Ao no Exorcist (chapters 90-93) by Katou Kazue

After a fairly long hiatus, new chapters of Ao no Exorcist / Blue Exorcist are now out. In the way of Katou-sensei, there is a bunch of fun fluff and a serious continuation of the plot.

SPOILERS

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First, the fluff. Ryuji ‘Bon’ Suguro and company return home for a New Year’s wedding.

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Mom’s first reaction??  My baby has stopped dying his hair!  (She’s so happy).

We find out that grey-haired Miwa has a girlfriend back home (sort of, it’s more she has a crush on him, and has done since forever,) who is pink-hair traitor Shima‘s youngest sister. Shima has, in point of fact, a gigantic family. So many that I can’t entirely keep track of everyone–not that it entirely matters.

There is mochi shaping and Yukio is his usual grim, too-serious self, which puts Rin to mind of their last big fight, which was over Yukio’s desire to know why they were born. Meanwhile, while everyone is eating and drinking, Bon sneaks off to check-in with Lewin Light.

Immediately after getting off the phone with Bon, Light jumps up and heads out to do some mischief.

Yukio confronts Bon about what he’s doing, and Bon puts him off. Sitting outside in the cold is pink-haired Shima who is thinking back to having been ‘marked with slyph bell.’ He’s upset because he ‘can’t go back like that’ (presumably to the Illuminati? I can’t actually remember who marked him or why).  Shima asks the demon in his staff, Yamantaka, if he can help.

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That’d be a big, ol’ nope.

Yamantaka, having been released, is spoiling for a fight. Being his usual, lazy self, Shima is not up for it.  Miwa comes out of the toilet and is surprised to see Yamantaka in release since he hadn’t been aware that Shima could control his staff’s demon yet.  They have a heart-to-heart about which one of them is luckier.  The doofus brother of Shima, Kinzo, breaks up this love fest to announce that the bachelor party is going to be a drunken staff battle.  Yamantaka is happy about this, pink-hair is not.

On New Year’s eve everyone heads, like you do, to the shrine to hear the bells toll.  Doofus Brother Kinzo is apparently in charge of the party and can’t seem to remember anyone’s name. I only bring this up because I kind of adore Kinzo’s nickname for plant-girl Shiemi, “Shiroomie” (which, of course, sounds like ‘shroom), and Rin, “Satan-boy,” which is nicely straight-forward IMHO.

The two separated ones, Rin and Shiemi, end up also having a heart-to-heart.  Rin starts out just reflecting on the year and ends up on what’s been plaguing him: WTF is up with Yukio:

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Nothing comes of this confession because they’re found by Kinzo, and then we flash to New Year’s Day and the big wedding, which takes up most of the next chapter.

The next chapter starts with Bon helping his dad get ready to officiate the wedding. There is some nice father-son bonding in which Bon’s dad tells him how proud he is that Bon has apprenticed himself to a big shot like Light.  Bon’s a little leery about accepting that praise and starts to ask his dad about Rin and Yukio’s foster dad, Father Shiro Fujimoto.

ONCE AGAIN, someone interrupts this conversation just as it’s getting interesting.  Gozo (another one of Shima’s onii-chan) takes over for Bon and they discuss some ongoing investigation into summoning a demon that has possessed someone else, which has been a bust. Dad suggests that they could exorcise the demon Karura from someone named Todo (which the wiki reminds me is the guy who had run off with the left eye of the Impure King) and then re-summon it, but that’s a no-go because if a demon and their host become too closely bonded, the demon could be injured.

Then it’s off to the marriage, where Bon and Yukio are seated next to each other. Yukio asks directly if Bon is sniffing for info on Father Fujimoto. Yukio knows about the visit to his home and the death of the monk that happened there.

At this point we switch to somewhere in Romania, where Light is getting up to his funny business. He approaches this ridiculous-looking guy…

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…with the equally ridiculous name of Drac Dragulesc. Light, then, proceeds to wish him a Happy New Year, and punch him in the face. Light calls up his little ‘and so on’ demon fairy and accuses Dragulesc of being associated with the Illuminati. Dragulesc tells Light he’s insane (likely) and that there’s no way he could be in the Illuminati because he took the contract of Morinath.  Light, being Light, is all, ‘yeah, how is that even possible? That’s the mystery I need to solve.’  Light then explains that he’s already made up his mind and what he needs is proof, so he’s going to torture Dragulesc until he gets the confession he wants. Turns out, Light is also known in the Order as ‘The Torturer.’

Not what I would call a surprise reveal there.

And if we needed reminding, we flash back to Yukio who gives Bon a hard look and says, “You wouldn’t get involved in something like THAT, would you?”  Of course, this pains Bon deeply, but he’s sworn to secrecy so he says he can’t say anything about an on-going investigation. Yukio backs off fast, almost creepily so, and then they’re saved from further awkwardness by the arrival of everyone else and the start of the wedding.

