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Blue Exorcist Part 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

Blue Exorcist Blu-ray Box Set 1
Blue Exorcist Blu-ray Box Set 1
Being 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 1-12 and a bonus episode featuring Kuro plus Original Soundtrack CD 1, bonus DVD: English Cast Interview Part 1: Okumura Brothers & Cram School Gang, and a 36-page deluxe illustration booklet, all housed in a rigid box illustrated by manga author Kazue Kato.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track as well as the new English language dub, both of which are presented in the uncompressed PCM format in stereo at 2.3mbps each. The two mixes are very strong overall with what they do here as they work the forward soundstage as there’s a lot of clarity, placement and appropriate areas of depth when they come along. The show sounded decent on the DVD incarnation, but here everything feels warmer and richer and just generally stronger, though not overdone where it’s brash or obnoxious. The series works the forward soundstage well when it comes to using the dialogue among the characters but it shines more with the action sequences and all the sounds associated with it. The music is decent throughout but it’s the opening and closing sequences where it feels the riches and warmest. Dialogue is clean and clear through and we didn’t have any 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 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across three discs in a five/four/three format with the bonus episode on that last disc as well. Animated by A-1 Pictures, Blue Exorcist is simply gorgeous. I liked the presentation on DVD before, but I had come from the simulcast that was in high definition and that left a nagging feeling in the back of my head. In watching it in its high definition format here, where so much of it is encoded in the 35mbps rangef on average, it just blows everything else away. The visual presentation here has rich colors and the fluid animation is just a delight to watch. Detail is strong and clean and we didn’t have any issues with noise or other encoding defects or any issues with the source material across the thirteen episodes here. This is just gorgeous.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is quite good as we get a heavy chipboard box that’s colorful and slightly different in its artwork design than the show itself. The front panel of the box gives us a look at Shiemi and Rin with a lot of bright colors to it but a softer approach and a different but interesting interpretation of the character designs by the original manga creator. The back cover, underneath the informational sheet that’s glued on top of it, has a shot of Yukio as its central focus in the same style as well as most of the main group of students that populates the series. It all wraps around the entire thing with a bit of architecture along the spine and a touch of character artwork as well. Inside the box we also get a very good 36 page booklet that’s in full color and full of great material. While there are a couple of pages of SD character artwork, most of it is filled with magazine gallery pieces and the original covers as well as other promotional pieces, some of which we saw with the DVD releases. The quality of the booklet is spot on and there’s a lot of great pieces to soak up here.

The cases inside the box are also well done, though they go with a bit more of a minimal approach. Using clear Blu-ray cases (which are always appealing in sets like this), the first two cases have deep blue framing borders where the front and back sides have different pieces of artwork, some we saw with the previous DVD releases. The covers also have full artwork on the reverse side that shows off some of the locations from the series itself. The third case brings us the CD soundtrack which has a great shot of Rin on the front with headphones on while the back side, done in silver, breaks down the tracks and names along with a slate of credits for the release.

Menu:
The menu design for the release is fairly traditional in a way as it provides for a simple but easy to use menu strip along the bottom that covers the basics that you need. It doesn’t double exactly as a pop-up menu as that menu has the access points such as the language and scene election, but you have to go back to the main menu to access the extras on the fly, which continues to baffle me since few companies do this overall. The bulk of the menu though is just clips from the episodes themselves, which flashes the logo early on and then runs through a series of character pop-ups that look good and action backgrounds along the way. It has a good flow and everything is easy to navigate overall and works well. I do like that when I select the Japanese language, it automatically tags the proper subtitles for it. It’s not the flashiest of menus but it fits the show and theme well and is easy to use.

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 as they’re spread across the release. 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. The release also includes a separate DVD that deals with the English cast interviews.

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-five episode series from A-1 Pictures that has a great look to it and deals with a fun shonen concept. This first set brings us the first twelve episodes of the series plus a bonus episode. 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. This release marks our third viewing of the series, first in weekly simulcast form and then across four DVD releases that were spaced out and changed the nature of how it all flows. Now we get the first twelve episodes in one set and that again alters the way you marathon it..

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 without 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.

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 set 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.

In Summary:
Though Blue Exorcist plays with some familiar themes and formats considering its manga origins, what we get with the anime series is a pretty strong work that definitely connected with a lot of people. The feeling of being different, being bound by the actions of family and having a hard time fitting in when moving to a new school are all familiar feelings for many. Rin’s a little different of course and there’s the added element of demons and deadly actions, but the end result is a show that keeps things moving even while working through the predictable character building and expansion episodes. There’s a lot to take in with this world and it’s doled out well, adding fresh viewpoints on things while not feeling like we should have had all of that information much earlier. Rin’s the lead but they build a solid ensemble along the way that makes it work even better. With this new Blu-ray release, we get the strong English language dub that has been out there for a bit now and we get the high definition video and audio, which makes a huge difference in presentation. This is a very well put together release that hits all the right marks and will definitely delight and please fans of the property.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, “Ura-Ex” Animation (B-side Exorcist), Textless Opening & Ending, Next Episode Previews (Web Versions), Commercials and Trailers.

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
MSRP: $174.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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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