After six long years, one of the most-anticipated anime from earlier this year is now available on blu-ray! Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga Volume 1 is now available for pre-order! Release is scheduled for this November 14, 2017, so you won’t be waiting long to watch this amazing series.
In season 1, we are introduced to Rin Okumura, your typical teenage delinquent, academically poor and getting into fights all the time. However, his kind heart and good intentions lead him straight into trouble when he activates his dormant powers in a life-threatening situation, and discovers that he is the biological spawn of Satan. A series of heart-wrenching and bewildering events concludes with Rin attending Exorcist Cram School at True Cross Academy, where he trains to become one of the very people taught how to kill beings with demonic blood, like him. Satan, of course, is their number one enemy.
In the Kyoto Saga, Rin struggles with the aftermath of his rash decision to reveal his demonic heritage to save his classmates and friends from Amaimon, one of the seven demon kings of hell. After the Left Eye of the Impure King is stolen from True Cross Town, Rin and his classmates are assigned as reinforcements for the expedition to the Kyoto Branch to protect the Right Eye. At the same time, with everyone terrified of his blue flames and tensions running high from a suspected traitor within the Kyoto Branch, Rin needs to figure out a way to regain their trust and acceptance. To add to his stress, they’re all staying at the Toraya Ryokan, home to Rin’s three Kyoto-born classmates and one of the sites of Satan’s blue-flamed massacre 15 years prior. The plot thickens when the Head High Priest requests specifically for Rin’s help, and reveals a past history with Rin’s very own late Father Shiro Fujimoto. Volume 1 follows the events up to the revival of the Impure King, and sets up the scene for what will be an epic battle for Volume 2.
As this is a shonen series, fierce battle and action is to be expected. However, Kazue Kato’s ability to also develop complex characters that resonate with her audience has long differentiated Blue Exorcist from many other shounen series. This is particularly visible in the Kyoto Saga, where contrary to expectations that the focus will be on just stopping the Impure King, it’s also on Rin’s struggle for his friends and family’s acceptance.
From the beginning of Episode 1, you can see the rapid deterioration of his relationship with his beloved twin brother Yukio, a full-fledged trusted exorcist who did not inherit Satan’s blue flames due to a sickly disposition as a child. Though understandable due to the complex nature of Rin’s situation, Yukio oddly vacillates between over-protectiveness and anger towards Rin in this arc, further straining their relationship. Then, Rin is hit by the sobering reality of—against all his hopes—his classmates’ terror and avoidance.
In the episodes that follow, you can see the emotional impact written clearly on his face as Rin strives to keep his outlook positive and act normal, whilst getting rejected multiple times by the people he thought were his friends. The tragedy is, you can also see that Rin was already expecting them to spurn him, and that he’s resolved to trying anyways. That just makes his successes all that much more sweet and satisfying to see him win them over. If you’ve ever felt isolated by your peers before, I’d recommend having a tissue box on hand when you watch this. Either that, or a stress ball to rage on, on Rin’s behalf.
Simultaneously, Rin has an execution threat hanging over his head, no control over his flames, and lingering trauma from his father’s death that triggers from Bon’s treatment of his own father, the High Priest Tatsuma. Predictably, Rin’s attempt at an intervention spectacularly backfires, though he may be proven right by the end of Episode 6 as Tatsuma is on-site as first-to-respond when the Impure King is revived. To be honest, I have to wonder how far Rin’s innate altruism and optimistic outlook on life will go sometimes.
Essentially, this good-natured kid who was resigned to being a deadbeat—especially when compared to his overachieving valedictorian twin brother who also has an established career—literally had his whole world turned upside down and is told he’s now humanity’s number one enemy until he proves to everyone why they shouldn’t kill him outright. Then he finally makes some friends, and they become terrified of him because of who his biological father is. Rin’s definitely got a lot of work cut out for him.
Blue exorcist elegantly combines action, mystery, and just the right amount of teenage drama to realistically portray Rin’s situation and connect with the audience. In addition to the intense action, Blue Exorcist is driven by solid character development, embedded in an intricately designed narrative. I am particularly impressed by the insightful details illustrated in all the different relationships between each of the characters. The Kyoto arc establishes the foundation for the ExWires’ future interactions and teamwork, and neatly wraps up some of the unaddressed issues from season 1.
The Kyoto Saga continues at chapter 16 of the manga and after episode 16 of the original anime (yes, the butterfly scene isn’t manga-canon, sorry).
Produced by A-1 Studios, the graphics are stunning, with bright colors and detailed animation fitting for battle conflict and subtler character interactions. With all the complex emotions demonstrated in such a short arc, ranging from bitterness and despair to fear mixed with affection, perhaps it is no wonder that the exclusive bonus booklet contains a multitude of sketches for each character’s facial expressions.
As seen with season 1, Blue Exorcist has a brilliant audio selection, from the supporting background music, to the opening and ending songs. The opening song is “Itteki no Eikyou” (A Drop’s Influence) by UVERworld, and the ending song is “Kono te de” (With this Hand) by Rin Akatsuki. Personally, I really love the opening song, both for the music, and for the absolutely gorgeous overlay animation in the first ten seconds.
The voice acting is impeccable as expected, and the studios were able to bring back the original cast from season 1—for both the Japanese and English acts—despite the fact that it has been 6 years since.
- Languages spoken: Japanese and English
- Subtitles: English
- Aspect ratio: 16:9 widescreen (1920 x 1080P)
- Compression: MPEG-4 AVC
- Runtime: 147 minutes (Episodes 1-6)
Bonus Materials and Special Package:
As part of this new release, each Blu-ray set includes a deluxe booklet and illustration post cards.
The deluxe booklet features character bios for everyone, including draft sketches in different poses and facial expressions. The character bios feature a short character summary, and lists age, title/affiliation, birthdate, astrological sign, blood type, height, and weight.
The glossy illustrated post cards feature Rin and Yukio on one, the Kyoto trio on another, and Juuzo/Kinzo/Mamushi on the last to commemorate their adventures in Kyoto.
You definitely don’t want to miss this arc! From the exceptional character development and portrayal, to the well-written, action-filled plot, Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga has something for everyone. Whether you’re new to the anime or an old fan, I highly recommend you give this well-rounded series at least a watch. I’m also loving the exclusive special booklet included with all the main characters’ profiles.
The blu-ray for Volume 2 to conclude this season will be released February 13, 2018. Pre-order the full-set now!
Score: 10 out of 10