Ongoing Manga Impressions: Ao No Exorcist
In this edition of Ongoing Manga Impressions, I have to look at a monthly series, Ao No Exorcist by Kazue Kato, which is currently being serialized in Shonen Jump monthly sister comic, Jump Sqaure. The story revolves around Rin Okumura, a teenager possessing abnormal strength and endurance who, along with his younger twin brother Yukio, was raised by Father Shiro Fujimoto. Soon after Yukio departs to study at the prestigious True Cross Academy, Rin learns that he is the son of Satan, the strongest of all demons.
After his father Shiro dies protecting him, Rin has an encounter with Mephisto Pheles, who agrees with Rin's wish to become an Exorcist like his guardian to take revenge on Satan. Rin enrolls at the True Cross Academy, which is actually the Japanese branch of an international organization dedicated to protect the human realm, Assiah, from demons and other creatures from the demon realm, Gehenna.
Despite the not so original plot that this series started with, I actually really got into it when it first started. The first few chapters are some of the best in the series and was a great way to start this series. I mean, you had an unlucky main hero who in truth held great power, a very different but likeable brother, and a badass priest that could give Anderson a run for his money. Add a tense filled beginning and epic death scene, and this made for a very solid start.
What went wrong?...Well, I'll go over what I like about this series first, because to be fair there is stuff I do like.
As I said before, Rin is pretty decent main character, and his interaction with his brother Yukio is probably one of the best written parts of this manga. You can tell they love each other, but they're so different in personality, and you can tell that what happened to their father has made something of a gap between them. How they come back together and come to terms with their new reality is often the best parts of the manga.
Perhaps my favourite character in this manga is easily Mephisto. He steals the show every time he's on, and is constantly hilarious. And there were some other good side characters like Ryuji who turned out to be far more developed than their original cliché, which was nice to see.
Aside from that, the artwork is pretty decent, the comedy is actually quite good and the ideas the series present are good
but the execution of these ideas? Not so much.
I'll start from the beginning. Okay, Rin decides to become an exorcist and goes to True Corss Academy to study. Okay, so it's gonna be a Hogwarts-like series at first, having Rin and co. learn fighting skills, magic and exorcism skills. That's a great, justifiable long training arc which can also fit in some good slice of life! And much later in the story it can shift into a much darker, action packed second half which is more Hellboy-like and
Why is the second half already starting? You've barely shown us anything of Rin learn anything. Wait, why is Rin already as strong as his teachers? Why are you throwing around all this terminology I've never heard before and you refuse to explain? Who are these new characters and why should I care about them? Why is Shura such a whore?
Why is the pacing in this manga so awful?
I'm sorry to fans, but the pacing in this manga is pretty bad. It has great ideas, but when I read this series, I feel like Kato wants to get to the good parts as soon as possible. That's fine and all, but when you send your main character to a school of magic, it would be nice to see him, well, LEARN some new powers. Even his big reveal to his friends came too quickly in my opinion.
Did J.K Rowling skip straight to Harry and Voldemort's final battle? No! She spent seven books, AKA seven years, giving him a reasonable amount of time to develop as a wizard, making it not a stretch that by the time he fights Voldemort, he's a genuine threat. Rin on the other hand we're 30 or so chapters in, and he's ALREADY the strongest good guy.
And while I did praise some of the characters, the females in this manga are pretty abysmal. Izumo is just a tsundere without any unique qualities, Sheimi gets one interesting chapter and then is just reduced to a side romance character, and I personally hate Shura. She's the most unprofessional professional I've ever seen.
I feel like this manga could've been better had it been a weekly manga. I think then Kato may have felt he had more time to expand on the powers of an exorcist and the world they're in. Alas, this is a monthly series, and it seems to me Kato wants to get to the juicy parts in order to keep his readers interested. But I find when writers do this I'm so unemotionally involved I'm more bored than anything.
I'm not asking for A Song Of Ice And Fire level of expansion, but the way I see it, a setting is a character in its own right, and when that's barely expanded on it's a pretty crap character. Hell, even Naruto and Bleach knew how to create an interesting (if very flawed) setting!
It's by no means the worst manga out there, and I'm sure some will find enjoyment from it, but I personally can't recommend Ao No Exorcist much. What potential it had to be a great series was largely ignored.
Overall Recommendation: 2/5
Stay tuned for future Ongoing Manga Impressions!