Ao no Exorcist or or also known as “Blue Exorcist” is a shonen anime with surprisingly little amount of fighting. I am going to review both the first season (episode 1-16 before the first series started with anime-original content) and the second season and it might show you the ropes or turn you away.
The first episode is pretty misleading, taking pretty much 18 minutes to get to the point. I won’t spoil too much other than the fact that almost the entire first episode is just there to show the viewer, what kind of character the protagonist Rin Okumura is. As you can already guess, yes, Rin Okumura has powers and he can be overpowered if he wants to be, though his lack of experience and his inability to properly control his emotions sometimes proves to be near-fatal.
The second episode is very good but afterwards, the story takes a huge backseat until episode 12, only introducing more characters and having them interact with each other as a group. This isn’t bad by definition but there are flaws attached to it. There are barely any all-out battles in-between episode 2 and 12 and a few episodes can be entirely skipped, because there’s nothing really happening there. Like my oh-so-hated beach episode. Spoilers: The lesson learned is that not all demons are bad. The big lessons of all the in-between episodes, when it doesn’t introduce new characters, are simply: Rin can solve problems without fighting, no Exorcist can fight alone and before you start shooting, you should use your head first.
Honestly, asking your viewer to bite his way through a pretty tame first episode, get his spirits up at the second episode and then wait for the next big thing to happen in episode twelve may be a bit too much. It’s not like you can skip the stuff in-between (except the beach episode) either because the conflicts or the characters play a huge role later on. Also literally every female character in this entire show is from the “cliche-anime-character-writing” book for beginners, you’ve seen all these characters before. This is something that really annoys me, as the male characters on the other hand are very well written.
Episode 12 to 16 are very good though with some very good battles and twists, especially in episode 15 and 16. Though be aware that not everything shown in episode 16 actually happens in the manga or is even relevant for the second season, anime-only continuation be blessed… and no, watching the remaining eight episodes isn’t worth it, the anime-only content is crap and oozes with plotholes.
I really need to advise you: If you are uptight about your religion then oh boy, this is certainly no anime for you. If you don’t have a problem with that, then you might find one of the most intriguing plots in recent anime and this is something that I’m not saying lightly. This is the only reason why I won’t spoil you, because I found the plot to be simply that good, though not without its flaws like the mentioned female characters and the slow pacing outside of battles.
From a musical perspective you have two magnificent openings (The first performed by Uverworld and the second performed by Rookiez is Punk’d) and a variety of interesting songs in-between. Though I was a bit confused as to why there is only one “epic battle” song, though it is a very good song and considering that there’s not a whole lot of fighting happening in the first place, it shouldn’t be distracting. The other songs fit and some are tunes you don’t usually hear in anime, though none of them are memorable.
When it comes down to the visuals then this anime just simply looks gorgeous. Everything has consistent art design, the battles look fantastic, nothing is getting stale and the backgrounds are beautiful. This is the kind of anime that will hold up for years to come as the only obvious computer effects I spotted is in form of fire, which still looks fitting in the drawn scenes.
But does it make Blue Exorcist a recommendable anime? Yes and no. Again, if you have issues with your personal religion being portrayed any differently from what you know then it’s an absolute no. If you are open minded then you should give it two episodes to take you in as the actual plot starts at the end of the first episode and continues during the entire second episode. If you aren’t prepared to sit through very slow story progression, then you should probably avoid it as well. I personally loved this anime but its flaws might turn you away. If you manage to push through however, then you are rewarded with a very good story, good battles with actual consequences and well-written male characters.
Take a look
(Rating only applies to episode 1-16)