During the reception, Bon gets a call from Light asking him to hurry up and translate some documents. Overhearing this, Yukio puts a gun to Bon’s head and demands answers to how he and Rin were born.

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Bon says, “Are you really going to shoot me?” and that causes whatever is possessing Yukio to fade away and he’s all like, “Oops, ha. ha. my bad. Forget this happened, k?” Bon is having none of this and grabs him by the shoulder demanding to know what’s happened, why he’s acting like this. Yukio goes all cold again and tells him to let him go, as an order, from his superior.  Bon is such a good guy, he follows orders, and lets him go.

In the hallway, Shima confronts Yukio by saying, “Watch yourself. I told you to get ADVICE, not threaten.”

Yukio gets all existential about this and is like: how does advice help when we’re all such different people? Then he gets a call from Sword-Boob lady Shura to “turn on the TV.” Apparently, demons don’t take New Year’s holidays and they’re popping up all over various cities, and more and more people are able to see them. Everyone rushes off… well, everyone with a ‘key’–which is Yukio and Shima. (The hilarious stuff is that when Shima leaves, he says, ‘hey, us spies have keys too! Bye!’ and Bon is all, ‘and we have to let him go…’)  On the train back, Bon is working on the translation that Light sent him and decides to tell Rin that they need to talk.

Boob-Lady is fighting a cyclops-demon and gets her butt handed to her because she doesn’t have her magical sword any more, not really. Light shows up and infuses her sword with ice-powers and they are able to defeat the monster. But, it’s broken some seal or other that has let loose even more demon-y things.

Light then has this fun interaction with Yukio:

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Not cool, dude.

Yukio is surprised Bon has tattled on him so quickly, to which Light is like, “Well, he wanted permission to tell you about our investigation, but, of course, I told him no.”  Light asks, ‘So what is it you want to know so badly?’ Yukio won’t say, so he counters with, “If you won’t say, neither will I.”  They trade some insults after that and Yukio storms off. Light watches him go, saying, “Ryuji [Bon] is a good boy. But you can only help someone who wants help” and it’s clear Yukio doesn’t want help.

This does seem to be pretty true. Honestly, if Yukio had answered Light, he might have told him something. Although, Light is slippery af, so who knows what he might have actually done?

Then we find out–are reminded?–that it was Light that put the bell spell on Shima (who was watching from behind a tree) and Shima begs him to remove it.  He says he will,  but only for a price.

Suddenly, this bada$$ arrives:

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And arrests Light.  He resists them long enough to lean in and whisper a password to Yukio (I Love Sushi 1047Aaa). Bon shows up in time to see his master hauled off, and gets the “hey, so, I might not be around for awhile, but finish the report, k?”

Later, Yukio finds a flash drive and realizes that Light slipped it to him.  The chapter ends with Yukio opening up some files.

The next chapter starts with a flashback to Yukio asking Father Fujimoto why Sir Pheles lets them live, Fujimoto says he can’t tell him right now but he will, when the time comes. Yukio is thinking the time is now when he opens up the Section 13 files.  Yukio is called out to rejoin the fight and thinks about what he’s learned. He tells us he hasn’t learned much about his mother or Satan, but what he has figure out is that the Knights of the True Cross are as bad as the Illuminati.

Yukio is so upset he starts to fight recklessly and is sent home. Only, he doesn’t want to go home.  He ends up at Plant Girl Shiemi’s shop. Standing there, he has a memory of confronting his foster dad about why Boob-Sword Lady is overseeing them. Yukio has heard that she’s forging Rin into a weapon.  On that night he ended up running away to the garden shop, and now he’s found himself at the same door craving Plant Girl’s company again.  He’s headed to the door when he spies Shiemi coming in at the same time.  She offers tea and company.

They chat a bit and, when Shiemi asks him what’s wrong, he confesses that he feels all alone:

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Which is his usual bullish*t, actually, and Shiemi tries to tell him he’s not, that he has her… and Rin. Saying that last bit sets Yukio off and he lashes out at her.

Having pushed her freaks him out (as it should) and he decides that all his inner turmoil is just hurting everyone around him, so he might as well end it all.

And he shoots himself in the head.

His glasses fly off and we hear a demonic voice calling him weak, while his eyes light up with blue fire. Yukio identifies the demonic voice as Satan.  Shima shows up and says, “You’re finally getting the right look in your eye.”

Which… makes me uncomfortable, because I’m thinking, maybe Rin failed as a weapon, and you’re take 2, Yukio.

