Bleu Exorcist Kyoto Saga anime review

  • Genre : Supernatural, action, adventure
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: A-1 Pictures

 

Families man…. can’t live with them, can’t murder them all in the night without some sort of consequences… Honestly, can anyone ever drive you as crazy as your family? Just look at Bon. He grew up worshipping his old man and now he can barely understand why his he does anything and it all seems like such a let down. Or Shima, who feels like he has to throw his life away just to live up to the expectations of his name. Kokumeru’s parents are dead yet he still worries that he’s letting them down. And don’t get me started on the Okumura twins. The younger One’s just a tightly wound ball of tsundere anxiety, desperately trying to catch up to his incredible lost father and equally remarkable brother, when everyone else thinks he’s past them already. While the older one is the spawn of Satan and he can’t understand why everyone’s making this huge deal about it. Everybody better pull themselves together quickly though, because an ancient evil has just awoken again and threatens to destroy Kyoto, or at least a good chunk of it. Can Rin and his friends stop the powerful demon in time, and will they be able to unravel the plot behind all these fire events?

As usual, I’m not quite sure what the anime community’s consensus on Blue Exorcist is. I think it’s popular enough based on merch and fan art but that’s not always the best indicator. For instance I thought for the longest time that SAO was universally beloved but apparently some people aren’t too hot on it. I liked the first season of Blue Exorcist quite a bit. It had some obvious flaws but I found it endearing and Shiro’s the best. I may be unusual in this but when I saw that a second season come out, I was pretty excited about it. So naturally I waited about a year to watch it.

I haven’t rewatched the original show in quite some time. I remember it being fairly pretty with gorgeous backgrounds and a great uniform design. Maybe there’s been an art bump for season 2 though because it was absolutely beautiful. The character designs are still all intricate and completely unique. Backgrounds remain rich and inviting. A lush color palette fills each scene with depth and everything remains almost perfectly consistent at all times. Just look at how pretty this op is. That’s the level of visual quality for the entire show.

In fact, the visuals are so good, it sort of outshines everything else. For instance the animation itself is great but there’s something just a little stilted in the fighting choreography. The voice acting ranges from good to great, yet the cast lack chemistry making for some enjoyable individual performances that never come together. I occasionally wondered whether all the voices had been recorded separately. The sound design was unobstructive and unremarkable.

Don’t get me wrong, the production values are good across the board, it’s just that none are quite as impressive as the pretty pictures.

Blue Exorcists Kyoto Saga anime review Shiro
still the best

This was aimed at fans of the original series. It picks up more or less right after the events of the first season and gives us little exposition or context to go on. If you’re not already familiar with these characters you’re likely to be a little lost. It does however give us plenty of declarations.

Boy was the dialogue in this show always so clumsy? Everyone pretty much goes around loudly screaming their feeling, thoughts and motivations straight at the camera. And oh man does everyone have a lot of Feelings! It’s a rather unrefined execution which is a shame, because it’s a decent story.

The Kyoto Saga has Rin (now under strict Vatican surveillance) and his classmates, as well as the relevant exorcists, traveling together to… try and guess.. Nope! The right answer was: Kyoto! For those of you who have long forgotten these details, ragey Bon, subdued Konekomaru and carefree Shima all grew up there together. Bon is in fact the heir to the Kyoto Cursed Temple and has followed temple traditions with the other two since he was a small child.

young ryuji bom
he’s been making that face for a long time

The Cursed Temple’s claim to fame is that they are descendants of an ancient sect that once defeated a very powerful demon and sealed his body and left eye separately to prevent him for returning. Bon’s father and his followers have carried the secret of the daemons existence and protected the eyes their entire life, but it seems there is a traitor among them and now, the eye has been stolen.

Structurally the story is rather sound. The first few episodes set up the mystery of the missing eye and the potential traitor in their midst which bleeds smoothly into an all-out battle against the resurrected demon. Because the setting and antagonists are changed for this arc, it does feel a bit like a side quest, but a good one. One I would have enjoyed playing.

