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Like any of 18-year-old girl, I'm a fan of a lot of things. Football and k-pop are the most severe. But above all, there's nothing I cherish more than my life, my family and my friends :)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thoughts About Pairings in Ao no Exorcist

I know that shounen manga doesn't focus on romance story, but I can't help it because I'm a girl and I've read a lot of shoujo mangas. Lol.. Just like any other shounen mangas, Ao no Exorcist has a lot of characters, especially the cram school staff and students: Yukio, Shiemi, Bon, Izumo, Renzou, Konekomaru, Shura and so on. Of course there will be a lot of pairings too, but I will only talk about pairings which interest me the most.

1. RinxShiemi
They would make a cute couple in traditional sense. It's obvious that every panel which has Rin and Shiemi together is bound to be extremely cute. Just look at the stuttering, the blushing and the awed look on their faces! They shared a lot of cute moments, but my favorites are when they were at the amusement park (chapter 9) ...
..at the school festival (chapter 47) ...
I would also blush if Rin looked at me smiling like that.
..and in the building ruins, when Rin finally confessed to Shiemi (chapter 73).
I was cheering for Rin while reading this scene, "Go tell her, Rin!"
The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people (including me, at first) find that the romance plot has been overused. The male lead wants to go out with the cutest girl in the story who was oblivious to his love at first, but eventually she will realize his feeling for her, and it turns out that she actually loves him too, and the ship will sail smoothly.

But, let's not forget everything Rin has done for Shiemi. It was Rin who talked some sense into Shiemi when she was desperate to protect her grandma's garden. It was Rin who confronted Shiemi when she was being used by Izumo. It was Rin who chased after Amaimon when Shiemi got kidnapped. Rin has saved Shiemi many times.
Shiemi has saved Rin too. Shiemi made Rin believe in himself again when Rin had breakdown in the Impure King arc. And from this moment on, Shiemi firmly established herself as Rin's best friend no matter what happened between them. It was really heartwarming, because I really hate it when she was avoiding Rin after she found out that he's the son of Satan.

Rin was able to recall the faith that Shiemi has in him during the final battle, which gave him the strength to control his flame in order not to burn anything except the Impure King.
In the end, it's always a good choice to ship RinxShiemi, because this pairing has the most ship tease moments and has high chance to become official couple.

2. BonxIzumo
I was sold after reading their conversation in chapter 70.
Izumo is basically saying, "Just drop your tough facade, dammit. I know you're hurting."
Not only did Izumo give Bon comforting words, Bon also acknowledged that Izumo has become a better person.
For me, this scene is a dead giveaway that Izumo and Bon have great understanding of each other. Izumo noticed what's been troubling Bon, but how? Izumo wasn't there when Bon was staring at the certification exam form. Bon hid the form away when Izumo showed up. The answer is because she simply could relate to him. She knows how does it feel to have someone whom you protect with all your life to be doing good without you. Bon's feeling concerning Shima, his father and the Myoda followers is in parallel with Izumo's feeling concerning Tsukumo. Speaking of which, Bon is the only person (aside from Shiemi and Takara), who knows that Tsukumo is safe all along. And boy, did he look sad after overhearing Izumo's breakdown from behind her hospital room's door.
In short, despite their rough start, Bon and Izumo have developed some kind of connection because of what happened recently. And they would make an interesting couple with constant bickering like an old married couple, just like when they were at the beach (chapter 35) ...
I lol'd when Izumo called Bon a gorilla.
..on the train to Kyoto (chapter 17) ...
..and at Bon's family inn (chapter 18).
I've mentioned RinxShiemi as cute couple in traditional sense, because they're cute when they're talking affectionately toward each other. BonxIzumo is also cute, but not in traditional sense, because they're cute when they're fighting. And you can bet they're not one to openly show their affection. They're like the subtle type, compared to Rin and Shiemi's open book. They would make a great beta couple, to Rin and Shiemi's alpha couple.