Then we get a random break in the action to where Mephisto is on TV as Johann Faust (which is of course a reference to the legend of Faust who famously sells his soul to Mephistopheles) and is coming out to the world as a Knight of the True Cross and explaining the Order’s mission.

Bon, meanwhile, has decoded the file Light sent him.  As he’s figuring out how to get the document to the Vatican, he runs into Rin. He tells him he wasn’t sure he should, but he’s going to tell him something critical about Yukio.  That’s when Shiemi bursts in, in tears, saying that something has happened to Yukio.

I have a very bad feeling we’re getting to the end of something BIG.  I’m concerned that Satan has found his vessel and it’s not going to be Rin, after all, but Yukio, and Rin’s desire to “kill” Satan may involve murdering his own brother.

I do not see how this is going to go well.

But, I have a lot of trust in Katou-sensei’s storytelling ability, and this manga has been so shounen up to this point that I don’t *think* it’s going to end as a complete tragedy.  (Hopefully, I’m right about that.)

Anyone else reading this? Care to comment?

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Ao no Exorcist #89

Sorry that it’s taken a while for me to get around to reviewing this. I read it right away when it came out, but there’s not a lot to say about it.  If you missed it, however, you can find it here: http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist/89

 

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SPOILERS

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The birthday/Christmas party is off to a rough start. As Izumo (Fox Girl) points out, they manage to from zero to total destruction in about 30 seconds.  But, they salvage what’s left and have a hotpot, which looks more fun to me, personally.

In the middle of the festivities, pink-haired Shima gets a call from his brother with big news: they’re going to have a baby.  A big celebration is planned back home around the New Year.  Brother wants to know if everyone is coming home for the holiday. Bon makes noises like he might be too busy, but Light tells him to go, after all, “I’ll just be sleeping.”

When everything is said and done and they’re all heading back, Plant Girl (Shiemi) pulls out a present for everyone: four left clovers for luck on their exams.

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At this point, Rin officially loses it and confronts Shiemi about her decision. He demands to know if this is her “final farewell,” is she DYING or WHAT?  She confirms “or what” and tells everyone she’s not going anywhere. She won’t say why, but she’s decided to be support to the troops.

Back at the Okumura brothers’ apartment, Rin is still complaining about Shiemi.  Shura (Boob Lady, dressed, naturally, as a slutty Santa,) busts in (as it were) and asks for a glass of water. Rin is literally like, “Go home, you’re drunk,” but we find out Shura has an upstairs apartment.  She decides to give them a “present” since they’re all grown up.  Of course, they both assume it’s sex, but she tells a story about their mother, instead.

We find out her name was Yuri Egin.  Apparently, Shiro (the boy’s foster dad) had no idea how to “raise a girl” and so he took Shura to Yuri.  Yuri is very domestic and even offers to play house with Shiro, suggesting they could raise Shura together like a family.  Priestly Shiro says they can’t do that can calls Yuri a “weirdo.” Meanwhile, tiny Boob Lady is jealous because Yuri is so pretty and compassionate.

After Boob Lady leaves and the boys are tucked in bed, Yukio tries to talk to Rin about his burning desire to know more about their birth. Rin, meanwhile, is very… Rin.  He’s just happy to know his mother’s name and that she was pretty and kind.  He’s fairly certain anything else would just be depressing. (I think he’s right.)

Yukio is having none of this lassies-faire attitude.  He jumps out of bed and gets all up in Rin’s grill and calls him a coward for not wanting to know.

Chapter end.

Normally, I feel like Kazue Katō hits all the right notes in her work.  But, for me, this chapter’s end was a little off somehow.  I think maybe the issue is in how I’m reading these chapters, once a month, because I suspect when read in tankōbon, all at once, the connection between Yukio’s attempted suicide and this desire to understand his origin story, his birth, will be stronger.  I mean it’s not that many chapters ago Yukio was throwing himself off buildings and trying to shoot himself in the head to see if he could trigger his Satanic powers.

With luck, the opening of the next chapter will give me what I’m looking for: that connective thread between his birth story and Yukio’s source of angst/pain, as in like, what he hopes to gain from knowing it.

Because, frankly, I think that far from being cowardly, Rin’s attitude is healthy.  Thing is Rin has to find ways peace with his Satanic side every SINGLE day.

In case we’ve forgotten, Kazue-sensei gives us this visual reminder when Rin get’s up to pee:

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Dude has a f*cking TAIL.  He’s tried hiding it, but there’s really no point.   Unlike Yukio, Rin has never been able to pass as “normal.”  I think this whole “it is what it is, dude,” attitude comes from that, not from a place of fear.

So I’ll be curious to see where things go from here. I suspect that if knowing is something Yukio really wants, Rin will capitulate because he loves his brother.  I feel like Kazue-sensei has nicely set up that Rin will do it, even THOUGH he knows it will only lead to heartbreak.

