What They Say:
During a 3-day drill to prepare Rin and fellow Ex-Wires for actual combat, Amaimon suddenly appears and takes Shiemi as a hostage to lure Rin. Angry, Rin fights Amaimon and he ends up going berserk! He regains control of himself only to be captured by the current Paladin, Angel, and sent to the Vatican for trial. As the hearing drags on, the Order finds itself unable to decide on Rin’s fate, as Mephisto has proclaimed him to be “a weapon for counter-attacking Satan.” Rin is now forced to obey the Vatican’s order or face execution!
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 Pheles and Amaimon together where Amaimon is behind him a bit with a kind of an oddly surprised look about him and what’s going on. 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. While the weaker side involves showing off the True Cross higher-ups place, the other is pretty good with its green background that has the main cast of kids in an action pose from the side going strong. The included poster thankfully avoids going for fanservice stuff that’s not warranted as it features a pairing of the two brothers on one side and has them again on the other with Shura against a white background that feels fun.
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 fun image of Pheles in his mildly gaudy outfit with a lazy grin about him. 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)
Continuing to go through Blue Exorcist in these quarter collections has certainly been interesting to do since it really has a different feeling than the simulcast I watched. This set of episodes in particular was somewhat frustrating to watch over the course of six weeks since it felt a bit less defined and took forever to get what it wanted to do accomplished. But watching it in this form, essentially a 2 hour movie when you remove the opening and closings, it has a very good flow and feel to it as it deals with the training that the group of Ex-Wires are going through in order to prepare for the next level. It wasn’t bad the first time through but in this form you can see more of the connective tissue of it.
Getting this group trained up has been something in the series that feels like it’s being rushed a bit, but you can see that there are things happening along the edges that would cause this. In order to get them some training that they need, Yukio and Shura take them on a camping style field trip out to a protected set of woods where there are a number of underlying spirits and creatures that have grown over time, just not enough to spill out past the protections that are there. What they set them to do is that there are three slots that are open and the group has to bring a lantern back in order to win. The kids interpret it as meaning only three will pass this test and they head out on their own individually to try and secure a win.
Of course, putting this kids on their own enters its own realm of troubles but there’s also some confusion about what the real goal of the training is, though several of them do eventually get it and they work together. It turns comical, but the underlying problem that comes from it is that in a forest full of spirits, it pushes and draws out Rin’s power and Bon ends up discovering what he really is, along with the others as it just goes over the top. And this only happens because Pheles is manipulating events as he has the King of the Earth show up, Amaimon, who intends to playfull take down Rin himself for his own reasons. It’s something that spirals a little out of control, but it’s all designed to move Rin’s story forward by revealing who he truly is.
This revelation does bring the show to an interesting point because you now have his classmates who have a better idea of who he is. And several of them have very strong ties to the Blue Night event from sixteen years prior in which they lost loved ones, so knowing that he’s related to it is just too much for some like Konekomaru as it just puts a lot of fear into him. It’s actually a good positive to work with because it challenges all of them to deal with something very much outside of their comfort zone and to either realize they can’t get past it or to put the effort in and do it. There are some cute moments where universal truths come in such as not judging others by who they’re related to but rather their actions. It may be predictable, but it plays over a couple of episodes and has some residual effect as well that’s really nicely done.
The way the set ends is a little awkward as it has the gang deciding that they want to help Izumo out by throwing her a birthday party. With Rin, he’s just going along as if everything is normal and there is some tension and conflict in the air because of it, but he just wants to give her a good birthday, especially since he didn’t really have friends growing up and it’s not something he got to participate in much. This does a good job overall of re-bonding the group some, though I was sad to see Shiemi off to the side for a lot of it, and it goes through a couple of small convolutions before it gets to the better idea of just having them all celebrate things, tossing in the tidbit that Yukio and Rin don’t even know their true birthdays since they didn’t know their mother. It’s a good lead-in for what’s to come and is a relaxed way of ending out the set as well..
While I enjoyed Blue Exorcist overall during its original airing, I’m finding the show in this form to be a heck of a lot more enjoyable. The six episodes here are essentially an arc all unto themselves, but it can also be broken in half easily and you get two very good pieces. The first half works well as a training exercise that goes pretty big with the action and how it shifts perceptions. It also slides in just enough humor to make it fun at the right times as well. As the show turns in another direction and focuses on the fallout from it, it offers up some good character drama and a growing look at the larger picture for the series when it comes to the True Cross hierarchy and those very fare above that are dealing with a very different situation that we only get the edges to. While the show may go too big too quickly overall, there’s a lot to like here and it’s moving in a fun direction while making it a decent ensemble work.
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+
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 17th, 2012
Running Time: 150 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.