Review for Blue Exorcist (Season 2) Kyoto Saga Volume 2
Blue Exorcist: The Kyoto Saga is quite the return to form. Naturally, it’s because following a first season that needed an anime original ending, and a wholly original feature film, this second season jumps back to that point in season 1 where the storylines diverged and once again carries on faithfully adapting the manga. I really enjoyed part 1 of the 12 episode series (it’s an Aniplex title), and unlike another distributor who shall remain nameless at this point, Manga Entertainment are bringing us the conclusion to the series in a very sensible, and timely two months. Hopefully that return to form will continue for the final six episodes.
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 began, he was trying desperately to control his demonic flame, but the truth is that none of his classmates trusted him anymore. Then an exorcist named Todo betrayed the Order and stole the Left Eye of the Impure King. At the same time, trouble arose in the Order offices in Kyoto, where the Right Eye was kept under guard. Exorcists were overwhelmed by the miasma that was generated, and as an emergency measure, the Exwires of Rin’s class, and his brother, Exorcist and teacher Yukio were sent to Kyoto to help. It’s was an awkward trip, and not only because no one trusted Rin anymore. For Suguro, Konekomaru and Shima, it meant 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.
And at the end of the first half, things looked bleak indeed, with Todo having achieved his aims, the Impure King about to lay waste to Kyoto, and with Rin locked up for once more losing control of his powers. The concluding six episodes are presented across two Blu-rays as follows.
7. Like a Fire Burning Bright
8. From Father to Son
9. Through Thick and Thin
10. Unbowed and Unbroken
11. Shine Bright as the Sun
12. Candid and Open
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.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Manga Entertainment.
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.
The extras on disc 2 comprise the textless credits, and the 5:14 textless end sequence to episode 11.
The Kyoto Saga arc concluded in this collection of 6 episodes, and it is just as good as the first volume. The young Exwires have to defeat the resurrected Impure King, and defeat the plans of Todo, but before they can do that, there’s the small matter of Rin’s arrest and impending execution to resolve, the tensions between the branches of the Kyoto monks, and Yukio learns an unwelcome truth about himself. It turns out that the twins are more alike than they knew, although the consequences of that revelation aren’t explored in this story arc. That’s the peril of adapting a long running manga. I won’t go into more detail with regards to the story, as that will invite spoilers, but I can say that I enjoyed every minute of it, and I was certainly satisfied with the outcome.
The long running shonen anime is a staple of the medium, based on the similarly long running manga aimed at young teen audiences, usually, but not exclusively male. We’re talking shows like Bleach, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. The thing about these shows is that they’re made to a weekly schedule, whether there is manga to adapt or not, and will often resort to filler material to plug the gaps, and even then, the canon material will be stretched out to wafer thin dimensions, diluted and weakened to make it last longer. Also, the weekly schedule will mean that corners are cut on the animation, with burnt out animators doing barely enough to get the show out on time, rarely having the inclination or resources to make the show really shine,
The Kyoto Saga of Blue Exorcist is what you get when you apply the reverse philosophy to adapting long running manga. Wait till there is a lot of it out there to adapt. Pick the arc that you are going to make, and fit it into a set number of episodes, and put your heart and soul into getting those episodes looking and sounding as good as they can, keep the adaptive writing sharp enough to emphasise all the story and action beats while giving the characters the chance to shine. It’s the equivalent of making an episode of Coronation Street on a Hollywood blockbuster budget. This is as good as shonen anime can technically get.
You’re always on top of the story; the writing makes sure that you know what’s going on, what the stakes are and what needs to be done to resolve the situation. Most of all, each of the characters are written well enough that you can follow their story arcs with ease; you know what their emotional context is at any point in the story. That’s true not just for the main characters like Rin and Yukio, but everyone else too, Shiemi, Kamiki, Konekomaru, Bon and the others. For comparison, I’m currently wading my way through Bleach once more, and am up to the Arrancar arc. Some sixty episodes in, I’ve forgotten why the characters are doing what they are doing, and am just tuning in to the fifth episode of the current fights in progress. Blue Exorcist is how you wish all shonen anime were made.
Thankfully, it seems more and more adaptations are adopting this approach, with titles like Attack on Titan and Black Butler only releasing new instalments when they are ready to. I would love to see more Blue Exorcist; certainly the original manga is far enough ahead with at least 12 more volumes of material to adapt. But I would also want the animators to maintain the quality that they have achieved with The Kyoto Saga, and I’ll be willing to wait for them to get it just right.