Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: “Ao no Exorcist” - Tankobon vol. 5-9

Written and illustrated by Kazue Kato

From the hallowed hallways of True Cross Academy, where Rin Okumura is training to become an exorcist, the story now shifts to the heart of Kyoto, as exorcist-turned-demon Saburota Todo steals the powerful "Left Eye of the Impure King".

[Ao no Exorcist is an ongoing manga series. Individual chapters are currently being collected into Tankobon volumes. I have decided to categorize my thoughts based on adventures. In this second part of my review, I look at Tankobon volumes 5 through 9, which contains chapters 16-37].

Hoping to prevent a catastrophe, the exwires travel to Ryuji Suguro's hometown to help the exorcists of the "Myoda Sect". Nestled between an estranged father-son relationship on one end and a shocking deception by a respected exorcist on the other, a stolen artefact releases a poisonous miasma that poses a widespread and deadly risk to the entire city of Kyoto. As the story unfolds, historical secrets are revealed, great alliances are formed, and powerful magic is displayed .. but, eerily, there always seems to run a thread of something greater, waiting in the wings.

While the previous chapters were all about introducing the key characters in this saga, this is where we start going deeper into each person's life - and, to my endless fascination, the author maintains this trend throughout the series. There is no one single "hero" of this tale. Everyone has a part to play; every action makes a difference. And I really loved seeing how each character - driven by his or her unique quality - helped to make a tangible difference every step of the way.

Sure, there was some silliness in this section too! ... A trip to the beach aroused a lot of comments from the boys, surrounded as they were by Shiemi Moriyama's mortification at having to wear a swimsuit, and Shura Kirigakure, whose everyday clothes are never that much more than a swimsuit anyway. But it all felt in good fun, and did not deter from the main danger they were fighting to control.

The Art, as I mentioned in my previous review, is as powerful as the words, and adds such great value to this entire tale. Not only do characters continue to look distinct, there is so much of "movement" in the art; nothing is static, nothing looks fake. And of course, locales continue to look stunning - giving the reader a deep sense of being present along with the protagonists.

With an ancient whale-deity aiding a mission to hunt down a terrifying Kraken, I will end this review. I shall be back to talk about Rin's deal with Mephisto himself!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: “Ao no Exorcist” - Tankobon vol. 1-4

Written and illustrated by Kazue Kato

Weaving together the supernatural and the action genres is this fantastic tale set in a borderline world between Assiah and Gehenna. At the heart of this saga is Rin Okumura - the son of Satan - whose quest for revenge for his father's death, sets him upon a journey where he not only meets a variety of characters, both human and demon, but where he also discovers his own inhuman powers.

[Ao no Exorcist is an ongoing manga series. Individual chapters are currently being collected into Tankobon volumes. I have decided to categorize my thoughts based on adventures. In this review, I look at Tankobon volumes 1 through 4, which contains chapters 1-15].

After a deadly encounter with a demon who wants to drag Rin down to hell, Rin's guardian Father Shiro Fujimoto dies trying to protect him. Unleashing a hitherto unknown power by unsheathing the Komaken sword, and armed with the resultant knowledge of his own secret identity, Rin contacts Mephisto Pheles, chairman of the True Cross Academy, in order to train to become an exorcist so that he may avenge his father's brutal death.

True Cross Academy becomes the base for a series of adventures as humans from Pages and Exwires to Arc Knights and Paladins come together in this epic battle against the demons of Gehenna. Of course what drew me to this manga, and keeps me constantly in awe, is the story being set in a supernatural world. Even while they wait to take the Exwire exam to graduate from their starting positions, they are attacked by monsters. In a fast-paced saga, every magical moment is but a preparation for more fantastic and dangerous moments.

Amidst all the powerful magic and evil surrounding Assiah, the story still manages to present heart-warming tales that showcase what really makes up these people who they are. One such incident was Fujimoto's familiar, the Black Cat, Kuroneko whose fierce reaction to its master's death is handled so beautifully by Rin.

What is also brilliant about this story is that even though we meet quite a large number of characters in a relatively short period of time, each and every one is so unique and memorable, that not once did I need any reminder on the who's who of this strange world. From the self-conscious Shiemi Moriyama, to the strong willed Ryuji Suguro with a dark secret of his own; from the wild and dominant Shura Kirigakure, to the deceptively terrifying demon Amaimon, to the immortal Honorary Knight in top hat and cape and matching pink stockings, gloves and umbrella: the very powerful and truly fascinating Mephisto Pheles ... everyone came so alive in my mind.

And finally, the amazing Art. Every character is so unique, so beautifully drawn. Every location is so gorgeous, every building so stunning. Just as much as the words that create this story, the art wields a unique power to tell a tale.

Forced to reveal his true identity in a fight against demon Amaimon, Rin is captured by Paladin Arthur Auguste Angel and taken to the Vatican for a trial. Saved only by an intervention by Mephisto, and guided by Yukio and Shura, Rin launches on a very strictly regulated training session.

And as a brand new adventure starts in Assiah, I will end this review. I shall be back to talk about "the Impure King"!