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Monday, 22 June 2015

Owari no Seraph (First Course).

Owari no Seraph
(First Course).

Guess who's got two hands and gastoenteritis. That's right, statistically speaking a not insignificant number of people given how common a complaint it is. But also me, which is the important thing. Also, my mic stand broke, so this day is turning out swimmingly, and what can make it swimmier but a long look at Owari no Seraph, a very well-received anime that aired its first course this season.

I don't know why it's so well-received. We're - we're really not going to get a chance to explore that oddity in detail, because I wouldn't even know where to start with it.

Owari no Seraph is about Yu, a young boy who escapes a vampire city, losing his family in the progress. Now on the outside, he enlists in the human army with the intention of killing every vampire he comes across. Little does he know, however, that one of his adopted siblings, Mika, survived and was transformed into a vampire, and that the coming war between humans and vampires will put them on opposing sides.

I'll be honest, out of twelve episodes, you'll want to skip the first four. The first one is one of the most hack-handed attempts of emotional manipulation I've ever seen, the writing equivalent of ramming your head against a wall repeatedly while screaming 'BE SAD NOW' at the top of your lungs; and the three episodes after that are even worse.

"THIS CHARACTER HAS A SWORD BE EXCITED NOW." - Owari no Seraph's writers, probably.

They're not worse because of emotional manipulation, though, they're worse because they consist almost entirely of clumsily exposition. For those three episodes, characters can't walk two steps through the ridiculous and awkwardly justified high school setting (I'm not even sure why it's there, since the only high-school-anime hijinkery that takes place is some girl giving Yu a letter saying that she has a crush on him, and the entire setting is forgotten about before long) without suddenly turning and announcing "As you well know!" followed by reams and reams of expository monologues on anything from the characters' backstories to the army's policy on casual hook-ups. It's painful. I wouldn't wish those three episodes on my worst enemy, because every time you think something is going to happen, it always ends up just being even more talking.

It was so dull that I actually took to liveblogging it as a coping mechanism. I've never ever felt the need to do that before.

After that first third of the course, the show improves a little, but really only a little. For the life of it, it seems to not realise that absolutely nobody is watching to see Yu's development into someone who isn't a total tool, we're watching for vampire vs demon-wielding human battles, because it keeps skipping those. One episode has the cast sizing off against a small gang of vampires, only to then immediately skip to the aftermath so that we can see Yu bond with a child or something.

Guren is the only soldier with red highlights instead of green.
The brass saw their opportunity and they took it, evidently.

The final episode of the first course, used by many series as a climactic cliffhanger, instead focuses almost exclusively on Yu's friendships and Mika's angst, and while I do generally approve of character development and friendship antics in my anime, I also approve of concision (ie; maybe don't spend twelve minutes on your gang of friends having an adorable moment, to the exclusion of nigh on everything else), drama, and canny use of format (ie; maybe if you're going to leave your audience for a chunk of the year, leave them with something memorable). In many ways, the final episode served no purpose that hadn't already been served in the car scene earlier in the series.

Also, I literally fell asleep while watching it. I had to load it up and watch it for a second time later that day because I had drifted off to sleep for several hours. That's not exactly a glowing mark of recommendation there.

All of this - okay, some of this, some of this could have been forgiven if the central conflict, that of Yu and Mika being on opposite sides of a war, was actually interesting. But it isn't, really: The war doesn't really affect their dynamic at all - that, instead, is boiled down to what amounts to a terrible misunderstanding caused by terrible communication skills (a plot device I always love, naturally), rather than conflicting loyalties or conflicting agendas, which would have actually driven, you know, conflict. Instead, the conflict is around them, but they're separate from it.


Overall, I - can't recommend this. If you have some free time you desperately need to fill and you've already watched Kekkai Sensen, then maybe look up a few episodes and be ready with some alcohol. Or maybe just listen to the soundtrack, because Hiroyuki Sawano's work is always excellent, even if I am reaching the point where I'm just exhausted by hearing him in things. Other composers exist, guys. I know it might not seem that way, but they do.

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