Blue Exorcist Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

A continuation of Blue Exorcist (reviewed here), the story picks up with pretty much everyone being scared of Rin and Yukio still stressing about everything. Someone stole the eye of the Impure King so now we’re all going to Kyoto because clearly a world threat should be handled by students and a small branch group. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my episodic thoughts click here.

Review:

It’s shows like this that make me hesitate when someone asks me if I’m excited about an upcoming sequel. Sure, the original may have been fun (in the case of Blue Exorcist I liked the first season well enough though I wasn’t a die-hard fan), but do we really need that continuation? And more importantly, is the continuation doing anything other than giving us more of the same?

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In the case of Blue Exorcist a continuation was actually kind of needed. Rin’s grand goal of defeating Satan was nowhere near being in sight at the end of season 1. However, season 2 barely even acknowledges that such a goal ever existed. If season 2 had progressed towards this and Rin had substantially grown and we could see some sort of end point that maybe eventually he’d have a chance at succeeding at his lofty and impossible goal, then maybe this could have worked.

Instead we get a side story about the Impure King which essentially means after a brief and pathetic struggle our cast shift locations to Kyoto where we meet Suguro’s family and a whole bunch of new characters, sit around and talk for most the season, and finally get an overly extended fight sequence against a villain who has literally no agency in the story other than to be the villain. It’s an entirely filler filled story that could have been told in about an hour for all the content it actually delivers.

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And still they could have pulled this off. The strength of Blue Exorcist wasn’t in its amazing plot (it had a great premise but didn’t do a lot with that anyway) or even the amazing characters (given they are all pretty much one or two note sound bits). The strength of season 1 was its crazy energy and the simple fact that it would embrace the absurd. It was fun. Logic could fail within the story but it was just fun to watch.

Season 2 failed to understand the concept of fun and absurd. And while a more serious tone for a show that probably needed it given the subject matter also could have worked, you need to give us something to replace the fun times of season 1. Characters sitting around talking and having group meetings, or watching a character repeatedly train and fail, or watching a character mope and wallow in self doubt, or hearing yet another speech about friendship… none of these things replace fun.

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It isn’t even that season 2 is not as good as season 1. As a story it has so many issues.

Firstly, Todo, who was kind of the catalyst for the story starting with his theft remains a complete enigma at the end. He didn’t die in that fight, we know that, and yet where is he at the end? Why did he stir things into motion? What’s his fascination with Yukio? Is he coming back? We don’t know anything, and while loose ends are fine in their own way, not knowing his motivation for stealing the eye and any of the events that follow make most of what happens pretty pointless to watch.

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Secondly, while we’re on the subject of villains, the Impure King himself is basically a giant mushroom growing out of control. There’s no personality, no presence, and given how late in the game he actually shows up, he really is just a plot device. The grand fear that he might be unleashed hovering over the series and then the final boss that no one cares about. Yes, he needs to be defeated, but there’s no satisfaction in seeing him defeated because I didn’t actually care about him as a villain.

Thirdly, the minor inconsistencies in the story itself. You know the coats the kids wore to rescue Rin that made them invisible, that they wear for the rest of the battle and yet people interact with them just fine. So they only make you invisible when you want to be? Really? This whole thing really annoyed me during those final episodes. They are having a conversation but isn’t that person invisible? It just kept distracting me from the incredibly repetitive dialogue. This wasn’t the only inconsistency the story served up but it was the most distracting.

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Fourthly, Rin. Arguably the only point to this whole arc is watching him finally gain control of his flames so that maybe people will trust him (and you know he won’t get executed). However he just doesn’t care. He’s so happy-go-lucky that the threat of execution is kind of just dropped into the story by Yukio as a major downer every now and then and then we just kind of push that aside and get back to Rin being Rin. Even his final drawing of the sword and defeating the Impure King (flames finally controlled because of friendship) is kind of half-hearted. So yes, Rin grew over these 12 episodes, but not significantly enough to justify the rest of the viewing time.

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Finally, Yukio. Yukio, please go get some professional help for your issues and stop taking them out on your brother. preferably before you end up turning into a demon. Yukio is quite possibly my least favourite character in this show and this season just kind of emphasised why. Its odd, because normally I like the character who thinks about things as opposed to the characters who rush in, but Yukio is so boring and so contradictory that I just want to slap him most episodes. In his defense, he did get a few good moments in the fight against Todo but that hardly makes up for everything else.

