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Blue Exorcist Vol. #1 Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Discovering that you’re the son of Satan isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What They Say:
“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.

Contains episodes 1-7 plus a double-sided poster.
The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release contains only the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The show has a pretty active mix to it both with the dialogue and the action scenes so it’s pretty lively overall. The dialogue side of it has a fair bit of nuance at times as it deals with both the quiet and big scenes equally well. The softer dialogue moments aren’t as often as one might hope, but when they hit the big scenes it works very well. There’s a good variety to the action here, made more intense from when Rin gets all his blue flame on, and between the different types of weapons and more, it covers a pretty good range without any problems. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The set contains seven episodes from the series spread across just a single disc. The show has some strong animation from A-1 Pictures that comes across well here but isn’t problem free. The series has some strong, vibrant colors to it that deal with a range of situations, from the flames that Rin has to the more natural colors that come from Shiemi and her love of plants, flowers and gardens. With seven episodes here, the show does work a middling level of compression for the most part and it does come across well, but some areas show off some line noise and a touch of cross coloration in a couple of very minor instances in small spots. It’s nowhere near hugely distracting but if you’re paying attention you’ll see it.

Packaging:
Aniplex has put together a very good looking release here as it’s released with a clear single sized keepcase that has an O-card around it. The card and the cover for the keepcase are the same design so there’s not additional artwork to be had there. The front has a really good image of Rin looking serious with sword in hand while blue flames are diffused in the background. But the background also carries the image of his father, much larger than him, with his back to Rin that has a lot of meaning across the board. It’s god a great gold border for the O-Card and it all ties together very well. The back cover lets Yukio get a big presence and there’s a good small strip of shots from the show as well. The summary covers things fairly well while not going into too much detail. They do break down the discs episode numbers and titles clearly as well as the discs extras. The packaging extras are a little unusual since you usually don’t mention the O-card itself, though mentioning the reversible cover and poster insert isn’t bad. The reverse side covers are just as good as the main on too. One has a green background and character artwork for Shiemi and Yukio while the other goes a bit darker and brings in the cram school class. The included poster thankfully avoids going for fanservice stuff that’s not warranted. One side has a dark but great pairing of Yukio and Rin against the academy while the other side is bright and sillier as it puts Rin and Mephisto together for some fun.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty slick and definitely sets the mood as it uses a lot of blues for the background with active animation to it that gives it a great life. It moves different things around there while the foreground has a strong image of Rin with his sword out, flames going strong, that has a great look to it with his expression. The logo is similarly done as it’s along the lower left and the combination of all three pieces comes together in a strong way that sets the mood well with the instrumental music. The navigation along the bottom is simple but it moves quickly and submenus load fast and problem free. Due to it being a monolingual release, there’s no language submenu and it defaults to subtitles on.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty cute and definitely the kinds of things that help a show be just a little bit more. The big one for me are the bonus episodes of which there are a few. They’re one minute shorts that basically go for the humor and wackiness in a way that makes you grin stupidly and just like it. While there’s humor in the show, these are just gag bits and great to see. In addition to that, we get some of the web previews for the next episodes as done by the various spirits and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Kazue Kato that began in 2009 and is still going, Blue Exorcist is a twenty-six episode series from A-1 Pictures that has a great look to it and deals with a fun shonen concept. Originally released in Jump Magazine, you can see the trademarks that come from it while it steps things up a bit as well to try and play with the big boys as it wants to have long term potential but doesn’t want to be a monster of the week kind of show. It’s an unusual release, at least for this first volume, in that I’m getting to review it while the show is still going and has just a couple of episodes left in its run. Going back to the start and catching up on seven episodes in one sitting instead of over seven weeks helps to showcase the work differently.

The series revolves around Rin Okumura, a fifteen year old kid who has a hard time holding onto things like a job. We get to see him at the start with how things go badly for him with a job and when he gets home to the church where he lives with his fraternal twin brother Yukio, he has to go through the difficult part of explaining why, even though it’s a good thing as he got into a fight with some punks who were shooting at animals. Rin and Yukio were taken in as young children by the Father of the church who has become their father but the brothers couldn’t be more different. While Rin is kind of outgoing and haphazard with things, Yukio is the studios and serious type. So much so that while Rin has a hard time holding down a job, Yukio has been accepted to the True Cross Academy and is ready to move on to big things.

Where things change for Rin is when he’s landed a new job and ends up coming across something unexpected. He starts to see things that aren’t supposed to be there, strange spirits and similar spooky things. And it doesn’t take long to go big as one of the punks he’s dealing with ends up transforming into Astaroth, one of the higher level demons from the realm of Gehenna. As we discover, Gehenna and the human realm of Assiah should never cross, as they’re like mirror images of each other, but something has started to break down. And for Rin, it goes even further because the demons that come across call him out as the son of Satan and want to go big with it.

That’s the catalyst for things to change for Rin as he discovers his heritage, that everyone had lied to him all his life and that there are bigger things happening that he has to deal with. Learning that Yukio knew about who he really was, and that Yukio was half that ended up withotu any demonic power, Rin has a lot to cope with as everything changes and he ends up going into the True Cross Academy. It’s here that he learns that the academy is really for training exorcists and that even within it there’s an even more elite and secret cram school that deals with those that have real power and abilities above the norm. Run by Mephisto, who is definitely the odd man out here with his demonic background as he serves the Vatican, Rin finds himself having to conceal his true origins while trying to fit in with a situation that’s completely surreal and unknown to him.

While he does slowly make friends here, and a potential romantic interest, the main problem with it is that everyone expects Rin will know what to do, how to handle his studies and how to deal with life within the academy itself. The kind of abuse he gets is one of the things that bothered me in the weekly run and it’s still pretty apparent here unfortunately. On the positive side, you can see how the class comes together as a cast in its early form, something that does take a good part of the series run to really get there in full, but the seeds of it are here. The first we get to meet is Shiemi, a young woman who is very close to the plants world and has a great if skewed understanding of them. The rest of the class comes together slowly, mostly focusing on Suguro, the resident punk who is actually a high skilled exorcist with a whole lot of potential.

Working off of the designs from the manga, the animation for Blue Exorcist is definitely sharp and was readily apparent even during the simulcasts. It has a great sense of color design when it wants to go big but it also finds a lot of good things to work with in the everyday life. When it does go big, such as with the demons and Rin’s powers, it has a vibrancy and life to it that definitely makes you take notice. And it marries that to some pretty fluid animation at times to make those scenes feel even richer. The designs for the characters do follow some traditional patterns but there’s a good mixture between the harder characters with the angled designs and those that are softer and more well rounded. A-1 Pictures has been a real favorite animation studio of mine for the last couple of years with the variety to their work and the sense of design that they have and Blue Exorcist is no exception and is one of their better adaptations of another source.

In Summary:
With this release being mostly setup and basic introductions to the cast, it works a pretty good balance overall and offers up enough to tempt you if you like the general idea. I had some problems with the show during the simulcast run with how it structured itself, but when you take it in through this form with seven episodes in a row, the flow definitely comes across better. There are still issues to be had that feel like they’re needlessly abusing Rin and that some elements just aren’t covered well enough, giving it a bit of a rushed and almost slapdash feeling at first, but once it shifts to the academy things ease out a bit and get a chance to breathe. It does have to deal with other issues, and Rin doesn’t make it easy because of his nature, but there’s a certain sense of fun and darkness to the show that may not always click well but does try to win you over as best as it can with its charms.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ura-Ex Shorts, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Web Previews

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade:

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: October 18th, 2011
MSRP: $37.48
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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