Throughout the adventure, the friends must find a way to deal with the now revealed fact that Rin is one of the sons of Satan, as well as the more mundane and infinitely more difficult task of trying to reestablish their relationships with their families now that they are coming into their own. Of course, the Okumura are still dealing with their respective daddy issues and each other. It’s not exactly mind-blowing stuff but if you strip away the presentation you have the foundations of a pretty solid supernatural action adventure.

Bleu exorcist kyoto saga anime review
and some good old fashion goofs

The main problem though, is how this story is told. There’s just a lack of subtlety on almost every level. Aside from having the characters flatly (but loudly) spell out everything, the events themselves are simple and very linear. Point A gets us to the most obvious point B possible with every step carefully explained. Sure, the story is extremely clear, but it also feels a little shallow. There’s not much space for interpretation of any sort. The story was just being told at me, if that makes any sense. The antagonist was also somewhat underdeveloped, but that’s par for the course.

However, although the lack of refinement was obvious and bothered me early on, I still manage to get wrapped up in the action. The super heavy-handed symbolism of having the various characters confront their inner demons as they were battling very real ones will induce eyerolls in a few of you, but I liked it. The lack of emotional resolve between the two leads leaves the door open for further seasons, but also denies the audience any firm closure. What I quickly realized was that this plain and uncomplicated adventure, was exactly what I was expecting of a Blue Exorcist season 2, for better and for worse.

Blue exorcist kyoto saga anime review
I forgot to mention, she has a huge role this season

If you haven’t seen the first one, you won’t relate to (or possibly understand) season 2. If you didn’t like Blue Exorcist, then this won’t bring anything new. This said, if you enjoyed the first season and want to go back for a little 12-episode romp, the Kyoto Saga is precisely that. And we get to see Shiro again (best episode by far).

Besides, I seem to have a thing for Kyoto based shows. The Eccentric Family certainly is fantastic. I also loved Sound! Euphonium. The Kyoto arc was Kenshin’s strongest by far. And usually Kyoto episodes are reserved for school trips in student based animes and those are always delightful. So to answer my own question, yes, I do have a Kyoto fetish

Favorite character: Shiro!

What this anime taught me: Dust often

Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend, obviously never heard of wine

Suggested drink: Blue Flame

  • Every time anyone says blue flame – take a sip
    • if we see them – get some water
  • Every time Yukio has a brother complex – take a sip
  • Every time Bone gets mad – breath in
  • Every time anyone gets drunk – join them
  • Every time Kuro meows – squeal with joy
  • Every time we flashback to “that night”– take a sip
  • Every time Mephisto is in puppy form– take a sip
  • Every time anyone does an incantation – try to imitate it
  • Every time we see Shiro – cheer

Rin

44 thoughts on “Blue Exorcist – The Kyoto Saga: Flawed yet Likable”

  1. If Blue Exorcist wasn’t so colorful, I’d probably forget about it…
    But it wasn’t bad, and I kinda thought the slice of life was entertaining. Like, I enjoyed watching it, but don’t think I’ll go out of my way to watch it again…
    Though I probably would if it were a show of just Rin, the cat, and maybe the father! (he gives me massive Oshino Meme vibes)

  2. I went manga-first on this series, so even though I’d watched the 1st season as a refresher for the second, it wasn’t too disorienting. That said, there wasn’t a lot of action for an action show this arc…well, at least until the last quarter. The eyecatches are so beautiful though – I still have some of them as desktop backgrounds!

    As for my thoughts on the series in general (since you don’t know them), I liked everything up until the kraken episode for the anime but I liked the Kyoto Saga better in the manga. This series does quite well with how it paces its long arcs, but yeah, whenever characters express their feelings, they come across as a bit ham-fisted. After recently reading volumes 18 & 19, I also realised the ladies mostly have problems related to their romantic relationships (with a few exceptions).

  3. I also enjoyed seeing the first season, even if I felt it could have been better than it ended up being. Man, that writing sounds seriously clumsy, and in your face. Kinda reminds of Attack On Titan which while awesome can be in your face with the writing.

