Review for Blue Exorcist: Part 2
A couple of months ago, I was hesitantly raving about the first half of Blue Exorcist. Raving because it’s a shonen action show like Bleach and Naruto, but with significantly higher production values, and also economically told in a much shorter run, just 25 episodes; but hesitant because a couple of subtitle snafus took the sheen off Manga Entertainment’s first venture into subtitle only releases. I also noted that the difficulty of telling a long running action manga in just 25 episodes meant that a fair bit has to be left out. In fact, this series of Blue Exorcist really just scratches the surface of the story, and will probably have fans rabid for more. It turns out that there is more Blue Exorcist anime out there to be had. This Christmas sees the theatrical release of the Blue Exorcist feature film. With any luck in a year or so, it will make its way Westwards as well.
How can one twin have a different father than his brother? It seems a logical impossibility, but for Rin Okamura, that is indeed the case. While his brother Yukio’s father was human, Rin’s father was none other than the Prince of Darkness himself, Satan. Yukio’s body wasn’t strong enough to handle all the demonic genes, so it was Rin alone who inherited his father’s demonic nature. Of course he knows nothing of this at the start of Blue Exorcist. All he knows is that he and his brother are orphans that have been brought up in a monastery, raised as sons by Father Fujimoto. While Yukio is the favoured son, hard-working and likely to succeed in his ambition to be a doctor, Rin is the delinquent, apt to be found brawling, when he isn’t being fired from his latest part time job.
All of that changes when Satan decides to take his corporeal offspring in hand, sending a demon or two to the world of the living to awaken Rin to his heritage. Suddenly Rin can see demons, is being hunted by demons. He also learns that his adoptive father really is an exorcist, and then he learns the truth of who his actual father really is. It’s a truth that is hard for him to handle, and he lashes out at those who care for him the most. That’s just the weakness that Satan needs, and disaster strikes. With his demonic nature wakened, it seems that there is no place in this world for Rin Okamura, but there exists a way out. Rin decides to become an exorcist himself, and deliver a smackdown to daddy dearest. That means going to the exclusive private school, True Cross Academy, where he will attend the secret cram school for would be exorcists. There are further unsettling truths to be revealed though, including first of all just who his teacher will be...
The concluding twelve episodes of Blue Exorcist are presented across two discs from Manga Entertainment.
14. A Fun Camping Trip
15. Act of Kindness
16. The Wager
19. An Ordinary Day
21. Secret Garden
22. Demon Hunting
24. Satan’s Spawn
25. Stop, Time
Blue Exorcist gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer here, which courtesy of Madman Entertainment is a native PAL conversion. It’s a high quality animation for the most part, great character designs, clean and crisp colours, and detailed backgrounds. True Cross Academy looks like something from a Ghibli movie, while the character animations are energetic, detailed and vibrant. This is a splendid looking anime generally speaking, although there are occasions where you can see the consistency begin to waver, especially in the filler material. The only flaw in the transfer is probably at the limits of the DVD format, slight aliasing on fine detail.
You get the sole DD 2.0 Stereo Japanese track with this release, with optional English subtitles. The audio is clear and without flaw throughout. The action sequences come across well, the cast is memorable, including the inimitable Kana Hanazawa and Kazuya Nakai, and the show’s symphonic soundtrack gives it a big budget feel. The new themes are just as toe-tappingly infectious as those for the first half of the series. Thankfully, all of the subtitle captions were present for the duration of the episodes.
The discs get static menus with jacket pictures to look at when the discs aren’t spinning.
All of the extra features in this collection are on disc 2 once again.
The Ura-Ex (Bonus Short Movies) last 7 minutes and are those special omake that usually only wind up as Japanese DVD exclusives. These are more comedic and daft in tone, and aren’t part of the story. There are five of them in total here.
There are web previews for the episodes.
Finally there are the textless credit sequences for the second half of the series.
I like Blue Exorcist a lot. It’s fun, frenetic, action packed, with quality animation and a theatrical quality soundtrack. It’s got great characters with an excellent voice cast, an engaging story, and for a shonen action series, it’s delightfully shorn of excess baggage; no filler and flashbacks, and definitely no standing around waffling about with useless exposition. It’s a lean mean entertaining machine, that doesn’t waste any time in getting to the good stuff. The problem is that it’s a little too lean in this 25 episode TV series.
Blue Exorcist has a large cast of interesting characters, and a rich and detailed world to explore. There is a whole lot of back story to this that adds dimension and layer. In that respect it’s very similar to other shonen action shows like Full Metal Alchemist and Soul Eater. Just like those other shows, Blue Exorcist really needed an extended run, a good two series to properly explore its story and develop its characters. Twenty-five episodes is just too short a run to even scratch the surface of its story. What we then get here is a whole lot of set up, an introduction to the world, before the show jumps straight to the endgame. It’s over just as it begins to get interesting.
While the first half of the series could be considered the introduction to the main characters, it’s here in the second half that the characters begin to grow and develop, and you can see the first big development during a class training trip, when Rin’s nature is revealed to the rest of the class. What follows is a re-evaluation of their relationships in the light of this new information, and for some of the class it’s harder to accept the reality of Rin than others, leaving them vulnerable to temptation.
Once the new dynamic between the characters is set, there’s a two episode arc where they face their first test. A mysterious caped demon is swinging through the city like Spiderman, wrapping its victims in webbing that gradually suffocates, and it’s a race against time for Rin to learn to control his powers so that he can fight against it. This becomes doubly imperative when it transpires that the demon is after Rin specifically. The reality behind the demon explains one of the earlier arcs in the show, and reveals the truth behind a certain character, as well as revealing another aspect of the story which just serves to enrich the world.
At this point, I would have expected Blue Exorcist to continue in the same vein, testing the characters with new challenges, all the while drip feeding more and more exposition, and developing the over-arching story in the background. The problem is that at this point there are only four episodes left, and there’s no time to do any of this. Instead we go straight to the end of the story, the world is turned upside down, characters switch allegiance at the drop of a hat, and all hell, literally, breaks loose. It’s just too fast. There’s not enough time for any of the developments to really register, and as such, the emotional impact of what happens between Rin and his brother Yukio is lessened. It’s a grand finale, visually epic, and with a lot happening on screen. It’s just that it’s hard to care about.
In the end, I felt slightly cheated by the haste with which the conclusion was sprung on us, and while Rin and Yukio’s story arcs got good resolutions, other characters felt hard done by. There really needed to be more robust story arcs for the rest of the cram school, especially Bon, Shiemi, Izumi, while I was left with lingering questions about Mephisto, and also wondering what the deal with was Takara (the kid with the glove puppet). Maybe all of this will be explored in the Blue Exorcist movie. Blue Exorcist is great fun, has top notch production values, and never ceases to entertain, but it only scratches the surface of what ought to be an epic story. It’s like one expensive advert for the manga!