Posted on 2 October 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Ao no Exorcist




Shounen isn’t my favourite genre, but I have enjoyed plenty of the better series in the genre. Ao no Exorcist is a sneaky one though: at first it first seems to avoid a lot of the overused cliches that plague the genre… only to fall into them anyways.

What sets Ao no Exorcist apart is that it’s typical shounen, but done well. The main character is a hot headed brat, but he’s well fleshed out and has good development and reasons for his actions. The show inevitably ends up at an academy, but school assignments that the characters have to do are fun, interesting and lead to quite a bit of character development.

The big problem is that this series is way too epic for what it wants to be. On one hand it aims for high school hijinks and a look at exorcists in training, and on the other it is involved in an international plot involving to purge the strongest demon known to man: Satan. The main character may be Satan’s son and all, but the two parts don’t mesh at all and leave a terribly divided series.

The part of the series that suffers the least is the one that focuses on the high school. It’s not ambitious, but it’s fun, the characters are genuine and they have a great chemistry between them. The plot against satan unfortunately is horribly rushed, with in the end Satan magically forgetting to use a lot of his powers in order to actually prevent the main cast from not instantly dying. It’s full of bland twists and unoriginal plot devices that are way too constrained with trying to go for a “by the books”-ending. This series is based on a manga, but decides to go with its own storyline for its final third. While that isn’t immediately a bad thing, it just doesn’t work here.

A-1 has made sure of great animation, but in the end there are just many better shounen series out there. Ao no Exorcist was a nice attempt, but it lacks vision.

Storytelling: 7/10 – Does not know what it wants to focus on and ends up half-hearted. Tries to subvert shounen cliches only to fall into them.
Characters: 8/10 – Saved by a good chemistry and good development. Bad villains, though.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Solid action, though nothing amazing.
Setting: 7/10 – Tries to deliver a solid setting of exorcists, but in the end there is hardly any gap between the best and the worst of them.

Suggestions:
Shikabane Hime
Soukou no Strain
Pandora Hearts

Posted on with categories: Ao no Exorcist



Well, there you have it. The only way for this episode to not have been bland is if the creators ignored Satan’s existence all together. They didn’t, and went for a predictable and very run off the mills ending. The only good part of this episode was the ending, which thankfully went back to Rin and Yukio’s parents. Although the runaway truck that followed after that… what was that supposed to be? That part was rather brought down by the random banter inbetween.

In any case, this episode portrayed Satan as a wimp, just as expected. He’s the most feared demon in the world, he’s killed thousands of people, and in the end he’s beaten by a bunch of kids who happen to be able to fly and lodge a sword at the right place. If they were able to fly, then most adults in this series would have been able to do it if it was that easy. This was a problem that was apparent with the series from the beginning, and I have no idea how the manga planned to even handle it. By making Satan too powerful in the first two episodes, they already wrote themselves into a corner. There was no way he could be a good villain.

Overall, this series suffered from modern anime’s fear of fillers that has been very apparent for the past years. I know that the final third of this series was entirely filler, but that’s exactly what I meant: the writers of the fillers seemed scared of what they had to write, and were too afraid to really think outside the box. You could see that their intentions were there with the episodes that were dedicated to just the main cast. In the end though, they just kept going back to the epic action and Satan, which just didn’t work. Compare that to Hunter X Hunter, whose fillers were an excellent and mature addition to the story and characters. This unbalance is something that I noticed with a lot of other series of the Prime Time slot.

There is a very nasty legacy from the Prime Time slot, that everything needs to be epic and action. I had hoped that it would have been broken with Sengoku Basara II, but unfortunately both this series and Star Driver would have been way better if they just took some more risks. Unfortunately the legacy of Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi still shows. For those who haven’t seen it: it was attempt to open up the prime time slot of anime to an older audience, with mature storylines, complex characters, and imaginative concepts that thought outside the box, and that for 52 episodes. Only for it to get canceled and cut to half its length. Before that series, all shows on the prime time slot were 50 episodes long. After, everything aside from FMA was split up in seasons of 26 episodes. Ao no Exorcist and Star Driver were the ones who could have done something bold and daring, especially considering that Gundam Age next season is only going to lower the target audience even more. Unfortunately, A-1, you let me down.
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 25 September 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



I could have sworn that this show was only 24 episodes long. Ah well, with the state that this series is in now, an extra episode doesn’t really matter. And I know that I usually try to avoid spoilers in the screenshots, but this episode just had too many things that made me raise a proverbial eye brow.

