This is our pilot recap. Check out our full series review for more info.
If you’ve been missing the murderous, power-hungry overlords that vampires were before Twilight came along, Seraph of the End will be a pleasant throwback to the era of bloodthirsty badasses. While it’s far from perfect, Seraph has guts — some of them are splattered on the floors and walls, but it has them.
It’s a simple matter to point out the biggest flaws in Seraph because there’s no effort made to hide them. Foremost, the background art is atrocious. Scenes often look like the characters are floating in front of bad stage props. It’s as though the studio was trying to save money by having a high school art class make the backdrops with water colors improvised from melted crayons. At best, the backgrounds come across as a little strange. At worst, they’re incredibly intrusive. The perspective is often very off as well, giving the impression the backgrounds were made in bulk before the artists really knew the scale of the characters or what they would be doing in the scenes.
The pacing of the story is hit and miss. We see about 3,000 people die in the first thirty seconds, but before your mind can be blown by all the carnage, everything is reeled back. The fighting between humans and vampires is bloody and intense. Death counts are high, plot armor is fairly weak, and the artful attack styles of the characters have that dance-like quality to them reminiscent of Attack on Titan. This is all dampened by forcing a standard anime high school setting with a lot of token archetypes. In order to get over his personal demons, main character Yuichiro is being forced to make friends. It’s a bit childish and hampers the speed of the story in a fairly unsatisfying way. It serves a purpose for the development of the characters, but it’s hardly optimal.
The first episode jumps through eight years of exposition in a way that doesn’t feel lacking and Yuichiro’s cliche orphan story is at least fittingly dark: his mother went nuts and committed suicide and his father in turn blamed Yu and almost killed him. The storyline does get flimsy, though. A vampire virus kills humans over the age of thirteen so the vamps are rounding up kids to use as food sources like Matrix robots. Yu and his super best friend forever Mikael want to escape the vampire city even if it means they’ll die soon after getting out. Predictably, Yu finds his way to safety only to be greeted by other free humans who hail his presence as being “according to prophesy.” This prophesy is promptly forgotten and never alluded to in any way at all ever again.
The soundtrack is the epitome of “so-so.” If the music isn’t going to be great, it’s at least enough that it’s fairly unintrusive. Like much of the atmosphere-building in Seraph, it’s just not that impressive. The credit roll changes its tune a couple times but stays appropriately somber considering the massive amount of death in the series. After a particularly horrible bloodbath in the first episode, the credits begin to roll to naught but the sound of wind blowing. It’s not a huge stretch to say that the music is used somewhat tactically but, well, it’s still a little bit of a stretch. The end roll is also nothing but still swipes, but it fits well with the music. The soundtrack as a whole seems to be something you could space out to while you work, but not anything you’d pop in just to hear.
The story gets a little convoluted after Yu makes it to human civilization. We find out that 10% of humans have survived the vampire virus and that they aren’t dying off at a specific age anymore. However, the series deviates from the humans versus vamps battle to throw strange Dune-like monsters into the mix. While vampires have their super strength and regeneration, they’ve also left behind their ashwood stake susceptibility in favor of dying to demon-cursed weapons. Rather than hunting the vampires down with crossbows and making Buffy proud, the humans must make contracts with demons to gain effective weapons. It doesn’t have much to do with canonical vampire lore and it sounds rather silly relaying it second hand, but it works as you watch the episodes and sets up a potential risk versus reward scenario the writers can exploit later on.
There’s plenty more wrong with this anime. We could go on about why everything has mint green highlights or how the vampire hunters’ uniforms make them look like more like traffic cops than slayers. Yet for everything there is to complain about with Seraph, the bottom line is that you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve wasted your time. That’s the most important question to ask when you sit down to view a new series: Was it worth it? In spite of bad art, hokey singing, cliche storylines, and a sleepy high school facet, we still wanted to see the next episode.
It’s a series you have to approach knowing what to expect, though. Compared to other animations coming out this season, it doesn’t have the high brow social issues of Arslan, the beautiful cityscapes of Ghost in the Shell, or the masterful CGI of Blood Blockade. What Seraph has instead is a vision far darker than much of what’s come out this year. It takes some courage for a studio to commit to a series that shows children getting stabbed in the heart and coughing up pools of blood as they die. So far the gambit is paying off and Seraph is worth keeping an eye on for the next few episodes.
Recommendation: Has potential!
Title: Seraph of the End (Owari no Serafu)
Original Source: Manga
Source Writer: Takaya Kagami
Source Publisher: Shueisha
Director: Daisuke Tokudo
Writer: Hiroshi Seko
Music: Hiroyuki Sawano, Takafumi Wada, Asami Tachibana, Megumi Shiraishi
Studio: Wit Studio
Run Start: 04/2015
Review Date: 04/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01-04