Blu-Ray Review: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1

Back in 2013 Manga Entertainment UK released Blue Exorcist onto DVD and Blu-Ray within the UK, of which included the newly produced English Dub that the previous ‘DVD only’ release of Blue Exorcist did not. Fast forward six years into the future and now Manga Entertainment UK are bringing us the ‘latest’ anime installment into the Blue Exorcist franchise, known as the Kyoto Saga.

So how does this ‘Kyoto Saga’ fit within the world of Blue Exorcist and more importantly is it just as entertaining to watch? Well Let’s find out in our review!

Synopsis:

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 confront such demons – the Exorcists. Born the spawn of Satan, Rin Okumura decides to hide his origins, and become an exorcist.

He enrolls at the Exorcism Cram School, a training institute for exorcists located on the True Cross Academy grounds. But, his cover is blown during an attack by Amaimon, the King of Earth, and he is revealed to be the son of Satan.

Terrified of Satan’s blue flames, his friends start to distance themselves from Rin… It is then that someone steals the Left Eye of the Impure King, sealed away in the deepest part of the academy, and Rin and the others find themselves embroiled in an unexpected crisis…

Our View:

Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga should not be treated as a ‘continuation’ to the original Blue Exorcist anime series, which was initially released into the UK on DVD during 2012, and should instead be treated as its extension. Why exactly? Well the events within Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga, of which are separated between this Part 1 instalment and a future Part 2 instalment, take place during the original anime series; specifically after the events of Episode 17. With this being said this release of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 provides us with a closer look at Rin’s relationship with notable characters and begins to deliver a brand new untold story to those unfamiliar within the manga.

So what exactly happened? Well just like the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, which deviated from the source material, the Blue Exorcist anime series also diverged from the source material to create its own ending – and a half decent one at that. But unlike Fullmetal Alchemist, which spawned an entire new series that retells the manga in anime form, These ‘Kyoto Saga’ releases opt to go back and recapture, in anime form, a story that was completely left out. It’s not clear why Aniplex have gone back to recreate this story arc in anime form; but I am glad they did as it provides a great story filled with deception and trust.

Taking place after the events of Episode 17 of the original Blue Exorcist anime series, which saw Rin Okkumura defeat Amaimon and reveal his blue flames to his classmates, Rin has been given six months to master his blue flames and pass the exorcist exam otherwise he would be executed. Determined to beat Satan Rin undergoes special training with Shura, but while doing so ‘sneaks’ his way into a mission with his brother Yukio which sees them attempt to retrieve the “Left Eye of the Impure King” that was stolen from the Academies vault.

During this mission it’s revealed that an attempt at stealing the “Right Eye of the Impure King”, which is being held at the Kyoto Branch, was also made but failed to succeed. As a result True Cross Academy sends its best exorcists to the Kyoto Branch to protect the Right Eye of the Impure King and, in turn, hope to recapture the Left eye; but upon arriving at the Kyoto Branch it soon becomes clear that things aren’t as they seem. For context; the Impure King is a monstrous demon that existed hundreds of years ago; and the revival of this demon would spell destruction for the world.

It’s here where the story of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 begins to surface and while the focus may be on protecting the Right Eye of the Impure King, the real story within this half is the unsteady relationship between Rin and characters such as Ryuji, Konekomaru and Renzo. Each time Rin interacts with these characters it sees a hefty discussion, some more colourful than others, and as each episode passes we see Rin once again prove his worth to his classmates. It’s this trust building that was left rather absent in Episode 18 onwards of the original anime series so it’s great to see it included here as it shows the emotional stress that Rin’s Blue Flames can cause to those who experienced it first hand in the past.

Of course the real focus in this half of the Kyoto Saga is the threat of a demon stealing the Right Eye of the Impure King, and while this does occur it’s the way it is portrayed that makes it entertaining to watch.  In this case with the shrine heavily weakened, and the master AWOL, suspicion of who to blame causes everyone to act in disarray and with no leadership involved it soon becomes easy for the people involved to steal the Right Eye of the Impure king. Unfortunately we are left at a bit of a cliff-hanger as to why this story is unfolding; but it is done in a mesmerising way that makes you want to keep on watching.

Bizarrely enough thats not all this half of the season has to offer; as one particular episode even focuses on Rin and Yukio’s adopted father, Tatsuma Suguro, and how he came to be in possession of the sword that sealed away Rins powers. It’s an interesting story and acts exceptionally well as a stand-a-lone episode that reignites the memories of a man we only saw briefly in the original series.

A developing story is what Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 offers; but with the pieces set its now time to enjoy the real story within the episodes contained with Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 2. A fight for survival is sure to exist soon.

Extras:

Unlike the previous Blue Exorcist release, of which featured Web-Previews, Episode Shorts and OVA Content, the discs within this first instalment of Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga only feature the bare minimum of bonus content. In this case clean (textless) opening and closing songs for those used within the series and a clean (textless) ending animation for the first episode – as when watching this particular episode the credits appear over characters during the ending (which is not uncommon for an anime series).

It’s simple and extremely bare; and the same can also be said for the disc menu as despite the opening animation for Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga playing behind the menu text there is no sound. It’s an odd design choice, as usually menus have some form of background noise, but alas this set does not.

Specs:

Media: BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 1:13:25 (Disc 1 & 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: LPCM 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 once again invites viewers to the demonic world of Blue Exorcist but as opposed to continuing the story left over from the previous releases it instead expands upon it with a new storyline and dives deeper into character relationships. Whether that be Rin’s relationships with friends, who all act harshly towards him as a result of his origins, or the relationships that the Myoda Sect has with Rin and Yukio. Interesting revelations are made; but it is the threat of the Impure King that keeps the story moving.

Unfortunately while Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 does a great way of setting up the story, and developing characters, it does little in the way of deliver the sword swinging and demon slaying action that Blue Exorcist is normally known for. Those hoping to see Exorcists do battle and Rin clash swords with opponents will be disappointed, as it rarely happens; instead this half of the Kyoto Saga is all about laying down the foundations of the events to come and reintroducing fans to the characters at a time they are at their weakest. It’s a good developing story, just not action packed – which is a bit of a shame.

When it comes to this Blu-Ray release then it seems Manga Entertainment UK are opting to follow the same release format as Aniplex of America, with six episodes (in both English & Japanese with English Subtitles) spread across two Blu-Ray discs. Realistically all six episodes could have been placed onto a single disc; but somehow having two discs – with three episodes a piece – make this release feel more worthwhile. Fans of the English Dub from the original Blue Exorcist will be excited to learn that voice-actors return to reprise their roles, with both Johnny Young Bosch and Bryce Papenbrook returning to voice Yukio and Rin, while the English subtitles for the Japanese tracks are in clean readable throughout – so positives all round.

Overall Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 is a well rounded release that brings the spark of Blue Exorcist back to our screens and although this part doesn’t have a lot of action is does provide a lot of entertainment through back story and a developing threat. Either way Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 is a well worth addition to any collection.

Score: review-stars-4

Blue: Exorcist: Kyoto Saga – Part 1 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 26th March 2018 within the UK.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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