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Review: Owari no Seraph (Anime)

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WOO-HOO A REVIEW AT LAST!!
Pretty boys and sloppy storylines!

STUDIO: Wit Studio
ORIGINAL RUN: April 4, 2015 – June 20, 2015
EPISODES: 12
GENRES & THEMES: Action; Drama; Vampires; Supernatural; Post-Apocalyptic
SOURCE: Manga to anime adaptation
After an unknown virus wiped out all adults on earth, vampires appeared and ruled over the surviving children, treating them like livestock. Yuichiro Hyakuya survived along with other orphans by giving their blood to vampires, until Yuichiro escaped four years ago. Now he is a member of the Moon Demon Company, a unit in the Japanese army dedicated to hunting down the vampires he blames for the death of his family.

Source: ANN

Feel welcome to express your thoughts and disagree (politely) in the comment section (discussion is always fun!!), but no opinion bashing will be allowed! Do remember the final verdict is my own opinion, which may differ from yours! 

Back when the 2015 anime spring season started and I posted my first impressions of the animes I'd picked up I mentioned that Owari no Seraph had "the potential to easily become the next sensation after Tokyo Ghoul and Shingeki no Kyoujin (if it doesn't fuck up bad that is)". Unfortunately for me and all the others that hopped onto this bandwagon not knowing what they were in for it would seem this adaptation is not up to the expectations that had been placed on it, and much less up to the attention it was being given in Japan before its release.

The Story&Themes

Have you heard of that new hit anime? You know, the dystopian one where practically all humanity has been wiped out and what's left of it lives in a walled city protected from these monsters that are overpowered that are after their lives that are pretty much unbeatable unless you have these special weapons and the protagonist is a boy who watches his family get slaughtered by these monsters and swears to kill them all off and enters the military to get stronger and achieve his goal and he's very intense about it but he's not actually entirely human he's got this monstrous power hidden within that seems to be the result of some sort of experiment? You know the one I'm talking about?

WRONG, try again.

Woops?
(well it's from the same studio so I guess it doesn't count as plagiarism?)

Okay let's try and get serious. Humanity has fallen... but not because of Titans. A virus of unknown origins gets released into the world, killing off every infected human over the age of 13. Now Vampires rule the world, and Hayakuya Yuuichirou, along with all the other children at his orphanage, get taken in by them and enslaved. After watching all other children including Hyakuya Mikaela, Yuuichirou's best friend, Yuu manages to escape the facility where ha has been trapped in for four years. A further four years down the lane, Yuu has enlisted in the Japanese Demon Army and lusts for revenge: he will exterminate all vampires. Little does he know that Mika is in fact alive, and planning to save him from the humans... (yeah I'd call that a spoiler but the opening already does a fantastic job of spoiling the fact that he's alive in the second episode, so what's the point? Whatever happened to having mysterious shadows in openings and different versions of it in order not to spoil your audiences? Has Wit Studio never watched Karin? It's high time went back to such customs.)
So what is it that I have so against this series? Other than the similarities it shares with Attack on Titan there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, right? In fact, it strikes all the right cords with me. It's a dystopian anime that focuses on the pain of loss, come on! This is right up my alley along with historical dramas! Unfortunately just adding in the right ingredients doesn't mean you'll end up getting a nice puffy cake. You've got to stir it properly and add the right amounts... and Seraph of the End didn't look like it knew how to do that. The first episode of the series looked brilliant both visually and story wise. It was strong, well planned and full of impact. We see tragedy; we see a world that's been brought to its knees, and a protagonist that's lost all faith in it. You imagine we're going to be treading on an equally intense path for the rest of the series (with the occasional relaxed episode to give us some chance to breathe), but instead it takes an unexpected turn... into a highschool setting.
Really? What need do we have for this? It makes absolutely no sense, and it's not half as interesting as what we saw in the first episode. The worst part is that this whole highschool play-pretend lasts the entire middle section of the series, and just drags on and on... I was in for the action, Wit Studio, not for another one of those anime highschool dramas! If I had wanted to see that I would've pick up any other anime of the season!! This whole segment is just endless, and sometimes you feel that nothing really important has happened in an episode. Heck, I get the feeling I watched a 6 episode series of OVAs rather than a 12 episode anime. That's how little content there was, and it's clear to me after watching the whole thing that the directors were trying to elongate the series just to end the first season with a certain cliff-hanging event... but was it really worth sacrificing the integrity of the whole series?


A heart with no body

Owari no Seraph is the kind of series I like to think of as a heart with no body. It's got emotion —family, bonds, revenge, new beginnings vs living in the past — but the setting it's wrapped up in is sloppy, chaotic and uncreative. It's a healthy heart pumping blood into nothing, and there's no use for a heart if there's no circulatory system attached to it. Yuu and Mika's relationship holds a lot of shipping value; it manages to touch the viewer. We're talking about two orphan boys growing up in a devastated world, relying solely on each other, being ripped apart, one of the two convinced the other is dead, and the other knowing the first is being used as a Guinea pig. To top it all off Mika struggles to accept his new vampire self, but also rejects the filth humanity has become. He stands in the middle of a crossroad, hating who he is now yet not wanting to go back to who he was. It gives Seraph of the End a splendid muscular heart that could pump blood and tears endlessly.
UNFORTUNATELY IT DOESN'T HAVE A BODY TO DO THAT. The blood's just spilling out into nothingness (what a waste.) The characters where baked in muffin molds, the setting feels like an Attack no Titan rip off, and the entire series's objective seems to be to check off every single shonen cliché out there. As the episodes roll on in gets progressively more conventional, and though there's a tinge of creativity mixed within all this mess it's just not enough to compensate the overwhelming amount of sloppy parts.

