Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two


Seraph of the End
is a title I’ve been especially fond of since Weekly Shonen Jump started publishing the manga in English a few years back. When the anime aired back in 2015 I regarded it as one of my favourites for the year, and now I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and rewatch the second half of this series.

As a general note, this review contains spoilers for both parts of Seraph of the End. If you missed the review of Part 1 written by my good friend and coworker, Joshawott, you can find it here.


This part of the series kicks off with Yu and his comrades being sent on a mission in Nagoya, however this is after the higher ups interrogate Yu to determine if he’s working with vampires. Part 2 of
Seraph of the End is heavily dedicated to exploring the relationships between Yu and Captain Guren and Yu and Mikaela, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of time for some fun vampire hunting. This part also gives us some focus on the vampire society and works to develop them as characters.

The mission Yu and his team are sent on with Guren and other members of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army is to kill numerous noble vampires, who have been spotted in the area. It’s a life-or-death mission and sadly it doesn’t always go to plan – but thanks to our team’s misfortunes, we’re given some remarkable action sequences as the humans fight for their lives (more on those in a minute). On the flip side, the new perspectives on Mikaela and the vampires leaves us to ponder if they’re really the bad guys in this world, especially as it becomes clearer that the Imperial Demon Army is up to no good.


While I usually wouldn’t go too in-depth into the end of a season, I want to talk about a couple of episodes closer to the end of this set because they really made the series for me. Episode 21 sees Mikaela finally find Yu and his team and features some truly stunning animation as Mikaela storms through hordes of enemies to reach his long-lost family. The scene is set to a remix of the first ending for the series (“scaPEGoat” performed by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh), and between that and the way the camera pans in and out, the sequence looks fantastic. I’ve watched a lot of anime by
Studio Wit but I think this scene stands out as some of their very best work to date. It’s animated, choreographed and executed extremely well and I cannot praise the scene enough for the lasting impact it left on me as a viewer.

The other episode I want to talk about follows directly afterwards . It’s titled “Yu and Mika” and largely focuses on an exchange the two have, in private, away from the battle raging on elsewhere. It’s the first real interaction the two have had since Yu escaped from the vampires as a child and at this point, after suffering a mortal wound which requires human blood to fix, Mikaela is struggling with the decision to remain as he is or become a full vampire. The two argue and bicker and the conversation flows so naturally, and is filled with so much emotion, that it really stood out to me and remains one of my favourite episodes. I’d usually talk about voice actors later on but today I’m going to break my usual trend and mention that Miyu Irino (Koshi Sugawara in Haikyu!!, Ritsu Kageyama in Mob Pyscho 100), who plays Yu and Kensho Ono (Takato in Charlotte, Slaine Troyard in Aldnoah Zero, Phichit Chulanont in Yuri!!! on Ice), who plays Mikaela, both perform exceptionally well for these scenes. I rewatched the scene in English, French and German and none of those dubs even held a candle to the emotional weight that the Japanese VA’s put into their take.  


As previously mentioned, animation for the series has been handled by
Studio Wit and looks really nice. Action scenes were always detailed and fluid, and even the scenes where the characters just stand around talking look great, thanks to some exceptional work on the backdrops. Wit have gone for a pastel-shaded effect for the backgrounds, so they always look very detailed, which it means any action scenes played out against them looks even better than usual. It creates a nice contrast between the smooth, neatly drawn characters and the messy, less detailed backgrounds. It’s a style I really like and would enjoy seeing more of from the studio.


The music for the series has been handled by Hiroyuki Sawano and is fairly impressive. It’s full of piano and orchestrated arrangements which really work with the tone of the series, but as mentioned earlier the track that I especially like is the remix of the previous ED for the series. I do have to admit that a lot of the music for Seraph of the End reminded me of the work of Tomoki Miyoshi, who provided the music for the I Am Setsuna game released last year, which is by not a bad thing but means that it didn’t seem as unique to me as it should have done. The opening for this set of the anime is “Two souls -towards the truth-” by fripSide and the ending is “Orarion” by Nagi Yanagi. Both tracks are rather forgettable but work within the context of the show (and at least the animation is very nice for both).

