Blue Exorcist 7

March 28, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2012 – 7+ volumes

This series. This was a slow volume, and the current story arc didn’t end, and I’ll probably have to wait a year before I get another volume. But I still like this series more than ever. I wish every shounen manga was this good.

I was more than a little surprised that this volume was entirely exposition, since I was sure at least a little bit of a final battle would happen. There’s some action at the very beginning, when the Impure King is awakened. But then we get a lengthy flashback about what Tatsuma’s role in all this really is, and all the secrets he’s been holding back from Bon. Then we get an explanation of the consequences of Rin’s running out of control last volume. Then an explanation about what the Impure King could do to the area. Then a little bit about some power shared between Tatsuma and Bon. Also, we get to hear about how difficult it is to actually beat the Impure King, and why it poses a challenge. Interestingly, it’s not because he’s tough. The Impure King seems mostly like an inanimate disease blob. I liked that he wasn’t the usual strong, clever opponent. But again, this is why Blue Exorcist is great.

Granted, we need all this story. None of it is boring, and it only serves to flesh out the setting and make the story that much better. I was more than happy to hear about Tatsuma, and I thought the little reunion between he and Bon at the end was very sweet, if a little brief and gruff. That part almost makes me worry about Bon’s future role in the series, but then again, if Bon leaves, Neko and Renzo have to leave too, and that’s half the team.

The only thing that annoyed me a little was a subplot about how Rin had lost his confidence after he lost control of his blue flame last time. He can’t draw his sword to help because he is afraid. In true Shueisha style, this means the main character can’t fight the enemy until all the side characters get a chance first. Rin will likely regain his confidence at the end and save the day, and it will be spectacular. Still, I thought Blue Exorcist was better than this.

Everything has been set up for the main event to begin next time. I literally cannot wait, but I’m going to have to. I don’t think volume 8 has come out in Japan yet. That’s a true shame, because I am ridiculously addicted to this series. Seriously. This is one of the best shounen titles that I’ve read in a long time, and I’m devastated that it will be some time before it continues.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Blue Exorcist 6

March 8, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Okay, I’ll be honest with you: I’m going to rush through this, because I just got volume 7 in the mail and promised myself I wouldn’t read it until I reviewed this. But the series is really that good. I cannot wait to crack the next volume open.

Hopefully it will resolve this longer storyline! Not that I mind that things are getting more complicated, but I love this series so much that I’m eager to see the next big thing. The current plot about the stolen artifacts and the young exorcists coping with the fact that Rin is Satan’s son continues through this volume, and it only gets better from here.

Lots of things happen. My favorite parts were all about the exorcist class, and how they are individually coming around to the fact that Rin is still Rin. Neko, Bon, and even Shiemi, a little bit, come around, though Rin is still in a bad spot. He’s slowly learning to control his powers, but when he has a fight with Bon, everyone at the temple sees his blue flame, and he’s thrown in prison. Remember that this was the temple that was destroyed by the blue flame 15 years ago? Yeah, they don’t really like Rin there.

The actual ongoing plot deals more with whether or not the sacred artifact was stolen with the help of a traitor inside the temple. With only a few people having access to the artifact, there aren’t that many suspects. The most suspicious is the head of the temple, Bon’s father, and with his continued absence from all major functions at the temple, he slowly becomes the real culprit. Ah, but there’s lots of characters floating around in this story, and many of them are suspicious. Maybe he’s simply very loyal.

The volume ends with two short stories set before the current storyline. One is a mission that Shiemi and Rin go on to exorcise a phantom train. This is just about as awesome as it could possibly be, and I appreciated it as a break from the main story. The Phantom Train is a kind of monster that steals the souls of those that are on the platforms it passes. The train is full of ghosts that don’t know they’re dead. That alone was enough to endear me to this story, but there’s plenty of the same stuff that makes Blue Exorcist a wonderful series. Rin, Shiemi, and Yukio are all fantastic characters, they all have different strengths and weaknesses in battle, and ultimately, the story is about doing the right thing, which Yukio, the most experienced, isn’t willing to risk.

The second story is a silly one about Kuro, Rin’s cat sidhe.