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People who really enjoyed season 1 of this and really like the characters, may find enough here to enjoy. For everyone else, I just don’t see it as being worth the time it takes to watch. It is watchable, but there’s just not much point in it. So while I did have some fun with this, mostly I just kind of watched it. And as the season progressed and it became increasingly clear they were stretching out a very small amount of material, I became increasingly more critical of this. There are some good moments but overall I’m probably never watching this again.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 37

Review:

I can’t help but think this entire season was just filler. Other than Rin learning to control his flames (which took way too long) and the other students finally getting over Rin being the son of Satan (though for some reason they don’t apply that same reasoning to Yukio) we’ve watched this whole season and nothing of substance has changed in either characters or plot. The few developments we’ve had could have been covered in about five minutes if they’d decided to move things along and so we’ve just had padded dialogue after overly dragged out action sequence.

However, I’ll save further complaints for the show as a whole for my whole season review and for now I’ll focus entirely on this episode, which was nothing. Other than one discussion with Mephisto where we got the very obvious hint that he’s the master mind behind pretty much everything and has some plan for Rin (which we knew forever ago), nothing happens in this episode. Unless you count Shiemi’s unintentional absolute rejection of Rin as anything other than a friend.

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And no,¬† I don’t count this as a point. There was a discussion between Rin and Yukio but even they acknowledge they are just rehashing the same conversation at this point so why are they making the audience listen to it again. We get it. You two have different views. And Rin’s an idiot. Great. Move on already.

So yeah, as a final episode this one left me feeling pretty flat.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 36

Review:

The fragmented nature of this show continued this week with Yukio and Todo kind of finishing their fight (though Todo seems pretty unkillable at this point so not really sure if they are really done or not) and then Rin finally did something with his sword. This show is always at its best when we have the characters mid-action so the episode this week was actually kind of satisfying though still lacked any of the spectacle from season 1. Rin gaining some control was nice but the believe-in-yourself message just feel at odds with the overall tone of this show (though there is nothing new given it has been a persistent theme throughout). But, having not read the manga, my real question is what is the next episode going to focus on. There’s at least a half-dozen loose ends that could be dealt with but it doesn’t really have time for all of them given next week is meant to be the last episode. So either we’re hitting wait for the sequel territory or worse, read the manga.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 35

Review:

Blue Exorcist is a good example of why shows should just try to tell their story and wrap it up. Whether there is a bigger world or other stories that could be explored is neither here nor there because the whole point of stories is to entertain. Season 2 of Blue Exorcist has failed at almost every point to actually entertain. Once you get the initial happy that the show is back and you just look at this arc on its own merit you realise that very little good has come from the characters or the plot and in point of fact some of the characters have lost what little drive they had. Essentially, we have a cast carried over and a new problem dropped on them but no focus at all. But that’s not reviewing this episode so moving on.

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My favourite parts of this episode came from Yukio and Todo’s confrontation. I’m kind of glad that Yukio’s plan wasn’t successful in the end because it seemed too easy after Todo had been hanging around for that long. Still, that confrontation was getting close to entertaining even if Todo is now mocking the exorcists for having meetings mid-battle. Seriously, it doesn’t make the fact that you’ve made us sit through all those committee meetings better if you are self-aware of it. Fix your story telling.

My least favourite moments came watching Suguro and Rin. Mostly because everything going on up there is delay for the moment Rin draws his sword. An inevitable event from the start of this battle and really they did drag this out. A lot. And what makes it worse was that there was nothing that actually triggered the change in the end. Can’t draw it, can’t draw it, we’re talking, pep talk, can’t draw it, internal monologue, wow, it suddenly came out. It’s such a cheap plot device when used in this manner and there’s no tension in the scene because you know that either Rin’s going to draw the sword before Suguro actually gets hurt or the wonderful exorcist doctors will fix him up anyway.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 34

Review:

You would think now that they’ve all got their assignments and the battle is on that the excessive group chats would have ended, but Blue Exorcist is very attached to lengthy dialogue at this point. Each pair or group have plenty of time for heart to heart conversations usually right before they get surprised by an actual attack from the enemy they are supposed to be fighting.

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That doesn’t actually make this episode bad, but it does make the pace a little choppy as we switch between groups, wait for their conversation (while they half-heartedly swat at the enemy), and wait for the inevitable life threatening danger to befall them. The shame is that some of these moments are quite revealing as characters are connecting and finally being truthful about how they feel and yet because they get just one moment before we move to fighting or a different pair, each of these moments feels squashed by a narrative that has wasted a lot of air time and now feels like its trying to compensate by having every poignant character moment in one episode.