This episode pretty much had the same problem as the Konekomaru arc: it is very difficult to properly portray someone getting possessed, without being overly cheesy. Here though, Rin pretty much ended up talking the monster to death. It worked a bit: the themes of Yukio always wanting to do everything on his own were what saved it in particular. But I have to face it: the suicide scene made me laugh. Just about the opposite effect that the creators intended.

Yukio: if you want to commit suicide: that’s fine. If that happens to kill Satan at the same time, then I can understand why you’d do it… but why the yelling? The thing is that in martial arts, yelling does have a very important purpose: By combining it with breathing, you can really deliver harder punches, et cetera. With Yukio however, he was trying to pull the trigger on a gun. That requires a completely different kind of concentration, so he just looked silly while yelling.

In any case, the final episode: it pretty much was the most cliched set up that the creators could think of. Throughout this episode Satan already got strangely weak whenever the main cast was around (remember: this is the guy who easily scorched the best exorcists around like it was nothing, and yet at those convenient points he simply forgets that he has that power)… but the point where the penultimate episode ends with all of the main villain’s plans exhausted and the only thing that still needs to be done is beating a ridiculously powered up version of him… it’s been done thousands of times before. Yeah, it’s good for the animation team: they can go all out, but can this series really set itself apart with such an ending?

Overall, the anime original material in this series wasn’t the worst. It sure as heck was better than in Yumekui Merry and it did stay true to its characters. But still, the creators constrained themselves too much by trying to go with a “by the books” ending. Instead they should have looked at what kind of ending would fit best with its constraints. Some series that did this well in my opinion were: Hellsing, Bokurano, King of Thorn, Himitsu -the Revelation, Hourou Musuko and Kuroshitsuji. This isn’t compared to their manga, but these are the series that instead of half-heartedly just animating a bunch of chapters until they ran out of time, really looked into how to make their anime adaptation story work best. These are the series that new adaptations who know that they’re never going to be able to fully animate their manga’s story should take a good look at and learn from.
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 18 September 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



I do want to stress that the anime original material isn’t entirely hopeless. There’s one thing that it consistently did well: the characters. Even the beach episode: sure, it made no sense, but it was fun.

The majority of this episode was like that episode, really: it was rather far-fetched, but it did delve into the past of Rin and Yukio’s parents. It’s a bit strange to establish their mother as this mentally deranged woman who can’t seem to feel anything about the deaths of countless of people, yet who continues to fight for demon acceptance, although it was an interesting backstory that tied the past together with the present, albeit a bit forcefully. Satan having actual love was a bit awkward, but heck: we have seen so little of him that as a character it’s a twist that could make sense as long as you don’t confuse him with the traditional images of Satan.

The big question mark still is Yukio. The thing is that his character just derailed. Him being the bad guy is the twist that I just can’t accept. It had it coming for episodes now, but I still don’t like it one bit.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 11 September 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



This series still had a chance of closing off well. But the ending of this episode pretty much ruined it. With that, Yukio showed that he was Letter Bee’s Cabernet: the major flaw of the anime original material.

For the majority of this episode, it didn’t feel 100% right, but at least I could finally understand what had been up to Yukio during the past episodes. Yeah, the potential to turn Rin back into a human makes sense for him to completely change in order to achieve this. Not telling his brother anything fits him perfectly, and it’s a good twist that he had been doing all of this behind his back. Him becoming a paladin was a bit forced, but ah well: gramps must have pulled a few strings behind the scenes.