But yes. This volume was just as good as the others, even as the middle of a longer story. It’s a little sadder and less whimsical and quirky than the others, but I like the seriousness of the plot this time around, and Rin is doing well with the tough love he’s receiving. I cannot wait to continue.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Blue Exorcist 5

February 29, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Ah, and the sadness truly begins. This is the beginning of a longer storyline, which will be a first for this series. So far, I’m digging it. The downside is that one of my favorite things about this series, the fact that all the characters work together as a team, is mooted at the moment since everyone is against Rin, and there’s some division among the others as to how he should be treated.

An evil element is working to steal a couple very valuable artifacts out from under the nose of the exorcists and various protectors, and the characters get wrapped up in protecting/retrieving them. This sounds a bit contrived (well…), but rather than flimsy logic like “we need exorcists-in-training because they’re strong/we need the manpower/this is just what we do”, the artifact is actually being guarded by Bon’s father. Since Bon, Neko, and Renzo are all involved at the temple doing the protecting, it makes more sense that they would be ordered to go there. Shima and Izumo are along for the ride, and Rin sticks next to Yukio and Shura since they are valuable and high-powered exorcists that have to guard him.

The main point of interest for me was that the characters no longer get along. Neko doesn’t trust Rin not to go berserk, Shiemi doesn’t know what to say to Rin since she reacted poorly last time, Bon blames Rin for what happened at his temple all those years ago, and Renzo is sticking with Neko and Bon. Where once teamwork would have saved the day, the students wind up in a relatively minor situation where their lack of togetherness makes things turn disastrous.

And the more involved plot is nice. This volume is only just beginning to get a handle on the whole situation. There’s dangerous things afoot at the Kyoto temple that’s serving as the base of operations, not to mention infighting among the families in the temple, and even among Bon and his father. That’s a rather volatile situation that’s carrying over to the next volume, too.

Basically, while things have calmed down a bit and gotten more serious, Blue Exorcist is still pretty fantastic. I couldn’t put the thing down, and I’m dying to read the conclusion to this story arc. Which hasn’t come out yet. But there’s at least one more volume to go of the English translation currently, so I’ll talk about that next time! In the meanwhile, read this! Seriously! It’s one of the best shounen manga coming out right now!

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Blue Exorcist 4

February 25, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 7+ volumes

Oh, Blue Exorcist. Can you get any more awesome? I keep thinking it’s impossible, but then I read another volume, and it only gets better. To make sure I prepare myself properly, this volume warns me of the joy within by featuring Mr. Pheles on the cover. It doesn’t get better than that.

The exorcist camp storyline continues through the first half of the volume, and again, I adore these kinds of set-ups since, instead of isolating the characters and making them fight individually, this series makes all of them work together towards a common goal. They have to gather, then they have to figure out how to drag a gigantic lantern through a monster-infested forest. The best part is when they try to figure out how to cross a pit of insects, and they really do all have to play a part in order for it to work out. They also seem to all take strange turns of events in stride, and I love how they react to attacks by giant bugs et al. They also seem willing to ignore Rin’s eccentricities, personality-wise and demon-wise, which is always a little bit funny.

These stories always dance around whether or not Rin is going to reveal his demon nature to his friends, and Amaimon shows up to push his buttons again. So of course there’s lots of near-misses, a few scenes where Rin could fight if only the others weren’t looking (and some where his friends prove they work together better as a team), and Shura even gives him back his sword for maximum temptation. All of this was happening, and I knew, deep down in my little manga addict heart, that it would be dozens of volumes before Rin revealed himself, and by then his friends wouldn’t even care because they’d be BFFs for life.

But then. Ah, Blue Exorcist. This is why I love you so.

The second half is a lot of Blue Exorcist politics, which is interesting, in its way. I don’t want to get into it too much, but promises are made, deals are struck, blah blah blah. It has a bearing on the future of the series. Because of this, Rin starts his own special training, and the volume ends with a duel between Yukio and Shura, with whether or not Shura can call Yukio “Wimpy Four Eyes” riding on a training exercise. Because even with all the drama of politics, Blue Exorcist still manages to be funny, quirky, a little sweet, and basically do its own thing, which is what makes it so ridiculously addictive.

