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"Blue Exorcist" Episodes 1-9 Streaming: Shonen Fans Won’t Feel Blue

by on June 23, 2011

Certain genres feature certain staple elements, and for a fairly simple reason: because they work. Blue Exorcist is a shonen title, and so it comes with all the genre staples: the underdog protagonist, the smooth/cunning rival/friend, and the storylines where the protagonist continues to prove himself no matter how dire the circumstances. None of these are new, but they will not disappoint just because they show up. Their presence in a show like Blue Exorcist will inevitably push some viewers away, but they will also please those that enjoy shonen. On its own terms, too, Blue Exorcist has so far proven itself a fun and engaging series, brimming with plenty of potential in its storyline and characters, even as it treads in the footsteps of series that have come before.

]The series (also known as Ao No Exorcist) follows student Rin Okumura and his quest to become an exorcist. The quest alone would rather daunt any individual, as they learn the various ways a demon can be exorcised and are forced to put their lives on the line if they are to ever succeed. This journey is even more difficult for Rin, who just so happens to be the son of the one and only Satan. You’d think this would put Rin at odds with wanting to become an exorcist, but for the last fifteen years of his life Rin has lived a normal life, unaware that demons even existed and that his foster father and brother have both been going on exorcisms for years. When Rin’s foster father, Shiro Fujimoto, is taken over and killed by Satan, Rin pledges to avenge his death and become an exorcist by enrolling in True Cross Academy. This pledge saves Rin’s life, as many would want Satan’s son dead if they knew he existed. Mephisto Pheles, the chairman of True Cross Academy, has a special interest in Rin, testing his powers in his own mysterious ways and bringing to light how hated his existence really is. Rin is prepared to endure these revelations and their consequences, and to do whatever it takes to become an exorcist—albeit while complaining along the way about all of the homework.

So it’s like a combination of a few other shonen titles, with a little Naruto here, a little Bleach there, and some Fullmetal Alchemist sprinkled throughout. None of it qualifies as a rip-off, though; it’s just working through the genre elements I mentioned earlier. It does mean the first few episodes carry a strong sense of déjà vu, and the series stumbles around before starting to find its footing by episode nine. Sadly, those nine episodes can be too easily summarized: Rin loses Shiro, questions his existence, questions his relationship with his brother, makes his resolve, becomes an outcast, proves himself, etc. Just when an episode’s plot is finally picking up steam it will end, leaving the viewer dissatisfied.

At least it also uses the time to establish a fair number of characters, and what Blue Exorcist lacks in the originality of its situation it makes up for with its characters, who give the show a lot of heart. Rin looks good in the spotlight. Even though he is loud, abrasive and rather stupid, you want to root for the guy. Having your father figure killed by Satan isn’t something easy to live with, and yet Rin manages to push through. This may be a stereotypical quality in a protagonist, but it isn’t a negative quality, and for now I welcome it, even though it is used in all the quintessential ways, as when his classmates underestimate him until he saves one. I’d like to think he will bring something new to the table, but for the moment, let’s enjoy that character type’s positive qualities.

The secondary cast also improves the show by supplementing the main story instead of distracting from it. One of the biggest surprises thus far has been Rin’s female classmate, a girl by the name of Shiemi Moriyama that he saved in episode four. She surprises in a number of ways, the first of which being that she has turned into a recurring character. I expected her to be the stock character fused with the stock demon-of-the-week episode, but she stuck around after meeting Rin and decided to become an exorcist. She is unsure of herself most of the time, finding it difficult to make friends and find her resolve, but by the end of nine episodes she has come a long way. She also works well by being juxtaposed with the calm, cool and intelligent Izumo Kamiki. Izumo isn’t as tough as she puts on, and Shiemi certainly isn’t as weak as she believes, so the two blend nicely together as they grow as students. Ryuji Suguro is the classmate that seems to be the punk, but in reality is actually very serious about becoming an exorcist, his temple having been slaughtered by a Satan-led attack sixteen years ago. Like Rin, his goal is to defeat Satan, so the two naturally don’t get along very well. His actions, as well as the others, all work towards pushing Rin, and likewise, he pushes them. The one character type that is not welcome, however, is Rin’s twin brother, Yukio Okumura. Being trained to be an exorcist since he was nine, he is not only talented but also happens to be the teacher of Rin’s class. He comes off as pretentious and annoying. The show attempts to highlight the brother dynamic the two have but it only shines through here and there, more often than not failing due to Yukio. It succeeds in episode nine when Yukio lets his guard down and admits that he admires his brother.

It is a well-balanced set of characters that meshes well, and of course, it will be fascinating to watch what happens when the students find out that Rin is the son of Satan and how that impacts the dynamics. The wildcard here is Mephisto, who has his own agenda, it seems. He is very mysterious and is driving the plot at this point. Watching that unravel is one of the keen interests right now, and it is certainly bringing me back each episode to see what he is doing.

Blue Exorcist also does better by using the stock demon-of-the-week storyline in only a few episodes, which is rather nice considering how boring those stories quickly get. Episode seven marks the first multi-part storyline, and one that develops the main plot as well. The level of drama and action definitely takes a step up during episodes seven through nine, with the fighting at the end being the best (and most gruesome) we have seen yet as well serving up a nice twist that hopefully betokens more. The demons and exorcism shtick has been done heavily in anime, but Blue Exorcism at least makes things slightly fresh by taking the student angle with it. It also develops different types of exorcists, such as Knights (sword users), Dragoons (long-range weapons), Tamers (summoning demons), and this is cool to watch, especially since Rin’s classmates display a range of the different types.

All in all, Blue Exorcist is a lot of good healthy fun. Even if you aren’t a fan of the shonen genre I encourage you to give the show a shot, as you may find that the characters are enough to pull you into watching more. I’d also recommend sticking around for at least the first six or seven episodes. The first aren’t terrible, they just aren’t stellar either. There are a lot of interesting plot points being brought up, some subtly, some blatantly, so it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on them because the first episode doesn’t immediately catch their interest. Blue Exorcist exemplifies why shonen keeps going with its staples: Because they continually provide good entertainment.

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