I’m currently retreiving myself from the depths of post-con depression, having had a ball cosplaying it up at Ohayocon this weekend with Lady Geek Girl herself. However, weekly regulars wait for no geek, so here’s my Manga Mondays recommendation for all of you lovely people.
I want to talk about one of my current favorite (or favorite current, as you like it) manga, Blue Exorcist (also called Ao no Exorcist because, well, ao means blue).
The story of Blue Exorcist follows Rin, a teenage boy with an unusual heritage – the father of him and his twin brother Yukio is none other than Satan himself. Their demonic natures were sealed at birth and the two were raised as normal boys, but when good ol’ Dad (evil ol’ Dad?) attacks the boys’ Exorcist foster father, Rin chooses to unlock his powers (sealed inside a holy sword) in order to stop Lucifer. In order to control his newfound abilities, he is whisked away to True Cross Academy, a prestigious school that also acts as a base and training ground for Exorcists in Japan. There he must face all sorts of challenges – winning the trust of his classmates while simultaneously hiding his heritage
(not easy, considering that he lights up in blue flames whenever he draws his sword), learning to control his powers (which are more of a giant bludgeon than a finely tuned weapon), maneuvering through the political world of the exorcists (difficult when they all remember that time Satan massacred most of the Japanese branch), and trying to reach his ultimate goal – to become an exorcist and kick Satan’s ass.
Hooked yet? If not, it’s probably my sleep-deprived brain failing at description. This is really a great manga. If you’re looking for a finished series, I’d tell you to watch the anime, which lasted only one season. But the manga (a monthly series, and ongoing) is far better than the anime – the current big villain is better, the character development is more believable, and it’s generally just pretty to look at and exciting in general.
There are many awesome things about Blue Exorcist besides the story, as well. The characters are for the most part really cool, and they don’t fit the standard shounen mold as much as you’d expect. The headmaster of True Cross Academy, for example, is a flamboyant demon king named Mephisto Pheles whose motivations are known only to himself, but who has been helping the Exorcists’ side against his father (a.k.a. Satan) for nigh on 200 years. Rin’s eventual teacher Shura is a girl who hits almost every anime Mary Sue stereotype ever and is still likeable and badass nonetheless (not kidding – multicolored hair, former student of Rin’s foster father, magic sword-summoning powers, and a bikini top, Daisy Dukes, and thigh-highs is her normal attire). The only real nod to the helpless Sue-like females of other series is Shiemi, a girl who is a total pushover, sort of hopeless at everything, is not cut out for exorcist work at all, is crushing hard on Rin’s brother while Rin crushes hard on her, and who despite all this saves the day with her magical plant-summoning powers at least once. (She annoys me, but I think it’s because her character is not developing enough alongside everyone elses’, because they’re all growing by leaps and bounds.)
Another cool thing about the story is that each exorcist has their own way of fighting demons, drawn from different religious traditions or fighting styles. Among the main characters, there is one who chants holy verses (be they Christian, Buddhist, or otherwise), one who summons Shinto spirits; Rin, who fights with his enchanted sword, and his brother Yukio, who is a crack shot with a handgun that fires holy-water-filled rounds.
I strongly recommend this series – it’s got a cool blend of theology, action, comedy, and drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and characters that you will come to care about (whether you want them to succeed or die in a fire is totally up to you). Hell, my friends and I liked the series enough to cosplay as Mephisto, Rin, and another character at Ohayocon on Saturday. Check it out! I promise you won’t be disappointed.