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

 

 

Series Review – New Game

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Doga Koba

I am not a fan of slice-of-life shows.  I prefer something with a solid plot and hopefully some action.  However, I did fall in love with one of these shows in the summer season.  New Game focused on a group of cute girls working on a video game and the antics of this group were highly entertaining to watch.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

Aoba Suzukaze is a recent high school graduate that has just been hired by a local video game developer named Eagle Jump, as a part of the art department.  She is a very big fan of the game series known as Fairies Story and it turns out her superior at the company was the character designer for this video game series.  As Aoba learns the ropes, she becomes acquainted with the female employees at Eagle Jump and they get into all sorts of wacky shenanigans.

This series will inevitably get compared to Shirobako.  However, while it does go into some game design basics, it never goes into the same level of detail as Shirobako.  Problems with development are addressed, but they are not the main focus of the series.  New Game focuses solely on the characters.  From Rin’s habit of sleeping in her underwear to Hifumi’s love of her pet hedgehog, each character has their own interesting quirk that makes for a highly enjoyable comedy series.  At the basic level this is a show about cute girls just having a good time.  As a result, it is mostly comedic in nature.  Luckily, the show is great at putting the characters into situations where comedy can arise.  For instance, a lot of comedy arises at seeing the characters attend an after work drinking session.  It’s moments like these that showcase the charm of this series, which makes for a great watch.

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Animation and Sound  

The animation matches the comedic nature of the series with its bright aesthetic.  Each frame of animation carries the cheery tone of the series perfectly.  The animation quality is actually really high for a slice-of-life series.  There are several moments where I was actually amazed at the animation quality.  These moments managed to surpass the typical laziness that I usually associate with this genre.  The character design is one of the strongest aspects of the series.  Each character has a striking design and multiple outfits that they wear throughout the series.  For instance, Rin usually is in jeans, but will move to a skirt in a variety of episodes.  It can get tiring seeing the same outfit over and over again and the changing wardrobe in this show was refreshing.  Based on my earlier comments, it’s quite apparent that I really enjoyed Hifumi’s character.  The animation along with her interesting character design captures her shy personality to perfection.

The sound design isn’t really anything special though.  The opening and ending songs are rather generic and the series itself does not have any memorable music either.  As for the voice acting, each member of the cast does an excellent job, but the nature of some characters is generic as well.  There’s the hyperactive one, the serious one, and the shy one.  There’s nothing bad about these performances, it’s just that there is nothing that really makes them stand out compared to the glut of shows in this genre.  The sound design is the weakest part of the series.

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Final Thoughts

New Game was an absolute delight to watch.  I was highly entertained by the quirky cast of characters.  In a season with some rather heavy shows, New Game was the perfect way to just relax and have a laugh.  I give New Game my Watch rating.  It’s not a perfect show, but I can simply describe it as fun, which makes it worth a watch.  Thanks for checking this piece out and come back next week for another review.

Watch Rating