Seriously. It’s like One Piece with demons, but without ripping off One Piece in any way. Do you know how much I love demons? How much I love One Piece? You see my problem, then.

Blue Exorcist 3

February 20, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

I know it’s been a week or so since I’ve talked about this series, but my ardor hasn’t cooled. I read all the volumes in about one day. I started re-reading this one while I was writing it up here. It’s just… hard not to like it. It’s really difficult to not find it in your heart to root for Rin.

This volume is more of the same stories about Rin trying to control his powers and keep his true identity from his classmates. The first chapter is a cute story where he uses his head, rather than any special powers, to tame a cat sidhe that has gone wild after the death of its master, Father Fujimoto. It’s chapters like this that make me compare Rin to Luffy from One Piece. I like them both for the same reasons, but it’s not really a case of Rin being a copy of Luffy, in the way that other series are obviously trying to cash in on the best parts of One Piece. Rin is about as much like Luffy as Luffy is to Goku, from Dragon Ball. All are sort of dopey, good-hearted characters that are charismatic and get along with others well. Rin is a bit more like Goku, since both of them share a kind of monstrous power that sets them apart. Actually, Blue Exorcist may be like a mix of One Piece and Dragon Ball, since some of the characters introduced in this volume (Mr. Pheles’ “brothers”) remind me more of the saiyans from the later volumes of Dragon Ball than they do One Piece villains.

Anyway. One of the major stories in this volume introduces Shima, a senior rank exorcist and investigator that was sent to spy on Rin and determine if he is a liability. Shima, for whatever reason, doesn’t wear a shirt, or a bra that fits, once she’s introduced, but I like her other than that. She’s slovenly and rude, and I tend to love powerful characters like her that care very little about how they appear to others, with comedic results.

We learn that she was Father Fujimoto’s apprentice, and we get to see flashbacks with her time with Father Fujimoto. I already love Father Fujimoto, and I’m glad his presence seems destined to remain heavily ingrained in the series. There’s also some flashbacks for Rin, too, where we learn that he had trouble controlling his temper and strength, and how Father Fujimoto got him back under control. Yukio also reminisces about him. He’s had such a huge influence over everyone, and is easy to like in the same way Rin is. He’s a little silly, fairly heroic, and a great guy.

Later in the volume, there’s another group activity with the exorcists-in-training. Rin’s trying hard to fight without using his flame, and in this scenario, in the woods at night, he’s forced not to use it since his classmates would immediately see him if he did.

I’m looking forward to this exorcist mission, since the last one was fantastic. I love the way the characters work together and use their different strengths towards a common goal, rather than targeted “fights” where each fights an enemy suited to them that happen in other shounen series. It definitely helps me grow fonder of the side characters with every volume. The male characters are still a little faceless in this volume, but every story makes me like them a little more.

So, yes. Basically, this is fantastic. I can’t get over just how much I like every volume of this series. It kills me that we’re caught up with Japan now.

Blue Exorcist 2

February 11, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Okay, I’m ridiculously addicted to this series. I liked volume two so much that I left work on my lunchbreak and went to a bookstore to buy the two volumes I didn’t have. And I work at a bookstore. It’s hard to justify spending my lunchbreak driving to another bookstore and buying something there, but for Blue Exorcist, I did it. It was that good.

This gets more into the story of the True Cross Academy and the exorcist cram school, introducing the other students and showing a little bit of how Rin keeps his true nature hidden from them. But mostly its a nice, gentle introduction to the other characters, including Izumo, Ryuji, and a little bit more about Shiemi. Kato is quite gifted at balancing all the characters and giving them equal parts in the story without overwhelming the reader or, really, branching the fights off too much to give the characters a chance to shine with their “specialty.” I really like the exorcist training theme, because each of the characters has a strength, and a role to play in battle, so they help each other out against one enemy instead of facing four or five different enemies split over six volumes or whatever Bleach does.

