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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Movie Review – A Silent Voice

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

Last year, Makato Shinkai’s Your Name took the world by storm.  I have already reviewed this film and I will go on the record as describing it as a masterpiece.  There was one downside of this worldwide frenzy though; another anime film that was just as a good managed to get eclipsed by Your Name.  This is an adaptation of a manga that I absolutely loved.  A manga that deals with some very serious issues that was emotionally devastating to read.  I’m talking about A Silent Voice.  This film adaptation by Kyoto Animation manages to present one of the most beautiful anime films of all time from both a story and production perspective.

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Story and Characters

I will not spoil any of the latter elements of the story arc, but for the sake of discussing the story, it is necessary to provide some background.  The plot follows Shoya Ishida through his reunion with a deaf student named Shoko Nishimiya.  In his elementary school years, Ishida was one of the main perpetrators in bullying Shoko to the point where she had to transfer schools just to get away.  With Shoko gone, the rest of the class soon shifts its attention to Ishida, making him the new bullying target.  Ishida is ostracized to the point where he lacks any sort of friend even when he reaches high school.  Because of this, Ishida becomes suicidal, but desires to atone for his past actions.  He manages to find Shoko, seeking to form a friendship with her to make up for his horrible treatment of her.

At its core, A Silent Voice is a story that is all about redemption.  There is no apologizing for Ishida’s actions.  Every character acknowledges that he did some terrible things and he even feels like his life after Shoko was almost a karmic like result of his horrible actions.  This makes Ishida’s character so interesting.  It’s rare to see an anime character know what they did was wrong and even that there is no changing what they did.  Watching Ishida move forward from the past in order to help Shoko is a beautiful thing.  Shoko’s character is similarly just as layered.  From her variety of outbursts, to her portrayal as the victim, this film does an excellent job at showcasing her character.  The film largely focuses on these two characters and it is an emotional roller coaster.

It’s about presenting some serious topics that haven’t really been covered to this extent in the anime medium.  The story takes an in-depth look into suicide, depression, and bullying.  It can be very heavy at times.  However, I think that is where the inner beauty lies with the film.  It takes these topics and expertly presents them into a story that is emotionally captivating without being overdramatic.  Similarly, it does not make light of these issues and presents them with the seriousness that is required.  It would be very easy for the film to trivialize some of the more serious issues, but it does not fall into this trap.  The result is a story in which the characters grow significantly by the end of the film.  It presents the viewer with a watch that is uncomfortable, beautiful, heartwarming, and devastating.  It really is a perfect drama.

I want to briefly talk about the nature of the adaptation.  This film should be a textbook example of how to condense a longer manga series into one movie.  Of course, this does have some drawbacks.  The film largely excises the development of Ishida’s group of friends.  This has the effect of ignoring their bullying of Shoko during elementary school.  The film showcases this somewhat, but mostly puts Ishida as the main instigator.  In the manga, pretty much every other elementary school student was an absolutely deplorable piece of shit and not every character is redeemable.  The film also does not provide the background into Shoko’s home life and the circumstances of why her mother was raising the children by herself.  I feel like this would provide some much needed characterization of Shoko’s mother, but was not truly necessary in the grand scheme.  The story arcs not involving Ishida and Shoko were pretty much the ones that were cut.  Given that the main strength of the manga was this central plotline between Ishida and Shoko, the lack of these storylines is not detrimental to the overall plot of the film.

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Animation and Sound

Kyoto Animation presents one of the best looking films of the year.  Every frame of this film is breathtaking in every way.  The backgrounds are highly detailed and showcase a level of quality that is unbelievable at points.  The animation is just as a high a quality as every other aspect.  The characters move with a level of fluidity that manages to impress at every opportunity.  This level of animation was necessary to capture the sheer emotion of the story.  I was even impressed with watching the characters use sign language. The character expressions are also highly detailed.  Seriously, any shot that is a close up on a face is likely to impress.  Any time a character cries, the facial animation just exudes the emotion.  The stylistic choice of the manga to portray Ishida’s view of characters with X’s over their face is also used to perfection here.  I do not have a single negative thing to say about the animation and this does not make for an interesting review because I don’t have a lot to say other than this is truly a perfectly animated film.

