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Servamp Season 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

A case for avoiding stray cats.

What They Say:
Mahiru Shirota prefers the simple life. If it needs done, he’ll just do it! But after rescuing a cat he names Kuro, life takes a turn for the complicated. Kuro turns out to be a Servamp – a servant vampire – named Sleepy Ash, and the two form a contract. Kissing his simple life goodbye, Mahiru is pulled into the world of vampires, the seven deadly Servamps, and war. So much for simplicity!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump to it, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show works a decent enough balance overall between action and dialogue so that both sides are well served. The action utilizes the forward soundstage in a good way with some noticeable directionality throughout it and some good depth as well as needed while the 5.1 mix bumps up the volume and bass to give it more impact. Dialogue is more straightforward with what it does as there’s some placement to be had but it largely works a kind of full/center channel feeling that comes across as a clean and problem free design that serves the material well.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second which is also where the bulk of the extras are. Animated by Brains Base, the show has a really nice look to it with some vibrant and intentionally oversaturated areas to give it a distinct feeling and stand out with what it does. Though a good chunk of this operates with dark scenes there’s some good style to it with the color design and some very fluid animation during the attack sequences so that it all looks good. Even in the heavy red sequences there are no real problems to be found with noise or gradients within it and that makes for a very enjoyable experience. It’s a solid looking transfer throughout with a distinctive look because of the color design and the encoding brings it to life well.

The packaging for this limited edition release is definitely nicely done in a compact kind of way as we get a heavy chipboard box that uses some good foil design to it that lets it stand out really well. Working with a white and silver background is a nice change of pace and that lets the character artwork for the two leads to stand out all the more, especially with the logo in the upper left bringing in some nice color vibrancy to offset it. The back panel adds more character artwork that’s a little less vibrant as they’re in black and white outfits but it’s a good contrast to the front cover and the change in logo color is a nice little touch as well. Within the box we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the discs for both formats and it uses more of the Japanese character cover artwork that also changes the logo color along the way to reflect things, giving fans lots to enjoy as it’s also done as the reverse side cover so that we get all of the Japanese cover artwork. Also in the box is a really well designed squarebound booklet that’s full of full-color artwork that includes promotional images and cover artwork. It’s a wonderful piece that’s exactly what fans of this show would want. We also get some of the chibi artwork in there which is done up separately as a sheet of foil stickers within a blue envelope, which is a wonderful little touch.

This release brings some very good extras to the table that definitely is value-added when you get down to it. The familiar pieces are here with the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the audio commentary that we get on the first disc. The second disc brings us a video commentary with the voice actors having fun talking about the show and just generally being silly with each other. And digging into the Japanese release side we also have the cute bonus shorts for the show that run about four minutes each. They’re basically standard shorts but avoid going the super cheap route of a lot of chibi web shorts, which is a nice plus. They’re cute and add a little more color to the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Strike Tanaka, Servamp is a twelve episode series that aired during the summer 2016 season. The manga is still ongoing as of this writing and has ten volumes out in Japan. The series did well enough that not only did the manga not get canceled (which is sometimes what happens when an anime underperforms) but it also got a theatrical anime movie greenlit this year that’s due out in 2018. The series was one that for me was a bit under the radar during the simulcast season and the manga, which is already being licensed and released in North America, is something that just never registered with me. Something about it just didn’t click on the promotional side and I didn’t look into it much, which made for a fairly fresh viewing of the series without any of the hype of anticipation that might come otherwise.

The premise of the series is straightforward enough as we’re introduced to Mahiru, your typical high school guy who doesn’t have a lot of complications in his life. Where things go wrong is that in a moment of kindness he rescues a cat and brings it home for the moment because of the weather. The problem is that he discovers the next day that the cat he names Kuro is actually a vampire that becomes a cat in sunlight. To make matters worse, Kuro is one of the laziest creatures out there and would prefer to just sleep all the time, hence making a great cat. The problem becomes in that Kuro comes across as such a boring and dull character because of his portrayal where it’s just like he’s sleepwalking through most of it that it puts the focus on other characters more. And when you nullify one of your main characters it becomes harder to get engaged overall.

With a contract made between the two through the usual shenanigans in order to set up the series, Mahiru finds himself thrust into a crazy world of vampires and a war that’s breaking out. The main opponent in all of this is Tsubaki, who we get introduced to early on, as he has a kind of anything goes crazy mentality about him. He’s not crazy-crazy but there’s a loose edge to him that lets him roll in all sorts of directions while trying to achieve his goals. He has a few that he’s brought onto his line of thinking that help him, such as the opening attack where Belkia puts things in motion for Mahiru, but there are far less on his side than the general swath of creatures that exist. And this is where the series really runs into its problem because there are just so many of them that not only does Kuro become barely a character in much of it, already a problem because of his dull to empty personality, but even Mahiru ends up solidly off stage for good chunks of the run as a whole. That might seem to say that it turns into an ensemble piece but nobody has any sort of truly strong narrative in the series.

Unfortunately, the show does largely work true to the manga origins and is an area where I keep wish there’s a “burn it all down” moment when it comes to how a lot of manga are structured. We get several episodes in a row with lots of characters being introduced with various levels of focus and that just adds to the interactions as it progresses, reducing each of the newly arrived as soon as someone else enters the picture. There are fun moments to be sure as we get exposed to more of this other element in the world and as Mahiru gradually becomes more of a part of it, realizing what he’s capable of and slowly gaining understanding as to the truth behind Kuro, and those that dig into the manga are likely to be pleased with portrayals and some of their favorite characters moments translating into the show.

But beyond that there’s not a lot here. In marathoning the show it really doesn’t feel like there’s a strong through line as to what it is that the series wants to tell. It’s all the introductory material with a nod toward a larger fight at the end as you’d expect but Tsubaki comes across as a villain with little to offer as he’s playing off so many different characters, diluting his own goal because of the various connections that come up. It’s the kind of property where I do wonder if it works better in weekly consumption because you’re focusing on the moment, the sweet little fix of fun and action that’s well animated and stylized, but when you take it in as a complete work you realize that it’s a lot of sound and fury but little else. The result is a fun and shiny show but one that, as someone who hasn’t read the manga, found it to offer little beyond those elements.

In Summary:
Funimation’s put together a very solid release here that will likely please fans in a big way. With a fantastic looking package and some fun extras in the mix inside and on-disc as well there’s plenty of value-added material to make owning it very worthwhile for the fans of the show. It has some solid design work and creativity when it comes to the action and character types but it also plays things loose when it comes to its own internal rules of how a lot of things work. In the end it’s like a lot of other projects that get adapted where it’s teasing the start of something without enough meat, and without enough focus due to the continually expanding cast and world, that within the twelve episodes there isn’t much to latch onto and really engage with. It’s a great set to own for fans but one where I’d recommend watching the streaming first before committing if you haven’t seen it before.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, All the World’s a Stage, Sleepy Life of Servamp Parts 1-3, Episode 1 Audio Commentary, Episode 11 Video Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, and Trailers

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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