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  • The Boundary
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Blue Exorcist

Oct 13, 2011

Blue Exorcist Review

Plot: 5/10

Blue Exorcist had a lot of potential, I’ll give it that. The opening episodes of BE are the best I’ve seen for any anime—there’s no shortage of action, drama, intensity,  an ever thickening plot, and even a few characters deaths. It sets the tone for the rest of the story to come: dark, violent, and tragic. If Blue Exorcist had held to that promise, I’d give the story a solid 10 without any thought.

Unfortunately, the actual show ends up being quite different. After episode 3, the story slows to a crawl and goes down several notches; instead of the tight plot that was introduced in the early episodes, we’re given a slice-of-life, episodic monster of the week series. Of course, it’s pretty much a given that the story will slow down for a few episodes to show the main character’s normal life, and then pick up again once the viewer is acquainted with the characters. The problem with BE is that it never picks up again; it’s stuck in its slice-of-life rut for almost the rest of the series. Each episode is only loosely connected, with a very thin overarching plot (that being Rin trying to control his demon powers, if you can call that a plot). This in itself wouldn’t be such a big deal, if it wasn’t for the way the show was introduced. Let me put it this way: the first three episodes remind me of Claymore, Higurashi, and Elfen Lied (in tone, not blood/gore, mind you). Everything after that is like Inuyasha, Naruto, or the first season of Bleach. In other words, the series started out as a solid seinen and nose-dived into the realms of shounen. It’s almost as though the writer had this great tragedy in mind, but then the publisher knocked on their door and told them they had to tone it down. The result: a typical, cliché-ridden shounen. Given what was promised at the start, this is a huge disappointment.

Even worse, BE ends up suffering from the same fate as many anime: ending before the “end.” The manga of BE is still ongoing and is nowhere near ending, so of course our favorite animators decided to do what they think they can do but can’t: come up with their own ending. The ending is completely rushed, ridden with plot holes, and fails to answer many of the questions raised earlier, which takes away the last shred of enjoyment. In short, what we’re left with is a stereotypical shounen, a butchered ending, and lots of unfilled potential.

Animation: 8/10

Blue Exorcist’s animation is exactly what you’d expect from a late 2000 anime series: smooth, fluid frame rates, decent shading, and a very stylized flair. While it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, it’s consistent throughout the show. The fight scenes are drawn out well with minimal animation cheats (black screen with sword strike, straight on camera angles, etc), and as a whole are superior to the typical shounen crop. Still, this no Soul Eater or Bleach, both of which dominate the shounen fighter genre.  It looks great, but that’s it to be said.

Music: 9/10

The one thing that BE does right is the soundtrack. Blue Exorcist sports the best soundtrack I’ve heard in a while, especially for the fight scenes and dramatic moments. There’s no end of electric guitars, opera vocals, full-orchestrated pieces, and creepy chanting. The variety here is astounding, along with the high-quality work of each song. The only weak part of the OST lies in the quieter scenes; most of these songs are very forgettable and drab. However, the high-energy battle music more than makes up for this. If a soundtrack for this show is released, I’m buying it, enough said. It’s just a pity such a well-done OST had to be wasted on a mediocre show.


Characters: 4/10

Nothing new here. Almost all of the characters are card-board cut-outs ripped straight from the Shounen 101 Handbook. We have the rebellious, hot-blooded protagonist with the desire to protect, the protagonist’s equally hot-blooded rival/friend, the ditzy, helpless love interest, the tsundere, the overprotective brother, the school teacher who’s not all that they seem…if you’ve watched shounen before, you know how often these are recycled. BE’s rendition of these characters is even more mundane due to the predictable character interactions and trite back stories; after reading the character list above, I’m sure you can easily spell out just how Character A will interact with C, or why tsundere is such a jerk all the time. In short, more clichés, and BE doesn’t do a thing to step away from them.

I will say that there are a couple of interesting characters, namely Shura and Arthur. Their backstories are hinted at early in the series and seem to offer more than the stereotypical pasts of their peers. Due to the rushed ending, however, these backstories are never addressed again. Why did Shura have a demon sword? How did she meet Shiro in the first place? Why was Arthur so devouted to the Vatican? I appreciate some ambiguity, but in a show where most of the characters are lifeless, failing to follow through with the only unique characters is a huge blow.


Overall: 6.5/10

To sum up BE in a couple of words: Mediocre. Cliché. Average. There’s nothing here that even a newbie anime fan wouldn’t have seen before. It’s even more of a pity considering how the series started out; I can’t help but wish I could take the first three episodes and write my own version of the story from there on. How such a great concept could be reduced to mere mediocrity is beyond me, but that’s exactly what Blue Exorcist is. If you’re looking for a seinen, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a shounen, you could do much better. BE fails to satisfy either way.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
4/10 characters
6.5/10 overall

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