What They Say:
In a world overrun with vampires, humans have been hunted to the brink of extinction. The only way they can fight back is with a series of demonic weapons known as Cursed Gear. Reserved for soldiers with exceptional talent, these weapons require humans to form pacts with ancient demons in exchange for their power. Yuichiro Hyakuya is a young member of the Moon Demon Company, a prestigious army squadron armed with Cursed Gear and tasked with exterminating vampires. After the blood-sucking monsters killed his family when he was a child, Yuichiro vowed he wouldn’t stop fighting until every last one was dead. But when a familiar face from his past appears sporting a new set of fangs, the line drawn between good and evil begins to blur. There’s something special about Yuichiro a dark power that the vampires call the Seraph of the End. When that power is unleashed, will he be the key to humanity’s salvation or its complete destruction?
Contains episodes 1-24.
Seraph of the End Vampire Reign Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD contains a 200-page, full-color hardcover artbook featuring character bios, backgroud art, and exclusive magazine illustrations, 8 collectible art cards, 8-panel digipak featuring newly commissioned artwork from Japan, Rigid box with soft touch effect, embossing, and green foil accents, 10 chibi stickers.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 upgrade, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works this mix pretty well as while there’s naturally a lot of dialogue and quiet scenes, it steps things up well for the bigger action sequences as it moves about with weapons and impact sounds. The show has some good elements to this with forward soundstage directionality that delivers a compelling enough design so that it feels like a bit more effort went into it since it is an action oriented show. The dialogue side is handled pretty well too as it focuses on some good key sequences that are quiet and mood while the music itself has all the right swells and crescendos alongside the softer and more mood setting type pieces. It’s a very good mix overall regardless of which track you listen to and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-four episodes of this season are spread across four discs with eight/four/nine/three format. Animated by Wit Studio, the show has a pretty great look about it as it works the decay of the world with the cold opulence of those that that now rule it. The color design is cool and crisp which gives it some really great vibrancy at times and the transfer keeps things looking wonderfully solid and vivid throughout as needed. There are a lot of details to be had in the backgrounds while the character uniforms tend to work pretty well too. Overall, there’s a lot to like here with how clean and appealing the show is and how the transfer brings it to life very well, very much feeling like a modern show with all the bells and whistles.
This collector’s edition is definitely a slick package all around that has the weight to it to feel like it’s trying to be worth its price – and it essentially is. The heavy chipboard box has an elegant feeling about it just in the texture as it goes for an all black piece with the green embossing to add a thematic touch to it all. It’s done with symbols and framing with a bit of text and that sparseness definitely helps to add to its allure. Within the box we get the digipak that holds the discs for both formats. It’ a thick piece that has some great key visual artwork on the front of three of the leads, two of which have swords crossed, while the back has another piece of the main cast as a whole with some good supporting members. It opens to two more pieces of artwork for panels before unfolding again to reveal all four sets of discs that make up the two formats releases. There’s no artwork on underneath the plastic cases but we do get some of the framing from the box there against the black.
Realistically, the big selling point here is the two-hundred page hardcover artbook that I wish was more traditionally sized to be enjoyed. What we get here are the kinds of things we see in most of the booklets but all compiled together and done with a slick approach that just makes it stand out in a very glossy way. There’s a lot of character detail, background pieces, promotional art, and a whole lot more. The thing just has some great heft to it and it simple stands out as a high quality piece of work that will give fans a lot of material to sift through with tidbits to be had.
The set also comes with a flat black envelope that has two pages of cute and colorful chibi stickers of the main cast and eight postcards that replicates the original Japanese artwork covers with the character artwork, which is just fantastic in how well they’re done.
The menu design for this release is certainly solid in terms of functionality, but as something that sets the mood or theme of things it’s pretty weak and reminds you more of a basic video game menu than anything else. With the logo taking up the top third of the screen, all we get below it are the navigation pieces themselves set against a black background with some mild movement of stars. It’s very minimal and empty in a way that’s surprising considering the artwork available or even using various clips to try and engage the viewer with quickly. Again, it all works well – and i love that we have a marathon play feature outside of One Piece or Dragon Ball, but it’s certainly not what you’d expect for a seemingly bigger title like this.
