Note: After spending a week in the Kansai area (nothing work-related, just a brief sojourn), I thought it would be nice to bring out this old article. This is a repost of an article I originally wrote for Crunchyroll. As always, check my writer profile to see my latest articles.
In the second season of Blue Exorcist, the action shifts to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan for over a thousand years. In many ways, it’s an ideal setting for the Blue Exorcist story. The characters’ powers are often inspired by Buddhist motifs (Suguro, for instance, recites Buddhist chants in order to cast barriers). Given that Kyoto is famous for its historical Buddhist temples and imperial palaces, it makes complete sense for the setting to shift to Kyoto as the story delves into the characters’ backstories and the events of the past.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Kyoto and how the city is typically portrayed in anime, but today I want to introduce you to one particular technique used in Blue Exorcist to help set the scene in Kyoto—the characters from Kyoto all speak with a dialect. This might be difficult to fully appreciate in translation because the differences in the characters’ speaking styles are not marked in the subtitles. Dialects are notoriously difficult for translators to handle in general, so how are English speakers meant to understand the Kyoto dialect used in the Blue Exorcist anime?
There’s been something… missing in the second season of Blue Exorcist. It’s really strange. The production quality of the second season is high, and it’s adapting a well-regarded arc in the manga. There’s none of the filler that plagued the second half of the first season.
So why does it suck so bad?
The longer I keep up with seasonal anime, the more evident it becomes that most anime are vehicles of stealth marketing. You can watch anime-original projects full of SAKUGA like the above, but most shows are 350-minute long advertisements of a manga/novel/game/whatever. Why bother sticking to just anime for your weeb entertainment in today’s media mix environment?
These days, I usually go directly to the source material unless I really like the anime staff. There are very few anime that fall into this category this season, unfortunately. I would have liked to watch Little Witch Academia, but unfortunately there’s no legal streaming option outside of Japanese Netflix. And as much as I like Yasuhiro Takemoto and KyoAni shows in general, Maid Dragon Kobayashi isn’t my kind of thing.
But whatever, I’ve still been getting into some interesting stuff this season, so here are some vague impressions.
It’s a fun show, filled with likable characters. None of the plot threads really came together, though, since the first season was mostly dedicated to character introductions and setup. But that doesn’t really matter when the characters are so much fun to watch. At any rate, the anime is getting a second season soon, so now’s as good a time as any to hype it up, I suppose.
The only problem was deciding what to write about: an ambitious thematic essay about Shintoism and new religions in Japan, or shipping? Which is more important to me as an intellectual? I spent over a day agonising over this soul-crushing dilemma. Then finally, it hit me… why not both?
Yes, they should totally make an Ao no Exorcist: Brotherhood and actually follow the damn manga, but that’s not the point of this post. Ao no Exorcist was a series that was about many things – an experience that was distinctly less than the sum of its parts – but it centered around the single most believable and relatable idea known to humankind: family.
In fact, the more I squinted at this show, the more I got the distinct impression that my brother should have been born a shonen protagonist and the son of Satan.
Basically, what I’m saying is that he’s Rin and I’m Yukio.