This release comes to the UK thanks to Universal, who have been nice enough to provide AnimeUKNews with a full retail set for our review. Thanks to that I have all of the extras for the release on hand, and what a nice collection it is! Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two is available on both Blu-ray and DVD and the physical extras include four trading cards, a poster depicting the art on the cover of the box, a set of 12 3D stickers (which, it has to be said, are really cute), four artcards, and, if that wasn’t enough, a 31 page booklet! The set is well, made with the trading cards and artcards being produced in a thick enough grade that I’m not too worried about them bending. The stickers being 3D is a welcome touch and although (as is usual with stickers) I don’t actually want to use them for anything, they’re at least more fun to look over than stickers normally are. It’s worth pointing out that the booklet contains a gallery of the end cards for each episode, which I like a lot.

Physical extras aside, this set also contains clean opening and ending videos, as well as a
Seraph of the Endless bonus episode/special, trailers for the series, and music clips. My only real complaint about the release is that the box is top-loading and I know that many members of the community commented about this with the previous release. It’s something Universal are apparently looking into for future anime sets but at least in this case I’m glad it’s consistent with the previous release. It’s also nice that the spine doesn’t make it clear that this is a DVD set as my version of Part 1 is a Blu-ray, so despite being different formats at a glance you wouldn’t know any different.

Seraph of the End is a remarkable shounen series. While the season doesn’t conclude the whole story because the manga is on-going, it ends in enough of a satisfying manner that it’s easy for me to recommend. If you’ve watched the first half and enjoyed it then you certainly won’t be disappointed here – and if you didn’t then what are you doing reading this? Go and buy Part 1 right now!

Title: Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two
Publisher: Universal Pictures UK
Genre: Action, Drama, Shonen
Studio: Studio Wit
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2015
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English/Dutch/French/German subtitles and English/French/German dub audio
Age rating: 12
Running time: 265 minutes

Score: 9/10

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 1 Review

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 1

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Prince Arslan is the heir to the kingdom of Pars, a strong nation that sits at the heart of the trade route connecting the East and the West. When the neighboring nation of Lusitania begins to invade Pars, the naive and timid Arslan is soon thrust into his maiden battle, a battle that goes horribly wrong when the Parsian army falls for a Lusitanian stratagem which leads to Ecbatana, the Parsian Capital, being occupied by Lusitanian forces. With the help of his loyal warrior and friend Daryun, he barely manages to escape with his life and goes into hiding. Soon, Arslan, aided by his allies, makes plans to retake the kingdom of Pars and to find his father, King Andragonas III, who went missing after the invasion.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a 2015 anime adaption of the 2013 manga series by Hiromu Arakawa which, in turn, is an adaptation of the long- running and popular Japanese novel series by Yoshiki Tanaka. Whilst I do think that Arslan has its merits, the first half of this Action-Fantasy show leaves a lot to be desired, despite its stellar presentation.  

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The real root of the issue here is that there really isn’t a whole lot going on, both in terms of its story and characters. If you read the synopsis for the show, you’ve gotten almost as much story as you do from watching the show itself. After the initial 5 or 6 episodes which set up the world, introduce the characters and execute the premise, the story starts to meander and doesn’t really do anything of significance, mostly just showing Arslan and his allies in hiding or on the run from the Lusitanian soldiers. A lot of it feels like padding and can be rather tedious in some places. However, there is a revelation towards the end of this half of the show that could make for a compelling plot development going forward but it’s revealed too late in the game for it to have any real impact on the story in the first half. After said reveal, Arslan definitely feels like it has the potential to head in a far more interesting direction, so hopefully the second half lives up to that promise. Despite the lack of an interesting story, I was still thoroughly entertained and kept watching mostly due to some really fantastic action sequences. The best of these appear at the beginning, with the initial battle between Pars and Lusitania and the invasion of the Parsian capital of Ecbatana being the highlights of the entire first half for me. These are very well animated with a good blend of traditional 2D animation and some above average CGI animation that really makes the action stand out.

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The characters of Arslan are, for the most part, just as lacklustre as its story, with a couple of exceptions. The first would be the titular Arslan; whom I found to be an instantly likable lead, mostly because he’s one of the most genuinely pure-hearted characters we meet, and has a real charisma about him that really makes you want to root for him and his noble goals. The second is Gieve, a charming bard who’s a really lovable rogue. Apart from those two, literally every other character in the show is just kind of dull. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they all lack personality, but they just aren’t developed enough to really make me care for them. This isn’t helped by a lack of screen time for most of the cast in the first few episodes, with the action predominating and some characters like Farangis not being introduced until later in the story. The main antagonist, Silver Mask, whilst having more of a personality than many of the others, is mostly just a two-dimensional, clichéd villain, which is a real shame because I think a more morally ambiguous villain could have made for a really interesting dynamic going forward.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a co-production between Liden Films (Terraformers, Berserk (2016), Aiura) and Sanzigen (009: Re: Cyborg, Black Rock Shooter, Arpeggio of Blue Steel) and they have created a really fantastic looking show that stays true to the manga it was based on. As mentioned before, the action sequences in Arslan are definitely the best thing about it, thanks in no small part to the excellent animation, which has some of the best-looking CGI I think I’ve seen in an anime and works well with the 2D animation, not sticking out like a sore thumb unlike most other shows.