The extras for this release are very good as we get a few new English language staff/cast commentaries for episodes – including a video commentary for a couple of episodes, the original promos for the show’s broadcast and home video release, and a look at the clean opening and closing sequences. The big extra that’s included beyond the commentaries are the twelve parts of the Seraph of the Endless, which is about thirty-five minutes of various length shorts that take serious scenes from the show and upends them with some really fun little bits of humor. These are great to watch afterward since they don’t skimp on the animation and it blends well with the existing material. Add in some of the other promo spots such as the home video and pre-broadcast pieces and there’s a good 100+ minutes of material to dig into.
Based on the manga by Takaya Kagami and Yamato Yamamoto, Seraph of the end is a twenty-four episode series in its first season. The original manga has twe;ve volumes to its name since kicking off in 2012 and is still ongoing and there are a couple of light novels that expand on the individual characters and some manga spin-off material as well. The show is one that feels like it has a proper grand spectrum to it that it can work with, drilling down to other stories as side series, and with Wit Studio animating it there’s a really good sense of quality about it in general. I went into the show knowing very little overall beyond some of the clips that came from it but I ended up finishing off this first half of the first overall season really hoping that the season one label isn’t just a tease. It definitely feels like it’s going to need more to really work an engaging story.
With a series like this you have to allow for certain logical things to fall away because it deals with the end times and the loss of 90% of the world’s population. How it would truly unfold is hard to say and the levels of destruction and chaos that would come from unattended situations around the world is impossible to truly guess or game out. With that in mind, the show takes an interesting idea in a manmade virus that gets loose suddenly that kills anyone older than fourteen, presumably a puberty related element, and that sends things into ruins quickly with planes crashing, cars spinning out, and people just dropping dead on the spot. Leaving kids in this situation, which begins in 2012, would mean some pretty interesting Lord of the Flies moments to be had depending on some strong personalities that can come from it. And we do see that as some really well positioned enclaves crop up in the main cities that wall themselves off in Japan when events pick up four years after the event, putting a lot of seventeen year old kids in charge of things.
The initial focus, however, is on a pair of kids named Yu and Mikaela, two young boys who got to see the other side of this world ending event. While the virus was man made by all appearances, it’s vampires that have taken advantage of it by claiming rulership of the world with various ranked Progenitors of their original founder running things. It mostly focuses on Queen Krul Tepes, the Third Progenitor, who has quite a lot of power and skill that belies her very young appearance. The vampires are definitely fascinating to watch here as we get rank and file members and nobles but no real sense of a true inner class warfare going on, which is nice for the moment at least. The vampires are enjoying their rule over humanity, their livestock, and we see how they have blood farms going on essentially with kids being bled out slowly so they have a healthy supply to work with. This is where we see young Yu and Mikaela and their makeshift family of kids that are trying to eke out some kind of existence here.
As you can expect, it turns to a situation where they get a chance to escape and take it but it’s one that goes badly with all of them but Yu being killed by Ferid, a particularly devilish vampire that has the whole haughty aristocrat thing going that’s made even more so by the garb that all of them wear. It’s a painful sequence watching as Yu has to flee after seeing how badly done in Mikaela is, and Mikaela begging him to run, only for the viewer to know that Mikaela survives, becomes a vampire, and is looking to get back to his makeshift family of Yu four years later. For Yu, it’s a painful experience that drives him to wanting revenge and discovering that there’s life outside of the vampire city, albeit a very difficult one, gives him the tools that he needs. Sadly, it’s this area that kind of drives me nuts about the show because Yu is that total loner type that just wants weapons so he can do what he needs to in securing revenge while eschewing and turning away training and education that will allow him to really do it. Yeah, kids, i get that, and a big dose of weird PTSD likely as well, but it’s a familiar path for characters in these types of stories that I almost thought we’d get to avoid here.
Beyond that, the first cour here does a lot of really good stuff. Yu’s life is one that forces him into some education while pushing for more from those that are in positions of power. They’ve being very careful with him, particularly lieutenant colonel Guren who believes he’s someone that was prophesied, and there are larger elements brought in with old families along the way that hints at a larger battle being fought here. But it’s all kept smaller and more personal as we see how Yu forces his way into gaining a Cursed Gear weapon that will let him kill vampires more easily – though he still needs real combat training – and that with fellow classmate Shinoa of the Moon Demon Company of the Imperial Army watching over him they end up forming a new band of irregulars that are troublemakers in their own way. Each of them has trauma in their past because of what they’ve all lost and suffered through so there isn’t a sense of them playing a greater tragedy over the other in some way, but these personal tragedies drive them all to different degrees and have shaped their outlooks.
