Sometimes when you screw up, you end up on the most fascinating of adventures.
What They Say:
When his adopted father, Shiro Fujimoto, was killed by his biological father, Satan, Rin Okumura swore to become an exorcist to avenge Shiro’s death declaring war on his own blood-relatives of the underworld…
Everyone is in the midst of preparing for a festival which is celebrated once every 11 years in True Cross Academy Town. However, behind the scenes in the shadows, a “Phantom Train” goes berserk while the barriers protecting the town from demon intrusions are under repair. Rin, Yukio, and Shiemi are sent to exorcise the Phantom Train, but as usual Rin complicates the situation.
Amidst the chaos, Rin meets a demon in the form of a young boy. Meanwhile, Cheng-Long Liu, a Senior Exorcist First Class from the Taiwan Branch joins Shura in the repair operation and the story takes an unexpected turn as all their fates cross…
The audio presentation for this release once again throws me into some real confusion about how Aniplex USA plans all of this and decides what to do. The release comes with three main audio tracks for the show itself and two commentary tracks. On this high definition release, there are two 5.1 mixes for the English and Japanese tracks and they’re both done in DTS. High DTS to be sure, but still DVD codec DTS rather than the lossless DTS-HD MA meant for Blu-ray. We also get a stereo mix for the Japanese that brings us the PCM coding for it which at least gives us a lossless track that definitely sounds big and rich, but it’s stereo when there should be a lossless 5.1 mix. The commentary tracks are done in stereo using DTS as well, which is more than they need. The film itself is pretty well done, though it’s probably a bit of the placebo effect in that you feel that the 5.1 mixes should be richer and more engaging since they’re lossy in form. I opted for the stereo PCM mix which definitely gave a great performance across the forward soundstage with a solid and rich feeling, but it felt like I was definitely missing something since obviously it wasn’t a theatrical mix as that was done in 5.1 for theaters. The film has a good design overall and it comes across very clean and clear in this form, but the release as a whole once again is another Aniplex release where I cannot figure out what they’re thinking.
Originally in theaters in 2011, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by A-1 Pictures, who handled the TV series as well, they seriously bumped up their quality and performance level here which is surprising as I really liked the look of the TV show. What we get here is something that is so richly designed with the backgrounds, colors and details that it feels even more dense and lived in than many other films out there. It’s a generally dark looking film because of the story, but it never comes across as murky or difficult to see what’s going on. The result is a beautiful looking film with incredibly fluid animation throughout that really makes it completely engaging and easy to be drawn into. They also really worked the transfer and encoding in a great way here as it essentially spends all of its time at 39mbps with a few minor dips and several bumps up into the low forties. Essentially, the bulk of the disc space is given over to the film rather than just left there unused.
The limited edition version of this release is pretty nicely done as it has a couple of very good things to offer. The film comes in a heavy chipboard box that holds the two clear Blu-ray cases inside. The front cover gives us a very artistic look at the cast that populates the feature with Rin and Usamaro together that definitely catches the eye more. It has a warm color palette used for it that definitely looks nice and gives it a kind of earthy and easy to connect with feeling. It’s also ringed by a gold border that adds a certain kind of richness to it. This kind of design is used on the back as well with a full coverage piece rather than more artwork, which works decently enough but feels a little disappointing since there is some appealing artwork that could have been used.
Inside the box we get the two cases where the feature disc has the more familiar poster style artwork for the film with Rin and Usamaro together as they flit about above the city. The back cover has a more celebratory piece with most of the main cast here at the festival with a lot of bright, vibrant colors that gives it a lot of great pop. The artwork on the reverse side is a location from the film which certainly works, though it’s kind of dark and dank which takes away from some of the appeal of the front side of the cover. The second case is for the extras DVD and that uses the same background as the back of the box set itself while just adding the text for what it is. It’s simple and all encompassing but there is some better material on the reverse side that shows off a very busy festival style background. And like other Aniplex limited editions, we get a few pack-in extras here that are quite neat. There’s a small but beautiful postcard set with some great pieces from the film itself. We also get a thirty-two page booklet that brings in a lot of material from the production with design work, promotional material and a lot of background artwork. It’s a very high quality booklet in terms of paper type and color vibrancy which really makes the artwork stand out beautifully.
The menu design for this release uses a lot of different visuals from the feature that slide in and out of view while done with some good filters to give it a very interesting look. This dominates the menu in general which looks good and sets the mood pretty nicely for the feature with what it does. The navigation strip is along the bottom and it’s worked in a good blue and black layout with touches of white that fits in with the nature of the series and its color design. Submenus are simple but load quickly and effectively as well as when figuring out which language selections to use. The text is a touch small in these menus, but it’s mostly in the extras where you’ll want to check it out more carefully to make sure you have it right and can read it easily.
