Title: Blue Exorcist Collection 1
Alternate Title: Ao No Exorcist
Encompasses: The first half of the series (Episodes 1 – 13)
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia/New Zealand), Aniplex of America (North America)
Based on: The Manga Series written and illustrated by Kazue Katou
Genre: Action, Supernatural
Audio: Japanese Dub
Runtime: 325 Minutes
Classification: M for Supernatural Themes and Animated Violence
Cost: $59.95 for either DVD or Blu-ray
Special Thanks: Madman Entertainment for kindly providing me with a copy of this title for review
“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.
Based off the popular manga series by Kazue Katou, between April and October 2011 the Japanese animation studio A-1 Picitures released the Blue Exorcist anime series. While the mood is changing in the North American anime market a bit nowadays Aniplex of America jumped on the franchise and released the first installment of Blue Exorcist in October 2011. Despite intending on doing an English dubbed release for which they are slowly releasing information about now, the company chose to do four individual subtitled DVD releases. Moving on to Australia where the collection I am reviewing was released, Australian anime publisher Madman Entertainment also has jumped right into licensing and releasing this subtitled release… having since done so – this collection in June and the second collection this month. Now I have read several of the manga volumes currently published and quite enjoy the manga series alone…. but was it worthwhile the companies being so excited about releasing this so quickly? My answer is…. yes.
The series follows a 15 year old male protagonist who has difficulty holding jobs, gets into fights / causes mayhem and lives at the local church with his brother Yukio and foster father Shiro. The only catch is, unbeknownst to him that both he and his brother are the sons of Satan and his powers had sealed by a mystic blade. After discovering his powers and foster father subsequently being taken over by Satan himself… he decides to train at the renown True Cross Academy as an Exorcist to defeat his father…. ambitious goal considering who he is. The storyline sounds simplistic, and in some regards it is… however the thought and implementation of developing the world of Blue Exorcist works very well – from the characters to the implementation of systems which protect the wonkily design Academy from intrusion of spirits.
With the exception of one or two episodes, the storyline remained more or less faithful to the original source manga material, bringing with it a focus on the development of the world and its characters more-so than delivering critical plotline. The development of the characters is also at the start, however the focus is primarily with the brothers Rin and Yukio which expands into a rather interesting, tense and sometimes entertaining relationship. The storyline also occasionally focuses on female character Shiemi whose introverted personality occasionally leads into long-winded plotlines which contributes very little and does get tiresome at points, but at the pace they are going I am pretty excited to see where they take the next set of episodes and beyond.
As this is a subtitled only release I would be expecting top notch subtitles, and most of the time there were. However, unless this was just the player I was viewing the DVD’s on – there was the occasional noticeable grammatical or punctuation mistake which was a trivial but noticeable peeve of mine. It still did very little to dampen my thoughts on at least the first half of the series which was enjoyable overall. It does leave me questioning however (Considering I am more or less up to Episode 13 in the manga) how much more they will be able to fit in this first season.
Easily the biggest contributor to the world development of Blue Exorcist was its aesthetic appeal. While I would not go calling it a visual poweress as I could other series, for a Shonen series it would most probably be near the top if not the top of the list in terms of design. The environment and character design quality is great…. and is usually well detailed, suitably used to complement each other and when it comes to more fantasy-derived elements such as spirits and characters being taken over by Satan or in the field during battle – they are creative in how they approach these and provide a solid viewing experience that helps set the mood immensely. There are a few moments in the series however where they really out-do themselves in terms of environment designs such as the architectural design of the Academy itself or in one of the episodes which takes place in one of the best flower gardens I have seen in anime in a long time.
This release features two opening and two ending sequences, the first of each being used for most of the collection and the second being used in the last episode or two. Both opening sequences “Core Pride by UVERworld” and “In My World by ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D” prove to be enjoyable sequences with some heavier and faster paced tracks alongside enjoyable and sequence-unique animation. The ending sequences “Take Off by 2PM” and “Wired Life by Meisa Kuroki” are also enjoyable tracks but lack anything interesting in animation. The rest of the music used throughout the episodes were a nice assortment that particularly suited the more intense scenes.
As I have mentioned above, while an English Dubbed release is in the works the first collection releases consist of only the original Japanese dub track. The Japanese dub is good and does a solid job of matching each voice actor to their character but it was lacking something that would set it apart from others. A particular highlight however was Hiroshi Kamiya voicing Mephisto Pheles whose voice went well with the over-the-top eccentric nature of the character.
Despite the lack of an English Dub, this release does make up for it with a nice compilation of extra content including:
- An unaired special episode: Focusing on Kuro, the once Cat Sith familiar of Rin’s adopted father Shiro and now his. While it contributes nothing to the overall storyline it is a pretty enjoyable episode.
- Ura-Ex: A set of bonus short episodes
- Web Previews
- Textless Opening
- Textless Closing
- Trailers for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Broken Blade, The World God Only Knows and .hack//Quantum
I do remain concerned about how they will conclude this season at least, considering they are still introducing characters and concepts up to Episode 13, however what was presented during these episodes were creative and enjoyable and I look forward to checking out the second collection in the very near future.
Storyline / Character Development: B+
Music/Voice Acting: A-
Personal Preference: A-
Extra Content: B
Overall Score: A-