Servamp – Preview
Original Air Dates: Jul 5, 2016 to ???
Synopsis: Mahiru Shirota lost his mother when he was just a boy. As relative after relative cried for someone to take care of Mahiru, but was unwilling to take the responsibility on themselves Mahiru’s uncle rose to the challenge and taught Mahiru a lesson: It’s best to take responsibility yourself because others won’t.
Going forward with this in mind Mahiru has always pushed all responsibility onto himself. One day he crosses paths with a stray black cat. Taking the animal in and naming it Kuro, Mahiru discovers the cat is actually a vampire, a Servamp to be specific! When Mahiru calls his name the two form a bond as Master and Servant. It’s not long before Mahiru finds himself trapped in an ancient and surreal conflict between vampire and man.
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: This premiere episode of Servamp had a constant change of tone throughout. It starts off sad and maybe a little bitter with a flashback of Mahiru as a child at his parents’ funeral sitting in silence as his relatives each make excuses about being unable to adopt him. Fortunately, his uncle steps up and happily takes on the responsibility of raising Mahiru despite everyone else’s doubts and objections. From that point on the story becomes very upbeat and silly as present day Mahiru shows us how he’s always the first to volunteer or step up when needed and it all plays out rather comedic even after he meets a servamp for the first time. Then this light-hearted mood is abruptly ended by a violent vampire attack accompanied by hammy bad guy lines and a badly executed villain introduction. Although this may all sound like an overpacked and bumpy mess, Servamp is actually pretty easy to follow along and even enjoy for the most part. The earlier parts of the episode help the viewer to get a decent grasp of our protagonist and connect with him. However, I have mixed feelings about the later part of the show.
Tom: The tone and atmosphere shift between Servamp’s more jovial nature and its sudden, harsh, dark and violent nature is jarring to say the least. Not to say it can’t work, as plenty of anime have proven such a tonal shift is possible, but here it fails to instill emotion into its characters, content to leave Mahiru’s friends as nothing more than blank slates or gag characters. This means that once they’re in danger the events feel well, flat. We just don’t identify or care about these barely defined individuals. And later on when villains start to rear their ugly heads and begin spouting dialogue about chopping people up or laughing with outrageous maniacal laughter, the entire things becomes hammy and undermines whatever tension the series was trying to create.
Linny: The more comedic elements were the most enjoyable but I could be biased as someone who naturally gravitates towards comedy. It was hard for me to take the more darker parts of the episode seriously because of how hokey the villains come off. The jarring transitions in the episode extend to its villain who abruptly change from poetic, bull shit spouting, cold blooded vampire into a chibi plush like creature on defeat. Then you get a mega villain who is on a mission to kill people because he is upset that not everybody in the world knows him. Basically, he wants to be renowned through spreading fear and death. But the simplistic explanation given in the episode makes me want to go up to him and ask if he’s considered simply introducing himself to people rather than murdering every single person who doesn’t immediately recognize him. It doesn’t instill fear or foreboding but rather makes me wonder if the creators should have put a little more thought in their villain’s introduction.
Tom: Kuro is probably the most fun part of the show. His blase and subdued/bored attitude toward everything is pretty amusing, although not laugh out loud so. The scenes where Mahiru is having to deal with his lazy, wants to do nothing attitude, make up the best parts of Servamp and it’s a shame the action that follows feels too hokey and try hard. It’d make a for a great follow up to the Kuro and Mahiru interactions if the show could nail that tonal shift. Mahiru, however, is pretty one note. He spends much of the episode harping on the same life lesson he learned when he was a kid, as if nothing else has ever happened to him since he learned that philosophy. It makes it difficult to care for him as Mahiru doesn’t exactly feel real, but rather a vehicle to deliver the show’s message. Hopefully Servamp will expand on his character going forward, offering new aspects to him that are completely absent from this premiere.
Linny: Mahiru’s self introduction in the episode comes off a bit dumb as he claims he is someone who likes simple things and hates troublesome things. I imagine most of us are the same, especially about hating troublesome things so when he says that line, both Tom and I went “duh”. Of course, as the episode goes on, we learn that this simple sentence actually has a lot more meaning behind it and then it becomes not “duh” but I will still argue that Mahiru needs to phrase his life philosophy better. The proper explanation and follow up to Mahiro’s philosophy and personality actually makes him your token good guy protagonist who doesn’t want to expressly come out and say that he wants to be the nice guy. He is a tsundere of sorts in the sense that he is always willing to step up and do what’s needed but under the excuse that he is only doing it to get it over with and end the ‘trouble’ of an extended dodging of responsibility. Kuro, like Tom said, is definitely the most fun character. He actually made me immediately think of Umaru-chan when he is first introduced to us sprawled out in front of the TV surrounded by junk food.
Tom: The animation is Servamp’s other major detractor. At times it looks a bit stilted, character movements don’t have the fluidity they need to make the action feel impressive and eye catching. It also doesn’t help that the color palette feels quite muted most of the time (outside of some very cool looking shots after Kuro has transformed fully into a vampire) leaving a painfully dull impression on the viewer’s eyes. It all looks washed out and that’s never a good thing for such a heavy visual medium.
Linny: I’m on the fence as while I immediately took a liking to Kuro and the more comedic parts of the show, I was then immediately repulsed by its hokey villains. The constant change in tone and animation quality could be another challenge for those more sensitive to bad or sudden transitions. If the cons I just mentioned aren’t a deal breaker to you, you should give this show a try if you enjoy the odd couple setting and slight BL and bishonen tones.
Tom: Servamp sits in this odd middle ground for me. I like the premise, I enjoy some of the comedy and I like one of our two lead characters. But the rest feels hokey or bland. I don’t care for Maruhi, who seems far too one dimensional as of this first episode. I think the show has room to improve however, and believe some of these issues might fall away as the series gets further along.
Servamp is available for streaming via Funimation.com.