Shiemi finally succeeding at a summoning this episode was a moment that should have got more attention than it did. Rin and Suguro needed more time to really bond, you know after fighting for over a season and a half. Not to mention, Suguro was going through the whole my father is nearly dead, I’ve been entrusted with this chant, I’m not even sure I know how to do it moment, but rather than build any tension around that he just casts the spell and we move to the next thing. Even Shima had a half-decent character moment that was utterly crushed in the rush of the episode.

Oh well, I’m not expecting anything much from this show at this point and it is still watchable so I’ll stop complaining and just wait for the next episode. And no, I’m not ignoring Yukio’s moment, but I completely ran out of words about two paragraphs ago so I’ll see what happens next week and comment then.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Season 1 Series Review

Okay it occurred to me now that the second season of this show has started that I hadn’t review season 1.

Overview:

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.

– From AnimeLab

Review:

I remember this was huge when it came out. Not quite Attack On Titan huge but still it was a pretty big deal. And when you watch the first episode which is wonderfully dramatic and Rin learns the truth about his parentage and his actions get Shiro, who has acted as his father, killed and all of the other things that happen in that action packed introduction, it is pretty amazing.

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Then there’s most of the rest of the series.

Not that Blue Exorcist is actually bad at any point. It’s quite well animated, there’s a series of zany characters who are learning about the world of exorcists and gaining powers while facing a diverse range of challenges. Probably the biggest issue is rather than just have a training group learning exorcism is that they decide to base it in a school with all the usual school setting tropes and to be honest the classroom scenes really drag the pace and serve no purpose in any of the story. Okay, Rin is bad at book studying. We get it. It was funny for about three seconds. Can we please move on and see an exorcist fight a demon now?

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And this is probably why I’ve never reviewed this show even though its been sitting on my list of reviews to write. For every moment of amazing over-the-top action/adventure with its mish-mash of religious tropes and ideas, there’s the sitting in the classroom, studying for an exam, inner-class rivalry, friendship games and all sorts of other things that just aren’t as interesting.

Shiemi is a good example of this. When she’s first introduced she’ a ridiculously shy character but Rin, being Rin, brings her out of her shell and after Rin and Yukio save her from a demon she ends up enrolling in the class. What follows is some of the lamest attempts at bullying and friendship making I’ve ever seen in a school based anime and that’s probably because Blue Exorcist is good at fighting things, cutting things down, strong emotional moments when facing more or less unbeatable odds. It isn’t good at being nuanced in social interactions. The fact that this sub-plot with Shiemi goes on for far too long before it is finally resolved in a ‘you helped us defend ourselves from a demon so you must be kind of cool so just forget all the mean things we did prior’ kind of way, only makes it worse. And after this, Shiemi pretty much ceases to be anything other than someone in the class. That close connection with Rin, the playful is she just a fan because he helped or does she have feelings for him moments just disappear and she literally becomes just another one of the group.

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And all of the students suffer more or less the same fate. They get a moment to shine, they get a moment that makes you want to roll your eyes and then they fade back into the crowd. It’s a shame because some of these characters actually have interesting stories (or seem like they might) to tell but ultimately they are there so that Rin has someone to bounce off.

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What this leaves is a reliance on Yukio and Rin to carry the characterisation of the story and that is definitely a mistake. These characters are good at what they do. They have opposite approaches to pretty much everything, they both have an inferiority complex toward the other, but they both lost their ‘father’ and they have both had to deal with keeping Rin’s secret. They should be interesting characters and yet Yukio is insufferable in his ‘woe-is-me’ attitude holding the fate of the world on his shoulders and refusing to actually talk about what is on his mind. His weak personality is actually exploited which is how we get to the finale so at least it served some narrative purpose but still wasn’t particularly compelling. Rin is just a charge in and hit everything kind of guy. That can work and when the show focusses on action it does work in this, but unfortunately watching this kind of character go about the day to day isn’t very fun. Trying to contrast his rough and ready attitude with a sickly sweet side doesn’t do much to balance him as a character and merely makes the tone of the show even less consistent.

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Okay, now it sounds like I hate the show which isn’t true. It actually is a fun ride with some great visual spectacles. I love the ending of this series (though I know a lot of people will disagree with that) and to be honest I’d have been happy with the show ending there but then there’s the movie and now a second season.