So, while I’m not entirely satisfied by the ending of this chapter, I can see what it may be setting up.  Good strong set-up chapters are important.  I also continue to love the way Kazue-sensei writes her light character moments and weaves them in between these emotional key notes.

Women mangaka rule.


P.S. I’m still getting notifications about Shingeki no Kyojin even though I rage quit some time ago. If you’re still reading the new one can be found here: http://www.mangapanda.com/shingeki-no-kyojin/93/

Blue Exorcist: Chapter 88 (Happy [Merry X-Mas] Birthday Eve.)

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Since officially giving up on Shingeki no Kyojin, I do believe the Ao no Exorcist is now the only manga I’m reading as it comes out.

SPOILERS

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Chapter 88 starts with Rin, our hero, convincing himself and those around him that Plant Girl (Shiemi) is dying and that THAT’s the reason she no longer wants to be an exorcist.  While a number of the others agree that’s a possibility, none of them will let Rin straight-up ask (because that would ruin the plot device.)

Shiemi derails speculation further by organizing everyone into teams to put together this giant birthday/Christmas party.

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At the mall, the speculation about Shiemi’s potential upcoming demise continues.  Several alternatives to death are offered–many of them based on Japanese folktales–until pink-haired Shima says, “Look, maybe she just changed her mind.”

Which everyone finally accepts as a possibility.  However, both me and my friend who read this with me this morning, instantly thought: HE KNOWS SOMETHING.  Izumo thinks the same thing and confronts him.

Tell me, does this look like the face of a liar-liar-pants-on-fire?

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I think so, too.

We bounce around through the various “teams” doing their party prep, and then switch to Suguro (Bon) who is trying to sort through all the information that he and Light got about the secret clone project.  Randomly, Bon comes across a familiar name: Shiro.

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Yeah, Bon, you and me both… I had NO IDEA who this was at first….

I had no idea, even with a visual prompt, I still had nothing. THANK GODS for the wiki (and a friend who with a better memory for names who double checked) because even with the surname supplied, I still had no idea that Shiro Fujimoto was our heroes’ DAD (or adoptive dad.)

Though this suddenly makes sense as to why Satan was able to possess him on the Night of Blue Fire or whatever it’s called.

As if this wasn’t enough of a plot development, Bon notices that there’s a page missing from the list of clones.  In particular, subject 005 seems to have been struck/stolen from the record, leading Bon to believe “Subject 005” is likely the successful Satan clone.

My money is still on Shiemi, btw.

Waking Light up to tell him this news, we get a funny interaction where Bon is fed up with Light sleeping instead of investigating and Light tells him that be works best when he’s accessing his unconscious mind (aka sleeping.) Me, too, brother.  Me, too. Bon is irritated by this, but decides maybe now is the time to ask for permission to go to the party.  Light’s all, “Whateves, dude. You’ve never been required to follow my orders, anyhoo.” (Paraphrase.) Bon, being terminally serious, takes this as an okay. (ILU, Bon.)

Other ways in which Bon is me:

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I really think I might have to take all the volumes out of the library again and re-read.

After this we flash to boob-lady (Shura) who convinces younger-brother Yukio that he, too, should try to relax a little and hang out with kids his own age for a change. Yukio wonders why she’s not going and she drops the random bomb that she’s off looking for a life-partner. (?? Okay! That’s kind of his response, too.)

We then discover that Yukio is legit crappy at crafts, and always has been. When he tells a meant-to-be-heartwarming/self-depricating story about how Father Fujimoto used to indulge his and Rin’s inability to art, Bon pulls the OMG SAD I KNOW A SECRET face, but Yukio doesn’t press him overly much about it, and they go back to crafting their decorations.

The very last scene in the chapter is another flashback in which we find out that while Rin has been content not to know anything about their “true” parentage (or at least he was then), Yukio has always had (and continues to have) a burning desire to know.

Which given this final image:

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What is that? THE FLAMES OF HELL? The crumbled void of nonexistence???? The yawning maw of Hell Itself????!!!????

Whatever it is, it is NOT HAPPY FAMILIES!

If I need to say anything in conclusion of this chapter, it’s that I will forever adore Katou-sensei for her ability to continue serious, intense plot, while giving us these lovely, light, fun character moments.  Shopping trips are kind of like the ultimate in “curtain fic,” and yet, we’re treated both to some wonderful character development between Fox-Girl (Izumo) and pink-haired Shima, in which we see Izumo not exactly warm up to him, yet seriously discuss the ways in which she’s decided to deal with him as a potential double-agent (while also fan-girling over cute cakes!)  Similarly, we get goofy “I don’t art” from Yukio, which is just sweet and silly, yet which seamlessly leads into a major character/plot issue, which is: what is up with Satan? What exactly is this world? And what is Gehenna? (which are the literal questions that Bon asked Light, previously.)

