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 8-13 and a bonus episode featuring Kuro, plus a double-sided poster.
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.
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 six 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 six 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.
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 that pairs Shura with Rin as she’s in the foreground which brings a lot of flesh tones, reds and other colors to the piece. Rin is in the background acting all serious and he blends into the darkness rather well with his blue flames and the generally black background that’s here otherwise It’s got a great gold border for the O-Card and it all ties together very well. The back cover lets one of the more interesting new arrivals in the series get some time 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 blue background and character artwork for Rin where he’s looking somewhat serene yet serious while the other goes a bit darker and brings in the cram one of the rooms used by the Knights. 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 together with them in their fuller uniforms while the opposite side has a full cast classroom shot of everyone together with a bit of fun in that location.
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.
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 good 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)
The home video experience of Blue Exorcist continues to paint a different picture of the series for me compared to when I viewed it in simulcast form. The opening volume of the series with its seven episodes worked rather well for me while I had found the show uneven on a weekly basis and I came away from it with a better appreciation of it all, though the weaknesses were still mostly intact. With the second disc of the series, giving us another six episodes to take us through the mid way point of its run, the approach is a bit different since things settle down a bit and starts to lay the foundation for what the second half will be about. A little hindsight works well too in this regard.
With Rin having made it to the True Cross Academy and now bunking with his younger brother who also happens to be one of the instructors there, his life is still plenty difficult. What’s really impacting it though is that even though he’s generally a good guy (especially important considering he is the son of Satan), there’s still plenty of friction in the class that he’s in. Everyone is definitely their own person with distinct backgrounds that are driving them in a particular way, but they’re all still missing one of the key things about being an Exorcist and that’s that they do have to work as a team to truly survive out in the field. They’ve had a couple of tough run-in’s so far, but it’s nothing compared to the reality of an Exorcist that’s out and about in the world.
Which is why Yukio decides that the group really needs to take some time to cool off after the latest flare up, which has them all put into a room together to go through some quiet training to build up their friendships so they can be effective together. It’s actually part of a larger test, one that will see if they can handle the next level of their training by becoming ExWire’s, which will allow them the chance to go out into that world, but it’s a difficult piece for Rin in particular since he has to hold back even as events get out of the instructor’s control. And it doesn’t help that as a team building episode, Rin takes it on himself to draw the demon away since he can take more damage and heal more easily. It’s a personality problem of his, something that Yukio calls him out on in plain fashion as a reason why he has to make some extra effort with all of this.
Because of the nature of the series at this stage, a lot of what we get here is standalone material that just has the group starting to work together in different configurations. One episode, a beach episode no less, has a couple of them heading there to do some restaurant work when they thought they’d hit the beach and it leads to an amusing story about an old demon squid that may have come back to the area while also involving a young kid who gets pretty hands on with Izumo. It’s a rough episode in some ways, but it does work in showing how they stumble into situations. Another episode spends some good time showcasing Shiemi’s background as we see how she met Yukio for the first time and was drawn to him and into the world of being an Exorcist. The small but important expansion of her personality goes a long way towards softening her up and making her even more likable.
The end of the disc has some material that starts to move things forward, though it starts off as fairly comical at first. With the class as a whole going to Mephisto’s amusement park, Mephyland, they’re there to find a little lost child ghost that’s causing problems flipping skirts and so forth. While it has some nice light moments, it turns into something bigger when one of Mephisto’s associates gets more active in scoping out what Rin is capable of and it forces the hand of the Knights of the True Cross who has one of their high level investigators get involved. Shura’s got a strong connection to Rin’s father no less which adds some fun tension and expands a bit more on the origin story for Rin in a way as we see how he ended up in Shiro’s hands for safe keeping, and what he eventually turned Rin into.
While I had a rough time with these episodes when I watched it weekly during its original broadcast, events do feel a bit more connected and fluid here which makes for a more enjoyable experience. Rin is still the central focus and one of the things I really liked and still do is that they make him and Shiemi a rather ideal couple early on but move on it slowly and in cute and appropriate fashion. There’s a lot of sidetracking going on here, but it’s to help expand the cast of characters and their quirks and abilities while trying to foster a stronger relationship between them. They don’t come across as a big happy family when all is said and done here, which is a positive as it’s more realistic and interesting to watch, but it does start to smooth things out a little bit between them. There’s plenty to like here, but it is mostly just setup, development and the calm before the storm.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, “Ura-Ex” Animation (B-side Exorcist), Textless Opening & Ending, Next Episode Previews (Web Versions)
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: January 24th, 2011
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.