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(Rin: Not only do we got an anime that’s kicking butt, but now our manga is crushing it in Japan!)
Last Thursday while I was browsing around Kinokuniya Bookstore, I managed to see the latest Japanese volume of Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist (Ao No Exorcist), Volume 7, on the manga shelves. I did notice that there were more copies than usual. Later that day, I found out that Volume 7 had a print run of a million copies. Now this is pretty interesting because I’m trying to figure out what makes the series EXTREMELY popular right now in Japan. Even Japanese bookstore staff have recommended the title to consumers. Someone on the Anime News Network forums made an interesting comment: "One Piece is to Shonen Jump as Blue Exorcist is to JUMP Square". Is it really safe to make that comparison?
The funny thing is that the series hasn’t been out for a long period of time. It’s currently at 28 chapters, which is about 2 years worth of material. This rise is somewhat similar to the rise of Hajime Isayama’s Shingeki no Kyojin (published in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine). The main difference is that Blue Exorcist is published in a mainstream manga magazine under the JUMP label.
Before I began following Blue Exorcist, when I think of JUMP Square, I think of Claymore, D. Gray-man, Shin Prince of Tennis, & To-Love-Ru Darkness. When I read the first volume of Blue Exorcist, I immediately thought, "Why does it feel like I’m reading D. Gray-man?" I’m sorry to fans of both, but that’s how I felt. Both stories involved demons, feature a protagonist who has some demonic power, & also take place in a exorcist organization setting. However, I did notice that Blue Exorcist is a lot more lighthearted and relatable to teen readers & young adults because the exorcist organization in this series is more like a school.
(I can imagine the HUGE amount of RinxYukio fanfiction/fanart out there in the vast landscape of the Internet.)
As much we can credit the popularity of the anime for a heavy interest in the original source material, I think it might come down to the presence of the two main characters in the series: Rin Okumura & Yukio Okumura. Both are good-looking and appeal to many fans. A friend of mine even told me that the fujoshi in Japan really love Ao no Exorcist. When I first saw Yukio on the cover of Volume 2, I immediately thought, "Wow, he looks sooooo cool! I can definitely cosplay this with no wig!"
The “twin brothers in the same school” dynamic intrigues me. You have one brother who’s calm, smart, & talented (Yukio) and you have the other who is the opposite but seems to get more attention (Rin). I think many of us have been through sibling comparisons & rivalries. In essence, siblings interacting with each other can be quite a hectic, yet educational experience for those involved.
Kato has stated that Blue Exorcist was inspired by a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. For those familiar with the Brothers Grimm stories, they are often popular fairy tales for children with heavy mature themes. One German scholar has described them as tales of the struggle to be human.
I spoke to Alex Hoffman on Twitter about the appeal of Blue Exorcist. This is what he thought about the mass appeal of the series right now:
If you think about it, everything seems balanced in Blue Exorcist. There’s something for everyone in the series. Sure, it may feel like a typical shonen manga. However, the pacing is good. Nothing really drags on for too long. The characters are all well-done (Regarding the characters, I’m especially interested in Mephisto Pheles & where his allegiances really lie). Most importantly: the story is about a child of Satan wanting to take out his father, the big baddie, himself. That’s a pretty unique concept for a shonen manga if you ask me. Kato has managed to incorporate the theme of exorcism (which can get VERY frightening) and made it fun to read about for a young audience.
So, does JUMP Square have a legitimate flagship title in Blue Exorcist? With D.Gray-man (arguably the most popular JUMP Square title before Blue Exorcist) going in a darker & more serious direction, Blue Exorcist looks to capture even more fans of all ages with its fun blend of action, comedy, & drama. It’s also an interesting look at what happens when a class of students who all have unique personalities interact in an educational environment. Doesn’t that sound just like school in real life?
(The main cast of Blue Exorcist.)
If Blue Exorcist is going to be the “One Piece” of JUMP Square, having a huge print run is a good start. The series just needs to be even more aggressively marketed in Japan & slowly take over all aspects of real life. Who knows? There might be a day when Shiemi Moriyama garden vegetable dishes are made & served to the public.
Until then, let the blade of Kurikara continue to shine bright & set hearts ablaze in blue!
Want to jump aboard Blue Exorcist? You can watch the anime at Crunchyroll. The English-translated manga is available courtesy of VIZ Media. If you want to be up-to-date with the Japanese volumes, you can buy them at Shueisha’s website here.