We’ve made it. The last episode of what has been a very underwhelming sequel series. And after this, I am writing off Blue Exorcist forever – I’ve got my fill, I need no more. Let’s fry this turkey, folks.
Right off the bat, my brain’s been shuffled around and tossed like a rag doll. Follow along, if you will – you all know Shiemi’s had these “Omigod he’s soooooooo KEWL” feelings toward Rin, right? Well, as it turns out, they were all just feelings of, get ready for it… FRIENDSHIP. Welcome to the Friend Zone, Rin, and say hi to Dr. Dorian and all of Elliott’s would-be’s for me. Six years of buildup, just for that. Ain’t that something. But yeah, the day has been saved, so now everyone’s enjoying some quiet time and taking a few breaths. Which apparently involves Shura getting all cozy and cuddly with Mephisto… you know, putting on an act to inquire some deeper motives as to what he has planned with Rin. What they may be, I don’t know and I can’t be all that bothered to care anymore, so shrug emoticon. Anyway, let’s lightning round what happens with everyone else: Yukio is told to back off of Rin, Bon’s dad decides to help out at the inn everyone’s staying at, Juzo proclaims marriage with Mamushi, and the main cast decides to do some sightseeing, hoo-da-hah. And yes, that does mean Rin got to see Kyoto Tower, just like when that kid in The Wizard got to see the dinosaur from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. And to close everything out, Rin and Yukio have another one of their brotherly spat and spiels, with Rin proclaiming that he will become an Exorcist. So I guess, in the end, truly, he is an Aqua Teen Hunger… no, wait, wrong show. In the end, truly, he is the Blue Exorcist… if that means anything to anyone.
It had been nearly 6 years between the first and second Blue Exorcist anime series, so that poses the question of whether or not the wait was worth it. I’ll get back to that in a moment, but from start to finish, this has been a questionable addition to the series, one that should never have been questionable in the slightest. Let’s start with the positives that this series has to offer: it’s an adaptation of canon material from the manga, which means very little in the way of veering off of the main narrative or character personalities. When it comes to anime adaptations, faithfulness has always a plus for me; it’s why I consider FMA Brotherhood to be superior to FMA 03… but that’s a story for another time. Then there are the negatives, which boil down to three big ones, for me. Firstly, the animation is considerably more held back, in comparison to the 2011 anime. One of my biggest grievances with A-1 Pictures is that their style of animation production, 90% of the time, is very same-y and paint-by-numbers. Sure, the facial features are faithful to the original characters in this series, but as far as animation production goes, it’s wholly unimpressive.
Then there’s the villain, Todo. Nothing says uninteresting and boring like a god-mod that can reconstruct and reform at will. Look, I’m not an anime expert, but I am fairly well-rounded in the creative process of crafting a narrative, and if you want a villain to work, there has to be a foil, a point of weakness, a center of hubris in which the villain falls. Todo has NONE of these qualities, he’s just an uninteresting, boring, lifeless shell of a villain, and with a bad villain, the entire narrative structure falls apart. Everything with the Impure King, Mamushi’s heel-face turn, the spores, they all suffer because Todo sucks as a villain.
Then there’s the pacing… oh boy, the pacing. So, you know how the first two arcs of Dragon Ball Super are extended, episodic versions of the Battle of Gods and Resurrection F movies? That’s what Kyoto Saga feels like, an extended version of a 2-hour movie. Not only do each of the episodes feel incredibly slow and uneventful, some episodes feel outright pointless, like they’d be a 10-minute sequence at the end of a second act of a film. I know how film structure works, and these 12 episodes can easily be compiled and re-edited into a 2-hour film, with a proper first, second, and third acts. This is a serious hinderance against Kyoto Saga, the episodes don’t have the three-act structure that shows like these have to thrive on; instead, the entire show has the three-act structure, with the first third of the show being the setup, the middle third being the confrontation, and the final third being the resolution. For a short-form anime, this is murder on a weekly audience, and for me, this became a drag to sit through, REALLY quick.
Here’s the thing, though: I went into this as a FAN of Blue Exorcist. But, my God, seeing Rin being cute and Shura being hot can only do so much for me. I genuinely liked and enjoyed the first series, I liked hearing Rin say that he was gonna beat the s**t out of Satan, time after time, but he never said that in this series, not once. The first series had a great balance of levity and gravitas, and it knew when to have a bit of fun every once in a while, but here? Everything felt so deathly serious that it dragged everything down. In the end, Kyoto Saga just became this lifeless, paint-by-numbers, autopilot season, and it deserved so much better than it. I should’ve covered Dragon Maid instead, I would’ve had a lot more fun with that show.
So, in closing, was Kyoto Saga worth the six-year-long wait? No. No, it was not.
Final Verdict: Only for the diehard-est of Blue Exorcist diehards. Not even worth a run on Toonami.
But now that this show has come to an end, and now that the winter season has come to an end, what will I be covering for spring? Well, the pickings for this season are pretty slim, all things considered, so why not go for the biggest fish in the pond?
Monday, y’all. See you then.
All 12 episodes of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga are available on Crunchyroll, Daisuki.net, Hulu, and Amazon Video’s Anime Strike channel.