other standout characters include Mephisto – the whimsical, dandyish demon was making me laugh even before turning himself into a cravat-wearing terrier – and a girl exorcist named Shiemi.

The bonus material at the back of this volume is especially neat, including concept drawings and profiles of demon species and of each of the major characters. Fans can find Rin’s height and weight, Yukio’s taste in manga, Shiemi’s favorite food, and Mephisto’s – well, the doodles Mephisto provides rather than answer the trickier questions. Good stuff.

Blue Exorcist, vol. 1
by Kazue Kato
ISBN: 9781421540320
VIZ Media, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: T+/Older Teens