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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Manga Review: Blue Exorcist GN 11

Blue Exorcist volume 11
Author: Kazue Kato
Viz Media/SJ Advanced
210 pages
Rin and his friends continue to investigate the Seven School Mysteries. Yukio watches as the Exwires take on the Academy’s ghosts, troubled by lingering doubts about his own feelings. Rin seems to be learning to control his power more, but is tapping his inner demonic fire going to be his salvation or his doom?
In this volume of Blue Exorcist, it's all school all the time, whether it's solving the Seven Mysteries of the academy or participating in the academy festival, a fine staple of school-based manga now rearing its head in this supernatural shonen title. It's also very Yukio-centric, as the more studious and serious Okamura brother becomes concerned about his own possible demonic tendencies. It's a book with a good mix of action and character-based moments and rather hard to put down.

There are a number of subplots running through Blue Exorcist's eleventh volume but it never becomes ridiculous. The main star is Yukio, who saw something disturbing with his battle against Todo, who had defected and woken the Impure King. Yukio is now fighting with the possibility that the flame that runs through Rin also runs through him, and it scares him. Whether or not it will change his relationship with Rin remains to be seen.
It has always been a point of contention within Blue Exorcist fandom about the fact that Rin and Yukio, twin brothers from the same mother, might both hold the demonic blue flame of the Devil. And now the manga is finally confronting that idea head on, scaring poor Yukio in the process.
Kazue Kato has been doing a damn good job portraying Yukio's downward slide as he worries and becomes anxious that he's turning into Rin, and in the process lose control of himself. As much as I adore Yukio as a character, I think it's time for him to fully face his own blood lineage and maybe in the process understand his beloved brother a little better.
I know some may chafe at the fact that Blue Exorcist has detoured from the main story of the Illuminati, and would think that the Gehenna Gate and the Impure Princess' revival is a bit more pressing than solving the school's seven mysteries. But I liked the bit of breather we're getting after the big battle with the Impure King. It's been good to focus more on specific characters, especially characters like Konekomaru and Izumo who suddenly get to shine in the spotlight.
The school festival at the end was a nice touch and a good reminder that our fearless shonen heroes are still students, doing average student things that don't involve exorcising evil spirits. And it invokes a common theme that runs through this book: realizing people's abilities and using them fully, whether it's Rin's terrific cooking or Konekomaru's battle tactics or Shiemi's green thumb and perseverance.

But the tail end of this volume, as well as the various scenes involving the Vatican and Shura, hint that dark events are just around the corner. I think I've read this book's cliffhanger ending five times already, anxious to gleam some clues about what lies ahead. Danger is hiding in the walls of Cross Academy, but will Rin be able to confront it when his own brother is dealing with problems of his own?