Anime Review: Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Volume 1

By Drew Hurley 31.03.2018

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Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Volume 1 (UK Rating: 15)

Many anime fans think the age of the shonen is over and, to be fair, they have somewhat of a point. Of the "big three," only One Piece remains and while My Hero Academia is making big waves, numerous other shonen series in recent years have disappeared, like World Trigger due to the author's health, gone on long hiatus like Hunter X Hunter, or seen a severe drop in quality and fans like… so many… Blue Exorcist suffered from the hiatus issue. The original anime launched in 2011 and built up a considerable following, and then was gone from screens for almost five years, until it returned last year in Japan. Now, the first part of that glorious return reaches the UK courtesy of Manga Entertainment - it's available now!

Those who have not seen the original anime or read the manga do not want to make their introduction to the series here as far too much goes on in the original to understand what's really going on. That being said, not all of the original series needs to be taken into account. The original anime went through a process many anime series are forced to endure; the anime got to episode 18 of the 25 that the first season consisted of and began to tell its own story, instead of sticking to the source material. Anyone that watched the original series needs to forget that final third of the anime, as this new story picks up immediately following episode 17.

The story picks up with Rin's classmates petrified of him. They have seen the power lurking within him and have learned the truth of his heritage. Rin is the son of Satan and shares the same blue flames of his patriarch. Even though Rin only released this power to save his fellow Exorcists in training from Amaimon, Rin fought hard for his friendships and a big part of this new story is dedicated to Rin trying to rebuild those, to make his friends understand he's not the monster they think he is, and that he hates his lineage more than any of them.

The start of this new saga opens on a new mission for Rin. He's under the keen eye of Shura Kirigakure, the heavy-drinking, first-class, uber-cool exorcist. Shura is looking out for Rin but she also has the unenviable task of potentially being Rin's executioner. After his power was revealed, the Grigorie panicked and decided to destroy him and it was the mysterious Mephisto that saved him. He made a wager with the Grigorie that Rin would destroy Satan rather than join him. Now Rin has to master his powers and complete his Exorcist exam within six months or he forfeits his life. If he loses control, he forfeits his life.

It's not the ideal time for these tests as Rin embarks on a mission to recover an artefact known as the Left Eye of the Impure King. This artefact is stolen in the first episode and Rin embarks with Shura and his brother, Yukio, to try and recover the artefact and save civilians from the dangerous miasma the eye releases. The theft is actually the first step in a huge plan by a surprising individual. This individual plans to reunite the left and right eyes of the Impure King and bring it back into the world. The exorcists realise this when an attempt is made to steal the Right Eye from its resting place in Kyoto. It's kept in a temple that is run by the Myoda sect, who just happen to be family of Rin's previous friend/rival, Bon. Bon's father is, in fact, the head priest, although he's not quite what would be imagined based on Bon.

This new series not only sets up an interesting main story with the prospect of this walking natural disaster being brought back to life, but it gives a ton of time to character development and really helps flesh out not just the primary cast but the supporting characters, too. A big part of that is how each of the kids reacts to Rin and how they begin to accept him. Whether it's them just being terrified of him or furious with him for lying to them, they each get a chance to face it and work through it. Shiemi and Renzo really shine here. The star of the show is Bon, though, with the series delving into not just his history and his rebellious nature, but the history of his family, too, with a surprising history between Bon's father and Rin's father.

Both dubs are available with this release and fans will be happy to hear that the same voice actors from the original are all returning on both sides of the pond; a very positive development considering the quality of both dubs. The English has such major names as JYB and Bryce Papenbrook as the star Okumura brothers, while in Japan the pair is played by two of the most famous and prolific voice actors in Japanese animation. Older brother, Yukio, is played by Jun Fukuyama, who has voiced such memorable characters as Lelouch from Code Geass, Koro-Sensei from Assassination Classroom, and Grell from Black Butler. Meanwhile, protagonist Rin is played by Nobuhiko Okamoto, known for Karma in Assassination Classroom, Accelerator in A Certain Magical Index / A Certain Scientific Railgun, and Katsuki Bakugou in My Hero Academia. For both, these are just some highlights, as they have starred in very many more. These stars and the supporting cast deliver quality performances all around.

This series once again comes from A-1 Studios, a studio with a considerable back catalogue of memorable series. Previously, it has produced the long-running shonen series, Fairy Tail, Sword Art Online, the fantastically stylish Black Butler Book of Circus, and many more. It is also producing the upcoming, highly anticipated Persona 5 anime, which will be landing in Japan shortly. The series shows real glimpses of greatness in the presentation when it has chance. This is usually in the fantastic fight scenes, something that are in short supply in this part of the story. As previously stated, this is a character-driven story and relies more on giving the cast some development and some extra depth, meaning the visuals have little time to shine.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga Volume 1 is a superb return to form for one of the best new shonen series to come after the golden days of shonen from a few years ago. The Blue Exorcist manga is still running today in Japan and producing stories well worthy of an adaptation. Hopefully, there are many more seasons to come, especially if it takes its cues from this season and remains so faithful to the source material.

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