Frankly, this is fairly brilliant stuff.

So, you know, I feel like I could almost let myself join this fandom.

I’m just… still so BURNED from Bleach, that I’m afraid…. Still. I may just have to risk it again.

Thoughts?

 

Ao no Exorcist 87 -“Embryo” – Kazue Katou

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This title page is pretty fascinating.  It’s obviously Shiemi (Plant Girl)… who otherwise has a seemingly minor roll in the current chapter.  God, I love Katou-sensei!

SPOILERS

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The chapter actually continues the conversation in the bath with Mephisto, Light, and Bon.   We find out that after the Blue Night, Lucifer took some of the research (the elixir, specifically) from the secret clone project and kept working on it.  Mephisto remarks tat he thinks it’s kind of amazing Lucifer managed to get the information all on his own and that he suspects a traitor.

Light has this to say…

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And does make a compelling case that it would make sense considering Mephisto used his time powers to keep a section of the secret project in existence in an alternate universe/timeline.  Mephisto is also very cagey (though vehemently denies knowing anything about) the existence of the missing Dr. Neuhaus.

Mephisto pressures Light to give up on that line of questioning. Light goes along with it, wanting to know who among the higher-ups knows about all this. We find out Angel is a survivor of the Blue Night, but remembers nothing.  The only Arc Knight involved was some guy with a monocle named Drac Dragulescu, who–if I’m supposed to remember anything about him, I don’t.  We find out he died under an alias, so maybe he’s a dead (pardon the pun) end.

When the bell rings at midnight, Mephisto says ‘times up’ and the boys are kicked out of the bath.

Light takes off and who do they run into but Angel, himself.  They have a humorous exchange in which Angel can’t believe that Light doesn’t stink for once and gives all the credit to his new apprentice, Bon. This scene is entirely played for laughs, but I was weirdly unsettled by it. I think it unnerved me because so far, everyone Light and Bon have met, completely ignore Bon, like he isn’t even there.

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Look at this. Dude even remember’s Bon’s name.

Creepy.

At the Paladin Headquarters Light goes to see Azazel, an entombed Grigori.  (Normally, I have all of this Biblical reference stuff, but I did not know that Grigori were a thing.  Here’s  what the Internet tells me about them: “The Grigori, (also known as The Watchers) The mysterious eighth order of angels, the gentle Grigori were created by God to be Earthly shepherds of the first humans.”)

Bon later calls Azazel one of the ba’al, but I assume he’s just using the Hebrew here, generally meaning ‘lord,’ and not Ba’al in specific.

There’s some discussion about where the ba’al reside. Apparently,  some live in Hell (aka Gehenna) but three “emperors” are here:

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Then we meet the watcher and get additional information that he’s a substitute nephillim (who takes on Azazel’s form in an emergency) because Azazel’s line died out.

Or…. did they?

Because when Light goes up to see what remains of Azazel (he refused a body and so returned to an elemental state,) Light calls Azazel “gramps”

Then we get a very dramatic scene of Shiemi (Plant Girl) waiting through the rain for dawn.

After that, we flash to Academy and everyone gathering at the steps talking about winter break. Seems everyone is skipping it to stay at school, Christmas is Rin and Yukio’s birthday and everyone shares theirs and discusses how they skipped it.  Shiemi rallies everyone to the idea of a joint birthday party… while dropping the bomb that she’s decided she isn’t going to be an exorcist after all.

Something is going on here and I’m deeply worried.  I think with the title and everything we learned here, Shiemi is going to be set up as one of the clones.  I do think she looks an awful lot like Lucifer (frankly, I think Angel does, too, but whatever.)  So…

I guess this is a wait and see game.

I continue to be impressed with Blue Exorcist.  How about you?  Thoughts?

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist #86

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The latest Ao no Exorcist #86 by Katou Kazue is out… kinda. I had to find a downloadable version because there’s something wonky with MangaPanda’s link. Mangastream doesn’t seem to have it yet, and my other usual places are also mysteriously corrupted.

Could it be…… SATAN??

SPOILERS

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Before I get too far into my review, I have to say that Blue Exorcist currently gets my vote for some of the very best in shounen manga being written.  I think I have a new-found girl-crush on Katou-sensei.

Big time.

So, okay, when last we left our intrepid heroes–in this case Bon and Lightning, they had just discovered the cloning facility that existed in the pocket alternate universe in the basement of the Holy Cross Academy. Not only that, but the clones were specifically ones of the eight demon kings.

As Light says:

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Yep, pretty damn evil.

