Endearing character development and a promising future for the series.
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30 Mar 2017 - 3:44 PM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2017 - 3:45 PM

The second season of A-1 Pictures’ adaptation of Kazue Kato’s teen exorcist drama adventure Blue Exorcist delivers more character development than pure action. The series has always been a character driven story of acceptance disguised as a shounen adventure, but the Kyoto Saga capitalises on this in the show’s pacing.

The endearing Son of Satan, Rin Okumura and other students are tasked with assisting the Kyoto branch of exorcists in dealing with a great unholy beast, the Impure King. Yet, this isn’t the central conflict to the Kyoto Saga; it’s whether Rin’s friends will ever truly accept him. This theme is one that’s developed early on in the season in characters’ interactions with Rin, and brilliantly connects the season’s beginning, middle and end - even during the battle against the Impure King.

Again, if you’re expecting 12 episodes of intense action, you might want to reconsider. The battle with the demon only lasts four episodes and there’s a good six episodes of character development for the three Kyoto-born exwires; Bon, Shima and Konekomaru, and a dramatic sense of uncertainty created by a traitor among their ranks. Rin’s friends naturally learn to accept him for who he is but the slow burning development of Rin’s relationship with others is satisfying and endearing to watch.

Rin is a wholesome, well-natured child, but I wish I could say the same for his brother, Yukio. Yukio’s arc is in all honesty quite ambiguous; he’s hungry for power and wants to grow stronger than his brother, but fears that he might have the same satanic powers bellowing inside him. He resents Rin for his positive carefree outlook and how it clashes with his emotionally reserved self. He’s overprotective of his brother but his growing disdain for, and insecure self-comparison to, his brother - demonstrated in the final episode - felt frustrating to watch as a viewer.

Even in the manga, it’s unclear whether Yukio will continue down a path of vengeance and self-hate. It’s as simple as Rin says: they’re as different as oil and water. Yukio’s arc is separate to the final conflict, fighting against his foil, Todo. While I enjoyed his story as an exploration of the human condition - and the fight was pretty well animated and strategic, too - the scene could easily feel distracting if there isn’t any future seasons to further explore his internal conflict.

The Kyoto Saga has solved a lot of my complaints from the first season. It’s closely followed the manga in what I hope results in more arcs adapted in the future; acknowledged and resolved Rin’s relationship with the other exwires and teased more. Blue Exorcist is one of the few shounen series that values character development more than it does pure action, which in this case has resulted in an excellent insight into relationships and friendship. It has a decent mix of comedy, action and drama, without sacrificing one for the other.

If you enjoyed watching this season, I strongly recommend you go read the manga, starting at the end of volume nine or chapter 35. If you haven’t watched the series, you can stream both Season 1 and Season 2 on AnimeLab.

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