With the announcement that a recently created, yet growing popular manga series Fullmetal Alchemist was going to get an anime adaptation, fans were thrilled and others wanted to see what people were so thrilled about. When it first started out, people loved it and proclaimed it to be the next big thing to come out of Japan even when the warning sings were dangerously clear: there just wasn’t enough chapters from the manga to animate, and thus the creators opted for an anime-original ending. Fans were disappointed, no doubt and casual viewers were left scratching their heads as to what had happened to such a strong series.
Replace “Fullmetal Alchemist” with “Ao no Exorcist”, and that pretty much sums up AoEx’s back story. In the case of FMA, they decided early on to change vital details from the manga or completely rewrite them all-together (Instead of Father, we got Dante.). But for AoEx, the staff decided to animate the manga chapters that they could and mold those episodes into a way to create an entirely new ending, the anime-original ending. For FMA, that strategy largely worked well: Even though we’ve recently gotten the manga-faithful Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, there are a vocal few that proclaim the more loosely based story over the faithful one. The FMA (2003) staff managed to create a riveting story from the minds of not Hiromu Arakawa but the staff at BONES.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for AoEx. What we got here is a solid beginning filled with build-up, character development and a small but noticeable threat of a looming danger ahead, a really weak middle half that didn’t know what to do with itself and took Yukio’s angst-ing to an extreme and a reallycheesy ending. The first 11 or so episodes (actually, minus 11 – that episode was the worst, heck even the second half was better!) were very good, above-average for a shounen series. But soon we crossed the halfway mark, and things begin to fall apart.
To make it brief, it just wasn’t very good. It started off above-average for a shounen series, but ended as a typical and very forgettable series that had potential that was just squandered. Disappointing considering the staff behind the series: Creator of Darker than Black – Okamura Tensai as Director, Sawano Hiroyuki composing the music and A-1 Pictures, and i can only count two real flops from them (I haven’t watched either, but Togainu no Chi and Persona Trinity Soul were heavily panned across the board.)
Animation – 8/10: Very above-average for a shounen series, but started to falter noticeably in the second half of the series.
Story – 7/10: Solid at first, but because the creators ran out of manga material, they resorted to an anime-original ending. Needless to say, that didn’t really work well. Some plot points were just..out there (Rin and Yukio’s mom loves Satan, Satan wants to make her dream come true – Damn Satan, you’re a nice guy! Oh wait..)
Characters – 6/10: Cliches are everywhere! Rin is the hotblooded kid with a big sword fighting for his friends against the forces of evil (see..ah hell too many examples!). But it’s Yukio that really disappointed me: Even though the anime hinted that he has a really bad inferiority complex, they milked it so badly that i was wondering if i was watching the real Yukio or some over-dramatic shell of his past self?
Music – 7/10: It’s alright and it works the dramatic battle angle very well. Not one of Sawano Hiroyuki’s strongest works.
Enjoyment – 7/10: Despite its shortcomings, i enjoyed Ao no Exorcist. I liked Rin’s character even if it’s been used so many times. I liked the series when it was just..relaxed and focused at the True Cross Academy. Before the whole sch-peal about facing off against Satan, it really worked well as a slice-of-life series. Obviously that didn’t turn out to be the case.