The Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
How would you rate episode 1 of
Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga ?
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How was the first episode?
The original Blue Exorcist anime adaptation strayed away from the source manga beginning around episode 17, right after the incident with Amaimon. This new adaptation is apparently ignoring the existence of the last nine anime-original episodes and picking up right where the anime split from the manga (in other words, at chapter 16). The content of the first episode of this series gives every indication that it is much more faithfully going to follow the manga from this point out, as the story here remains absolutely true to the manga content. While that will doubtless throw off people who have only followed the franchise via the anime, as we are talking about a major story reset here, it will also doubtless bring cheers from manga fans unhappy with the direction that the later TV series episodes went in.
As someone who was mostly familiar with the franchise via the anime, the biggest problem for me was the reset on the character development. In the later episodes of the anime the other ExWires had largely gotten used to Rin again, but here the shock of the revelations about Rin is still fresh and bothering all of the teenagers except, oddly enough, Izumo, I'm not looking forward to having to trudge through that again, but at least this direction is taking a little fresher angle by having the “turned” exorcist be a person whose disillusionment rings uncomfortably close to Yukio own long-standing feelings, enough so that he already has to do a bit of soul-searching. In fact, the dynamic between Yukio and Rin at this point is almost akin to what it was between Naruto and Sasuke about midway through the first Naruto animation, with each being envious of the other for varying reasons.
Because of all of the set-up and emphasis on character interaction, the action content in this episode is very limited, which seems a somewhat strange way to start off a new season for an action-focused shonen series. Even so, the first episode has the franchise looking better than ever on the TV side. This is still an A-1 Pictures production, but in the hands of new director Koichi Hatsumi (Deadman Wonderland) the artistry looks sharper and cleaner and the character designs more refined. The most readily noticeable difference is that the color scheme is quite a bit more muted; the first anime series was boldly (even at times flamboyantly) colorful, whereas this version is more restrained. Minor refinements to the character designs also generally have the characters looking a little more mature here.
It's too early to tell at this point if this new story arc is going to do anything interesting, but at least the long wait for the series to continue in proper fashion is now over. This is definitely not a good jumping-on point for anyone new to the franchise, however, since recognizing all of the characters is expected.
Rating for Newcomers: 3
Rating for Fans: 4
I'll go ahead and put the warning right here: This series is not for newcomers to the Blue Exorcist franchise, despite this first episode's efforts to provide basic context for everything that's occurred in the story up to now. It essentially pretends that the last dozen episodes of the previous anime adaptation (and the following six year gap in production) never happened, picking up more or less where episodes 14 and 15 of the original season left off. If you're interested in watching Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga at all, I highly recommend catching up on either those first episodes of the anime, or reading the corresponding manga chapters, first. This will all make much more sense (and be much less spoilery) if you do.
If you are up to speed with where this show starts off in the Blue Exorcist story, then I am happy to report that the Kyoto Saga is off to a great start. Speaking as a big fan of the original adaptation, I was surprised at how easily the show falls right back into the swing of things. We pick up with Rin Okumura, whose identity as the half demon spawn of Satan has recently been revealed to his friends and fellow Exorcists at the True Cross Academy, and their reactions have been predictably mixed. His instructors have to watch his every move, and Yukio is stretched between taking care of his older brother and upholding his duties as an Exorcist. His friends are at best standoffish about the whole ordeal, and at worst actively antagonistic towards him. For a season opener, this episode is surprisingly light on the fighting, instead choosing hone in on the Rin's interpersonal struggles as the crew heads off to investigate mysterious happenings revolving around the Impure King's stolen eyes. There are some quick, decent action beats here, but mostly this premiere functions as plotting and setup for what's to come.
For a newcomer, I can only imagine this would be nigh incomprehensible. You might be able to follow along with the basics, though that would mean losing a lot of the nuance of the character's interactions and the series’ world-building. If you're familiar with the series, however, and eager to dive back into the world of the Exorcists, then this premiere is an absolute treat. Rin, Yukio, and the rest of the ExWires of True Cross Academy are as engaging as ever, and now that Rin's powers are out in the open there are a lot of new character dynamics to explore. The production quality is great (which is to be expected in this first handful of episodes) and the story threads being set up around the Impure King are intriguing enough to justify the high exposition to action ratio. It's a bit early to tell whether or not the final product will justify six years of waiting, but I'm very eager to see what comes next.
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