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Monday, 28 December 2015

Owari no Seraph: Battle in Nagoya

Owari no Seraph:
Battle in Nagoya.

So, it's no secret that I actually kind of hated the first cour of Owari no Seraph. Quite apart from the truly dire start it got off to, with some truly bizarre 'everyone's at high school' episodes that made very little sense and involved long, long strings of exposition, even when it picked up towards its latter half, becoming much more enjoyable, it seemed uneasy, having no clue as to whether it was an action show or a character-focused drama or just plain manipulative dross aimed at ticking every box it could.

Well, I'm happy to say that Battle in Nagoya was my favourite Saturday anime this season! It was also my only Saturday anime this season. But in all seriousness, this cour has been better than the first, as the show kind of finds its feet and figures out precisely what it wants to be.

Picking up shortly after the events of the first cour, Guren and the Moon Demon Company head off towards Nagoya on a seeming suicide mission to assassinate a gathering of vampiric nobles, led by the abnormally strong noble Eusford Crowley. As the plan falls apart and the mission goes from bad to worse, Yu is forced to resort to more and more extreme measures to get the power to save his comrades. Meanwhile, Mika is tasked by vampiric noble Krul Tepes with finding Yu and bringing him back to her, while amongst the humans, ambitious and machiavellian Kureto Hiragi sets in motion a plan to harness the dangerous powers of the Seraph of the End to end the war once and for all.

Yu's new ability, which he uses, like, twice.

We'll start on the weakest aspect of this cour, and that's Mika. While he gets one of the best scenes in the show, alternately plotting with and threatening a human soldier as he tries to get information out of her while keeping his cover with the vampires, before eventually having to kill her (set to a stunning balladic version of first cour opening X.U.), his plotline is generally pretty weak, and often feels like an afterthought. It fizzles out to a fairly uninspiring end, as he joins Yu's gang with very little resistance (and everyone more or less accepts him as 'Yu's vampire boyfriend'), and while that's probably vastly preferable to a protracted are-we-enemies-or-friends plotline, which has been done to death more than once, it also raises the question of what, exactly, the point of this plotline even was. 

None of the plotlines in this cour are particularly complex, deep, or strong, with the most complicated one eventually suffering from the writers seemingly throwing up their hands, telling the audience what's going on in what I can only describe as 'an almost comically matter-of-fact expository monologue' so that they can move on to the grand set piece finale, which unfolds more or less exactly how you'd expect it to.

(The villains aren't massively inspiring either, with Ferid only occasionally showing up to ham at things, and Kureto getting some pretty limited screentime and very poorly explained motivations.)

Goshi is brilliant and I love him.

It makes up for that by having a lot of really strong action scenes. The fight scenes in the last cour were okay, but often uninspiring - this time, they are almost uniformly fun to watch, whether it's Squad Shinoa facing off against Squad Guren, or multiple squads ganging up on a single vampire noble. A little vexingly, we still never get to see Guren fight properly, and with there yet being no second series on the horizon, we might never.

Technically, the series is fairly strong too. There are some pacing problems, definitely, but the animation is generally solid, it has an excellent (if extremely typical of Hiroyuki Sawano) soundtrack, and the voice acting is all pretty good, with a cast drawn primarily from the many hundreds of veteran voice actors. 

It is, all in all, a very typical shounen anime. While the first cour was marked out by being uniquely horrible, there isn't really anything unique about the second cour: It's enjoyable, if a bit manipulative, and it will go over well with fans of the genre. It's solid, fun to watch, and marketable, and it doesn't seem to have ever been intended to be anything else. Which is fine, really.

Not entirely sure what to say about this one.

As mentioned before, no second series has been announced as yet, but that's hardly unusual. The series seemed to be popular, with good ratings, and the manga yet continues, so it will most likely get a sequel a few years down the line, and I'll most likely watch it and enjoy it when it does. That said, I won't be devastated if it doesn't get one, and if I'm being honest, I don't think anybody would be.

It did leave itself open for one, it's worth noting, with several very deliberate sequel hooks, so apparently the writers, at least, are confident of a second series.

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