So let me ask the creators this: why the heck did you suddenly back down? The twist at the end rendered all of his development useless. Having him deceived and turn into a demon himself… what an incredibly cheesy twist. If you wanted to do that, then build up for it. Don’t just indecisively throw a deus ex machina there in order to get a soap opera ending. At this point there was more than enough conflict between the two brothers. Yukio trying to save his brother would have made for a compelling finale. This however, just sucks.
Rating: – (Disappointing)

Posted on 5 September 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



I’m not sure what happened here. These are just those points in a series that completely do something against my expectations. I’m not really sure what happened here, but the plot suddenly got really, really good.

The bizarre thing here is that I had completely given up on the plot, and here this episode comes and does just about everything right to bring it back to life. Yukio’s angst was largely going nowhere, so here this episode comes and throws in his grandfather. The teacher was boring, and here this episode give s him an actually engaging back-story. Shiemi had been reduced in importance, and here she actually stands up against Rin, proving that she’s much, much more than just another token female.

This episode was really excellent, but in the context of this series, it’s much more than that: it really managed to save this series, and brought it back out of its slump. The thing with the previous episodes was that they had been building up the wrong things: Yukio and Rin’s grandfather should have appeared much earlier, the Vatican should have taken up its villain role much earlier, instead of just returning over and over to an angsty Yukio. Either way though, this episode was better than even most of the episodes that DID come from the manga material. There was just so much packed into it.

As for the ending: the satan problem will still remain. At the very least though, the creators are trying to make it very action-packed, with the entire Vatican declaring a war on the demons. It’s a bit sudden, but heck, I can buy it at this point. Will it make up though for Satan’s complete and utter lack of development? Well, let’s find out!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 29 August 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



The problem with the fillers is that they derail certain characters at times. This time the most obvious was once again Yukio, but Mephisto also acted weird and inconsequential. First this guy gets all serious, and after a really random intervention from the Vatican that he could have stopped easily, he just walks away, abandoning his students that are held hostage. Make up your mind, will ya?

But yeah, Yukio: I still am not buying his subplot. It’s annoying and just feels forced. Like the Konekomaru arc, he’s overreacting way too much and just keeps on angsting about having to protect his brother. That’s just not interesting and gets annoying really fast. It’s not the kind of subplot you’d hold secret for the viewer, especially since they’re being so un-subtle about it.

The rest of this episode had the right spirit, though. Rin’s classmates have been handled quite well in this original story, and this episode solved the biggest barrier between him and them: Rin’s flames. He may have learned to control them a bit too sudden (isn’t it more logical if you gain control of flames like that gradually over time?) and that teacher also was surprisingly interesting. Again pulling his wife in was a bit cliched, but there definitely is more potential in him now than Satan.

Also, why does Yukio shoot with tranquilizers? I mean, with Rin I can understand and all, but against monsters who threaten the lives of his friends. Dude, get a bazooka or something. Anything better than those “it may look like I’m carrying a lethal weapon, but THOU SHALT NOT KILL, KIDS!”-phony weapons.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 21 August 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



Yeah, if this was indeed anime original like I’m suspecting, then it definitely was the best anime original episode so far. This really allowed the characters to shine, and it had really nothing to do with the main plot. It just showed the characters having fun and preparing a surprise birthday party for one of the side-characters. But you know what? That’s all this series needs right now.

Instead of the forced and cheesy drama from last episode, here the drama was really genuine. Birthdays are very personal and we learned a lot of new stuff about the cast. Especially Rin and Yukio’s image of a birthday cake was hilarious, but there were plenty of laugh-out loud moments in this episode and it as all around enjoyable to watch. The drama was subtle, and there even was a good aftermath to the disappointing previous episode (of course Konekomaru would still be a bit cautious around Rin after what happened there).

The big problem right now is that I don’t care about the main storyline anymore. Plot? who cares about that plot? Just fill the rest of the episodes with more episodes like this that just show the characters having fun with each other. There’s no way for Satan to become a good villain at this point. Why should we care about that evil teacher? And Yukio’s health is just forced beyond belief. It’s going to make for a ridiculously cheesy and predictable ending at this rate. So what if things don’t get resolved. Let’s just assume that after six years of training the protagonists become good enough to take on Satan. It’s better than the direction where the show is currently heading at.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 August 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



Angst, angst. angst.