The sound design also impresses to a similar degree.  Musically there isn’t anything that really stands out other than the opening montage featuring a song by The Who, but the tracks manage to exude the emotion needed for the more serious scenes.  The most impressive aspect lies with the voice acting.  Every character gives a great performance, but the voice actors for Ishida and Shoko deserve praise.  Shoko’s voice actress perfectly captures the sound of her voice as a result of her deafness.  This is powerful because when Shoko actually speaks out loud, the viewer is inclined to listen.  It also helps give a lot of legitimacy to the film.  Similarly, Ishida’s voice actor perfectly captures that mix between optimism and fear with regards to his interactions with Shoko.  Much like the animation, I don’t have any negative to say about the sound design.

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Final Thoughts

A Silent Voice is a perfect adaptation of a phenomenal manga.  I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this film.  The story is a perfect look at suicide, depression and bullying while also providing some necessary optimism with Ishida’s redemption.  It treats these topics seriously to form a powerful and emotional story that made me cry.  The film’s animation is perfect.  The voice acting is perfect.  It’s a beautiful film in every regard.  For that reason, I give A Silent Voice my Bananaowns’ Stamp of Approval.  If this ever gets licensed in the United States, I will be buying Blu-Ray, that’s how good it was.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

This review is over, but I had a couple more things to say.  This film deals with some very heavy themes and one of them presents an opportunity to say something.  A Silent Voice starts off with a look at Ishida’s contemplation of suicide because of his years’ worth of losing faith in humanity.  For those that are suffering through depression and contemplating suicide, I strongly urge you to seek out some help.  No matter how bad things get, there are always people that care about you and these people will be hurt in the event that the worst happens.  If anyone feels like no one cares or will listen, there is always someone who does and you can always seek help with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

This was relatively serious way to end this review, but given the subject matter, it felt appropriate.  Thanks for giving this review a look.

Series Review – Sound Euphonium Season 2

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

Second season reviews are kind of awkward to write.  Generally, the pros of the first season remain mostly the same and the cons are usually worked on.  As a result, a second season can feel very similar to the first, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  With that said, it’s time to check out the second season of Sound Euphonium.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The second season features the same likeable high school band as they compete to win a spot in the national competition.  Everything that was great about the first season returns in some sort here.  The dynamic between Kumiko and Reina is just as great as the first season with the yuri-shippers having a field day as always.  I actually am tired of this ship though, due to the fandom’s tendency to cast hatred on poor Shuichi for even attempting to talk to Kumiko.  That aside, the relationship between the main characters is as solid as ever.  I also enjoyed the exploration into backgrounds of characters that were prominently featured in the first season.  The motivations of Taki-sensei are revealed in this season in a surprisingly emotional moment.

Much like the first season, the drama from this one little band manages to create some compelling story arcs.  The first arc involving a band member that quit last year is relatively weak though in comparison to the main plot threads of the season.  The biggest change is Kumiko’s direct involvement in the drama now.  Last season, she just happened to be in place as issues were resolved, but now she is actually the target of the drama.  Between the story arcs involving Kumiko’s sister and Asuka, Kumiko is actually impacted by all this drama.  Of course she still maintains her very blunt personality which is a plus, but her character manages to become more genuine as the season progresses.

I really don’t have much to say because this second season is just more of the same.  Given my love of the first season, that is not detrimental in any way whatsoever.  Chances are if you enjoyed the story of the first season, then this one will be highly enjoyable as well.

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Animation and Sound

The presentation and sound design for this series maintains its excellent quality.  The animation is flat out perfect.  The backgrounds are highly detailed and the moving animation of the characters is unreal.  It is a treat to watch the animation anytime the band plays.  The standout sequence of this season is the full band performance.  This scene was absolute perfection and was one of the best sequences of the entire year.  Of course, the series also maintains its astounding use of facial expression, showcasing the best cute girl animation of the season yet again.