Seriously, Bon can be too stubborn sometimes, therefore he needs a blunt and straightforward girl like Izumo to tell him what's what. And Izumo can be too prideful to ask for help, therefore she needs, well, an "approaching and confronting" kind of guy like Bon. However, this pairing is kinda new, so we'll have to wait for more developments, and it's my personal hope that the mangaka goes somewhere with them.

3. RinxIzumo
Whoa.. I'm not suggesting a ShiemixRinxIzumo love triangle here. I'm pretty sure that Rin and Izumo aren't going to be more than friends, but their interactions are just too cute to ignore the possibility of deeper feelings developing between them (although, it would be one sided on Izumo's part).

While Rin is being his usual nice guy self, Izumo on the other hand often acts different from her usual self around Rin. It all started back in chapter 5, when Rin and Shiemi saved Izumo and Paku from a ghoul demon's attack. It was the first time Izumo showed her vulnerable side, and it was Rin who got to see her like that.
One cute moment led to another cute moment.
After that, this pairing was out of focus to the point that it was understandable if the readers forget about them, until the train trip to Kyoto in chapter 17. Izumo was the only one who didn't treat Rin like some kind of monster after they all found out that he's the son of Satan. Gotta love her bluntness when she called everyone out for giving Rin the cold shoulder.
Ever since this chapter was out, RinxIzumo shippers were coming to Ao no Exorcist forums in full force and battling the RinxShiemi shippers. Ah, those days were fun. I happened to be the minority who genuinely enjoy both pairings.

However, all the scenes mentioned above happened in the manga's early chapters. The question is, does Izumo still act tsun tsun then dere dere toward Rin even in recent chapters? Yes, she does. It was shown in chapter 47 when she went to help Rin at the rice ball shop, despite refusing to go initially.
The magic words: "It's not just anybody!"
Furthemore, there's the whole rescue romance in the Illuminati arc. What I like the most isn't the rescue scene itself, it's the build up to the rescue scene, which shows Rin and Izumo's parallel struggle to overcome their own problems. Rin couldn't bring himself to fight a friend turned enemy and kill innocent humans who had become zombies, while at the same time, Izumo loves her friends but couldn't admit it to herself due to being betrayed so many times in the past. Izumo finally admitted to herself that she loves her friends. She cried for help. Rin heard her and came to her rescue, but at the same time, it was Izumo who snapped Rin out of his dilemma with her cry for help. They became the solution to each other's problem.

Rin is so cool here and Izumo looks cute with cat's fox's ears.
In my opinion, the reason many people ship RinxIzumo, despite being aware that RinxShiemi would more likely be the endgame, is because they like Izumo better than Shiemi as a character. Furthermore, Izumo has a very tragic past which Shiemi lacks and is clearly an underdog (in competing for Rin's affection) which people love to cheer on. Personally, I am fine with whichever pairing the mangaka would decide. No need to argue which pairing is better. Each pairing has its own sparks. After all, the romance in shounen shouldn't be too complicated.

That's all my thoughts about the three pairings which interest me the most. I would like to share my thoughts about the other pairings, like YukioxShiemi, RenzouxIzumo, YukioxShura, and even MephistoxShura, but I don't have time for that now. Maybe next time.

Thanks for reading my post until the end. Sorry if I sounded like I'm criticizing the characters at some point, but I really like this manga and all its characters. Once again, thanks for reading :).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ao no Exorcist, AKA My Favorite Shounen Manga

Up until three days ago, I didn't have favorite shounen manga. Now I have: Ao no Exorcist (Blue Exorcist) by Kazue Katou.
The cover of the first tankoubon of Ao no Exorcist.
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Blue_Exorcist_chapters)
I decided to Google "Ao no Exorcist read manga free" exactly three days ago. There's a funny story to how I stumbled upon this manga. No one recommended this manga to me nor did I read any review/summary about this manga before I decided to give it a try. And I'm not a manga junkie either. The last time I read manga was, I dunno, half a year ago maybe.
Fan art of dark Jack Frost

So, how did I know this manga? The answer is through a fan art of Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians (pictured on the right). Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, a fan art of a children movie character introduced me to my soon-to-be #1 favorite shounen manga. 

