「悪魔は人の心に棲む」 (Akuma wa Hito no Kokoro ni Sumu)
“Demons Live in the Human Heart”
Coming from A-1 Pictures, Ao no Exorcist is a modern representation of what I perceive to be a “classic shounen.” You know, the type that some of us are familiar with from our childhoods watching Toonami. The type that doesn’t use much of any “commercial guarantees,” but boast excellence solely on storytelling. I mean, not even a single female appeared until the sixth minute of this show! Yeah, my mind was blown too.
As for that, it’s probably just me watching way too many shows targeted towards males, so I’m a little glad for the break from, “look at how many girls we have and how we’ll manipulate your feelings with them!” Instead, I get brotherhood, blushing mc, male bonding, and fighting for the sake of justice. It’s the essence of youthful male spirit, one of the main reasons I’ve held certain anime series up high (and how I even got into anime in the first place). The main character, Okumura Rin (Okamoto Nobuhiko), doesn’t have a harem nor the raging hormones for any pair of breasts on legs, but is a misfit kid grown up in a church environment with a subsequently strong moral code. His “better” brother (a la the Alphonse to the Edward), Okumura Yukio (Fukuyama Jun), is the more sensitive younger sibling who provides the support and has three peculiar moles on his face (interesting way to make a character stand out). The wicked cool designed Priest/Exorcist, Fujimoto Shirou (Fujiwara Keiji), acts as their guardian, and mostly tries to point Rin in the right direction. The characters are extremely likable, though there’s no empathy available for anyone except Rin, but that’s the main character for you (and it’s the first episode, c’mon).
I skimmed over the manga after watching, and in comparison, the supermarket job and the subplot of Yui were anime only. In the manga, he simply gets confronted by the bullies as he walks towards the job. I feel the addition of the market and Yui did a lot for Rin as a character, fleshing him out with the struggles of his inaptitude to do things (except being excellent at cooking), and emphasizing how much of an innate good will he possesses. Personally, I think that’s “filler” worth adding, as it was very well woven into the story that I don’t even consider it filler. I actually read on to complete the chapter, which basically covered episode two, and I can see how the added material will help impact what’s to come (unless you read the preview, then you know what happens).
Call me impressed, because this is off to a great start, and while there’s slight cliches here and there with character relationships that is admittedly difficult to avoid, the story is well paced with some solid material. It is a “boy gets powers” story, but obviously told in its own way, and has a good enough hook to keep you going right at the start (even if most of it is next ep). There’s some decent humor in here too. A-1 did a ridiculously awesome job with the animation, and considering they’re also part of the production on Anohana, this looked like the one with the bigger budget (and that’s saying something considering how good Anohana looks). It’s not even just the animation too, as the palette for the art and the use of color grading worked well to set the tone. Cinematography is also a must for an action series, and considering how suddenly pumped I became during that “battle” scene, I’d say it was a success.
I see Ao no Exorcist as an investment, as most shounen titles tend to be. They plan on being a rather long series, so there’s a much bigger structure going on, where the bulk of the content lies at least several episodes in. The manga currently only has 25 chapters worth of material to work with, similar to how many FMA had when its first adaptation was done, which should tell you something about the quality of the manga by just how eager the studios were to pull out an adaptation. I don’t know how well this will end, but I noticed the director is a tensai (genius).