The sound design is great for this series as well.  Like with the last season, a show about a concert band needs to have great sound design.  The characters play a great selection of music, especially during that band scene that I mentioned above.  The instruments still sound great and the sound design in the band scenes impresses yet again.  The voice acting also maintains its charm.  Again, the highlight is the performance of Kumiko’s voice actress.  There is just something so inherently real about the way Kumiko talks and the actress captures this sarcastic tone perfectly.  Given that Kumiko is actually the subject of some emotional scenes now, the voice actress needed to explore a new side of the character.  Thankfully, she managed to pull of these emotional scenes to perfection.

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Final Thoughts

The second season of Sound Euphonium is the perfect follow up.  The story brings the band drama, but the new focus on Kumiko directly makes it a lot stronger.  The animation and sound design is still amazing as well.  I give season 2 of Sound Euphonium my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Series Review – Myriad Colors Phantom World

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

I am still acquiring a lot of knowledge about the various animation studios and their respective histories.  I am not too familiar with the works of Kyoto Animation.  I have watched Sound! Euphonium and am aware of other works such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Clannad, but that’s about it.  This winter season saw a work from Kyoto Animation that has had a rather mixed response.  Of course I am talking about Myriad Colors Phantom World.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story & Characters

The setting involves a freak accident that alters the brain chemistry of every person in the world, allowing them to view beings called Phantoms.  Some children born after the outbreak have developed special powers that allow them to battle or seal phantoms.  Since it’s an anime, the story focuses on a group of high school students with these special abilities.  What follows is a story that does not really possess an overarching plot.  With the exception of the last couple of episodes, most of the episodes are one off stories that are character focused.  So anyone looking for a very story based show will surely be disappointed.

As for the quality of the character based episodes, it’s rather hit or miss.  The early half of the season is rather weak.  Besides an episode focused on Reina, these early episodes are uninteresting.  The latter half actually manages to have a significant jump in quality.  For the most part, these latter episodes manage to use the characters very effectively.

Typically, I separate the story and characters into two segments, but in this case, the characters do not really warrant a separate discussion.  For the most part, they aren’t really anything special.  Haruhiko is an uninteresting protagonist, except for the three or so episodes that focus on his backstory.  Mai is my favorite character due to her fiery personality and combat abilities.  She also has one of the better standalone episodes that make character stand out especially well.  As for the rest, Reina is decent, Koito is the typical anti-social type, and Kurumi is the typical younger character.  The phantom, Ruru, is an annoying mascot type character for most of the series.  She does get some focus that fleshes out her character quite a bit.  Overall, the characters in this show are mediocre.  The anime doesn’t really know how to use them until the latter half of the series.

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Animation & Sound

If there is one thing that this series has going for it, it’s with the presentation.  The animation is absolutely gorgeous.  The fight scenes are animated with a superb level of fluidity.  The character design is also on point as well.  I really love the uniforms and the casual outfits worn by the characters.  Besides Haruhiko, every character manages to stand out immensely with their design.  Koito has an interesting quirk with headphones.  Mai similarly has an interesting design with the ponytail, blue ribbon and the yellow sweater.  As for the sound, it’s mostly great.  The voice acting is actually pretty good considering the uninteresting aspects of the story.  The sound effects are also very well done.  I actually enjoyed the music.  There is an electronic bend to it, but it fit perfectly with the extra-dimensional motif of the show.  Overall, the animation and sound could be considered the main reasons to watch this show.

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Final Verdict

This show had some great moments, but it took a very long time to reach these.  The story and characters are mostly uninteresting until the show reaches the second half of the season.  However, the animation is quite good and the sound design is good as well. I don’t think that I can recommend this anime to others. I give it my first ever Don’t Watch rating.  While I admit that it was a guilty pleasure of mine during the season, I don’t think I can recommend this in the same vein as other shows that I have reviewed.  For those that are still interested, note that the series does get significantly better towards the end.  I just am unsure that it’s really worth the investment to reach these episodes.  I’ll be back next week for another anime feature.

Don't Watch