Series Review – Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga

Series Review – Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I suppose I should address the elephant in the room here.  I apologize for my absence and the lack of reviews.  It’s been about 4 months since my last review.  Admittedly, I ended up being a little burnt out from maintaining a mostly weekly review schedule.  On top of this, my Youtube channel has been fighting the good copyright fight with regards to my video versions of these reviews.  Fighting the Youtube copyright system made me really not want to do reviews anymore, but I’m back and I hope to publish at least two reviews a month.  We will see if I stick to a nice schedule, but I will release reviews as I see fit.  I’ve been watching a ton of anime that I have a lot to say about.  It should hopefully be easier because I am pretty much done with making video reviews and will solely be focusing on this as a blog.  With that said, let’s get to the review.

Six years ago, the first season of Blue Exorcist managed to impress the anime community.  Despite the great premise, this first season deviated from the source material and presented an anime-original ending which was met with criticism.  It took forever, but Blue Exorcist finally received a second season that flat-out ignored the anime-only events and this resulted in a perfect story arc.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story and Characters

The second season opens up immediately after the events of the Forest Training Arc and does away with the events that characterized the latter half of the first season.  Rin’s status as the son of Satan is finally exposed to his classmates and he immediately suffers the fallout of this revelation.  However, the exorcists-in-training are quickly assigned to a mission regarding a conspiracy that seeks to revive the Impure King, a high-level demon that devastated Japan hundreds of years ago.  The audience is also introduced to Ryuji’s family, who are part of a religious sect that seeks to prevent the resurrection of the Impure King.  That is the basic plot premise of this 13 episode season.

I would characterize the Kyoto arc as the first major arc in Blue Exorcist.  Before this, most of the story was largely delegated to standalone episodes, but the Kyoto arc marks a turning point in the series.  The story largely focuses on two characters: Rin and Ryuji.  The focus on these characters makes for a compelling plot.  Both of these characters are facing their biggest hurdles to date.  Rin loses his friends and his never ending optimism as a result of the Order learning of his parentage. Similarly, Ryuji must also address his issues regarding his perception of his father.  At its base level, the Kyoto arc provides an excellent character study of these two characters which makes the escalation of events much more interesting.

The Kyoto Arc also marks the introduction of antagonists other than Satan.  This results in a significant amount of world-building that really adds to the character of the series.  This season provides a bevy of information regarding Exorcist abilities, demons and even backstories on a few of the side characters.  From start to finish, this arc enthralls the viewer.  My only complaint is that there wasn’t more to watch.

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Animation and Sound Design

Blue Exorcist once again showcases its animation pedigree and even improves on the animation of the first season.  The characters maintain their amazing level of expressiveness which is significant given the more serious nature of the arc compared to the episodic nature of the first season.  However, the animation shines in the action scenes.  There are some impressive action sequences located in the latter half of the season.  I also believe that this is one of the best examples of an anime that animates fire extremely well.  Fire is present in a large amount of the action scenes to the point where I was impressed anytime Rin used his blue flames.

Once again, the sound design has no flaws.  The voice acting remains impeccable.  The actors for Rin and Ryuji capture the new-found dramatic cadence with such perfection that it really adds on to the quality of the story of this season.  In what is a Blue Exorcist tradition by this point, the opening remains one of the finest that can be offered by anime.  Hiroyuki Sawano returns and creates a dramatic and action-packed score.  There is one scene toward the end of the series that uses music to such perfection that I had chills the first time I watched the scene.  Overall, the animation and sound design are nothing short of perfect.