One of the comments said that dark Jack Frost looks like Rin Okumura. At that time I was like, "Okay, I'm just gonna do a quick image search for 'Rin Okumura' to see him myself." And that's how I fell for Rin Okumura without even reading the manga. He's just too attractive. Then I started to read Ao no Exorcist. And I was instantly HOOKED.

I love this manga mainly because of the story, the characters and the art work. 

First, let me start with the art work. The first thing I do to decide whether I want to read a manga or not is by examining the art work. The broad and thick strokes in Ao no Exorcist is typical shounen, but the character designs are pretty cool. I've never had troubles distinguishing the characters because of the details like Rin's fanged teeth and pointy ears, Yukio and Konekomaru's glasses, Izumo's eyebrows, Shiemi's hair clip, Bon's punk hair, Renzou's tareme eyes, their choice of weapons (katana, handgun, Buddhist staff, bazooka) and so on.
I love the cool character design. From left: Renzou, Izumo, Yukio, Shiemi, Rin, Konekomaru and Ryuuji.
Source: (http://www.mangareader.net/ao-no-exorcist)
Based on how the characters are drawn, they fell more in the cute category than the realistic category, but it's not too cute like in Shoujo manga. I'm thankful that none of it had ridiculous body proportion or exaggerated features. The emotions on the characters' faces are drawn very well.
The characters' emotions in Ao no Exorcist are well-drawn.
Source: (http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
The action sequnces have some cool poses. I'm also impressed by the how detailed Katou draws True Cross Campus Town, Kyoto City, Inari City, inside of Vatican office the Impure King's castle (or whatever it is) and even some random forest. In short, the art work is great.
Some visually stunning landscape drawings in Ao no Exorcist.
Source: (http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
But no matter how great the art work, a manga is rated, first and foremost, from its story. And boy.. what a story Ao no Exorcist tells. It tells a story of a boy named Rin Okumura, who is your normal teenage boy with aggressive impulses, until he was attacked by a demon in human form, making him snapped and emitted blue flame all over his body.

Rin's first discovery of his demonic power.
(Source: http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
So, what's the big deal about a boy finding out that he had special ability? You see, this discovery is about to change his life forever, in the most heart breaking way.

Rin has an adoptive father, a priest and exorcist named Shiro Fujimoto. At first, Shiro seems like a normal father, with him showing tough father's love to Rin; scolding him if Rin was being childish and genuinely supporting him to be a better man. But in the last third of the first chapter, Shiro's love for Rin was taken to a whole new level when the big bad Satan (king of all demons and Rin's true father) possessed his body in order to take Rin to hell. Rin helplessly watched Shiro's body falling apart piece by piece because the body couldn't contain Satan's power. 
Satan is possessing Shiro Fujimoto and destroying his body from the inside.
Source: (http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
However, Shiro managed to hold Satan in his body for a moment and stabbed himself in the heart, not letting Satan take his son.
Shiro Fujimoto's heroic sacrifice.
Source: (http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
And when Rin decided to draw the demon sword kirikura (to save himself from being sucked into the gate of hell), his demonic power was fully unleashed. Rin was aware that doing so would make him a half-demon permanently and cause him to never return to being normal human. In the end, Shiro was dead and Rin was left crying on his knee.
Rin is broken by Shiro Fujimoto's death.
(Source: http://mangafox.me/manga/ao_no_exorcist/)
How's that not heart breaking?! And it's only the first chapter! That's how you do an opening for a shounen manga!

From this point onwards, the story tells about how Rin is trying to become an exorcist, just like Shiro. Together with his twin brother Yukio, Rin entered True Cross Academy, and there, he met many friends with the same ambition: to become an exorcist. Dangerous missions were given to Rin and friends, even more dangerous with Rin's status as Satan's son. Make sure to read my other post about why I love the characters in Ao no Exorcist.