It seems like only yesterday (actually, it was like nine months ago) that Blue Exorcist aired in Japan and Hiroko published this article with her full thoughts on the show. Now, its license has been realized in a full DVD release and I've got some thoughts of my own.
Here's a refresher on the basic premise:
Rin Okumura is the son of Satan. His twin Yukio, who appears to not have acquired demon powers, became an exorcist unknown to his brother. After tragedy strikes at home, Rin decides to follow Yukio and join the ranks of the exorcists with the goal of killing Satan once and for all. What ensue are a fun mixture of brotherly woes (and laughs), an unlikely team-up, and some harsh lessons in life.
Check out my summary of the fourth and final DVD of the Blue Exorcist release as well as my final thoughts on the anime as a whole below the cut.
Volume 3 of the DVD release, which showed episodes 14 through 19, were mostly fluffy and frustrating. Problems kept arising seemingly to no end, and by the time we got to episodes 18 and 19 it looked like a bunch of resolutions were just quickly written in to focus more on the actual story for the last part. I'm glad it worked out that way, since I was more interested in getting back to the serious stuff. Thankfully, the last bit delivered.
Disc 4 begins with the issue of our rogue instructor and we are introduced with a spider-like demon that attacks by encasing bodies in its webbing. Eventually, we learn that the demon is in possession of the instructor's dead wife, and it is carrying out vengeance against Satan by killing anyone that defends his spawn. That would be, of course, Rin.
This issue was efficiently wrapped up in just two episodes. Rin finds the demon and his empathy drives him to defy the Vatican from delivering swift judgement on her. What I liked most about these bits though, were having a look at Shiemi's garden and all of the familiars which have come to her aide.
Shiemi (not pictured above) has been my favorite character in the series from the beginning; mostly because I tend to like side characters more than the principle badass, and also because I knew she'd secretly be one of the strongest, most useful people around despite her initial weakness and lack of self confidence. She holds her own, even against Satan later on (to a point). I also like that she wasn't used as a cheap romantic write-in, though a couple of times it did look like they were going that route.
Once that one issue is resolved by episode 21, the rest is entirely dedicated to Rin and Yukio, their relationship, their past, and what their future might be. Yukio is duped into believing that his grandfather would be able to save both Rin and himself if they purge all demons from their world. The tragedy of it all is echoed by Mephisto himself: Rin has no idea that all of this is happening, and it's all because Yukio loves him that much. There was some good drama in there.
Eventually, and predictably, the tables turn when it falls on Rin to pull Yukio out of the abyss that was being possessed by Satan himself. Their bond increases a hundred-fold on account of Yukio's weakness and recent awakening as a demon, and Rin finally learning how to be in control of his blue flames. Working together, and with the help of the other exorcists, they sever the gate connecting the demon world and their own.
The highlights of this last stretch are basically every moment that have to do with Rin and Yukio's relationship. I feel that Blue Exorcist as a whole should have focused much more time on this instead of creating more chaos or introducing more characters that didn't move the story anywhere. For example, a couple minutes of precious screen time were wasted during the big showdown between the brothers and Satan when we are forced to watch the sword smith banging away at some weapon that didn't leave her forge and listening to reports on the radio. She was relevant when she fixed Rin's sword, and it was nice to bring her back for a quick scene as she flips through her iPad to explain the blood weapons to the home team, but that is all.
Other characters were introduced that I wish we'd known a little more about, such as Angel the Paladin. He's only given a small amount of background at the very end, only a little bit of validation/redemption for his actions, and then he teams up with Shura, Rin and Yukio to tag team on the demon gate. His attacks were so cool! Why didn't we see more of it before? I had no particular reason to believe he was a Paladin, the strongest exorcist alive, up until that moment.
Finally, there's Mephisto. I absolutely love his character, though I never did understand what his stake in all of this was. It was never clear to me why he never swayed one way or another, at least not too far as to be directly involved, in this struggle between demons and humans. He left the demon world and enjoys being with the humans, and he even trains them to fight demons; yet, he facilitated the entire over-arching problem this show had - just because he was curious? Bored? I guess? If this is the case, I'm alright with it, but only because of the flash backs and extra information that was given to us at the end.
I think the biggest problem Blue Exorcist had, and I am echoing Hiroko's thoughts here, is a huge chunk of fluff in the middle didn't need to be there. It needed just a little more focus to be perfect. As it is now, Blue Exorcist is fun and definitely worth watching. It isn't going down the annals of history as one of the best anime ever created, though.
As the other DVDs, the fourth volume comes with the sleeve and reversible slip cover, a double-sided poster and the disc itself is loaded with the same extras: clean OP and ED, extended credits, trailers and a series of shorts called UraEx.
What I love about this DVD release is we aren't being chimped out on with a 3-4 episode per disc shelf hog. Each disc is packed with information and we even get some extras (a more attractive cover for display and not four but really, eight posters) to sweeten the deal. It's a release that shows us someone cared enough to make it good. The only real thing I can think of that'd be disappointing to some is that BlueEx isn't dubbed.
If you're into shonen and have some curiosity for occult, a little bit of a taste for school drama/hijinks and are looking for something to watch, I can suggest you give Blue Exorcist a try! It has its flaws for sure, but it's overall fun and Aniplex has thankfully made the DVD release a good one that is worth your dough. For more information and individual episode synopses, check out the official BlueEx page. I have also learned that this winter will see a BlueEx film release. There isn't much more information than that for now, though.
[7.5 – Good, but not great. BlueEx could have been destined for greatness, but was held back by its flaws. While some may not enjoy it, fans of the genre will probably love this.]
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