I guess Wit Studio won’t be collecting their tax break this season.
Seraph of the End really did not get off on the right foot when it first arrived on the scene, did it? I mean when the premise of your show revolves around vampires ruling the world and massacring everyone you hold dear, the last thing you want to see in said world is a fucking high school. And yet somehow, that wasn’t the worst problem to befall the series. Wit Studio has never been good at managing budget – which is fair considering they’re still new and all – but even by their standards, Seraph of the End looked like complete ass. I’m not sure if it was fixed in the blu-ray, but the first cour was riddled with production problems that made the incredibly bland writing even blander, along with making Durarara!!x2 Shou look like it was animated by Madhouse on a good day. Awful character movement. Action scenes consisting of nothing but stills. Devoting entire episodes to generic “friendship is everything” bullshit. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t killing the show’s pacing in the process.
So it was some trepidation that I watched Battle in Nagoya but apparently the studio had been cured of a disease in-between cours because there’s absolutely no production issues in the show whatsoever (or at least none that’s really noticeable). The action scenes are consistently fluid for the most part and the pacing, whilst still taking a little too long to get places at times, actually gives off a feeling of stuff actually happening. Said feeling hit a speed bump when the show ends on yet another cliffhanger with little manga material to make a third season in the near future but hey, points for actually getting me somewhat into this series this time.
I’m not going to bother recapping the plot since this is a second cour and you’d only care if you watched the first one, so let’s just say that after Yu and Mika had their long-awaited gay reunion, ending with the former awakening to hilariously inaccurate monstrous powers that couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, the vampires and the anti-vampire military gear up for another war and Yu’s squad leave their high school roots in order to train with the big boys. But as was hinted at the cliffhanger at the end of the first cour, said military isn’t exactly the most pacifistic people on the planet, and unlike the military in Attack on Titan, they’re not exactly open about it. As such, a lot of internal strife occurs whilst we wait for the two sides to clash, and it’s not like the vampire side consists solely of BFFs either given how Mika still refuses to drink blood.
I have a sneaking feeling that Wit Studio randomly came across the manga one day, noticed how similar it was to Attack on Titan, and that was all they needed to pick it up for adaptation, because Battle in Nagoya borrows a lot of plot points from that show and the director does his damn best to capture Araki’s theatrical bombast whenever he can, what with the dramatic shoutings in regards to squad members whining about how they’re all a family and the fight scenes themselves going for epic brutality. Although Seraph of the End’s homosexual coupling of Yu and Mika brings Sunrise more to my attention given how much BL material always seems to make it into their stuff, right down to having an anime named after it. And good god does the show double down on the BL when the two finally meet again. Remember in Tokyo Ghoul how there was this human girl who was willing to let some of her flesh get eaten if it meant her ghoul boyfriend can stay alive? Well guess what Yu’s solution is to keep Mika alive when he realizes that he can’t survive without blood?
Speaking of Mika, he was always a bit of a whiner in regards to his best friend, but whilst he never becomes the male version of Yuno Gasai, his feelings for Yu border on the obsession here. You guys know about the Bechdel Test? Well replace “men” with “Yu” and Mika would fail it within the first fucking syllable of whatever sentence he speaks. And that’s not even getting into the fact that he makes it very clear that anyone who’s not Yu can die in a ditch, which Yu obviously has problems with given that he’s still an incredibly generic protagonist who fights for his friends and will trust them even when they stab him in the back.
Mika’s growing problems and Yu’s lack of growth aside, I actually found the characters more engaging in this iteration, particularly Shinoa – who was more a snarky comic relief character in the first season, but mostly has to rely on using that personality as a defense mechanism now that shit has gone serious and the importance of her family name is afflicting one of her squad members. Most of them are still simplistically written and all, mostly acting as Yu’s cheerleaders with the only real story being given to Shiho at the very end when it’s revealed what happens to his sister, but since they’re not given any more focus than necessary this time around, it’s not hard to tolerate them. I’m not sure what the common consensus is for Guren himself, but whilst his story does make him more interesting, it’s also incredibly predictable and I found myself really unable to care for the chemistry that Yu seems to have with him. Did he really help the kid that much to the point that Yu would sacrifice his life for him as much as his friends and Mika? I can’t seem to recall anything in particular.
Unfortunately, whilst the execution is better, the core of Seraph is still about as substantial as Mac in Cheese without any salt or pepper put into it. The structure is the same as the first cour in that the first half or so is dedicated to building our protagonists up and the second cour is when things come to a clash before ending on a cliffhanger. And no amount of people dying bloody deaths along with the overall theatrical presentation can make me overlook the fact that the show doesn’t put enough spins on its genre cliches to make that structure stand out in any way, unless you count what ultimately becomes of Yu’s squad when Mika throws a wrench into the whole “all vampires are evil” way of thinking as fresh. It certainly opens the way to something fresh, as (spoilers) I’ve never seen a shonen action anime cast our protagonists as fugitives, Deathly Hallows-style, before. But that’s at the very end, and everything prior to that is just a bunch of flamboyancy taken seriously so that it’s kind of funny at times, but ultimately it’s not doing anything new that you haven’t seen before in vampire fiction (current or old). It’s like a less stupid but still nothing “must see” version of that Let Me In film.
So whilst I can recommend Battle in Nagoya with much less reservations than the first Seraph, I think you guys are better off waiting for the Attack on Titan sequel…whenever that shows up.
- Incidentally, those soldier uniforms are really ugly to look at.
- I don’t think it’s possible to swing some of those weapons without breaking your neck.