Mephisto, having been spying on them this whole time, ‘natch, does one of his weird-a$$ spells that lands our boys, naked (because why not?) in the bath, back in our time and space. There was some other action with the containers exploding and Light doing one of his “and et cetera” spells, but, honestly, I don’t think much of what happened in that scene was terribly important–other than the general suspicion that some of these clones are people we KNOW, for certain Amamon.

Back in the bath, the boys are treated to a history lesson… which I f*cking loved.

In it, we learn that demons are kind of just a concept. But, as humans developed, their edges began to be noticed, and eventually they were able to become incarnate by possession.  There was a war in heaven (as it were) about whether or not humans were useful, Lucifer being in the “nope” camp, and Mephisto being “yep.”

Which… let me take a moment to lay down a little cautionary tale. I’m not sure we should believe Mephisto here, this is literally a COMPLETE REVERSAL of what Lucifer’s name means. Lucifer is often understood to be translated as “bringer of the dawn” or “light bearer” (or “morning star,” but that’s a whole other thing,) and there are plenty of apocryphal ideas out there in which Lucifer is a knowledge bringer, an illuminator–that it’s THAT kind of ‘light’ he bears.  Of course, in his guise as the snake in the garden of Eden, Lucifer is the one who gave us “the knowledge of good and evil.”

I think it’s also telling here, that sensei chose to draw this “knowledge” as a flame (could it look more like a falling angel, too? And who was the first of the fallen? “How you have fallen from heaven, oh, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” [Isaiah 14:12] ):

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Mephistopheles, meanwhile, is translated as “plasterer of LIES.”

Just sayin’

So… back to the story.

I guess the war gets kind of resolved, but a problem remains: demons burn through bodies like fire through paper.  The stronger you are, the faster you degenerate.  And, it’s horrible and painful and Lucifer is sick of it. He’s in so much pain that he thinks it’s a grand idea to just let go–become an idea again. Only problem is that expelling that much energy at once is an extinction-level event. For ALL of us.

The other demon kings are not so keen.

Mephisto, in particular, uses his forked, silver tongue to convince his brother that cloning is a better deal.  So, yeah, here’s the confirmation Light was looking for: all this “pretty damn evil” stuff was done under the aegis of Holy Cross Academy.

Then we lead up to my girl-crush moment….

We find out that Katou-sensei ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDS CLONING BETTER THAN MOST SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

I’m, OFFICIALLY, in love.

She points out through Mephisto’s narration that cloning doesn’t f*cking make perfect copies. Turns out, that’s not how it works. So all this effort into cloning isn’t enough. The bodies have to be enhanced and altered through horrific experiments.  Finally, a few start to take, specifically Amamon’s.  But, Lucifer is still a big problem.

One day… (and I bet you can guess just about how long ago)… the perfect vessel was born.

Unfortunately, another soul gets there first.

Mephisto describes it as the essence of Gehenna… which kids, you all understand, is the Jewish analog to Hell.  It’s Light who puts it together, I think, and realizes… could it be…. SATAN?

Yes.

Yes, it *is* Satan.  Satan stole Lucifer’s body-double.

And, thus, began the road that led to the Blue Night.

Bon has some kind of epiphany here at the end of the chapter that I have to admit I don’t quite understand. It may be that he’s finally realizing that the poor Okumura brothers have been given way too much credit for causing the massive clusterf*ck that is the Blue Night… or I missed something critical about their involvement that Bon pieced together but didn’t quite spell out for us.

If you think you have it figured out, please tell me.

My other moment of deep appreciation for Blue Exorcist actually falls to the translators. I don’t know if the scan I read came direct from Viz Media or if it was a fan scanlation, but whoever translated  the kanji for “half-breed” to “nephilim” is a f*cking genius and I love you and your apocryphal Biblical scholarship! I think, technically, the singular is ‘naphil’ but no one but me and three other people would ever recognize that, so good on YOU, translator-person, for realizing that 9 out of 10 people have likely heard the word ‘nephilim’ and know that it refers to the offspring of demons/fallen angels. (Elohim, one of the names of God in Hebrew, is actually plural. Think on that for two seconds.)

But, okay, enough of my Biblical geekery.

What’d you all think?

Ao no Exorcist 84 & 85

Sumimasen!  I have been completely absent from my job here at MangaKast. I blame the U.S. election and Kubo Tite’s crappy ending of Bleach.  Both knocked me back so hard, it’s taken me forever to recover (and I’m not completely there, but I’m slowly catching back up with my manga reading, at least.  My thoughts about SnK 88 in a bit.)

SPOILERS

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rin

Chapter 84 is called “Fundamentals,” and has probably one of the coolest–I’m not sure what to call it, exactly, puzzle-solving (?)–moments in Ao no Exorcist so far. Katou-sensei seems to be at the top of her game, lately, IMHO (although that might be only my impression because we’re going deeper on Suguro/Bon than we ever have before and he is one of my all-time favorite characters.)