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Final Verdict

Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga is a fine example of a shonen anime.  The Kyoto arc presents an arc filled with drama and excellent character growth, while also expanding upon the world.  The animation and sound design maintains the excellent quality of the series.  I give Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  It really is one of the best offerings of the year.  I’ll be back next week with another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

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Series Review – Blue Exorcist: Season 1

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I’m writing this review in order to properly cover the second season.  Surprisingly, the series I am reviewing today managed to receive a second season just this year, which is about six or so years after the first season ended.  Blue Exorcist is one of the best Shonen series around and the first season set a high standard for future Shonen adaptations.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

Blue Exorcist features the main character, Rin Okumura, being introduced into the world that is filled with supernatural beings.  Raised by a priest, Rin lives a normal life with his twin brother Yukio.  One day, supernatural beings attack his home and Rin learns that his father is actually a member of an organization known as the Exorcists.  He also learns that Rin and Yukio are the sons of Satan.  Rin’s father is killed and Rin awakens his demon power by drawing the demon-slaying sword Kurikara.  After this event, Rin joins the True Cross Academy in order to train as an Exorcist.  Much to his surprise, Rin finds that Yukio is already a veteran exorcist and ends up becoming one of his teachers.

After this initial setup, the series turns largely episodic.  There is an overall plot regarding a demon war, but the series places a focus on small mission conducted by Rin and his classmates.  For the most part, this is really entertaining.  The cast of characters is interesting and actually manage to develop somewhat during the run of this series.  In particular, Rin and Yukio are the most interesting characters.  Rin’s never ending optimism and motivation to be as great an Exorcist as his father, makes his character endearing.  In contrast, Yukio is the more level-headed brother, but possesses a layer of darkness that is not present in Rin.  These two characters are the driving force of the show and make the overall run of episodes interesting.  However, this first season is mostly an introduction to the world of Blue Exorcist and this means that the story doesn’t really have any stakes until the last few episodes, which poses a problem because of the anime-only ending.

Around the middle of the season, the anime begins to deviate from the manga.  This deviation is very apparent because the story quality does dip immensely.  It is still entertaining, but it definitely drags down the show’s overall quality to the point where the second season just ignores the anime-original plot and begins right after the middle of the first season.  This is a move I will talk about more in length when I review the second season.  The manga source material is so much better that I would actually recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then just moving on to the second season.  Again, the premise and cast creates a wonderfully entertaining story, but the anime-only ending of the first season diminishes the effect immensely.

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Animation and Sound

The presentation for Blue Exorcist is absolutely top notch.  Typically, Shonen shows have a diminished quality due to the large requirement of episodes asked of the studio.  Here, there is no such problem.  Despite having over twenty episodes, the animation quality maintains a good and consistent quality.  The characters possess interesting designs even when wearing school uniforms.  The non-action animation is similarly great due to the excellent use of facial expressions to capture the more comedic moments of the series.  Of course, the main draw is the action animation and it does not disappoint.  Much like with my discussion of the character design, any fight scenes involving Rin or Yukio is a delight to watch.  That does not mean that the rest of the action animation is bad.  Many of the other characters have unique abilities that make for some interestingly choreographed fights, but the ones involving Rin or Yukio stand above the rest.

The sound design is just as great as the animation.  For starters, the voice cast is absolutely excellent.  Rin’s naivety and optimism are portrayed perfectly.  Yukio’s young, but mature demeanor is also presented well.  The rest of the cast gives great performances that make for an enjoyable watch.  Blue Exorcist also features one of the strongest soundtracks in recent memory.  First off, the two openings are some of the best that anime has to offer.  The very poppy first ending also manages to impress despite the contrasting tone.  The great Hiroyuki Sawano composed the score and it shows.  The musical score is great in every way.  My personal favorite is the track called “X” which just amps up the action in all the right places.  Based on the presentation and sound design alone, Blue Exorcist is worth a watch.

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Final Verdict

Everything about Blue Exorcist manages to impress.  The story and characters are interesting while the animation and sound design maintain a high level of quality.  My only gripe is the deviation from the manga at about the halfway point.  For this reason, I give the first season of Blue Exorcist a Watch rating.  I also recommend watching until the end of the forest arc, then immediately starting the second season.  Everything after this arc in the first season is good, but rather inconsequential for the series as a whole.  I’ll be back next week with another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating