Blue Exorcist Volume 1

By Kazue Kato. Released in Japan as “Ao no Exorcist” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Jump Square. Released in North America by Viz.

Sometimes it’s hard to start a series when it’s actually starting. This especially holds true for Jump series, which frequently take a few volumes to get off the ground (and sometimes completely change direction). If the series has gotten buzz, and there’s already 15 or so volumes out, you can slowly catch up one by one, and if a volume is slow or awkward, shrug it off because you know the good stuff is coming.

So I suspect it is with Volume 1 of Blue Exorcist, which, as a setup for a Jump series about a hot-blooded exorcist who’s also the son of Satan, is entirely… adequate. The first chapter slightly less so, as it reads very much like a pilot episode (Nura had the same problem with its first episode), and doesn’t really go anywhere unexpected – Father Fujimoto had ‘I am going to die tragically’ tattooed across his forehead from the moment he showed up. Luckily, things pep up right at the end with the introduction of Mephisto, who is a giant freakish freak of the sort I love to see in Jump series. His alternate form is possibly the funniest moment of the volume.

After we begin Volume 2, at the academy, things start to improve as the author takes pains to worldbuild. The Academy itself looks great – the two-page spread of its grounds it fantastic, and made me want to walk around in it. I likewise enjoyed the revelation about Rin’s brother, and look forward to seeing more of their interaction – so many anime fighting series have siblings either on opposite sides or one dies to protect the other. Luckily for Rin, he already has his designated tragedy, so he and his brother can continue to bond. The other major character we meet, Shiemi, is a sweet, nice, girl in the Orihime Inoue vein, though so far lacking the eccentric quirks that drew people to Hime. I hope we get more to draw on in the future.

Again, the trouble with first volumes is that we don’t get much of Rin wising up, learning, and getting more powerful. I’m not sure how much he’ll actually wise up – his character is pretty much a hothead by definition, and will no doubt be rushing into any battles with little analysis. But right now he seems to be there to be exposited to, as we learn more about the way that exorcism and demons work here. Which unfortunately makes him a bit dull right now. There’s a few cool action sequences, but…

So as a debut Blue Exorcist is okay, but I still wonder if I would enjoy it more if I’d waited till Volume 5 was out, and then read it all in one big gulp. I will check out Volume 2, however.

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  1. Sean, do you know if Blue Exorcist mangaka Kazue Kato is male or female? The little self-caricature at the end of volume one is a bunny with noticeable eyelashes and a bow on one ear, but I'm not sure whether those necessarily come across as indicators of femaleness in Japan the way they usually do here. If Kato actually is a woman, she'd be only the third female shonen mangaka I know of, after Rumiko Takahashi and Hiromu Arakawa.

  2. She is female, yes. By the way, the authors of Reborn! and D.Gray-man are also female. As is the author of Dorohedoro.

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