This is our full season review. For more insight, see our pilot analysis.
Seraph is a series that did a lot of things right. The show rocketed out of the gates to the slaughter of thousands of people and was seemingly unafraid to rip the plot armor away from almost anyone. The powerhungry nature of the villains and the less-than-noble desires of the main character were all quickly laid bare to set an intense stage. Despite this, Seraph‘s reception has been divided.
It’s not any single thing that lost Seraph a huge chunk of viewers, but it’s easy to see the elements that contributed. Foremost, the animation quality is often sub-par. From the very first episode onward, the backgrounds look like they were made by a separate studio with no idea what was going on with the characters. All of the people in the series look as though they were pasted into the backgrounds, which use different styles and tones than the character art. Worst of all, the backgrounds sometimes take a different perspective than the one we’re viewing the characters from, giving the whole series a slopped together look.
You can forgive some lackluster artwork if the story is good, but that’s another place Seraph failed to captivate. It’s the story of humanity’s struggle to survive after vampires have nearly obliterated the humans, forcing them to live behind a protective wall. The humans can only fight back by making pacts with demons to use cursed weapons that could take control of their wielders at any time. There might also be a little human experimentation going on. It’s a so-so premise that’s been done before, but it falls flat because of Seraph‘s failure to innovate on the elements at all.
Other than drinking blood, Seraph‘s vampires are barely vampires at all. Random creatures of nightmare exist in the world with no explanation and main character Yu’s survival is lauded as being “according to prophesy” with no acknowledgement of this past the second episode. Everyone is instinctively a skilled martial artist, yet half of the characters rise through the ranks simply by whining until their superiors give them what they want. It’s more believable that 16 year-olds are on the front lines in an apocalypse, but the ease with which they out-fight vampires hundreds of years old is embarrassing.
All the action is torn asunder as Yu is forced to go to school out of nowhere. He won’t be allowed to advance until he makes friends. That is, until a couple stale episodes have passed and we’re overdue for something to happen. It makes sense in the end, but that doesn’t make it more enjoyable. While Yu’s circle does expand, there isn’t much character cohesion in it. We get that your options are limited when humans have been nearly wiped out, but that doesn’t mean every other scene with a girl needs to feature her blushing over Yu despite a total lack of chemistry the entire series.
Pepper in a bit of laziness on multiple fronts and you’ve got Seraph. The demons look exactly like the vampires, throwing away an opportunity to make something unique. The dialogue features provocative insights such as, “If your family dies you’ll never see them again!” The runway time to the action after the pilot episode is long and when you finally get to the action, things fall apart. Powers are inconsistent scene to scene. For example, a demon-cursed arrow barely does any harm to a vampire’s hand in one scene, but takes down an attack helo in another. There’s even a gun that shoots bullets that turn into spirit tigers mid-flight because there’s probably no one still watching at that point anyway.
Meanwhile, from the first vampire hunting mission onward, all of the central characters become firmly clad in plot armor. It becomes quite silly watching vampire lords who could kill everyone in less than 10 seconds (according to the series itself) just standing around with someone in a choke hold waiting patiently for the entire human army to show up. It’s not even the cliche villain monologue. The vampires just stand there not killing anyone until enough people show up for them to say, “Rats! Outnumbered again! We’ll get you next time!” If any one thing serves as a deal-breaker, it’s this.
While the action isn’t terrible during actual combat, it’s not enough to overwrite the lack of motivation Seraph displays. Between all the “borrowed” and done-to-death elements the show uses, it refuses to spin any new yarns. The only mildly interesting plot point is that Yu’s old friend Mika was forcibly turned into a vampire. While Yu tries to save Mika from the life of a monster, Mika tries to do the same by protecting Yu from human experimentation. Sadly, this arc isn’t developed until the last breaths of the season. It’s unlikely to generate enough interest for most people to still care by the time season two rolls around in October.
Like the animation, the music remains outdated and nonchalantly mediocre. The opening sounds like it wanted to pay homage to Knight Rider before suddenly changing its mind, while the end roll would’ve been on fire if it hit the radio in 1993. If nothing else, the in-episode music is generally unintrusive, but you shouldn’t have to praise a series for doing something so minimally necessary. It’s all rounded out with episode previews that like to cycle through used footage with no dialogue, granting no excitement to see the next episode.
This all might sound like we’re taking a big steamy one all over Seraph, but it’s important not to mistake full disclosure for bile. All in all, Seraph is a great example of a very neutral series. It’s not unwatchable or wholly unenjoyable, but it’s unlikely to be in anyone’s top tier. The second season stands to have some interesting developments and if you’ve already been watching Seraph, there’s really no reason to kick it aside at this point. For the rest of us, there’s more fun to be had elsewhere.
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: 01-12