    The characters of Blue Exorcist were one aspect I felt it shined in, especially in the last episode of season 1 that delved into the Okumura siblings parents. It was a nice moment. Haven’t checked this one out since season 1, and that movie didn’t exactly leave me wanting more.

    Might need to drink actual fires if I ever go into this one, and have a fire extinguisher as insurance for the dozen of times “blue flames” is said. My insides will be burning with excitement lol

    1. Yeah the writing is by far the weakest link here and if you weren’t pumped about the earlier seasons this won’t do much for you. Some elements were wonderful though

  4. This probably comes as no surprise, but I loved the show. Exposition and all. The mix of intrigue and supernatural horror, Bon’s character development as he learned to trust Rin, Juzo Shima’s wildly insensitive proposal, the Hojo sisters’ disdain for Juzo… It all just worked. And as a dad, Tatsuma Suguro’s secret burden really resonated with me.

    I’d never heard of your suggested drink, the Blue Flame, before. http://www.allrecipes.com described it as “Southern Comfort is poured in a layer over peppermint schnapps. It is then lit, producing a blue flame. Don’t forget to blow it out before drinking!”

    Wow. You have exuberant taste in drinks! Too many of those, I’d probably end up like Souya and Sensei in the recent episode of Planet With!

  5. I lost track of how many times the characters stopped all action to sit around a table and talk. It felt like so many given there were things they needed to be doing. While I think this story could have worked, it either needed a lot more depth or better execution, or it could have worked as two or three episode OVA and cut out all the unnecessary and fairly poor dialogue.

    1. I think even as a full season with a much more action oriented approach. There was a lot of stuff we were told about that we should have been shown instead

      1. Yes, just better execution as the basic story premise could have been quite fun. That and all the build up to the King just kind of fell flat given the lack of actual characterisation or agency.

  6. Another show that has been on my watch list for ages. But hey..I’m finally beginning to make a dent in my list: As I am already at episode 12 for March comes in like a Lion. So I’m making progress at least😊 I do think this is a series that does sound like my cup of tea: great post! 😀

      1. It’s one of those shows where I will be anxious to review it…it’s loved by so many people, and it’s an emotional roller coaster. But I will do my best 😊

          1. Of course this comment made me curious so I went to search for it the review on your site to check out those comments, but I can’t seem to find it. Have I missed something? Am I overlooking it maybe? 😅
            Well…no matter how much people love something, there will always be people that don’t like it. Which is fine. This one though…the last time I felt so much emotion from watching something is with Your Lie In April. This though, is a different kind of emotion, but still just as powerful.
            But..I’m almost writing a review here…sorry 😓
            Ps…I sent an idea for a collab post in September to you (hope you like the idea and still want to do a collab 😅).

            1. Erm…I checked your reviews page: as they are in alphabetical order, it should be very easy to find. But it’s not there I am afraid 😢
              So…erm…the collab question? Hope you still want to do it? 😅😅

            2. Sorry Irina: sometimes I can really get a bit insecure. I know it’s stupid, but that’s who I am 😅😅 I saw your email come in: will answer it when I get home from work: thank you 😊😊

  7. I’m not sure I remember this correctly, but the show actually picks up righter after the pen-ultimate arc (earlier?) of the first season and ignores the last arc (or more?), which was anime original. This caused me some confusion at first. It really helps to know before watching that season 1 has an anime-original final, but this arc just uses unadapted manga material, so there are some inconsistencies.

    As far as I can remember the show, I pretty much agree with you on this one. It’s a bonus that I really like the Kyoto accent.

  8. Yes, the talking was by far the biggest problem. As a Gundam and Legend of the Galactic Heroes fan, I like talking because it always goes somewhere, but I remember that this Kyoto saga just had everyone sit down in committees and repeat everything that was said the whole time. All as you said.

    Yes, it was kind of pretty.

    1. For all the little things that could have been better it was a super fun watch. I would gladly watch more

  9. Great review, I still haven’t watched the anime of Blue Exorcist, however I love the manga, I feel the anime tells the story in a confusing way, which is one of the reasons I’ve been put off watching it.

Leave me a comment and make my day!