The shounen genre to me, is a genre robust with tradition. Many shounen mangakas incorporate time-tested formulas inherited from their predecessors to their work. Not many can be seen reinventing the genre, but to the courageous few who try– it’s either a hit or miss. It’s not an easy genre to write for, however those who manage to capture a large enough fanbase have the potential to have their work labeled as classics.
Ao no Exorcist is a work that obviously takes from it’s forefathers. True to tradition, our lead finally meets his destined love interest in the form of Shiemi Moriyama. This episode is self-contained and surprise, surprise– I enjoyed it immensely.
Yukio needs to buy exorcism supplies and investigate an exorcism request. Rin convinces his brother Yukio to let him tag along. But because only exorcists can enter the store, Rin needs to stay back. He ends up wandering towards a garden and finds a young girl named Shiemi tending to the garden.
Rin is immediately enamored. He tries to push the gate open, unaware that it’s used to ward off demons and ends up breaking it. He frightens the Shiemi enough that she tries to escape. He tries to explain that he isn’t a demon (but we all know he is, satan’s son even but what the heck) Rin then finds out that she’s unable to use her legs and later helps her dig a hole. They introduce themselves to each other formally. Shiemi talks about her deceased grandmother and the Garden of Amahara.
Unhappy with his brother playing around with cute girls, while he gets stuck being all adult-like. Yukio decides to invade the intimate moment between the two in hopes of denying Rin of a love life. Yukio finds Rin with Shiemi and starts lecturing him. Shiemi is surprised to find out the two are brothers but even more surprised that Rin is supposed to be older. It turns out that the victim of the assumed possession is Shiemi, the daughter of the supplies store owner.
This week’s episode was emotionally charged at the same time, it was something that hit close to home. Being someone who grew up with her grandmother, I easily related to Shiemi. I find it difficult to like most shounen female leads but Shiemi quickly grew on me. She’s child-like, naive and pure-hearted but these aspects of her personality are deftly portrayed. Kana Hanazawa did a great job with her, much better than her work on Steins;Gate’s Mayuri.
Most of the time, the protagonists’ love interest is shoved on our faces. The lead usually has some long inner monologue about how wonderful and cute she is, along with some sparkles for added effect. Here though, while you can tell Rin’s taken a liking to her it’s done in a way where it’s understated.
I unashamedly admit that I cried at this episode, especially at the part where Rin finds similarities between him and Shiemi. Unlike Rin though, Shiemi attempts to seek redemption by taking care of her grandmother’s garden.
While I fail to understand how Rin is capable of fixing shit by screaming all the time, I have say it’s super effective in the world of shounen. People scream and get things done. While we’re at it, Rin/Shiemi is now one of my favorite couples this season. The chemistry between these two is amazing.
The quality of the animation has taken a step back though. For example, the battle between the brothers and the plant demon was a bit underwhelming and it feels like these characters’ faces get wider and wider every week. It’s like the new Madoka all of a sudden. While I understand that it may be trying to follow the manga’s art style, the first and second episodes were of so much better quality.
Being a self-contained episode, everything is resolved easily and in the end we find Shiemi joining the class of exorcists. Romantically, things aren’t going too well for Rin. Shiemi has a crush on his brother Yukio and Rin’s feelings are one-sided. Rin follows the footsteps of many shounen leads before him, from Sakuragi Hanamichi to Naruto Uzumaki.