And while balancing the side characters, the emphasis hasn’t shifted away from Rin, either. His secret keeps coming up, and every time he can do something others can’t, it’s a tense moment, wondering if the other characters will give it much thought. There’s a strange scene in this volume where the other students test to see if they can summon demons and fight as a Tamer Exorcist, and for whatever reason, Rin completely doesn’t do this. I wonder if this will come up later.

I have to say, I love that Rin and Yukio are twin brothers, too. They don’t seem particularly close, and yet, they are brothers that seem willing to stand up for one another. Yukio has a massive inferiority complex despite being a good enough exorcist to be the freaking teacher at the training academy, and I think that will be a problem later, too. But I like that they have completely opposite personalities, and that always seems to lend itself to a lot of banter.

Honestly? I really like Rin. He’s clearly the Monkey D. Luffy of the story, super-powerful, able to gather allies like nobody’s business, and dumb as a brick. The last quality works against Rin more than it does Luffy, since Blue Exorcist takes place at a school, but it’s really hard not to like characters like Rin.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a shounen manga I’ve been into as much as this. Blue Exorcist is definitely something special, and definitely worth a read if you’re a shounen fan that haven’t picked it up already.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Blue Exorcist 1

February 10, 2012

Kazue Kato – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Honestly? I knew better than to pick this book up. Demons? Fighting demons? Slightly quirky art? The main character is the son of Satan? This series practically has my name on it. It’s a wonder I held out as long as I did.

So yes, that’s the premise. Rin is a scrappy young lad raised in a monastery with his twin brother. Rin gets into a lot of fights, but stands up for what he believes in. His guardian, Father Fujimoto, gets on his case about his fights, and wants him to get a real job. Rin grudgingly listens to Father Fujimoto, and goes to the interview he arranges, but along the way, he gets into yet another fight and is nearly eaten by what appears to be a demon. Father Fujimoto shows up to exorcise the demon, but then drops a hard truth on Rin: Rin is not a normal human, but the son of Satan, and he needs to get away from Father Fujimoto as soon as possible. Rin gets upset at first, but something terrible does indeed happen to Father Fujimoto. Resolved to become someone who eliminates demons rather than be consumed by his demon side, Rin joins up with a group of exorcists at an elite high school and is taught the ways of exorcism… by none other than his weaker younger brother, Yukio.

This series is so full of awesome I don’t even know where to begin. How about Father Fujimoto? He’s a rough love kind of guardian, but still dotes on Rin in a fatherly way. And the notes in the back reveal he’s got a healthy appetite for women too, which is always a plus. Rin himself? He’s kind of a scrapper, but at one point, he’s sobbing in bed over a copy of Tegami Bachi, which made me laugh. The demon transformation designs are bad ass, and I love the way he can apparently exorcise demons while being a full demon himself. Plus, DEMONS. There are very few series I will turn away that have demons for main characters. How about Yukio, the wussy younger brother-turned-badass-assassin? The parts with him in the second half of the book are highly enjoyable, since he turns out to not be the weak, helpless foil that he appears to be at first. There’s also Mr. Mephisto Pheles, who is some sort of super powerful overlord character that dresses like a clown, turns into a cat, and has a complete disregard for what anyone thinks of him.

If this series were any cooler, I don’t know what I would do with myself. It got me with the knee jerk reaction to all of the above. Maybe the plot will get formulaic later, but HOW COULD IT I MEAN LOOK AT ALL THAT STUFF.

The art, and character designs in general, are also all kinds of amazing. I mentioned Rin’s demon design, which is great, but the real winner here is the city/school that Rin and Yukio go to. True Cross Academy has a kind of old fashioned supercity design that I could never get tired of looking at. There’s lots of detail, buildings upon buildings, and little windy castle passages to look at, and everything is a little grungy and old fashioned, while the accessories in the character’s clothing suggest a more modern look. The goofy facial expressions on Rin are a pleasure to look at, and I love all the fashion design flourishes.

I don’t know. This first volume doesn’t do anything wrong. The premise is the kind of thing that sounds like it will go south fast, just reading the back, but the first volume delivers so hard that I’m probably going to go out and get the ones I’m missing tomorrow. It’s that good. Or, at least, it suits my taste that well.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.