Melissa Francis on the hell-spawn creature-feature
begins with the recital of an antiquated fairytale. It tells of an ailing demon that sought refuge in a nearby village, where it was fed and watered by a kind-hearted local child. Once it had regained substantial health, it decided to stay in the village. There, it taught the villagers how to forget about their tiresome chores and encouraged them to immerse themselves in celebration and fun. One day, an exorcist appeared and sealed the demon, but by that time the entire neglected village had already fallen into ruin. It turns out that the voiceover is actually Shirou Fujimoto reading to young and impressionable Rin and Yukio Okumura. When he finishes the story, he asks both boys the same question: “If you met this demon, what would you do?” Yukio answers that he would do his best to finish it off. Rin pauses to think. Blue Exorcist: The Movie
And then BAM! We’re in present-day (dystopian) Tokyo. Teenage Rin is back in the picture, having slept through several of the alarms he’d set – as per his usual slapdash and utterly lackadaisical approach to life. He runs around frantically, falls down some stairs and then tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to scare off some kids who poke fun at him for being a clumsy “adult”. He is late for the exorcism of a “Soul-eating train”. When he eventually arrives, Rin insists that “an exorcist’s job is to help others” instead of simply exorcising demons for sake of it. His older brother Yukio is certainly the more logical and pragmatic of the two, and most of the time he simply wants to get a job done and dusted, keeping it swept neatly under the carpet and forgotten about. Yukio gives carefully considered instructions to Shiemi and Rin since the exorcism has to be perfectly timed. However, because it is in Shiemi’s character to empathise deeply with others, she convinces Rin that they should capture and release the ghosts trapped on the demonic train. This would ensure that they have a proper send-off. As a result, the pair inadvertently cause unwarranted amounts of disruption and so they must deal with the consequences of their actions.
During a court trial to investigate the cause of the incident, Rin is ordered to keep an eye on an erratic little demon that was discovered passed-out under some rubble. While the other city dwellers and exorcists desperately try to figure out how to exterminate the flurry of demons that are constantly putting Tokyo at risk, Rin is left under house arrest to play big brother with the little demon. Gradually learning to appreciate rather than reject Rin’s company, the demon becomes tamer and tamer and starts to behave like any regular child would. Rin decides that it won’t do any harm to take care of the demon after all, so he feeds it omelette-rice, takes it to the toilet, plays baseball with it, gives it the name “Usamaro” and reads it a story from his childhood – perhaps you can hazard a guess as to which direction the plot is moving in?
New demons called MOLBS (Monsters Of Liquid Balloon – weird, I know, but what’s in a name?) pop up every now and again, seemingly for little purpose other than covering classmates Bon, Shima and Konekomaru in a colourful substance not so far removed from 1990s TV game show –style gunk. Izumo only makes a couple of brief appearances, mainly (and not necessarily notably) as the girl who gets her skirt flipped by Usamaro during a moment of innocent curiosity. Rin’s black cat sidekick Kuro has a decidedly short-lived heroic moment when he retrieves Usamaro from a tall building. It’s almost as though some of the characters we recognise are there simply because we expect them to be, but they don’t always add something new or substantial to the story and that can be distracting. For instance, Arthur Auguste Angel can often be seen showing off to tomboyish Shura Kirigakure and the latter is typically unflustered by his king-like prowess. The only new characters are the demon Usamaro and Cheng-Long Liu, an Upper First Class exorcist from the Taiwan branch. They are memorable and distinctive enough as temporary newcomers but their presence is mostly functional as they serve to piece together a very cyclical plot indeed.
If we look back at the 25 episodes of the TV series, Blue Exorcist: The Movie seemed more cohesive in comparison – there were certainly less of those ‘for the hell of it’ moments (no pun intended) and more well-connected, relevant events. Although it is blindingly obvious that we are being drip-fed clues about the trajectory the movie is taking, which does make everything rather predictable at times – it does effectively explore the dichotomies that arise when trying to balance practicalities with humane actions. The use of flashbacks helps to add a sense of emotional integrity, particularly when Rin remembers the times he spent with his father Shirou before and during his brutal yet necessary suicide. The underlying message that Blue Exorcist: The Movie present us with is that we should learn from others, accept each others’ unique individual traits and not tar every living creature with the same accusatory brush. It is a light-hearted and entertaining movie sequel which will probably leave you feeling particularly Shiemi-like towards the adorable Usamaro if not a little warm and fuzzy inside.
Blue Exorcist: The Movie is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray on 26th May from Manga Entertainment.