Owari no Seraph is a funny series in a number of ways, but most pertinent here is the state of expectations it left for me after the premiere. It was excellent – I’d go so far as to say the biggest surprise on the upside of the season (along with Punchline). But it gave every indication of being a one-off, and quite by design – the framing of the ep and the preview certainly gave the impression that we were in for a completely different series from here out. And then there’s the matter of the author being Kagami Takaya, which sure doesn’t help confidence either.
Queue the second episode, then, and it too was an interesting one. In a nutshell, I would say my worst fears have definitely not been realized, though on balance I did like the premiere better. Make no mistake, Owari no Seraph becomes a much more conventional anime once the “real” story starts, both narratively and visually (the Tomm Moore art style is largely though not totally discarded). The setting goes from the gothic, fantastic vampire stronghold to a modern (if post-apocalyptic) high school, and the concerns are much more mundane. All of that was pretty much a given based on the premiere.
What saves the series and keeps Fonzie’s motorcycle idling in the wings is that while all of the above is true, Owari no Seraph still manages to be interesting and well-executed, and even if it is more conventional, it feels more like a conventional anime from 10 years ago than today. It does present a reason for the abrupt switch to school comedy (though it is a bit of a stretch) and offers some excellent and well-choreographed action scenes. The comedy isn’t half-bad, and while the look of the series is way more conventional, it still has a sense of style and manages to look distinctive. And happily, it appears this setting is a one-off – Seraph is going to it’s third premise in three episodes next week if the conclusion and preview are to be believed.
In terms of scene-setting, via flashbacks we get some information, mostly courtesy Commander Ichinose Guren (Nakamura Yuuichi) of the “Moon Demon Company”. Humanity isn’t wiped out (that’s vamp propaganda) though the virus did reduce the population by 90%. Strange beasts roam the land, giving the demon army something to fight. In the present, Yuu has been sentenced to attend muggle high school as punishment for continuing to fight demons and vamps despite not being an official soldier (Guren has apparently ignored him for these four years), and a moe intelligence officer, Hiiragi Shinoa (Hayami Saori) sent to keep an eye on him. If he causes trouble or beats up civilians his punishment is extended; if he makes a friend, he gets to go back.
Well, that’s pretty silly to be honest, but it helps that Shinoa acts like she knows how silly it is. There’s a rather rote subplot involving Saotome Yoichi (Okamoto Nobuhiko), a weak boy who wants to join the demon army to revenge his dead sister and has talked his way into a bas situation with a group of bullies (one of whom has lied about his connections to the army) as a result. Clearly this is a convenient pretext to get the story – and Yuu – where it needs to go. And frankly, I’m not fond of Okamoto’s shota persona – he’s a good actor but way miscast here (hopefully he’ll tone it down). But it’s a one-off, like the premiere, and the fight with an escaped vamp (Uyama Reika) – also an obvious plot contrivance – is as mentioned very nicely drawn.
What I see here really, is a premiere that was a prequel once removed and a second ep that was a direct prequel. Does the real story start next week, with Yuu (and Yo) joining the Moon Demons? Who knows – but so far, it’s a good ride. Owari no Seraph does feel a bit like a smaller-scale Shingeki no Kyoujin, but I don’t dislike Yuu anywhere near as much as Eren (even if it’s just a matter of the huge gap between Miyu Irino and Kaji Yuuki, who cares as long as it works) – which I guess makes Yoichi Armin – and as with Shingeki, Wit shows they’re incapable of producing a visually boring series. I once again feel like I’m in “wait and see” mode with Owari no Seraph, but my uncertainty level is definitely lower than it was after the premiere.