In the way of Ao no Exorcist, the story meanders its way to the point.  We’d ended the previous chapter with a rather ominous image of Bon’s concerned face behind a crazed-looking Lightening:

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Just look at this for a couple of seconds. I absolutely love all the emotion and storytelling that happens in this one panel. You get that hint of demon-fire (is it??) in Lightening’s eyes, but he’s in shadow. The person actually in the spot-light is Bon, who looks… well, you could read his expression a couple of ways, but my first impression was: deeply dubious.  Like, Bon is thinking, “This guy… his methods… I’m really not f*cking sure about this guy.”

This chapter starts with Bon rushing back to join the pity party (for Rin’s attempted asking out of Plant Girl/Shiemi).  What I love about AoE, honestly, are these moments. I mean, the story is great, but we really get a wonderful sense of character in the kinds of interactions. Rin talked random character #2 into buying Bon’s favorite for him (which tells you a bunch of things about Rin–like, that he’s kind of weasel mooch, but YET thoughtful in terms of remembering people’s favorites.) Then there’s this fascinating back-and-forth about how Umiamon got introduced by the name Ambrosius, which seems to have rung a bell for Bon, but before he can talk about it, the Okimura brothers discuss the death of the monk they grew up with, and he clams up (because he was there and knows that it wasn’t just some random old-guy heart attack and feels guilty).  Then, he’s called away by Light again.

A quick Google search on the name Ambrosius doesn’t really provide much of interest, although apparently there are versions of King Arthur’s tale where Ambrosius is Merlin’s surname. But, it’s odd for Bon to suggest the name is German, when it’s clearly Greek.  So, I’ll be expecting a connection to some German demon at some point here.

Then we get a scene where Light confronts  Mephesto in the bath.  We see a LOT more of Mephesto than I ever wanted to (and we see that he’s… rotting (?)…which is fascinating), but the scene itself is cute. Mephesto either nicely leads Light to the answer or is genuinely surprised by how quickly Light figures out his obtuse clues (you really can NOT tell with Mephesto.)

Next is the cool hand in key thing, which I LOVED, followed by the world’s saddest funeral for Monk-guy (not well-loved, apparently. Like six people? SAD.) Yukio overhears talk about what happened to cause Monk-guy’s death and now knows that Bon knows sh*t he isn’t telling, so that should be interesting in upcoming chapters.

We get a mini-cliffhanger with Plant Girl/Shiemi where grandma is about to lay something at her feet–my guess is some origin story or other (possibly that she’s a demon clone, but we’ll get to that in a second.)

The final scene in the chapter is a confrontation between Bon and Light.  Light says some really weird sh*t, like kind of confesses that he’s a high-fuctioning sociopath? And that maybe people thought he was a demon as a child because he loves demons way more than people–but, oh, I mean, I’d do anything for the human race….

Oooo-KAY. Sure, Light. I believe you. You’re SUPER sincere.

But, like the manipulative player he is, Light pushes Bon’s loyalty buttons in all the right ways to make Bon agree to stick with him even though this is clearly a bad, bad idea.

The dun-dun-DAH moment is when they see Cousin It and It leads them to a mysterious figure in the doorway!

Cue: curtain fall!

When we raise the curtain again in Chapter 85, we discover that mysterious figure is none-other-than Dr. Igor Neuhaus (an actual German name). Dr. Neuhaus is all cagey, but points them in the direction of Section 13.  We find out, too, that we’re in an alternate time line, which, frankly, is super-cool.  The title of the chapter is “Heterophylly.” which the translators say (and Wikipedia confirms) is the phenomenon of different leaf-types on the same plant (a plant reference, which I think is going to circle back around.) But on the surface, it’s also a lovely real-life, scientific metaphor for the branching off of timelines.

Ah, sensei, as if I needed a reason to be MORE in love with you!

We get a creepy tour of the Cram School pre-Blue Night. They find the research records for the elixir, but also there’s a lot of evidence that points to human experimentation on… orphans… or maybe… clones.

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Mmm…. look like anyone we know???  Looks a bit like both Lucifer and… Shiemi?

We get a kind of half-confirmation at the end that maybe my Lucifer guess is right, because Light says, “Let me get this straight, basically before it was destroyed on the Blue Night, Asylum was a cover for a research facility called Section 13, where they conducted illegal human experimentation for the elixir and created mass-produced clones of the Demon Kings.”

I’m too afraid to search through the Wiki to uncover who else is a demon king (because there are spoilers) besides Lucifer, but I did, at least confirm that Lucifer is listed as a demon king.

