Director: Tensai Okamura
Writer (of original manga): Kazue Kato
Animation Studios: A-1 Pictures
Version Watched: Subbed
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ve probably seen me mention that I don’t marathon Anime. It’s just not something I do. Ao no Exorcist was the first Anime in a long time that has made me want to put the lie to that last statement, and it almost succeeded in making me do so. Almost. With a great story, relatable characters and some really epic scenes, Ao no Exorcist was an amazing series that still had room to grow. If it hadn’t been limited to 25 episodes (and one movie), I think it could have been one of the greatest Anime out there.
Imagine you’ve lived the last 15 years of your life with your priest foster father at a monastery along with your twin brother. You’ve gone to school, maybe gotten into a few fights, but as far as the world at large is concerned you’re normal. Now imagine that, on what may as well be any other day, you are attacked by a demon, saved by your foster father who turns out to be an Exorcist, and told that you’re the son of satan. And then your foster dad is killed by your real dad. Sweet. For Rin Okumura, all that is an unfortunate reality.
Before he can stop to really take stock of what has happened Rin is thrust into a world where demons are a part of everyday life and one of the country’s most prestigious high schools is actually the True Cross Academy for training Exorcists. Oh, and his brother has been going there for years without him knowing. And he’s now Rin’s teacher. Double sweet. Rin vows to grow stronger to take revenge on satan for what he has done, but before he can do anything he needs to learn to get on with his classmates and, y’know, study.
Ao no Exorcist starts off very strong, throwing both you and Rin into unfamiliar territory before you can stop to ask any questions. Learning about Rin’s heritage, the actual state of the world and the ways of True Cross Academy will very quickly grip you and get you interested in both the characters and plot itself. While the middle of the series is still very entertaining, it sags a little as the writers can’t seem to decide whether they want to advance the plot, develop characters or just randomly muck around. Don’t get me wrong though, every episode is just as good as the last on its own, it’s just that the way they come together to tell the overall story isn’t as well done as it could have been. The ending, while still on par with the rest of the series quality-wise, felt very premature, with little indication that the conclusion of the story was coming up before the last few episodes.
I probably say this too much, but Ao no Exorcist could very easily have been a longer series. As it was, it felt like the writers were rushed into the final arc before they had laid down the groundwork for it (and the manga is still continuing, so there you go). Side characters that were really quite well done weren’t given the attention they deserved, being presented as important but remaining relatively insignificant to the main plot. The variety of abilities they possessed had a lot of potential that was never realized, and their role within True Cross Academy and the True Cross Order of Exorcists could also have been developed further. There’s also a slight problem with consistency in power levels, with Rin simply powering up DBZ-style to tackle any obstacle that comes his way. I was left waiting for a training sequence that never came (well, it was mentioned, but never really explored).
It may sound like there’s a huge amount the series fails to get right, but the only reason I’ve identified so many faults is because of how much I enjoyed watching the series in the first place. These aren’t problems that need to be fixed, just areas that could have been improved to make the experience even better than it already was. It should say something about the concept itself that it can have so many gaps while still supporting such an engaging tale.
The animation was also of a very high quality; from facial expressions to background scenery, everything is pleasing to look at and the character designs themselves are also excellent. The animation studio can be very proud of their work here.
Summary – Ao no Exorcist was a lot of fun to watch. Having recently picked up the manga I can confirm that the series suffers from the usual adaptation pains, with a rushed ending and lack of power development which is unfortunate but not enough to ruin the experience. It may not quite have reached greatness, but Ao no Exorcist is definitely a series you should watch.
Score: 8/10 – Good
Movie – While some may view it as more of the same, it’s really well done and manages to tell a compact story that you will actually care about. If you liked Ao no Exorcist, be sure to watch this once you’ve finished the main series.