Last weekend Seraph of the End wrapped up and I managed to binge watch all the episodes just before the finale aired. Vampires aren’t really original anymore but they sure are fun!
Watched On: Hulu
Binge-ability: Fairly enjoyable, if you decide to stick with it.
Spoilers: Major (Contains Major Character Death and Twists)
Beginning: Episodes 1-4
Seraph of the End’s opening episodes are not the best and I can see why a lot of people would quit after the first three. They have relatively nothing new or thoughtful to offer the viewer and give a bland explanation of an apocalyptic Tokyo.
The story of Seraph focuses on the orphans who survive a mass extinction of humans caused by Vampires. The oldest of the kids are two boys Mikaela and Yuichiro who are best friends, despite their opposite personalities. The kids are taken to the underground vampire city with the rest of the world’s orphans and are used as walking blood banks. Yui wants nothing more than to escape the vampires with his family and that seems to be all he can talk about. Mika takes a different approach, quietly plotting and planning their escape until the last minute.
You expect the first episode to set the tone for the rest of the show and on its own- it’s a pretty decent episode. It tries to take the viewer on an emotional roller coaster ride by showing the deep bond between Yui, Mika, and their makeshift family. But I have seen enough anime to know this isn’t going to end well….and well….
Thus Yui, the sole survivor, is set on the path to seek revenge for his slaughtered family. Here is when the beginning starts to lose its momentum. The first few episodes attempt to set up the world of Seraph of the End and does a half-ass job of it.
A lot of fans have seen the comparable nature between Seraph and Attack on Titan, but Titan goes in depth about the mechanics of the world: explaining how society works and the different levels of the military in extreme detail. Seraph doesn’t give us nearly as much info (or understanding) and expects the viewer to just “go along with it.”
Seraph attempts to show rather than tell us how the rules of this new society work while Yui tries to become a member of the army. The beginning establishes that there are not only demons bent on destroying, but also what appears to be demons who work together with the humans to fight the vampires. Demons, Vampires, apocalypse… is there any other cliche this show can cram in there? … Don’t answer that.
The beginning also lags on plot in order to give an explanation to a pretty predictable backstory. Yui must prove himself before he’s allowed to join the army; during this time we learn Yui is an incredibly talented fighter and makes the elite Moon Demon Company (MDC) as well as some friends. Predictable, am I right?
It is one thing after another with this series and it tries to use its violence to escalate the stakes at hand. Initially it works, but continual recycling of the same old gimmicks grows tiresome. A hand gets cut off at least twice within the first couple episodes and the animators clearly love showing the same high kick animation repeatedly on different characters.
With all of this in mind, why should you keep binge watching Seraph? If you haven’t quit after the first three episodes it is probably because of the same reasons I had. First, the animation is pretty clean- the different thickness of lines on weapons, clothes, and hair was a style choice that really stands out. Especially when portrayed in front of the drop dead gorgeous backgrounds. Remember how I said show rather then tell, well the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Japan definitely tells a story.
The second reason I continued to enjoy the show was the relationship between Yui and Mika. Yes, it’s revealed fairly early on (and in the opening credits) that not all of Yui’s family is dead; Mika is alive and has been transformed into a vampire. While the story of Seraph has a lot of mysteries (like, what exactly is the Seraph of the End?) the outcome of Yui and Mika’s inevitable meet up seems to be the most central plot point, one that I actually care about- therefore propelling me to continue the binge.
Middle: Episodes 5-9
The middle finally breaks some of the linear storytelling, making the series a lot better. Now a member of the Vampire killing MDC, Yui has to work with a team that consists of teenagers like him.
Among them in Shinoa, a girl who acts as Yui’s mentor and group leader of his squad. Shinoa becomes more and more likable as the series continues on, showing us numerous aspects of her personality. She is a bad ass as well as a snark master and stands out as one of the strongest characters in the group.
Then there is Ichinose Guren, a commander figure who Yui often argues with. He is one of the first people Yui meets after escaping the vampires but their relationship is strained. His and Yui’s relationship is mirrored by the third standout character Ferid. Ferid was the vampire that slaughtered Yui’s family and acts as babysitter for Vamp Mika. Where Ichinose is distant from Yui, Ferid dotes on Mika.
Now with an ensemble cast, Seraph really starts to gain its momentum. We see how the characters go about killing the vampires with the constant stress of teamwork and military discipline that rang true for the situation at hand.
War is the theme for the middle episodes as we see how people are affected by the ongoing fighting between the Army and the Vampires. We see just how outclassed the humans really are and how much weight the MDC carries when they enter the fight. The animation for much of the fight scenes is gorgeous and immensely fun to watch.
The pacing for these episodes is fast and an improvement from the beginning with things finally coming to a meeting point. That’s right- with the vampires attacking it is inevitable that Mika and Yui will meet again.
So really, that is the plot of Seraph as far as I can see. We have no motivation or goals established by the vampires besides killing those who fight back. Mika is the only vampire with a believable goal, to “save Yui.” (But save him from what?) Meanwhile, Yui works to avenge his family. The relationship and upcoming reunion of these two is one of the main plot point of the show. It makes sense that it would all come to a climatic ending in the last three episodes.
End: Episodes 10-12
I have to give it to Seraph, it ramps up really nicely with Episodes 10 and 11 consisting of a large scale battle between the humans and the vampires. We see some of the side characters getting a piece of the action and Vampire Mika gets a lot of screen time.
But of course the real tension of this battle happens when our two
star-crossed lovers, I mean friends, meet again after years of separation. I am not going to lie, binge watching this entire series was totally worth this one reunion. There are quite a few character dynamics at play during that scene and it ensures it’s packed with gut wrenching emotions. There is Yui, who must handle the news that his friend is alive in front of an audience. We see his tough guy exterior finally break and his constant resolve to kill vampires crumble. There is Mika, who is happy to see Yui but also torn to see his friend on the opposite side. The constant prodding by Ferid throughout the scene sets Mika even more on edge.
Here, the cast of characters set the dynamic that makes this show worth watching.
In the end of this series we are left with a question, are the humans truly the good guys in all this? Mika, an ex-human, clearly does not think so, leading us to believe he has some viable information that Yui doesn’t yet know. There are lots of hints throughout the series to suggest that something sinister is going on behind the Army’s curtain.
Overall, yes, I did enjoy this series because of the pretty scenery and certain character relationships; proving that a show does not need a shiny new plot for me to like it. Seraph is enjoyable if you allow yourself to go along for the ride and it gains a lot of positive momentum in the last couple episodes which made this binge a fairly easy one. If you’re looking for a show with deep philosophy and great world building- then you might want to skip it.
I look forward to Season Two, to see where these relationships lead us. There is still hope for some surprising moments and moving scenes if Seraph plays its cards right.
For more information on my Binge Watching please read this post.