“Damn, it’s great to hear Miyu Irino again.”
“Hey – did I stumble into a Tomm Moore film?”
Speaking of shows that are not mass-produced models, this one definitely qualifies. As I mentioned in the preview it was a series that barely got in, in part because I really despise the earlier work of writer Kagami Takaya, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi (the anime version, anyway). Even if Owari no Seraph is a manga (with a LN prequel) it screams “LN adaptation” and Kagami is a LN author first. But something about it struck me and I thought well the hell, “risk it for a biscuit.” And so, here we are.
Here we are, indeed. This was an altogether surprising premiere for me, not least because I’d forgotten that Miyu Irino was the star. He’s about the best seiyuu of his generation and rarely works these days, so that’s a promising start. The first episode has not one but two 4-year timeskips. And then there’s the art, which has predictably been divisive with the audience. If you’ve seen The Book of Kells and Song of the Sea, the two Oscar-nominated films by Irish director Moore, you’ll know why I was reminded of them – the soft watercolor look of the backgrounds and mostly static animation are trademarks of his style. This isn’t on that level, obviously, but I quite liked it – and I like that Wit is seemingly incapable of producing a series with a traditional anime look (though I didn’t think it totally worked with Shingeki no Kyoujin). Art Director Yoshioka Seiko is a really good one – Dennou Coil, Ghost Hound, Arrietty, Summer Wars… It’s a hell of a resume, and it shows here. The soundtrack (lots of big-name composers here) is excellent too.
As to the plot, well, in theory therein lies the rub. But in practice I quite liked it. Derivative as it sounded there was something in this premise that struck a chord with me, and I like the concept – we have humanity wiped out by a virus, but children 13 and younger are immune. It soon becomes obvious what’s happened – the virus has been spread by vampires to wipe out resistance, and they keep the ankle-biters around as livestock. Rather chilling – and it plays out that way, too. The focus is on a group of orphans centered around Yuu (Irino) and his best friend Mikaela (Ono Kensho, Chisuga Haruka as an 8 year-old – why did they get an actress for the young Mikaela, but not Yuu I wonder?) who, along with Akane (Taichi You) are the oldest of the group.
There’s something very 90’s about these early scenes of the children living under the vampires’ brutal rule. Every day they’re blooded in a quite clinical way, and in return they receive sustenance and the right to keep on living. Mika sells his body (what we see portrayed is obviously euphemistic) to vampire noble Ferid (Sakurai Takahiro) in return for carrots and potatoes while Yuu fumes about it plots a resistance he knows is futile. It turns out Mika has larger plans in mind, and steals what he thinks is the means to escape – a map and a gun – but it turns out this is all part of a cruel game by Ferid, who enjoys seeing the children given false hope he can then crush. Things end tragically, with the death of everyone (including Mika and Ferid, though in both cases I’ll believe it when I see it) except Yuu – who escapes to the outside world where he meets what seems to be a group of resistance fighters. To them, he’s part of a prophecy and they were anticipating his arrival.
That all worked really well for me, but here’s the problem going forward – this episode was apparently a stand-alone prequel (it felt quite fitting that it ended with a film-style credits crawl) and the “real” story begins next week. And judging by the preview, the look of the show is going to change pretty dramatically along with the plot. So while I liked the premiere very much indeed, I basically have no idea of what to expect going forward. I have my suspicions about what’s to come – based on the author and what I know of the plot it seems things are going to get a whole lot more conventional – but I’m certainly hopeful of being surprised. This was an awfully interesting and stylish premiere – it looked and sounded great, and the narrative was coherent and gripping. There’s clearly talent behind this series, and that’s enough reason to have at least some optimism about what Owari no Seraph is going to become.