Review for Blue Exorcist (Season 2) Kyoto Saga Volume 1
The fly in the Blue Exorcist ointment is that it’s an Aniplex show, and Aniplex tend to dictate how their series are released to a far greater degree than other companies. It’s because of Aniplex that we are getting a 12 episode second season in two halves. It’s because of Aniplex that we’ll have to pay a little more for the privilege, although nowhere near as much as US fans have to pay. And it’s because of Aniplex that we get 6 episodes in this collection, split across two Blu-ray discs, one dual and one single layer. For the first season, Manga Entertainment used Aniplex US’ masters for their release, and it looks like they’ve done so again.
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. 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, Rin learns of his true nature. Suddenly he 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. 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 smack down 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.
That was all dependant on Rin keeping his true nature concealed from his fellow students, but by episode 17 of Season 1, his secret had been revealed in the worst possible way. As the Kyoto Saga begins, he’s trying desperately to control his demonic flame, but the truth is that none of his classmates trust him anymore. Then an exorcist named Todo betrays the Order and steals the Left Eye of the Impure King. At the same time, trouble arises in the Order offices in Kyoto, where the Right Eye is kept under guard. Exorcists are overwhelmed by the miasma that is generated, and as an emergency measure, the Exwires of Rin’s class, and his brother, Exorcist and teacher Yukio are sent to Kyoto to help. It’s going to be an awkward trip, and not only because no one trusts Rin anymore. For Suguro, Konekomaru and Shima, it means going home... Of course none of that will matter if Todo is able to re-unite the Left and the Right Eyes of the Impure King.
1. Small Beginnings
2. Strange Bedfellows
3. Suspicion Will Raise Bogies
4. Act of Treachery
5. Mysterious Connections
6. A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Blue Exorcist: The Kyoto Saga gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution. Blue Exorcist’s transfer is to my eyes, close to perfect. This is the best I have seen a recent TV anime look in high definition, and it’s getting up there with some theatrical presentations. The image is clear and sharp throughout, line detail is excellent, colours are bold, strong and consistent, and there are no visible compression artefacts. That one slight bugbear about Blu-ray anime, digital banding, was wholly absent on these discs. I didn’t spot a single instance of it, even during the most dramatic colour and shade shifts. Aniplex go the extra mile to give value to their customers, and we are reaping the rewards of that effort here.
Blue Exorcist is 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, and this time there is no filler for the quality to waver.
You have the choice between PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. The audio is fine, and while I sampled the dub to see that it maintains the quality from the first season, my preference was for the original language as always. The dialogue is clear, the action is represented as well as can be expected through the stereo format, and the show’s music drives the story well. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos, and there are no glitches or dropouts.
The discs boot to silent animated menus.
Disc 1 has the textless credit sequences, and the episode 1 ending scene without credits text.
My favourite could have been Blue Exorcist, which again, did the imaginative and vivid source material justice, but barely scratched the surface of the story with 17 episodes out of its 25 episode run. The sense was always there that they wanted to make more, certainly bolstered by the feature film spin-off that came out later, but the surprise is that it took six years for them to return to the world of Blue Exorcist. And now that I’ve finally had the chance to watch the Kyoto Saga, or at least the first half, it’s as if the show was never away. The animation picks up from episode 17 of the first series, and seamlessly continues the story, telling what happened next after Rin’s secret was revealed in such spectacular fashion.
As the second series begins, Rin’s been put on probation, given six months to prove his worth, and qualify as an Exorcist, or face summary judgement and execution as the spawn of Satan. That means training to control his powers for one thing, and regaining the trust and confidence of his friends for another, and it’s a toss up to say which is more impossible. There’s no time for leisurely contemplation though, as the Left Eye of the Impure King is stolen, and the Right Eye comes under threat. It’s under guard in Kyoto, at the temple of the Myodha Sect, and the consequent miasma has left the local monks and exorcists ailing. It’s down to the Exorcists to send a team to recover the stolen Left Eye, and the Exwires of Rin’s class to help with the monks in Kyoto. Since the man who stole the Left Eye, exorcist Saburota Todo is after the Right Eye as well, it’s inevitable that both missions will converge at some point.
For this half of the second series, the focus is definitely on Rin and his classmates as they head to Kyoto. When Rin’s secret was revealed, it was done so with a devilish appearance, and a flash of blue flame, legacy of his parentage. Years previously, the monastery in Kyoto came under attack, a blue flame claiming many lives, including the parents of Rin’s classmate Konekomaru, which is the source of mistrust that has distanced Rin from his friends. That they are going to Kyoto to the temple only compounds that mistrust. But it’s even worse when they get there. While they may be able to help with treating victims of the miasma, it becomes clear that the monks of the Myodha sect are practically at each other’s throats. The leader of the monks, Tatsuma Suguro (Ryuji Suguro’s father) has inexplicably abdicated his responsibilities, and is constantly out of touch, while recriminations fly over who has endangered the security of the Right Eye. Soon accusations of betrayal are made.
Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga starts off in something of an odd place, with relationships strained, Rin feeling isolated, and if you’re coming to the show after a while, especially without a re-watch of Season 1 under your belt, it’s a little hard to get back into. But the characterisations are strong, and the story is well-written, developing at a solid pace, and dropping enough hints about the bigger picture along the way to keep you interested. There are also some useful flashback arcs to enrich the back-story, including a tale about Ryuji’s father, and Rin and Yukio’s adoptive father.
I also may have been a little hard on the Aniplex enforced release strategy. Six episodes in a collection may seem a little miserly at this date, but the way the story develops in these episodes leads to the kind of delicious cliff-hanger at the end of episode six that will leave you hanging on tenterhooks for the second part of the series. The story in this half takes the conflict and distrust as far as it can go, and you’ll hope that in part 2 the characters can start patching their relationships back together again.
It’s a long overdue return for Blue Exorcist. The Kyoto Saga is an interesting, and well-written story arc that impressed in manga form, and is living up to that in anime form as well. While Aniplex dictates may rankle a bit with regards to release strategy, you can’t fault the audio visual presentation. I only hope that it isn’t another six years for the next Blue Exorcist anime series.