My guess is that, in February (looks like there’s a month hiatus), we’re going to hear that Plant Girl/Shiemi is a demon-king clone.  I might be absolutely way off base about this, but if it happens, I want you to know I called it. It seems super-likely, what with the pictures and with the title of this chapter being related to plants.  But, I could be reading too deeply into something that isn’t there, since people also always talk about time as having “branches.”  And there is some connection between Time and Mephisto. Light brings it up in the bathtub scene (somehow light went from Death as Time’s servant to Mephisto. I feel like this Time connection is new, but AoE is actually DENSE and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed an earlier clue) and Dr. Neuhaus underscores the time/Mephisto connection when he mentions that Mephisto’s magic created this “garden.”

Who who knows?  But Katou-sensei has me wrapped around her little finger.  I might actually fight someone over the fact that I think, depending on how this lands, Ao no Exorcist might be the best written manga in current years.

Your thoughts?

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist #83

The newest chapter is out! Go get it: http://www.mangapanda.com/ao-no-exorcist/83.

SPOILERS

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This chapter begins exactly where the previous one left off: with the arrival of Amaimon. He struts up to Rin, shoving Shiemi (Plant Girl) aside.

We get a flashback from Shiemi’s p.o.v. that helps remind readers like me, who have forgotten who even Amaimon is and why he’s calling Shiemi his ‘bride’ (chapter 13).  He continues to act like he has control over her, but she’s having none of it.  In fact, her confrontation with him is the impetus for her to ‘come out,’ as it were.  She finally confesses that she’s determined to become an exorcist.

Amaimon continues to be a a$$hole-bully, by saying “Then Die” (which is sort of interesting since one assumes, wearing the school’s uniform would mean he’s also an exorcist-in-training?)  But, Shiemi’s heart-felt declaration of intent causes Rin to be able to shake himself from his rejection daze and stop Amaimon’s blow.

In typical bully fashion when his blows do no damage to Rin, he basically says, ‘well, I’d love to murder you now, but I promised my big brother I’d be a good student, so I guess it will have to wait.’

Then we have a lovely moment where the two would-be-paramours have a lovely exchange where Rin, the ever giving, decent one, shouts out to Shiemi, “Hey, we’re still friends, okay?” And Shiemi accepts with a blush and a “Yes, let’s do our best!”

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What I love about this scene is that Rin’s friends are still standing thereby him, ready to take him out for a cheering-up meal, and Shiemi gets to be her own woman, too.  This is the kind of romantic subplot in a shounen manga that I can really appreciate.

Just as everyone starts heading off to class, Suguro/Bon gets a text from his mentor, Light. The two of them have been doing some extra-curiculuar investigation into “The Blue Night”  They end up at the place that Rin and Yukio were raised, the Southern Cross Boy’s Monastery. When one of their targets, Mr. Misumi, doesn’t want to talk about why he transferred to the monastery things get ugly. Light tempts to torture a confession out of Mr. Misumi, until Bon interferes.  Light acts like Bon’s interference was all part of the plan, but the whole scene made me uneasy.

Apparently, however, it had a similar effect on Mr. Misumi who decides to confess.  He starts to tell our heroes something about how he’d been in something called “Section 13” which has Light looking freaked out… and then this happens:

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Death literally shows up. There’s an awesome image of Death (Kin of Time!) breaking a complex looking hour glass type thing that then causes Mr. Misumi to fall over dead on the spot.

Light notices something on Mr. Misumi’s neck that he calls, “A contract of Morinath.” Turns out Light has no clue about Section 13, but he figures this contract thing is a connection to an elixir for immortality and thus is a connection to the Illuminati.

Bon gives us this face:

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Crap. That puts me at odds with Pink-Haired Shima!

Also note the blue flame like flash in Light’s eye.

So…. things are getting complicated and divisive and I’m deeply worried about my precious cinnamon bun, Bon.  He’s clearly willing to stop anything that goes over his moral line, but I worry that he’s going to already be way too deep in by the time everything comes to whatever head it’s building to and he’s going to end up in a very bad place.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what Mephisto Pheles is thinking letting Amaimon out to cause trouble at the True Cross Academy.  But, I kind of literally trust none of the Satan spawn except for Rin and Yukio (and I worry about them, half the time too!)

Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist continues to impress me. Katō-sensei may be one of my favorite mangaka, currently.  I thought she deftly handled the interpersonal stuff, and is masterfully keeping me in suspense/on the edge about the storyline/plot.  Also, some of her art is downright creepy.  The image of Death breaking the hourglass with their scythe is the stuff of nightmares–and very… mystical.  I love when you get a sense that there are even some things that are freaky to practiced exorcists like Light.

Anyway, I’m still deeply hooked.

Your thoughts?