Blue Exorcist didn't have it easy. I can't remember a show that had so much hype build up prior to its release. The show was being simulcast by almost every company with a web server, and the manga was kicking off in the states at the same time. Let's not forget to mention all the figures, video games, and lives being supported by this new license.
The show about the son of Satan, his brother, and his unlikely teammates was brimming with potential. There were a lot of ways to play this; straight action, high school life, occult. Or maybe the show would attempt them all. We had the benefit of watching Rin and Yukio's story over the course of a full season, which is becoming less, and less common. A-1 Pictures must have been under a huge amount of pressure to deliver a successful product with Blue Exorcist.
Unfortunately, a lot of different things can happen under pressure, although not all of them disastrous. Blue Exorcist was a mixture of a lot of stuff, a lot of them great. Hit the jump for my Final Impressions on this fun, but flawed series.
I know a lot of people disagree with me about this, but as an anime series, Blue Exorcist didn't know what it wanted to be. I understand a shonen show like this is only following the paths laid out before it by the manga, but how the show chooses to divide the time and focus on this material is where it will win or lose. Like I mentioned above, the show seemed to have a few too many cooks in the kitchen, and it showed. A few episodes really excelled, with a few just completely falling on their face. There seem to be an issue finding what the team was good at, and more than anything the show really looked like the whole team (especially animation) would completely change shifts from episode to episode, with the former teams trying to wrangle the show back in their desired direction.
They kept close to its core story well. Two brother, who care deeply about each other and the promises made tho their father. When they went back to the theme, the story seemed to do quite well. In fact, I'd say that my favorite aspect of the show was the humor. The brother pranks, the antics, and of course Mephisto. The first few episodes really played up on the slice of life, in an unlikely life thing pretty well. The humor and the warmth worked great. The post credit animations were especially endearing.
The show was at its worst when it wallowed in self pity. There was a lot of self loathing, from everyone. It was ok, and I like anime that goes into dark gloomy places, but this got really whiney. Things got so self loathing at times it made me dispise the characters! Everyone really presented more problems than solutions, and really did very little to solve any of them. Everyone on the show should still be on suicide watch!
I think my biggest issue that you heard me gripe upon constantly was the animation. Things started clean, high budget, and brilliant. As the series went on the show bordered on South Park quality at times. The faces, oh my lord, the faces. Even on semi-zoomed in shots, it looked like a two year old with a melted marker was going to town. The weird thing was, suddenly an episode or two later, the animation would come back full quality. I understand fillers, especially with a full season like this, but c'mon a little bit of consistency goes a long way.
Speaking of which, the episode pacing was horrendous. They went from a full on Satan Battle, to grilling squid on a beach, to complaining about life for a good amount of episodes. They then added the plot twists, which were admittedly very good, and then finally went back to Satan battle. The whole middle of the series could have been condensed to a couple of episodes. They also spend a lot of time introducing characters that they don't care to develop. I get that they want to keep Mephisto a bit secret, but come on, the guy seems nigh invincible, throw me a bone here.
I don't want to completely pan the show. I did enjoy it. I often can go into Shonen shows with a bit too much expectation, so I'll try to be measured. The show delivered for its audience. I worry that they that have to work out its pacing issues and quality control things. They have a perfect formula to work with here, and huge potential money maker on their hands. They just have to play their cards right the next season.
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