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?

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Blue Exorcist / Ao no Exorcist #82

Blue Exorcist is out!  Blue Exorcist is out!  Go go it, it’s SUPER ADORABLE. http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist/82

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SPOILERS

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I’m going to just say it now.  Kazue Katō is currently the only reason not to despise Weekly Shounen Jump, since her manga, Ao no Exorcist is published in JUMP+. She is also currently one of my all time favorite mangaka, hands down.

Look, boys, chapter 82 is how you do this whole ‘shipping’ thing with a light hand.

You guys KNOW how angry I get when people spray ‘no homo’ on a thing.  This was so not that, even though we see Rin and Shiemi (plant girl) awkwardly ask each other out.

So, why am I not mad?  I literally think it’s the awkwardness and real-life-moment-ness of this whole chapter that saves it from feeling like an author’s attempt to shout: OKAY SO I GAVE YOU SICKOS THAT BATH SCENE WITH THE BROTHERS AT THE INN BUT OMG THESE CHARACTERS ARE STRAIGHT–SUPER, SUPER-DUPER STRAIGHT-SO STAY AWAY! HANDS OFF!

I mean, look at this:

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This is so… adorable. I loved how the girls are listening in from around the corner and are like ‘crap, now we’re stuck in the bathroom!’ and ‘when did this even happen?’ (Chapter 73, I believe.)  I also love that, this whole ten chapters, Rin’s love confession has been hanging there, mostly forgotten by the readers, only to resurface like this, very naturally and very… high school.

This whole chapter is charmingly reminiscent of being a teenager.  I love, LOVED that Izumo (fox girl) instantly invites herself over for a sleepover so she can get the scoop AND, more importantly, bring over a stack of shoujo manga so that Shiemi can “learn about love.”

Can I just say? This is almost literally how I was taught about love.  When I asked my mother for romance advice, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Read some romance novels.”

So, maybe this seems ridiculous, but people do think this way!  (And, you know, I turned out a lesbian, so…)

But, the scene, while cute, also does a lot of plot work.  We are reminded that Shiemi’s grandmother doesn’t want her to be an exorcist because it’s dangerous–and we get moment after moment that re-illustrates how lonely and sheltered Shiemi was before going to the True Cross Order.  Then, we get this funky dream sequence, where we first see Shiemi coming up out of the ground, like, maybe, her origins aren’t entirely human, but, instead very Elemental:

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Of course, this is also a lovely sexual metaphor… his TAIL is even visible….

And, then… this whole thing makes Sheimi realize something important about herself.  Even though she desperately wants to catch up, to be like everyone else, she’s not ready for romance. She’s not ready to date.

Then we get this amazing/awkward moment… the anti-shoujo un-confession:

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(The boys watching from the steps made me super-happy, too. I also really loved that as this whole embarrassment is going down gray-haired Miwa’s like, “dang, better make the dinner reservation now–dude is gonna need cheering up.” They’re like so, so gay, while being  the best wingmen, ever!)

The chapter ends on a dramatic (and theme appropriate!) cliffhanger– with the return of this guy (who I had to look up) who says that Shiemi is his BRIDE:

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In case, like me, you’ve forgotten, this guy is Amaimon, a demon king, known as the King of the Earth. I think that last bit is significant and I bet that we’re going to learn in the next up-coming chapters that Sheimi is … well, not as human as she’s seemed so far.  She really spent a lot of time in this chapter trying to be a “proper human,” and between that and the dream, I feel like we’re being set up quite nicely for a big reveal about her nature.

All I can say?

I’m all in. Ao no Exorcist pretty much has all of what remains of my shattered, shounen heart.