Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Blue Exorcist Episodes 1 and 2 – Lead Us Into Temptation

Blue Exorcist Episodes 1 and 2 – Lead Us Into Temptation

Just two days ago I gave a brief discussion on shounen action series and why the vast majority of them would never, ever get covered by antiotaku. Frankly, the prospect of even following a neverending action show is too tiring for me to consider; I dropped Bleach (the only such show I really tried to keep up with) years ago out of impatience.

Just because such shows invariably degrade into long drawn out battles which serve no purpose but to pad the series out just a little longer, however, doesn’t mean they can’t start off strong. Blue Exorcist, which starts its anime adaption after releasing only 25 chapters of the manga, shows in its first episodes exactly why it was fast-tracked for the small screen.

Ironically, Father Fujimoto's voice actor played the Buddhist equivelent of the exact same character (right down to the demon hunting duties and the ward of unforuntate heritage) in Corpse Princess. Their personalities are basically identical

Rin Okumura and his fraternal twin Yukio live as wards of Father Shirou Fujimoto, a rather unconventional priest. While Yukio is intelligent, gifted, and polite, Rin has anger management problems which, combined with his natural strength, constantly get him into trouble. While Yukio is heading to the prestigious True Cross Academy for high school, Rin is having issues even landing a part time job.

It’s in the course of getting fired from yet another position that Rin starts to see things that shouldn’t be there. Soon, he realizes that the neighborhood bully is actually possessed by a demon, and that the little blighters are everywhere. Soon after that, the demons realize that Rin is one of their own—the son of Satan that Father Fujimoto has been hiding for so long.

The idea of supernatural creatures lurking invisibly in the world is hardly uncommon in anime, but it feels particularly well done here

It’s then that, quite literally, all hell breaks loose, as the forces of the netherworld turn on Rin’s home with utter abandon trying to drag Rin “back” to hell. Rin finally succeeds in repelling the demonic invaders (including his own unearthly father, who possesses Shirou in last ditch attempt to get to Rin), but only at the cost of unlocking his demonic powers, and changing his world forever.

It’s a fairly straightforward concept, as is the norm for these types of shows. It also has about as much to do with real exorcisms or the Catholic faith as Raiders of the Lost Ark had to do with Judaism (probably less, in fact), but this is hardly a surprise given the unreflective nature of its author. The basic tropes of an isolated supernaturally empowered adolescent and evil powers he must combat are all par for the course.

For the record, real Catholic priests do not breathe fire when conducting exorcisms. Just in case you were curious

In spite of that, there’s a certain visual flair to the world of Blue Exorcist, with its vision of the demonic constantly influencing our world beneath the surface. The show might take the usual a la carte method to religious symbolism and tradition that is seemingly intrinsic to Japanese culture (which has long combined Buddhist and Shinto thought despite the radically different foundations of the two); that doesn’t keep the result from being entertaining.

And despite working with what are the classic character cliches, the narrative does a fairly good job of making Rin likable. The show wisely spends most of its first episode with the supernatural stuff carefully out of bounds, focusing on Rin’s attempts to find gainful employment. Seeing him work so hard at it, and at first succeeding before he loses it all for trying to do the right thing, earns him plenty of good will from the audience, which he needs in order to pull off the whole ungrateful teenager act later and stay sympathetic.

Watching Rin's joy at finding something that people will praise him for only makes watching him getting fired later all the worse

The first two episodes, however, are really just set up, laying the groundwork for Rin to transfer into to True Cross Academy himself, under the wing of headmaster and exorcist Mephisto Pheles (whom, if the name didn’t tip you off, obviously has demon blood himself). From there, he’ll likely meet up with a cadre of fellow students, work out tensions with his brother Yukio, and kick the crap out of any demon he comes across. That’s what the opening sequence indicates, and that’s just how these sorts of shows work.

And the oddest part is, despite how I know that the narrative will get drawn out far longer than is healthy, and despite the fact that with such a short buffer, the anime will catch up with the manga so fast that filler will be a regular feature for the show, and despite the fact that even at the best of times this series will be yet another cliche-ridden action fest like these shows always are, I’m actually tempted to keep watching. The animation is solid, the voice cast impressive, and the concept, however hackneyed, well executed. I can see why this show got rushed into anime production this fast.

Rin joins up with Mephisto Pheles out of a desire for vengeance, but he might just be siding with the devil he knows

Not only that, but everyone and their mother wanted a piece of this show even within the US. Crunchyroll and Funimation have an unprecedented deal to co-simulcast the thing, meaning it’s showing on Crunchyroll, ANN, Hulu, and probably a few other sites I haven’t mentioned yet. I don’t know how long the show will last and how long it will be worth watching, but as long as it is, you can find a place to see it.

And, oddly enough, I’ll be taking advantage of that. Oh, I know I’ll get sick of it eventually, when the filler kicks in and themes of tough love and the power of friendship and determination get too much to bear, but for now, I’m happy enough to keep watching. This show reminds me how much I liked the opening episodes of Bleach. And that’s enough to tempt me back for just a few more episodes.

Rin and Yukio, despite differences in personality and perception, really seem to care for each other. That relationship will get every drop of emotional content wrung out of it

You can watch the show here. Or here. Take your pick.

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