First Impressions: Ao no Exorcist

The late entries for Spring 2011 continue to be a hugely impressive bunch. Ao no Exorcist joins the fray with yet another excellent premiere episode that promises fascinating things to come.

You can definitely see director Tesai Okamura’s Darker Than Black chops showing through this first episode – the feel of the show is quite reminiscent for me. A-1 Pictures just hasn’t had any misses lately, and it looks like they’ve struck gold yet again. Kazue Kato’s “Jump Square” manga is a vintage shounen premise – 15 year-old Rin (Nobuhiko Okamoto – it’s Eiji! It’s Accelerator!) is the black sheep of his family, always getting into trouble while younger twin Yukio is the classic good boy. Their father, priest Shiro (the brilliant Keiji Fujiwara) loves his boys equally, though he doesn’t hesitate to let Rin know what his faults are.

The complicating factor? Shiro is an exorcist – and Rin happens to be the son of Satan. Shiro has obviously known this all along, but Rin only becomes aware of it for certain when he begins seeing the demons that surround the evil at all times. This is a fascinating amalgam of Christian and Buddhist mythology, with the crux being that demonic possession occurs when the demon world of Gehenna crosses over into the human world of Assiah. At the real core of the story, though, are the well-portrayed and genuine feelings between Rin, his father and his brother (now off to boarding school). His love for them is very clear, but he’s consumed by frustration and anger at his perceived failings and sometimes lashes out at them because of it. Could anyone who has ever interacted with (or been) a 15 year-old boy fail to see the symbolism at work here?

As good as the premiere was and given the staff and cast involved, there’s no reason to believe this will be anything less than an excellent series. It looks to be two cour – for now – and with the manga at 25 chapters that will be plenty of time to adapt the story thoroughly. A-1, you’ve done it again.

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