By Tom Speelman
One of the most beloved Aniplex shows of the past decade is undoubtedly Blue Exorcist. Based on Kazue Kato’s monthly manga, the first season of Blue Exorcist—directed by Tensai Okamura, written by Ryota Yamaguchi and animated by A-1 Pictures—ran for 25 episodes and an OVA in 2011, as well as a follow-up movie the next year.
The series follows delinquent Rin Okumura (Nobuhiko Okamoto, Bryce Papenbrook) as he learns he and his more studious twin brother Yukio (Jun Fukuyama, Johnny Yong Bosch) are the sons of Satan and a human woman, although Rin is the only one who inherited Satan’s powers. Of course, Yukio is an Exorcist with the Order of the True Cross, charged by the Vatican with exterminating demons and curtailing their Earthly influence.
Upon its release, Blue Exorcist was an instant hit around the world thanks to its stunning animation, fun characters and, courtesy of J-Rock icons UVERworld and ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D, two of the most amazing OPs in anime history.
But with just 25 episodes, the anime felt incomplete to manga readers as the final nine episodes ended on an original arc. Six years later, A-1 Pictures, the original cast and new staff including Kouichi Hatsumi, Seiko Takagi and Yusuke Watanabe released Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga.
Running for 12 episodes, Kyoto Saga retcons the series back to following the manga, ignoring the anime-original ending. But is that really all it is? And does that make the original ending of Blue Exorcist non-canon? Let’s dive in and discuss.
Old friends, old places
While Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga features the return of fan-favorites like the beautiful slovenly Exorcist, Shura Kirigakure (Rina Sato, Wendee Lee), and the True Cross Academy chairman, Mephisto Pheles (Hiroshi Kamiya, Sam Riegel), it also brings some new characters from the manga on-screen for the first time.
Specifically, the plot kick-starts when, after his friends learn of Rin’s parentage, an Exorcist named Saburota Todo is possessed by a demon, steals a dangerous demon relic from a vault he was guarding, and flees to Kyoto to steal its companion piece.
As Rin and friends are now Esquires, meaning they’re licensed to operate officially as Exorcists, they’re tasked with retrieving it and head to Kyoto. This mission becomes personal for Ryuji Suguro, goofball Renzo Shima and the timid strategist Konekomaru Miwa as they grew up in the same Kyoto temple and their friends and family still live there.
While they reunite with their loved ones, Rin, Yukio and the rest team up with the Exorcists of the Myoda Sect, who were injured in an attack and uncover a traitorous conspiracy, as well as the mystery of how Rin and Yukio’s late foster father, Fr. Shiro Fujimoto, came to possess Rin’s demonically powered sword, Kurikara.
Adapting volumes five through nine of the manga, Kyoto Saga is just as fun as the original series but runs at almost a third its length, all while answering several of the mysteries the original series never did.
However, that doesn’t mean the original anime isn’t worth finishing…
The filler is good, actually
“Filler” is usually a dirty word among anime fans, as its reason for being is well-known. Either the manga is still ongoing, or the author hasn’t decided on an ending, so an original story is required to fill in the episode gaps until there’s enough source material for the show to draw from again.
And while some filler can be needless, in a lot of cases, the additions can flesh out characters and provide them with a lot of depth otherwise not afforded.
Think of the tragic backstory of Lust in the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime or, in Blue Exorcist’s case, what happens with Konekomaru. Possessed by a crow demon that plays on his inherent fear of Rin, Konekomaru attempts to kill his classmate, but Rin manages to exorcise him, strengthening their friendship.
Additionally, while the manga is still ongoing to this day, and Kato reportedly has an ending planned, the original anime still had to tie things up to make for satisfying television, lest it end abruptly. Thus, the Okumuras have a final confrontation with Satan as he rampages through Japan before eventually triumphing and learning the true circumstances of their birth.
While it’s not exactly manga-canon compliant, the original show still ends on a very satisfying note that provides a neat conclusion, one just as compelling and exciting. But if you want more or love the manga, then absolutely watch Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga. Either way, you’re gonna watch some great anime. And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want?
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