Family is not decided by blood.

This is perhaps Owari no Seraph's strongest theme (it's actually its only one other than demonstrating you can actually fit in every single shonen trope into a series HAHAHAHAHAHAHA). Family comes in many shapes and forms, and there are no need for blood ties to be present for two individuals to become family. Yuu's parents weren't exactly role models, and just as he's managed to fin himself a true family they get brutally murdered. He struggles for years after to come to terms with this, and eventually finds home with a new set of individuals. It carries a beautiful message full of hope that's admirable.
Unfortunately for us, the series is actually just an incoherent mess disguised in pretty colours that lures you in with it's first two spectacular episodes, and then throws you into a dark pit of poop as it laughs "HAHAHA FOOLED YOU!!". Despite defending family values and the fact that friends are family too, it has characters left and right trying to stop Yuu from defending his new family. And these same characters where the very ones who were urging him to make new ties!! And you're there thinking, " well, maybe it's to show them a lesson? I'm sure that's the end of it!" BUT NO! IT'S A TRAP! Two episodes later you've got the same character, WHO'S JUST BEEN PROVEN WRONG, denying that you should plunge yourself into a fight you can't win to save the people you care about. So the series just goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth on this same string, and never actually advances.
Fabulous.
Give me more.
I love stories stuck in mud, they're my absolute favourites.

The Characters

I'm pretty most of those viewing the series realised by episode 3 that we were in for a show with shonenitis. That's what I'm calling it from now on, shonenitis. It's a disease that affects mainly the protagonist of a series, in which such protagonist becomes THE representation of every shonen manga trope known to mankind. Yuu is not only intense about his plans for revenge, he's also overpowered, is "the chosen one from the prophecy", is always the one to save the day, and he's got all the chics falling for him. And it wouldn't be as much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that the series tries to treat him as a normal guy... despite him being very clearly talented he keeps getting told he's not ready to engage in battle, and despite always managing to save the situation people keep on ordering him not to do this and that cos he'll fuck it all up, when, surprise surprise, HE NEVER DOES. But oh no, you also had to have the baka protagonist cliché in there, you couldn't possibly have him be overpowered and not have others make fun of him, could you? Apparently fun and clever can't go together.
But oh well, a show's side characters can still save the lot, can't they? Yes, they can. Look at every harem anime out there with a plain protagonist. Just because the protagonist is terrible, it doesn't mean the rest of the cast has to be terrible, right? Right? WRONG. Not in Owari no Seraph. Here who the side characters are depends entirely on the MC.
See, the deal with all of these characters is they're never their own persona. Take Yuu away and they're pretty much nothing. Sure, they've got their back-stories, but they all feel shallow in comparison to the emphasis we get on what happened to Yuu, and you end up not giving a rats ass about them. Heck, all they do is run around killing vampires and following orders in the end. Ultimately the only two that matter in this entire series are Yuu and Mika, and if you don't ship them to a certain extent you're missing out on probably the only fun in the entire series. Now believe me, I'm not much of a fujoshi, but this stuff is the most homo-non-homo thing I've seen since Free!. It's pretty much hitting you in the face with a brick.

The Animation&Sound

This, my pretties, is the bait. This is what they dangled before our noses to lure us in. fluid animation, quirky oil-painting styled backgrounds that looked appropriate for a 90s Scooby-Doo episode, and a soundtrack, ending and opening themes by Sawano Hiroyuki, the mastermind behind the Aldnoah.Zero and Shingeki no Kyoujin soundtracks. The impressive pieces lasted throughout the entire series, but the animation? Ah, the animation… it was so fabulous, so fluid, so brilliant in the first 3 episodes, and by episode 4 it seemed as though their budged had left to "buy cigarettes" and never came back. I'm guessing this will all get fixed in the DVD & Blu-Ray release, but if the makers think I'll be sticking around for that they're in for a long wait with no reward. Background characters were faceless, and when they did have any sort of something resembling facial features they looked drawn by a 3 year old child. You'd think they'd stop there, but this got applied to the main cast too. Sequences stop being fluid, as if somebody had taken out a bunch of frames, and eventually the whole thing just got unpleasant to watch, which isn't very positive for an action anime.

Conclusions

In the end my biggest problem with Owari no Seraph is that it's a big mess of wasted potential. Greatness was there for the taking, and it failed terribly at trying to produce a coherent, interesting story. Will I be watching the second season? Probably, but that's just because I have this odd OCD where I feel that I must finish all series I start unless they make my eyes bleed, and so far it hasn't been THAT terrible. But if I were you and you feel like you absolutely must check out this series I'd go for the manga—I get the feeling it's a lot easier to swallow than this mess they're trying to force-feed us.
I must admit, however, that the series picked up in the last 3 episodes. Though these were still messy as the rest of them, they actually got down to business and brought back the action the anime had initially promised in its promotional stage. The second season has to fix up on a lot of things if it wants to be remotely memorable, but with the manga ongoing and so many loose strings to tie off I see this heading towards a dead end...

FINAL VERDICT!

Well, maybe if you're drunk?

I really did think this was going to be a Shakespeare approves during the first 2 episodes... 

Look at them, they're just so perfect together.



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