Matt Kamen on animeâ€™s latest devil-man
Is it nature or nurture that defines who you are? Itâ€™s a deeply philosophical question, and one that Rin Okumura will be asking himself a lot in Blue Exorcist â€“ heâ€™s just learned that heâ€™s one of the sons of Satan. Can this potential Antichrist defy his birthright and become a hero?
Raised by a priest and displaying unusual levels of strength and resilience since infancy, Rinâ€™s upbringing was far from normal. It was actually his good-hearted nature that got him in trouble more often than not, always willing to leap to the defence of an underdog, even if it meant handing out or taking a beating. However, his younger brother Yukio was the complete opposite â€“ frail, shy and studious. Shortly after Yukio leaves on a scholarship to the mysterious True Cross Academy, Rinâ€™s life starts taking a turn for the even stranger. He starts seeing things, impossible creatures that no-one else notices, and soon becomes the target of a powerful demon. Rescued by his adoptive father, Shiro Fujimoto â€“ revealing that his role as priest is largely a cover for his actions as a powerful exorcist â€“ Rin is told the truth of his lineage and presented with the Kurikara, a forbidden blade that seals away his demonic side. When Satan himself tries to manifest on Earth, killing Shiro in the process, Rin draws the blade, awakening his dark powers in full for the first time.
Now permanently marked as a demon, complete with fanged teeth, pointed ears and even a tail, Rin is recruited by the mysterious Mephisto Pheles to become an exorcist to honour Shiro. Charged with protecting the human realm, Assiah, from incursions by the demon world, Gehenna, Rin enrols in the True Cross Academy and is reunited with his brother â€“ now an instructor at the school, after years of secret training in the mystic arts. Overcoming the friction caused by the secrets between them is only the first step the Okumura boys will take on the path to their ultimate goal: destroying Satan and his evil breed forever.
Rinâ€™s struggle to control his new-found powers and dark impulses comes from the twisted mind of manga creator Kazue Kato, her second series following sci-fi action series Robo and Usakichi. Blue Exorcist began development as a planned gothic fairy tale, with a focus on brothers fighting dark monsters. Eventually, Kato dropped the Brothers Grimm elements and reimagined the premise around Christian imagery and mythology. The end result is a series that takes inspiration equally from religious texts and fantasy folklore but puts a modern, horror film spin on both.
Although Katoâ€™s manga is still running in the pages of Shueishaâ€™s monthly Jump Square magazine, the story of the 25-episode anime adaptation closely follows the print version, with early episodes each based on a single chapter. Directed by Tensai Okamura, creator of Darker Than Black, the series blends dark and unsettling moments of crawling terror with brighter high school drama, and plenty of frantic devil-slaying action between.
See Rin and Yukio take their battle to the pit itself in the first half of Blue Exorcist, available in the UK from Manga Entertainment.