A new anime season is here, and with it comes a new show that I, your humble and faithful servant, will be covering week to week, (hopefully) without all the setbacks that plagued my runs from the fall season. As with anything, we are still a work in progress, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and I can tell you that covering three shows by myself definitely didn’t work. So, I’m cutting it down to one show for the winter, and it’s one that I’m certain a lot of folks have been waiting for, for quite some time: the second series of Blue Exorcist. Aptly titled the Kyoto Saga, there’s finally enough to cover from the manga to properly adapt into an anime, once again, so we’re picking up… kinda… where the anime left off with its canon material, back in 2011. Now, before I begin, I should mention that I covered everything in my fall season shows as a straightforward recap, plot point by plot point. For this show, and to try something different, we’re going to change things up a bit, and add in more of an open discussion of the events of the episode, as opposed to the usual “here’s everything that happened” routine and nothing more. So, will this new series bring some fresh life into the brothers Okumura, or will it be more of the same from last time? Let’s find out together.
As a quick note, for anyone wanting to know the chronology of this new series, it takes place right after episode 17 of the original series, as well as after chapter 15 of the manga. And yes, they really only adapted fifteen chapters of the manga for the original series, way back in 2011. Sure enough, with this episode, it just jumps back into the swing of things, like the nearly 6-year-long gap between series never happened; you’d think they’d put in some kind of recap at the start, at least. Anyway, the first episode kicks off with our adorable little Antichrist, Rin, joined with his brother Yukio and his mentor, Shura, on a job in the city; a boy’s been kidnapped, a large group of people have been poisoned with miasma, and there’s a mystery about something called the “Left Eye.” Yukio and Rin make their way through a building to investigate, and they find their supposed culprit, a shadowy figure cloaked in black and carrying a vial of miasma, hostage and all. But wait a minute, it’s a trap! Their accompanying figure, a man called Todo, kicks Yukio in the back and reveals himself to be a demon, all according to keikaku. You know, this goes back to the first episode of the first series, but you should never trust anyone in this show; they’re more often than not going to be an eveil possessed douchenozzle.
So yeah, the dude is evil, he vanishes into thin air, but Rin and Yukio are able to save the kid that was held hostage, if by some injections more than anything else, and back on the outside, there are some rumblings about the Left Eye and now, thanks to the introduction of the one and only Mephisto (you know, the True Cross Academy leader guy), talks about the Right Eye being taken, from Kyoto. And what are these Eyes, anyway? Well, we don’t know yet. But enough of that, it’s time to round up the supporting cast, all of whom are hopping on a train with Rin to Kyoto. First up is Shiemi, the bashful little blondie that’s always so shy around Rin, and if I’m being honest, I never really liked her; she’s just too typical of the “Omigod, I’m so shy and I can’t talk to him, what do I do” kind of character, and that’s a no-sell for me. Sorry, Rin/Shiemi fans, but it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Not a fan of Shiemi, but I am a fan of Bon, the brush brute that plays as Rin’s foil; he’s the kind of guy I like, as well as his pink-haired cohort Shima. And that’s all I’m gonna say, you all can read between the lines with that. And here, they allude to the first series, with the event of Rin’s demonic rampage, and as you would expect, Rin isn’t overly thrilled to be reminded of it. Oh, and this show’s resident uppity tsundere, Izumo, shows up. Greeeeeeeeeat.
So, backstory time, deep breath: something called the Left Eye of the Impure King was apprehended by a guy who went rogue, from some group called the Deep Keep (it was the guy from earlier), and their Kyoto branch was also attacked, with the goal of taking the Right Eye in mind. *deep breath* The Impure King was a powerful demon from the Edo period, spreading plagues left and right, until its eyes were plucked out, and said eyes are known to be extremely lethal and dangerous. *deep breath…* So now, Rin and everyone else are traveling to Kyoto to tend to and aid the injured field officers, and offer some more security for their office and location. Phew… what a frigging exposition dump that was. And then, to close out the episode, we’re going back to the gambit of “Rin’s the son of Satan, which means we can’t trust him.” It’s like my grievance with the second half of Attack on Titan – much like with Eren, if you have a weapon of mass destruction who, coincidentally, want’s to beat the s**t out of Satan, USE IT. If only anime characters had that much foresight, a lot of shows would be a lot better.
I’ll close this out by saying that I’m in the minority of folks who actually liked the first Blue Exorcist anime all the way through, having first viewed it on Toonami back in 2014. A lot of people didn’t care for the school setting, the humor, or even the anime-only second half (read: FILLER), but for my money, I thought it was perfectly serviceable for what it was. It being a monthly manga didn’t help with its anime adaptation, though, but hey, it’s been a few years and more of the manga has been adapted, so I’d say it’s fair that Blue Exorcist has earned a second chance. And personally speaking, having watched the first series fully in English, it’s a bit weird to my ears to watch this in Japanese; I guess part of me pines for hearing Kyle Hebert and Johnny Yong Bosch and Wendee Lee and… yes, even Bryce Papenbrook. You all don’t know how hard it was for me to say that. Now, the name of the game is honesty and journalism, so with that in mind, the animation doesn’t quite look as impressive as the first series did, and that’s a big grievance I have with A-1 Pictures’ work: their backgrounds and settings still look great, but the character models all look cheapened, and it’s made more apparent with there being flashback scenes from the first series included. The new look just has that flat and mid-budget and digital A-1 Pictures look, but it can’t quite pull it off like From the New World did. Of course, the long wait for more of the anime was because of it being a monthly manga, but even with that hinderance, the first series sold an impressive 12,000 discs-per-volume average in Japan, and seeing how this is technically shonen, that’s a very solid number. Alas, if Aniplex and A-1 Pictures had just waited a bit longer for more of the manga to come out, this series could have been much bigger as a result.
But, since we’ll never know how that panned out, a new series coming out 6 years later is certainly better than nothing at all… at least, for now. We still have a ways to go to see how this plays out. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for the second episode, and the latest episode (episode #3) on Monday. The Antichrist is back, and he’s got a blue fire roaring in his belly… sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Fairy Tail recently.
Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga is available on Crunchyroll, with new episodes every Friday at 1:30pm Eastern, and is also available on Daisuki.net, Hulu, and Amazon Video’s Anime Strike channel.