I didn’t really enjoy this episode as much as usual. The problem is, like mentioned above, the angst. This was the type of episode that I find very cheesy to watch, unless done really well, though that wasn’t the case. I get the idea: Konekomaru has the right to be scared of Rin and search the power of demons to get rid of him, but if you do this, make him decide consciously. Don’t put in a demon who controls him using angst. The reasoning that demon used was just too shallow and it was just against Konekomaru’s character.

The way in which everything was solved in the end was also a tad too cheesy for my tastes. The power of friendship is of course one thing: the entire series is abut it, but when characters just aren’t able to think straight and they use the power of friendship to solve that… that just doesn’t work. In that way, I like Bon a lot more: he too is very pissed off at Rin, but at the same time he knows Rn better than to hold him responsible for his parents’ deaths.

With this, I’m especially critical on this episode, and because of that I also noticed that characters ran into each other a bit too coincidentally (suspense of disbelief can be a bitch sometimes): for some reason Rin knew exactly when Konekomaru would run away and where he’d run away to, Bon returned just in time to stop Rin from attacking Konekomaru, not to mention how the villain teacher left a gate to a hint about his whereabouts pretty much undefended and open.

With this, there probably are 6 episodes left. As for the finale, all that we know for now is that Yukio is either getting ill, or possessed himself. In both cases, I really don’t know whether that’s going to be the best idea, but at the very least it’s going to keep the drama close to Rin. In either case though, I do hope that whatever it is that’s creeping into Yukio, it’s at least really closely related to Satan, otherwise we’ll really have an inevitable Bad Guy Problem here.
Rating: (Enjoyable)

Posted on 7 August 2011 with categories: Ao no Exorcist



Ah, yeah. Now I remember again that there was a big problem with the original material of this series: it tends to not make any sense.

Before, the problem with the two filler episodes wasn’t that they didn’t get the characters, or that they weren’t enjoyable, but rather that they were just ridiculously stupid. With this episode.. . you could see the traces of that. Thankfully it didn’t reduce any of the characters to morons: they were fine, and actually quite interesting. Instead… the plot got a bit questionable.

In one shot, we see the blacksmith working hard to restore Rin’s sword. Then we switch to the courtroom scene in which Rin is tried, and there the side-characters just randomly pop up out of nowhere with the sword completely fixed. What happened to the transition here? How did they get there in time? How did they fix that sword so bloody easily?

Then, alter, we see Rin enter the classroom. He then randomly bashes the wall that makes those flying things appear around Shiemi. That scene was just meant to show Rin’s blue flames again, which he uses to get rid of those creatures. The same blue flame which is later revealed to be beyond his control and which burned the clothes of Yukio and Shura. I mean, it was a funny scene and all, but please at least try to be consistent here.

Having said that though I can see where the creators are coming from with the new plot. If I didn’t just hear that they stopped right before the best parts of the manga, I wouldn’t have had any problems with them. Instead of everyone getting terrified of him, the reactions are more subtle, which combines hatred at the blue flames with the acknowledgement that it was Rin’s father who killed all those people, and not Rin himself.

The fight against Amaimon seemed a bit anticlimactic at first, but ah well. At the very least someone actually dies upon getting cut by a sharp sword. Again though: consistency!

And at least, the characters still are quite enjoyable to watch and the chemistry is still there and the new material did not reduce them to idiots, so it’s not like this series is doomed, although it probably will become less good if the creators keep throwing these random deus ex machina in its plot. Whether this series will work is all going to depend on what the creators are going to make out of the finale of this series. There’s this Satan thing which has hardly been explored so far which will become the major problem here: the final villain. BY FAR the biggest pitfall for this series is the lame final villain. This also was the thing that proved to be disastrous for Letter Bee’s anime original finale.
Rating: * (Good)

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