The release comes with some good extras on the main disc and has a supplementary disc that’s just for this release. On the main feature, we get a couple of commentary tracks from the original production team talking about what went into the feature, both in terms of acting and animation/design. We also get a small but good array of trailers, commercials and promotional videos that were released in the lead-up to the film. The second disc has the extras designed just for this release on DVD as we get a thirty minute interview that was done in 2012 at A-1 Pictures with the director and two producers of the film as they go into their feelings and thoughts on the production and result.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success for the two season TV series and the ongoing general popularity of the manga, it wasn’t a surprise that Blue Exorcist was going to make the leap to movie form. A-1 Pictures has had some decent luck in picking and choosing the projects they do for films, especially coming from TV material, and this one definitely fits the bill. What helped make it more interesting to me in general though was that they thankfully opted to tell an original story here rather than recap and rework parts of the TV series in big form. There’s always an appeal to doing something like that and giving us an even bigger quality film with a condensed and tighter story of what defined the show to begin with, but there’s a been there and done that kind of feeling that always nags me. So with this feature, going in a fresh and new direction with a standalone tale that admittedly doesn’t change much of anything works nicely.
While we get a touch of background here with who Rin and Yukio is, we’re largely expected to know what’s going on here, who is who and the general themes of the film. The story has a couple of things going on, though it’s only one track that really was all that appealing for me overall. The theme revolves around the story of a village from ages ago that had its own particular problem with a demon, but mostly in that it was handled poorly and the friendly demon was gone, which caused the village to disappear. Since then, the story has turned into a kind of festival and celebration that comes around every eleven years. This also comes at the same time in the main city that the series takes place in is doing a sealing that has to happen along the same time as the barriers grow weaker and must be dealt with. That has them bringing in a bit of outside help from Cheng-Long Liu, whose role intersects with the other stories that build up but is really more of a background player overall.
What gets things rolling here is a good bit of fun as we get Rin, Yukio and Shiemi on a mission to deal with a phantom train that is going kind of nuts on a regular basis lately where as it transports the souls of the dead in ghost form through the tunnel, it gets hungry for them instead and opts to devour them. That has the team going in and trying to save the latest group of ghosts that are there, which Shiemi does beautifully, and then to try and deal with the phantom train itself. It’s the big opening action sequence to be sure and as it sprawls across the city, you realize just what kind of level and detail that the production is putting into the film here as it’s hugely impressive. So much so that you find yourself pausing to the film to really take in certain backgrounds or action moments. The danger of the mission is definitely well done here and we see the relationship between the trio – and the brothers – easily, which cements things well enough so you can see the tension from there on it. And there is some, especially since Rin finds himself suspended for a few days because of his reckless actions.
This ends up putting him in the case of Usamaro, a small demon that needs to be dealt with but nobody is around to do so because of the larger barrier sealing operation that’s going on. Usamaro is one that you can tell quickly and easily is tied to the story of the past, and that plays out across the film with ties to the larger barrier sealing and the phantom train demon that’s still lurking in the city that will cause problems. But it’s the time between Rin and Usamaro that really dominates the film and is so much fun to watch. Rin’s tasked with figuring out who he is and that means spending a lot of time with him, first with Usamaro in a cage and then working together and growing closer. It’s a very heartwarming kind of arc as the two of them deal with things and Usamaro has a child-like nature about him that makes it easier for him to connect with Rin and for Rin to really want to take care of him.
Not surprisingly, everything comes together because of the phantom train demon that’s out there, or parts of him at least, and the tension of the brothers comes into play as well since Rin is more compassionate in a lot of ways compared to Yukio’s by the book approach. The film doesn’t exactly provide anything really revolutionary here or impressive with its story, but it does it well and keeps things moving and engaging. The big moments definitely go very big and though there are a lot of quiet moments here because of the focus on Rin and Usamaro, but all of it really flows well. The action aspects of the film are plentiful and there’s such a quality and fluidity about it that you really can marvel at it. The film really does make you want to slow it down regularly and play certain scenes over and over again in order to take in the kind of detail there is to it.
Movies done from ongoing series are always a bit dicey in some ways since you can never be sure what you’re going to get. Blue Exorcist provides us with a solid standalone story that doesn’t spend much time on explaining what the property is about. We get a little bit about it and then it’s off to the races with what this film is about. The big draw for me here, outside of the beautiful animation and detail that’s throughout but even more so with the action, is watching the way Rin and Usamaro spend their time together and connect. The more relaxed tone of these scenes definitely reinforces Rin’s nature well and left me really liking him all the more. It’s been a few years since I originally saw the series with its simulcast, so getting a new story after all this time is definitely great and makes me wish there was more out there in animated form.
Japanese DTS 5.1 Language, English DTS 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Commercials, Promotional Videos, Interview
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 17th, 2013
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.