First Impressions – Owari no Seraph

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I certainly didn’t expect this to be the most enjoyable preview so far.

Here’s a snapshot of my initial reaction to Owari no Seraph:

“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.

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  1. l

    I quite liked DenYuDen, also by Kagami, and dropped Itsuka Tenma after a couple of episodes but was still quite looking forward to this one. Itsuka Tenma was a result of a poor adaptation or so I was told so I didn't really let it affect my opinion on Kagami as a writer. Pretty good premiere all things considered and based on DenYuDen's epic scale I don't really expect to see a significant drop in quality in terms of writing after this episode. Will definitely stick around for more.

  2. Heh, I dropped that one too, but at least I didn't hate it.

  3. C

    I liked it too, Enzo, a pretty good start… but then the preview of the next episode shat on all of it.

    Suddenly high school setting and drama? In this post-apocalyptic world? Really? We're going there?

  4. Y

    I agree on the above comment, Chrysostomus.
    I really loved the early tragedy and how it will motivate our mc but then they showed this high school stuff and im like hmmmmmm… =.='

    We'll see though! I know it will give us more time for character development seeing they fast forwarded 4 years later..

  5. M

    Those death flags were the size of skyscrapers about half-way in. Definitely some major Attack on Titan vibes from this, in several ways, except that this show’s “Armin” didn’t make it.

    The pace was a bit fast and I was like “What?” when like 40 seconds in we see everyone dying and everything exploding. Michael Bay would’ve been proud. I’m a bit sad this’ll only get 12 eps though…

  6. 24 or so actually – it's a split cour.

  7. M

    Oh correction, didn't notice that a "2nd season" was confirmed. Yay!

  8. n

    I quite enjoyed the episode, except some scene like the "prophecy" just in time when the MC gets out and the last speech of the brother (which I coutd bet is going to return as a vampire).
    But the preview is making me fear the worst (I'm relieved to see I'm not the only one).

  9. S

    Great review! I do appreciate the shout-out to Tomm Moore as well, since Kells and Song of the Sea are among my favorite animated films.

  10. m

    Is this the opposite of Plastic memories? With a premise so awful that you have to find any reason to watch the premier, yet turns out to be a really interesting start? I thought it was executed very well, and I was surprised to find out that the lead was Irino (who as Kitamura Kou, Makoto Niwa, and Jintan played some of my all time fav anime leads) With all of that I think this could be the surprise show of the season, and I hope that it turns out not to be another LN cliché type.

  11. I do sort of get that opposite thing, though as I said in the preview there was something in the premise here I found kind of interesting.

  12. A

    Would you do a review on Song of the Sea by any chance?

  13. I might, once I see a Blu-ray. Saw it in a theater and liked it a lot.

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