In the year 2012, humanity is ravaged by a virus that leaves only children thirteen years old and younger alive. During this time, vampires come out of hiding and capture many of the humans, who are then kept as livestock. However, some humans survive on the surface and form a new society as well as build an army whose members, wielding demonic blades, can defeat vampires. Yuichiro Hyakuya, in an attempt to escape a vampire city, loses his family and joins the Japanese Imperial Demon Army with plans of revenge against his oppressors.
Author’s Note: I reversed the usual order of categories in this review in order for it to read better, as I found the reverse order more effective.
The characters of Seraph of the End are, for the most part, extremely unoriginal. While characters don’t need to be original to be good, they do need to be intriguing to a certain extent and most of the development of the Moon Demon Company has been centered around their motivations and backstories, all of which can basically be summarized as ‘vampires killed my family’. While the setting makes these backstories believable for obvious reasons, there is a decidedly minimal attraction towards the characters when the audience isn’t able to associate much with them.
Outside of the lackluster backstories, very few of the cast go through much development aside from Yuichiro, and while Yuichiro does have some pretty solid growth, I felt that he was downright unbearable for the first half of the season as he was nothing more than a whiny, hotheaded high school-aged male protagonist who succeeded at everything he did at an inordinate speed.
Perhaps Seraph of the End’s greatest flaw would be its frequent writing issues, both in general direction and in minor details. In terms of minor details, Seraph is extremely lacking in writing chops. While the show does have interesting arcs of story, the plot is filled with tons of minor holes, all of which can be explained by fans but only as conjectures instead of actual solid information provided from the show.
There are also occasional unnecessary and trope-y elements that have yet to be explored, such as the ‘prophecy’ spoken of in the first episode. These minor holes combined sometimes create larger issues that break viewer immersion and cause other problems.
Seraph has a hard time with the maintaining of its suspension of disbelief. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this, ranging from the fact that the primary cast is a super elite squad of teenagers to the fact that some random kid Yuichiro met at school also happened to be capable of taming a first class demon weapon despite his soft personality.
There are other issues as well, such as a temporal displacement of events on the battlefield. For example, say one character is in a choke hold with a vampire, then the camera cuts to another duo fighting for a couple of minutes only to come back to the other pair, who were seemingly on the edge of one doing the other in yet both managed not to move a muscle. This is obviously a big crack in the viewers’ suspension of disbelief, and it is something that will literally occur multiple times in one episode on the occasion. Essentially, Seraph is a game of neat coincidences, and combined with the issues in the writing, it is sometimes difficult for viewers to look past all of these issues and focus on the action in the story.
The primary issue I personally had with Seraph of the End initially was that it had a difficult time distinguishing itself in the beginning, and what I mean by this is that it took a ton of classic scenarios from other anime (which is not inherently bad), and then didn’t seem to do anything with them. For example, Yuichiro is enrolled in a high school, manages to clear all obstacles with little to no effort, and so on.
It was difficult for me to enjoy the series in this beginning section because it wasn’t thrilling enough to overlook other issues plaguing the writing for the duration of my viewing. Thankfully, the second half of the season picks up substantially.
While Seraph of the End’s issues are more prevalent during the slower portions of the story, it is easier to look past them during fights and action sequences. This is both because of the entertainment value during the fights, which follow the common but popular shounen ‘ultimate power’ route without feeling too derivative, and because of the animation on the part of Wit Studio, whose efforts shine best during the fighting scenes (even if they lack at other times), from the movement of the characters to the pretty watercolor painting-esque backgrounds.
Despite the fact that the characters themselves can be lackluster, their interactions with each other are well done in multiple aspects. Of course, there is the entertainment value in their in-fighting and the progression of each individual’s development through their bonding with the others, but what really shows through is the sense of organic progression in the characters’ relationships with each other that evolve through their interactions.
While on an individual scale the members of the Moon Demon Company lack in development, as a group their development is actually handled quite well. Because of this, the show benefits greatly since the individual shortcomings are often masked during the action.
One of my favorite characters of this season and by far the most interesting character in Seraph of the End is Shinoa Hiragi, the cunning and sassy squad leader and member of the reigning Hiragi family. She’s the only primary character in the show that is difficult to describe in an all-encapsulating sentence. While she has past motivations of her own, they are more complex than just having her family killed by vampires.
However, it is her personality that is the most charming, as she enjoys messing with other members of the squad but still manages to get serious in the face of danger and clearly cares for the other members. As a character central to the plot and more or less the female lead, it is nice that she is a more engaging presence than most of the rest of the cast, and the show’s narrative benefits heavily from her.
Just about everything within Seraph of the End benefits heavily from the fantastic soundtrack provided by Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Aldnoah.Zero). Battles are more intense, emotional scenes are more moving, and viewers can get hyped for each episode with the excellent opening and ending themes that are also written by Sawano. If there is one thing that can be said about Seraph, it is that it has some wonderful audio.
Seraph of the End is most definitely a very flawed show. Its characters can leave much to be desired, and the writing is sometimes lackluster and features numerous tropes and plot holes. However, the characters do function well together and the music and animation are quite nice for the most part. If you’re a fan of action-packed shounen and are able to look past some of the issues with the excessive tropes and writing, then I would recommend giving Seraph of the End a try.
Seraph of the End is available for free and legal streaming on FUNimation and Hulu.
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This is the first in my series of reviews for the Spring 2015 anime season. Here’s the full list (I will link them as they release):
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
- Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
- Sound! Euphonium
- The Ani-TAY Spring 2015 Music Awards
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