While there are a lot of familiar elements as the show moves along here with the training, the acquisition of the Cursed Gear and the bond they form with the demons within, Seraph of the End clicks far better than I expected it to. Some of this is attributable to Wit Studio’s animation as it has a really strong visual design without being over the top. Part of it is certainly the whole uniform visual as it’s not the usual school uniform thing and we get some distinctive designs that don’t feel particularly Japanese either in some ways. There’s a whole lot of familiar, but the pacing of it drew me in far more than I expected in marathoning it over the course of a day. So when the show shifts gears as you’d expect toward the end as Mikaeala is brought back in and Yu is shocked by it, it feels like an earned moment of emotion. It wasn’t something that happened in episode two or three, removing that usual rush to set up the emotional side without the proper weight to it. Hell, I’m even enjoying the mild romantic elements to it as two of the women in the group that Yu is in are interested in him in different ways. For their age and natural hormones for all of them, it’s not out of place, especially when they’re placing themselves in life and death situations and their bodies are working on natural instinct. The show as a whole, even with its weaker parts that may frustrate just me, really is firing on all cylinders.
What becomes interesting about the show as it progresses is its structure. Since it was done as two blocks of twelve episodes with a gap season between it, the second half of this first season works in a very different way. We do get some good character material here from time to time, mostly with Yu and Mikaela as they reunite and figure out a good balance for things, and there are some intriguing moments when it comes to what’s going on within Yu and the Demon Sword that he’s bonded with that is offering a whole lot of power – and is connected to a larger plan as well that’s playing out in the background. There are a lot of little moments that land well and help to expand the cast and how they operate together, including an episode or so where they learn to become a team. But, for the most part, this back half of the first season is an extended action sequence. You can pretty much view it as a four hour long climax episode if you want and that would be appropriate and pretty solid entertainment.
With sizable number of members heading out into the field to strike a blow against the vampires, and testing their capabilities in actually capturing a noble, there are a few plot threads that play out. We get Yu’s team learning to work together, we get the fodder that suffers and brings the information back with the remnants that survive briefly, and we get what’s going on with Guren as his inner demon is ready to take control of part of a larger plan with Kurel Tepes that doesn’t quite come together fully here. Which is fine since this is adapting the manga and it offers up plenty of incentive for a second season. Guren’s material is the most intriguing as he’s long had a more complicated relationship with what’s within and seeing him twisted and turned here as part of the larger experiment going is definitely fascinating.
But truly, the bulk of the second half is action upon action across multiple locations in Nagoya that leads to a sprawling battle at the airport. There are some great set pieces here, particularly earlier on where some high level illusion magic is found useful against the vampires and they realize that the humans are gaining help and real talent from somewhere, and there’s a lot to like with Mikaela and the fighting he gets into while trying to save some people along the way as he continues to hunt for Yu, believing that he couldn’t have made friends out in the world. Their past is touched upon with some new, if minor, additions along the way, but their relationship resonates. Which makes the final battle at the airport so engaging as the scales are larger, Mikaela is sidelined, and we see just how far Yu will go for his (newly expanded) family that he’s gained since escaping from the control of the vampires. It’s big and bold and while it may not always land fully when it comes to really feeling the import and meaning of it, it’s a visual treat filled with lots of emotion.
Watching the season as a whole is certainly interesting because there’s a kind of split with it that’s more distinct than a lot of other series. There are certainly plenty of familiar elements to be had here with this kind of story but it’s been applied in an engaging way with enough to set it apart from similar shows of this nature. The characters are fun, the animation is solid, the designs are really engaging since it stands apart from the usual, and the pacing of it allows for everything to really unfold without feeling rushed or cramped. Funimation’s release is fantastic with this collector’s edition where what they put into it is strong, especially the hardcover artbook, with a great looking and sounding series along with some fantastic extra. Addd in a couple of rare video commentaries and all of the Seraph of the Endless bonus shorts that adds just the right humor to an otherwise serious and straightforward show. Here’s hoping for a second season. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary, Episode 8 Commentary, Episode 11 Video Commentary, Episode 16 Commentary, Episode 21, Video Commentary, Episode 24 Commentary, ”Seraph of the endless” Parts 1-13, Promo Videos, BD/DVD Promos, Textless Songs
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.