There’s something fundamentally appealing about stories about siblings – particularly brothers and specifically twins. Socially, twins are still seen as something worth remark. Scientifically, the study of twins might even help science identify where genetics influences human development and growth and where it doesn’t. But mythologically, brothers have long held a strong and undeniable fascination. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, Castor and Pollux, Famamir and Boromir, Thor and Loki, Dean and Sam, Dante and Virgil. Brothers are either at odds on an epic scale, for all eternity, or they’re standing back to back when the rest of the world is going to hell, often literally.
Rin and Yukio Okumura, the main characters of the series Blue Exorcist, are no exception to this idea buried deep in our collective psyches about brothers and twins. Rin is the problem student, while Yukio is the talented one. Rin rebels while Yukio does things by the book. Rin feels too much, Yukio represses. Orphans raised by the kind Father Fujimoto in a world where the clergy are a very real, heavily armed line of defence against the powers of darkness, they are fairly normal kids with normal problems until the night where a demon – the demon, actually; head honcho down below i.e. Satan – attempts to rise up and reclaim what’s his – and that’s Rin. This monstrous event awakens Rin’s latent powers and his intention to basically kick his father’s ass at some point, and he ends up being fast tracked to exorcist school just for his, and everyone else’s, own good.
Blue Exorcist the Movie is set an indeterminate time after Rin has been attending school and has had, through events not touched upon in the movie, been forced to ‘come out’ to his friends in regards to his demon heritage. That’s not really important, however, and neither is the plot, in so much as the film contains all the required elements of any series-based movie – obviously better budgets for animation and an arguably throw-away premise that doesn’t interfere with or rely on the series narrative but allows the studio to feature all of the things that make the series so highly watchable.
And it is watchable. Blue Exorcist perhaps has nothing on something like One Piece or Naruto in terms of success, but there’s something extremely engaging about it – the context that it’s set in perhaps, with demons and exorcists locked in a war without end, or the dense, intricate architecture of the city where Rin and his fellow students learn their trade. It’s fantastical, but the more human elements keep it grounded. It’s light-hearted for the most part, so when it gets heavy, the emotional qualities tend to hit a little harder. The characters are all very likeable, and the clichés are inoffensive.
As a feature film, with its single-use antagonist and its simple moral lesson, Blue Exorcist doesn’t break any new ground. Perhaps the fact that the still-running manga has obviously not reached any significant conclusion about Rin’s parentage or whether Rin and Yukio will stand together against the enemy of God in the end or against each other forced the studio to produce a story that avoided making anything of that central familial relationship. The angst could have been epic, but the impact that might have had on series’ future may not have been worth the effort.
Is an 88 minute feature that might as well have been a double-episode television special worth the effort though? Maybe not, but for the already established fans, it is a lot of fun. For the new fans, well, it’s also great introduction to everything that’s great about the series – fantastic action, and an interesting and detailed world with an intriguing mythology and engaging characters. Considering the fact that in the end that’s all we really want from our tales – escapist pleasure for the duration of the story – Blue Exorcist the Movie certainly hasn’t failed, even if it doesn’t live up to the hype of the twin.