As more of the brothers past is explored, the more they realize their importance in the world – and to each other.
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 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.
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/four format. 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 range 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.
The packaging for this release is generally the same as the first one which means it’s 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 dark piece with Rin in the foreground all intense and powered up. It’s a great image but it’s also one that’s a bit different as an 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 along with a rather curious and almost zombie like pallor for Shura that is strangely enticing. 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 Yukio with a really curious smile to his face as he leans his gun against his forehead while the back side, done in silver, breaks down the tracks and names along with a slate of credits for the release.
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.
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 second round of English cast interviews.
Each time I get involved with Blue Exorcist, it’s a different experience and the perceptions do change some with it. Having gone from weekly simulcast to the four collections that were subtitled only and now to the Blu-ray sets that each contain half of the series, the marathon session becomes longer and the scale and connective aspects of the stories are much clearer and easier to digest in some ways. Especially when there’s some good emotional growth along the way, which is hugely important not only just for the two main characters of Rin and Yukio, but also for the way we see the group as a whole bond together and some of the smaller relationships, especially between Rin and Shiemi.
With the start of this half of the series, 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.
As it moves closer to the end of the series, and fills in some of the gaps with a background story for Noihaus for example, the storyline involving someone hunting after the brothers as their friends back at the church have been wrapped up in some unnatural goop that keeps them alive but otherwise incapacitated as the mystery man waits to draw out the two. There’s a plan to it, but it’s pretty pointless in the end as it all turns around into something else as they discover the Noihaus is involved and he himself is being hunted by the Vatican due to his own past that has come to light where he was involved with reanimating people. A taboo practice to be sure, but it gets into what has had him so off key for so long as we understand what had happened to him. It’s an interesting angle to see what happened to his wife all that time ago and how it impacts the present as it brings the hunt directly to everyone and makes it clear that the Vatican certainly plays by its own rules.
And one of the big things that comes from it is that Yukio gets to meet his grandfather, someone that he didn’t know had existed nor that he was so key to the organization. Being brought into that while Rin finishes out events with Noihaus leads to Yukio really finding the world different as his grandfather has been working a project that’s epic in scale and devastation but key to doing what he himself wants. With Yukio succumbing to his demon side more and more in recent episodes and the concern he has for his older brother, as he always plays the older brother even though he’s younger, has him seeing the potential of the plan without thinking about the real ramifications. The idea of dropping a massive bomb into the demon realm through a temporary gate and destroying everything over there is impressive, but the moral side seemingly escapes everything.
This sets the stage for quite the war to brew but it’s one that takes an unusual turn because of what’s needed to power everything. Sending every exorcist, including many trainees, out into the world to take down as many demons as possible with a special weapon that essentially sucks up their essence to power the bomb, a bomb that nobody else knows about, is disturbing. But it also requires a sacrifice to open the gate, which puts a strain between the brothers as one of the must be used in order to power it. A lot of things come together at this point as the demons are starting to burst through, the bomb is ready to go and Satan himself is ready to take advantage of everything.
The final few episodes focuses a lot of on the action side of things, which is definitely well done overall because it’s largely kept personal, but it also expands the large story with the core cast of characters by dealing with things that don’t even involve them directly. The exploration of how the brothers were conceived is glossed over a little, but we see a lot about how their mother Yuri was, how their adoptive Father took care of them for so long and the truth about how she died. It definitely colors some of what you think about what happened, and makes Father even far more interesting than he was before, but it’s an awkward placement overall because it happens just before the final episode. It throws off the dynamic a bit but in the end it does help to tie a lot of things together.
Blue Exorcist in its second half of the series does a really good job of fleshing out the world more, the various supporting characters and some very useful background material. Mephisto continues to be a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons and he has some good fun here in the second half. The series does things right as a shonen show and the material it’s based on as it brings things to a solid conclusion here as they go big with events in a world shattering way. The show plays well with the big moments as I love the Messiah bomb and how the whole sacrifice unfolds, but it also loses some of the characters along the way. The focus is obviously on Rin and Yukio and they get a lot of attention, but I wish it was more of an ensemble ending, as good as what we get here is. This is definitely a fun show and it worked much better for me in this form than it did in simulcast form. Aniplex put together a good release here that captures the show well, has some good extras and looks solid as well as a very strong packaging presentation since it has a great box and the inclusion of the soundtrack. The series is one that definitely makes out a lot better in high definition and Aniplex hits all the right marks here.
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: September 10th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.