It’s no lie that Aniplex likes to stretch out their Anime releases for as long as possible. That’s why, unlike many other publishers, series’ like Blue Exorcist, despite having only 25 episode, are released across six different discs. With release situations like that, it’s sometimes hard to follow on with your favorite series, but every once in a while a collection of aforementioned discs comes around that compiles the entire series into one neat package. Madman Entertainment have gone ahead and done that with A-1 Pictures’ 2011 Anime Blue Exorcist and, as a fan of the Manga, I couldn’t help but put my hand up to tackle the review. Exciting!
Blue Exorcist follows the story of one Rin Okumura and his brother Yukio; twins living almost entirely different lives. Though both exorcists teaching/learning at the True Cross Academy, one of them (Rin) happens to play host to demon powers passed on by their demonic father…Satan. While Rin is the one bestowed with the burden of his father’s legacy, Yukio is training to, one-day, be rid of this curse once and for all, but he’s not the only one: The entire faculty of True Cross Academy seem to know exactly what lurks underneath Rin’s mostly cool persona, and there’s something going on disguised in the shadows that threatens not only his life, but the peaceful existence of the entire world.
I must extend a heartfelt thank you, once again, to Madman Entertainment for allowing me the opportunity to review the Anime based off of a Manga so loved that it single-handedly launched writer Kazue Kato’s career in the industry. The only question is…how does the Anime hold up against the Manga? Not only that, but how does it hold up five years after it’s initial release?
Assiah; the realm of humans, and Gehenna; the realm of demons. Normally, these two dimensions would never intersect, but having possessed all material substances, the demons are now intruding on the material world. But among the human race, there are those who can exorcise such demons: The Exorcists.
Rin Okumura and his twin brother Yukio have been raised by Shiro Fujimoto, an eminent priest, so it comes as a shock when Rin discovers their biological father is actually Satan! As the border between “Assiah” (the human world) and “Gehenna” (the demon world) is crossed by evil, Rin vows to become the ultimate exorcist and defeat his own father. To hone his raw skills, Rin enters True Cross Academy to train with other exorcist candidates. – Madman Entertainment
For a large portion of the series, this Anime closely follows it’s source material, but closer to the end of it’s run, it introduces in a set of characters and a strange plotline that branches from the Manga so as to form a conclusive Anime series that gives the impression that it can be continued, though there were never any plans for it’s continuation. Once again, for the most part, the Anime series gives off the same vibes as the Manga, but shakes that off for something cheap as it inches closer to the finale.
The Manga had a somewhat lighthearted vibe that could easily change to heart-pounding, and the Anime tried it’s best to follow suit, so for the first ten episodes what was experienced while watching Blue Exorcist was some Shonen-like fun paired with some hard-hitting themes and a great deal of interesting European folklore that added to the world of the series. Unfortunately the very end of the series, where it branched off from the Manga’s story, felt as though it was rushed, and shoehorned in simply to conclude a series that, in all honesty, could have ended in a much more fitting way.
As mentioned; the series contains a lot of European folklore, and tends to steer clear of the Japanese side of the supernatural world, for the most part. The writers of the series, piggybacking off of the brilliant writing style of Kazue Kato, felt as though they were well-versed in Western myths, legends, and belief systems. This, paired up with the Japanese side of mythology, made for some interesting and exciting parallels that showed both how different the cultures are, yet how similar they can be at times.
The characters featured in Blue Exorcist made the series all the more enjoyable, simply because they actually showed realistic signs of growth as they all slowly became friends and discovered what it means to work as a team of exorcists rather than to simply act alone. Their bond mirrored the Manga so well and, by the end, became one of the key reasons I wanted to continue watching all the way up until the end. Obviously, because of the series restraints, their backstories weren’t entirely fleshed out, but thankfully it took nothing away from what they were on-screen.
All Anime fans know that A-1 Pictures produce some great-looking Anime series. Say what you want about their working conditions, but the results of hard labour come through in the series. Blue Exorcist, despite it being released five years ago, holds up visually. Yes, there are many scenes wherein which money is saved by limited the quality of animation, but that budget is put to good use during action sequences and pivotal plot developments. Most, if not all, Anime does this, so it’s hard to be angry at Blue Exorcist for featuring much the same budget-balancing tactics. The animation, when at it’s highest quality, is crisp, clean, and fluid in motion. Most environments are designed to be vibrant and colourful, making for visually exciting series. It’s often hard to, literally, turn away from Blue Exorcist even for a second thanks to how good it looks, and even though it does have some hiccups here and there, it doesn’t take away from the series overall.
Backing up those visuals is a soundtrack that seems to play jump rope with the line between genres. It’s quite a varied soundtrack, but it tends to stick to more classic compositions that represent the European-gothic vibe of the series while also catering to it’s more youthful, punk-rock attitude, spearheaded by Rin Okumura himself. The series also happens to feature two fantastic opening theme songs, that put audiences in the perfect mood for what’s to come in the episode. You simply cannot beat the overwhelming power of a good theme song. Another great aspect of the series’ auditory features is that it has a fantastic voice cast of performers who know what it takes to get the most out of their roles. Each and every single performer brings a sense of humanity to their respective characters, allowing you to focus on what it is that their saying and not the lacklustre way in which they’re saying it.
In short: The Blue Exorcist Anime is good…it’s not great, but it’s good. Watching through it, you’ll never think that it’s a waste of your time, not even for a second. You probably wont even have to take a break from watching it, if you’re the type who likes to binge. It’s not a series that makes you cringe, that’s for sure. You’ll enjoy it from the very first episode to the very last, but at the same time you’ll be able to see where it’s flaws are. Unlike many other series’ of it’s kind though, you wont focus on the flaws and allow them to ruin your experience. Instead, I tended to simply note them down and move on, and the only reason I picked up on them in the first place is because, well…it’s kind of my job.
The biggest flaw that I found in the series was that of it’s ending. I felt as though the series’ true antagonist was introduced in the most basic of ways, and didn’t evolve much from when he first appeared. His addition to the series was mostly unnecessary, and everything that transpired after he first showed his face made the series a little hard to watch, but only because of small story points and plot holes that the beginning of the series simply did not have. Despite the fact that the series was written before production, as it usually is, it felt as though the plot was rushed, and they could have avoided it by following the Manga’s story, ending at an epic portion that would have left audiences hanging. It worked for Air Gear, and it would have worked for Blue Exorcist. Regardless, it was a fun series to watch, and it has definitely earned a space on my shelf.
Experience it for yourself! Grab Blue Exorcist: Complete Series through Madman Entertainment’s online store: Click Here