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If there is one other department I must highlight as being amazing (apart from the visuals) it would have to be the original score. Composed by Taro Iwashiro, the spectacular soundtrack really stands out and helps to create a magnificent atmosphere. Despite the soundtrack, one thing I can’t really say I was overly fond of was the OP song, ‘oku no Kotoba de wa Nai, Kore wa Bokutachi no Kotoba’ by UVERworld, as I really didn’t think it fits a show like Arslan. Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan comes with both a Japanese and English audio track. The English dub is all around pretty good, although I can’t think of anyone who was particularly outstanding. The cast includes some notable voice actors such as Aaron Dismuke (Fullmetal Alchemist, Cat Planet Cuties, Blood Blockade Battlefront), Ricco Fajardo (Seraph of the End, Fairy Tail, Prince of Stride: Alternative) and Jerry Jewell (Baccano, Evangelion 3.33, Shiki).

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As well as the first 13 episodes of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Universal’s Limited Edition release is packed to the gills with extras, both on disc and physical. On the disc, you get trailers, TV spots, clean versions of both the first and second opening and closings (which is a little strange considering the second OP and ED aren’t featured on any of the episodes in Part 1) as well as the Short Comedy of Arslan, a short chibi comedy spin-off. In terms of physical extras, not only does Arslan feature a high quality rigid box, you get an 80 page, full colour art book, with character profiles and translated interviews with the creators of the show, 12 gorgeous artcards, 4 collectable character cards and a map of the Kingdom of Pars, which when flipped over doubles as a game board and includes tokens featuring characters from the anime. It’s a really fantastic set that fans of the show will absolutely adore.

In Summary

Whilst the action and sheer spectacle seen in The Heroic Hero of Arslan will keep you watching, the mostly bland characters and overly simple story will do little to hold your interest, even if it looks and sounds spectacular.

7/10

Director: Noriyuki Abe
Format: PAL
Number of discs: 2
Classification: 15
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Release Date: 25 Jul. 2016
Run Time: 284 minutes

Seraph Of The End – Collector’s Edition #1 Review

Following the international acclaim lavished on their pop culture smash hit Attack On Titan, the newly-formed Wit Studio have brought their stylish and slick animation to a brand new fight for humanity’s salvation with Seraph Of The End.

When ninety percent of humanity falls victim to a deadly plague, the remainder are herded together by vampires for their “protection” when actually, they’re treated as little more than livestock, regularly being milked for their blood like cattle. Yūichirō “Yu” Hyakuya, one of the oldest in a makeshift family of orphans, does little to hide his dissatisfaction with their current situation and often optimistically talks of a day where they will break free of their oppressor. When fellow family member Mikaela obtains a map of the vampire’s city, they hatch an escape plan and unwittingly play into the palms of a bored noble, whose performance while murdering the children would put figure-skaters to shame. Reluctantly following the pleas of a dying Mikaela, Yu makes a break for the outside world, swearing revenge on the vampires who tore his family apart.

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Four years later, Yu is trying to keep his promise as a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army’s renowned vampire extermination unit, the Moon Demon Company. However, a familiar face is now standing behind enemy lines – Mikaela Hyakuya.

Being an adaptation of a manga serialised in Weekly Shonen Jump’s sister magazine Jump SQ, perhaps it comes as no surprise that the story can sometimes leave the viewer with a sense of déjà vu as certain plot threads and relationship dynamics feel oddly familiar to anyone already invested in the medium, with fate pitting childhood friends on opposing sides of a conflict being a common theme seen in the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, as well as the dynamic between Yu and his superior Lieutenant Colonel Guren being similar to that of Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Edward Elric and Roy Mustang, with the two superiors curiously even sharing the same military rank.

