My Grimdark anime can’t possibly be this good. Or can it?
Yes, another episodic, it won’t be too long, but I had more to say than what would fit in the upcoming first impressions post.
This was impressive, exactly the oh-so-serious thriller spectacle I hoped it would be. Seraph opens bleak, apocalyptic and bold. The production is pulling so much weight out of what would otherwise be a pretty predictable and/or trashy opener that I have to applaud it.
The backgrounds are beautiful, their dark, oppressive and imposing stature really makes the characters feel trapped and under constant threat. I just love the painterly style they have gone with, the art direction is great; the architecture treads a peculiar line between gothic and futuristic, creating a very unique feel. It truly feels like in just a couple of years, these vampires have reshaped this place in their image. That extends to the interiors, the sterile farm that is harvesting the lifeblood of children en-masse was creepy in its utilitarian nature. This is directly contrasted by the warm and inviting colours of the small living space our characters inhabit.
Sawano’s score is much more eerie than is usual for him (though I am sure there will be some pumping tracks for action scenes later), creating a sense of foreboding and dread that set me off-kilter, especially during the scene in which the children are being herded around like cattle. He also displays range, with a more folksy and upbeat track playing during Mika and Yu’s planning conversation (though I’ll admit I didn’t like that it played over the dialogue in such a way). Ambient noise is also used to great effect, with the whirring noises that were ever-present during the dinner scene with the kids, signalling what was to come.
Yes, everyone watching knew those kids were going to die horribly the moment we first saw them acting all happy at the dinner table, but I think Seraph knows what the viewers expectations are going in, it doesn’t ever try to get overly sentimental about things. I know Seraph’s writing will be brought to question, and while I certainly don’t think it’s the best aspect of the show by a long shot, it is respectable nonetheless. The lines from Vampire McCreepy-Pants were eye-roll-inducing, but the show did like to understate moments, painting the motivations and contrasting views of both Yu and Mika in sparingly few lines and actions. Yuuichirou is the archetypal headstrong lead, but his attitudes felt natural for someone of his young age – yes his tortured backstory is on the edgy side, but this is an edgy show, so I don’t mind that.
So, we finally get to the point that was long-coming, the kids have been duped, Vampire Creep slaughters them one by one. Now if this had been Attack on Titan with Araki Tetsurou directing, this all would have been incredibly played up and dramatised. Seraph eschews portraying the violence in excessive detail, the pursuers fluid motions are almost dance-like and much is left up to our imaginations. When the time comes for a more grounded confrontation against Yu and Mika, the detail comes back, allowing us to intuitively understand the actions being taken by each of the fighters, leading to a quick but satisfying finish.
This fight’s animation, and the great production values all-around give me high hopes for Seraph in the future, the series has already been listed as split-cour, and I hope Wit Studio can keep things up to par. The bad news is that their track record with that has not been so good, their schedule is packed this year, and their most recent show, Rolling☆Girls sort of fell apart towards the end.
A final message, on the topic of grimdark, edgy titles such as this one: I am personally of the opinion that these big shounen series (that are sure to break out into wider popularity with teens) which attempt to be self-serious but don’t quite manage to be “the best thing ever” garner a lot of flak that other more light-hearted, unambitious titles wouldn’t get at all. The series will no doubt garner comparisons to series like Attack on Titan and Guilty Crown, leading to it probably getting mocked, I personally think that’s doing the show a disservice, because this was a far above average first episode in my opinion.