So, should you watch Blue Exorcist (assuming you haven’t)? If you like action with a bit of silly visual comedy, then you will probably enjoy most of what’s on offer here. Plus, Kuro, once he comes into the story, is the one of my favourite anime pets or mascots so he’s a lot of fun. If you are looking for something with a bit more character depth and a narrative that goes beyond ‘beat Satan’ then maybe you should look elsewhere.

Blue Exorcist Episode 33

Review:

After week’s of slow pacing and lots of sitting around talking, all of the main groups are now running around the mountains in an effort to contain the impure king (who’s eyes are apparently parts of the heart that got cut in two – did they not think through whether they were eyes or not when they started this story?). Anyway, we get a touching father-son reunion (and of course, father isn’t already dead from blood loss and the demon that got eaten has also recovered because its a phoenix – no plot armour here).

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Other than that we’ve got Yukio who mid-fight saw some sort of weird light through the trees and went solo to investigate it rather than taking any assistance and now he’s seriously getting beaten down (physically and emotionally). I’m pretty certain¬† we’re about to see all the clunky foreshadowing and warnings Yukio has been given this season come to light and that might even be interesting. At least Yukio might develop a personality other than serious and brooding.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 32

Review:

I’ve had a lot of complaints about this second season so far and this episode isn’t totally immune from the criticisms that have so far plagued this series. Everyone still needs to have a group chat before doing anything. Yukio has returned to the story but his input so far has been pretty unspectacular.

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Oh, and we still don’t know why the impure king is a big deal other than he’s related to the king of rot (whatever that is) and Mephisto seems to think Kyoto is in trouble, though doesn’t seem to care.

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By the way, did we really need a self-aware comment on Mephisto’s return to the story? This series has been flat and disappointing without any of the spark or energy of season one. Lame, self-aware jokes at this stage aren’t helping the situation.

Despite that, this episode is an improvement. Over the course fo the episode Rin is sentenced to death and thrown into a prison that is mean to be impenetrable, but that title is incredibly misleading. The other students sneak in and try to save him but it is only Shiemi who makes it into the prison to speak with Rin. It’s actually quite a touching scene and hopefully these two actually get more moments like this because its the right amount of emotion surrounded by violence to keep things interesting.

Meanwhile, the other exorcists are all running around prepping for a confrontation with the impure king and getting vaccinations. There’s a lot of movement and while we aren’t yet at the fight, this whole episode seemed to have a lot more purpose and drive than the ones before it.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.

 


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Blue Exorist Episode 30

Review:

While I can appreciate a story that takes its time getting to a point, that’s kind of only if I’m finding the set up and opening moves interesting, and Blue Exorcist season 2 is suffering from a severe lack of interesting developments. After barely getting any story so far and wading through a lot of teen angst, we’re now flashing back while reading a letter from the head priest to Rin, which of course Rin can’t read because of how its written so Yukio is reading out loud.

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It isn’t that Fujimoto and learning more about him isn’t interesting and it isn’t that I think this won’t be relevant later, it’s just we’re now 5 episodes into this season and other than two eyes being stolen and people apparently trying to retrieve them, this plot is seriously not moving. I guess if you like the characters more, Rin’s struggle to control his powers and the potential of him becoming a target might be enough to engage you, but to be honest for me that’s just background noise and at the moment most of these episodes feel like background noise.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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Blue Exorcist Episode 29

Review:

After three episodes of mostly teen angst, we finally get back to the whole someone stealing the eye thing and of course it’s the girl who got told one thing one time and decides it is an absolute regardless of evidence of lack of it. It’s amazing how easy it is to convince yourself of something when you perceive every event through the lens that what you think is true and you find a way to distort all the facts to fit that truth. I mean, she might be right, it isn’t like I think the superiors in the church are actually trustworthy given they all seem to have their own agendas, but it just seems that trusting Todo is a terrible idea.

Rin of course finaly figures out some basic flame control (thank goodness because I’m sick of sitting on the roof with him watching him destroy candles).

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And then of course loses control when confronting Bon about his father issues. It’s great that we’re reminded that Fujimoto was important to Rin and Rin is still harbouring guilt around his death, but when he interprets everyone else’s relationship through that lens it becomes irritating. Just because you’ve been through trauma does not give you the right to dictate the actions of others and while superficially the circumstances between Bon and his father seem similar, Rin is seriously butting in where he’s not needed. This is one of my pet hate character traits when watching anime. In honesty, I was happy when he got knocked out cold.

Blue Exorcist is available on AnimeLab.


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