The few similarities are only a small part of a larger narrative though; one that successfully brings fear back to the vampire race with its positioning of the oppressors. As the vast majority are depicted as adults in comparison to the human children they rule over and terrorise, this adds an additional sting to scenes of their brutality. This comes to a head with the Battle of Shinjuku, the season’s dramatic climax, which throws the young heroes head-first into a conflict that perfectly encapsulates the dread, anticipation and futility you might expect from the front lines. My only real complaint with the narrative is that the duality of Yu and Mikaela being on different sides comes across as forced, as I’m not convinced Mikaela would side with the vampires or believe that Yu is the one being misled, as the vampires don’t exactly have a solid track record of honesty and he didn’t choose to be turned in the first place.

When I think about Seraph Of The End though, the first image that pops into my head isn’t one of Yu cutting down a vampire or an emotionally-charged plot twist, but rather, a smug grin plastered across Sergeant Shinoa Hiragi’s face. Her snide and sarcastic remarks bounce wonderfully off Yu, a typical hot-headed protagonist, leading to a number of charmingly comedic interactions. This is true with most of the cast, with most of them being set up to cleverly compliment particular aspects of each other, helping to prop up the Moon Demon Company as a shining beacon of the “family” theme at the core of the series. For example, Yu’s encouragement of the timid Yoichi serves as an important early sign that there is a caring person behind the reckless bravado, while Shinoa’s thorny relationship with Mitsuba helps bring her down to a level-playing field with the rest of her squad.

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I can’t help but admire this series from a design perspective, with the Moon Demon Company’s uniform featuring a wonderful mix of green and black that, when combined with hair colours such as Shinoa’s purple, creates some beautifully striking imagery. Being from the studio behind Attack On Titan, it should come as a surprise to no one that the series has a high standard of animation, with action sequences being a notable stand-out alongside the incredibly detailed backdrops that breath eerie life into the post-apocalyptic Japan.

While the soundtrack is unremarkable for the most part, praise has to be given to the original Japanese voice cast, with Aoi Yūki‘s performance of vampire leader Krul Tepes being especially worthy of praise. Hearing a voice more commonly associated with cute and innocent roles taking on a more sinister tone works remarkably well with Krul’s slimmer frame, despite vampire rulers having the appearance of prepubescent girls being nothing new in the world of anime (Dance in the Vampire Bund for example). Out of the three other language options in this release (English, French and German), Monica Rial’s performance in Funimation’s English version comes closest in recreating Krul’s cute yet creepy charm. The rest of Funimation’s dub falls below expectations however, with frequent awkward pronunciations of Japanese names and many characters coming across as being miscast, with Dave Trosko (Guren) and Ian Sinclair (Kimizaki) being particularly notable examples, as they both sound better suited for the other’s roles. In contrast, the two European dubs have firmer handles on the Japanese pronunciation and stronger casting, with the German dub being a particular favourite of mine (although Ferid saying “Ooo-la-la!” in French cannot be missed!). The five subtitle languages using the same tracks regardless of audio option may be irksome to some, but I think we can forgive the lack of 20 different subtitle sets.

Seraph of the End CE

The real magic of this release however, lies in its presentation. Being the first anime release from Universal UK, there was a lot of anticipation and apprehension around this title, but I’m happy to confirm that not only is the Collector’s Edition set exceptionally high quality, but it currently offers the best value for money in the UK industry. The presentation box is solid, sturdy and to the delight of some – completely free of logos, with the blurb and rating information being kept to an outer paper insert. The soft touch finish on the art book feels wonderful on my fingers; like a smooth rubber despite being paper!

The sheer amount of content within the Visual Guide is astounding: concept art, extensive interviews and character biographies spread across a whopping 129 pages, meaning there’s a lot of material to read through! I thought the inclusion of four Top Trumps-style cards was a really cute idea; I hope enough of these are produced to make an entire deck some day! The other physical extras, the poster and art cards, are really well made too.

There have been concerns about the box being top-loading, meaning contents is pulled out from the top of the box as opposed to the side, but I personally have no issue with this – in fact, the landscape orientation of the Visual Guide and the digi-book justifies it in my opinion. I wouldn’t mind if the box was a tiny bit taller though, as I do worry about the digi-book’s cardboard spine potentially being crushed.

Very few distributors within the anime industry have had as good a start as Universal, offering a fun action series in a package rivalling even premium releases for a fraction of the price (£39.99 on Amazon at time of writing). I really hope this series performs well for them, as I definitely would like to see more releases like this in the future!

8/10

Director: Daisuke Tokudo
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English
Dubbed: English
Number of discs: 2
Classification: 15
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
DVD Release Date: 23 May 2016
Run Time: 264 minutes