Because I’m secretly waiting for a talking black cat to appear and tell me that I’m actually Sailor Mars, I’ve been practicing my divination skills: the spirits tell me that the next big explosion in the land of manga is going to be a little series called Blue Exorcist. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but then again, maybe not. It’s not got the squealing fanbase some other super popular things have (I’m looking at you, Black Butler, Hetalia, and Full Metal Alchemist.) – or at least, not yet it doesn’t. But the formula is there, and if the speed at which the books have been flying off of our shelves is any indicator, the legions of nubile fanatics are on the way. Even now I can hear them stirring deep within this planet’s molten core…
The newest volume of Blue Exorcist came out last week and after drooling over the artwork for the past couple months, I decided it was time to try it out. Boy, did that work out well! First off, as I said, the artwork by Kazue Kato is incredible. It’s super clean, despite her somewhat loose style, but still bursting with detail. Her characters are attractive and distinctive—practically begging to be cosplayed when the fangirl legion strikes—and even within the first few pages, bursting with personality. Even just based on the artwork alone, what could have been a potentially overdone concept is jazzed with something fresh and invigorating.
Which brings us to the other great aspect of any comic: its story. Kato is quick to set up an interesting premise that is reminiscent of D-Gray-Man with a dash of Hellsing on top, except where D-Gray-Man falls flat, Blue Exorcist succeeds. Kato is smart enough to know that assaulting the reader with walls of explanatory text is no way to introduce a world, instead resorting to small blurbs of information that are much easier to digest and far more effective. Her complex hierarchy of the world of demons and the world of the living could have potentially weighed the story down, but it instead helps chug things along.
Unsurprisingly, the story centers around a number of young exorcists, all of whom attend a secret cram school at their prep school in order to hone their craft. The plot twist that defines this particular lot of demon hunters is that the main character, Rin, isn’t just some ordinary schlemiel who’s joined up on a whim: rather, he is the son of Satan himself, out to find a way to stop dear ol’ pops after he possessed the man who had raised Rin and his younger brother. There is something about the way that Kato draws you into the story that makes it clear that there’s something more afoot than what has been initially presented, but still leaves endless possibilities as to what exactly it could be.
Also, it’s pretty cool to see a woman producing a distinctly shounen series like this. Unlike Black Butler, which smacks of fanservice aimed directly at a certain breed of fangirl, Blue Exorcist features characters that will probably appeal to more males than Sebastian or Ciel ever could. Still, Kato’s lovely drawings and hip styles will draw in female readers as well, as does Takeshi Obata (famous for Death Note and Bakuman). A womanly touch for boy’s comics: who knew?
Keep an eye out for the Blue Exorcist anime, which is currently streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll. It was delayed because of the tragedies in Japan, but it’s been rolled out for this current anime season. Hark, now: I can hear the fangirls….
They are coming.