Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign (Episodes 1-12) – Anime Review
Synopsis: After a mysterious virus wipes out ninety percent of humanity, vampires emerge from underground to enslave mankind. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Seraph of the End first made it over to the U.S. as a monthly manga in U.S. Shonen Jump. The manga, containing generally impressive artwork, is initially translated well with this anime adaptation, capturing the beauty of the artwork near perfectly at times. The show is stylistically beautiful, with some amazing background work that only helps to sell the epic atmosphere. Indeed the opening episode is oozing with presence, setting the show up with a dark, twisted tone that sucks the viewer in.
Linny: Seraph starts out strong with beautiful visuals and a shocking but gripping story in the first episode. Laying down a solid back story for its protagonist is something that many anime struggle to get right but Seraph does the job well. You’re immediately sucked in by the intensity and darkness of the story and the action scenes are well animated and visualized. The episode even ends on a perfect note, one that will make the viewer want to immediately watch the next episode.
Tom: Unfortunately that quality isn’t carried very far as the show progresses. Seraph of the End plummets from the highs of its openings by moving onto all too familiar, and highly generic, territory. Yuichiro struggles with the all too common shonen stereotype of friendship, and this version is told with all the nuance of a sledge hammer to a brick wall. The viewer is constantly beaten over the head with the cliche of learning to be friends. This would be forgivable if Seraph had other qualities that helped to pull the viewers attention away from its overtly generic message. Sadly another of Seraph’s biggest failings is that it can be exceedingly boring. But more on that later.
Linny: What’s great about Seraph however is that the story and the premise both have a lot of potential for mystery and action. What’s bad is that it never utilizes that potential and instead clings to old cliches and overflows with mediocrity. It’s not only boring but also frustrating to see so much wasted potential.
Tom: Seraph of the End was split into 2-cours upon airing, 12 episodes in one season and another 12 later off down the line. These first 12 episodes unfortunately never go anywhere. Seraph strings the viewer along with a constant promise of action, but whenever we finally get to the action it lasts but mere moments, or is continually interrupted by increasingly long gaps of conversation, monologues, etc. It’s a continual tease, promising much and rarely ever delivering. This means that even when things are happening, they simply feel boring and uninteresting. There’s a fun idea here, and Seraph’s opening demonstrates that, but the following way in which the story is told undermines much of the entertainment value and while some of this may be alleviated by the second set of episodes, I don’t subscribe to the idea that an anime lasting 24 episodes in one season, verses the more typical and smaller allotment of 12, gives license to allow for exceedingly slow, plodded pacing. Plenty of longer running anime manage to enthrall early on, like Code Geass, Moribito, From the New World finding both pacing and developments to actively hook the audience and never let go.
Linny: Conversely, a truly notable element of the show is how grey the factions are. As the show progresses, we start to see that not everything is black and white and it starts getting harder to read the true intentions of the warring parties. Throw in more twists, and you get engrossed and start to find yourself wondering if the side you’re rooting for is really the one that should succeed. On a more micro level though, it’s a completely different story. Our protagonist, Yuuichirou, former Vampire chew-toy turned budding hero, is bland and unlikable, too angsty and cliché to elicit more than a sigh from older or more knowledgeable viewers. Moreover, despite all the build up and questions raises in order to hook you in, satisfactory answers are no where to be found in these first twelve episodes.
Tom: But perhaps the biggest downfall comes from Seraph of the End playing it safe. Like many shonen, Naruto, One Piece, etc, the death count is insanely low. For such other, more light-hearted shonen, this is potentially fine. While I’m a big proponent of more death and suffering in Shonen titles, they don’t all need to be turned into blood baths. But Seraph attempts to be dark, brooding, and feel more ‘adult.’ Beyond the opening episode there are zero deaths that help to rack up the tension, making Seraph feel more like scuffles in a playground’s sand box, than a dangerous war between humans and vampires.
Linny: On a positive note, the vampire society in this show is better written than most, in the sense that we meet a lot of different vampires with varied interest and characteristics, rather than just a checklist of popular vampire stereotypes. It didn’t completely feel like another generic evil vampire anime. Unfortunately, like we mentioned above, the show never fully utilizes that either. Combine this with the show’s failure to really build upon it’s dark and broody premise and its gray factions and it’s hard to give it a resounding recommendation. Based on the first twelve episodes, I’d give Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign a lukewarm recommendation, best only for these who are still fond of popular shonen tropes but also want a story that’s a little more nuanced with streaks of ambiguity and darkness.
Tom: Seraph of the End just isn’t memorable. It rarely does anything that sticks in your mind and leaves a long lasting impression. It’s unfortunate because there’s so much potential here. Even the manga itself drags, but the anime only further highlights just how slow going it really is. Having read the manga things do pick up a little in episodes 13-24, known in Japan as Seraph of the End: Battle in Nagoya (on Crunchyroll and Funimation they’re just listed as all part of the first run however.) For as mediocre as mediocre gets, I can’t really say I recommend Seraph of the End. There are things it does, and well, but they’re few and far between. However if you want vampires, mixed with some of Shonen’s most conventional themes, then perhaps give Seraph a look in. But if you’re looking for a more compelling experience, I might say something like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is the way to go.