Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga – Part 1 (Episodes 1-6) (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 147 minutes approx.
It was quite a surprise when a second season of Blue Exorcist arrived on Japanese TV in January 2017 as it had been almost six years since the first season ended, with a spin-off film hitting cinemas at the end of 2012. Just a few months earlier that year, the TV series came to the UK whilst the film wasn’t released here until 2014.
So, why do a sequel now? Well actually, this isn’t a sequel at all. Like many anime shows based on manga that are ongoing, Blue Exorcist was forced to diverge from the source material for the last few episodes to conclude the run. Therefore, the Kyoto Saga is the canon storyline that would have been animated had there not been an overlap of production between the two mediums.
Kyoto Saga takes place after episode 17 of the first season, following central protagonist Rin Okumura, the titular teen exorcist with the power of the blue flames, being publicly revealed as the son of Satan. A quick reminder that Rin himself wasn’t aware he was the son of Satan until his adopted father Shiro Fujimoto is possessed and killed by Satan to save Rin and his younger brother Yukio.
Now training to be an exorcist to defeat Satan, Rin studies at the True Cross Academy under the guidance of half-naked top-level exorcist Shura Kirigakure, along with other youths seeking to harness their latent abilities in the war against Satan. Tensions are high at present following the revelation of Rin’s parentage, reverting him back to the role of outlier to the class as the other are naturally worried and concerned about Rin’s loyalty and immense powers.
But they must overcome this as the class have been assigned a mission to travel to Kyoto in the wake of the demonic relic the Left Eye of the Impure King having been stolen from the True Cross vaults. Removed from a slain demon many years ago, the powerful eyes were separated, the left sent to Tokyo and the right to Kyoto, but now it seems a nefarious party wishes to reunite the eyes once again and resurrect the demon.
It’s fair to say this series is asking a lot of fans by jumping right back into the story without missing a beat after a lengthy absence with not so much as a recap in sight to ease us one into the world of teenage exorcists and rampant demons. Sure, there are the occasional flashbacks to remind of the odd personal growth of a particular character but the overarching storyline and central premise is taken as read.
On the plus side however, by getting straight down to business we are spared the “villain of the week” formula that usually occupies the first few chapters before settling down into the main story, so every episode is as vital to the narrative as the next. This allows the story to breathe, the revelations and twists to unfold at a steady pace and, best of all, there is no filler material to be found here.
But – and this is where is gets frustrating – there are just 12 episodes in this arc and for some reason (not a decision by Manga Entertainment) – it was decided they should be split over two releases – of TWO discs a set. Yes, that means three episodes per disc when they could have put all 12 on two discs (or even one Blu-ray disc). Older anime fans will have flashbacks to the bad old days of three/four episode single disc releases, meaning up to 7 discs for a 26-episode show.
It’s something of a moot point for the moment, so we need to establish whether this costly release model is worth it for the fans, the paucity of extras notwithstanding, assuredly dependent on one’s loyalty to the Blue Exorcist franchise. The actual story is not as straightforward as it might appear, due to the layers of intrigue concerning the main antagonists and their motives.
The Kyoto setting takes us to the hometown of trainee exorcists Ryuji Suguru, Renzo Shima and Konekomaru Miwa, with the main location being the temple of the Myoda Sect, of which Ryuji’s family are a part of. As a regular rival of Rin’s, the punkish Ryuji is hot headed and brash yet his parents are very different – his mother is kind and graceful while his father is unassuming and nervy.
But there is a mole in the Myoda Sect leaking information to the perpetrators of the theft of the Left Eye, allowing them to access the location where the Right Eye is held, and everyone is under suspicion. Secrets are exposed and loyalties are tested, incorporating characters new and old, as shared via flashbacks to key points the Myoda history as they relate to the current situation, as well as shining new light on Rin’s storied path to exorcism.
In this respect a lot of ground is covered in these six episodes and proves satisfying in its depiction of Rin’s growth as an exorcist – he is still in training here – as well as expanding the universe in which this saga take place. The progression of the character’s growth, their relationships and the exploration of the exorcist mythos is markedly more natural than the huge leap ahead of the first season alternative.
The animation and presentation has not differed one iota since the first show and with the original voice cast resuming their roles, the continuation is seamless. In fact, you could – if you so desired – rewatch the first 17 episodes of season one then begin this collection and not notice the difference at all.
All things considered, this is a welcome return for Blue Exorcist, if a little cheeky in its demand on our wallet. Content wise the deceptively involved Kyoto Saga is off to a good start and based on the cliffhanger ending, needs to deliver big in its conclusion in the wake of this enticing opening gambit.
English Language 2.0 Stereo
Japanese Language 2.0 Stereo
Disc 1 Only:
Episode 1 Textless Ending
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black