Blu-ray Review: Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1
02/06/2016 Leave a comment
You’ve seen the physical content in our unboxing and you’ve seen our thoughts about the presentation and disc layout in our closer look article; but is the episodic content of Universal Pictures debut anime release ‘Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1‘ any good? Well let’s find out in our review of the Blu-ray.
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?
Universal Pictures UK’s Collectors Edition release of Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1 is easily a masterlcass on how a Collectors Edition release should be handled; and while we have already extensively covered the physical items and disc contents of the product we’ve not shared our opinions on the show itself. This is about to change; as after sitting through nearly five-hours-worth of blood-sucking-entertainment it’s safe to say that Seraph of the End is one of the best anime shows released this year into the UK home video market. The characters, the voice talent, the music and even the story all receive top-marks from me and I can see now why many enjoyed the show during its simulcast run.
The story takes place in a fictional universe whereby following a virus outbreak ,which killed off most of the human population, the vampires come out of hiding and offer protection to those unaffected by the virus in exchange for blood. This leads-us on to our lead protagonist of the series, Yuichiro Hyakuya, and his best-friend come orphan brother Mikaela Hyakuya, as they attempt to escape the vampire constructed facility along with other members of their orphan family. As you may predict it is a futile attempt, as it sees everyone that Yuichiro cares about mercilessly killed by the noble vampire on guard but after some clever tactics between the two ‘brothers’ Yuichiro manages to escape into the real world… and it is here where the story of Seraph of the End really begins.
This entire first episode is one-long-build-up to the emotional story that will eventually unfold within the coming episodes; as now several years later – and from the second episode onwards – we see Yuichiro Hyakuya a part of the Japanese Army and attempting to join the ranks of the Moon Demon Company; a specialised unit tasked with defeating high-ranking vampires within Japan. It is here where the show begins to take a more ‘progressive’ storyline as well as offer some comical relief as it we see Yuichiro’s personality develop from a hot-headed-brat to a mature soldier of the military. Unfortunately you won’t see any demon-slaying action for awhile as it is a relatively long-road of self-discovery and military lifestyle with each episode painstakingly tip-toeing across different subject matters; be it introducing new characters, such as the twisted but comically charming Security Officer Shinoa, discovering new friends or obtaining the Cursed Gear Weaponry which is only achieved through demon contracts. All of these elements are presented on an episode-by-episode basis and it’s not until the half-way point of this set that thinks begin to take a more adventurous turn.
Some may argue that this hamper’s the experience of the show, as by the sixth episode we’ve yet to see any real fights between humans and vampires; but in actuality this discovery process of each character within this new Moon Demon Company Squad gives these characters some backbone and merit. From my perspective you if you are enjoying the series from this point onwards you actually care about the characters involved and as such when a fight does break out – which it does in a rather explosive manner – you will be concerned for the characters involved. I won’t spoil any surprises; but what we have is a gradual build-up to an explosive storyline that will make more sense as time moves on and when it comes to the latter half of this set we are treated to non-stop-selection of fights between the Moon Demon Squad and an onslaught of vampires.
Basically what we have here is the beginning of the end; and despite only being tweleve episodes in length we get a perfect presentation of character development, power struggle and deception of humans – all of which comes to an end with a climatic battle between humans and vampires as well as a realisation that a friend once thought dead is actually alive. The game of cat-and-mouse between humans and vampires has just begun; and with the board now being set it will be interesting to see where the events of this series takes us in the next installment.
This Collector’s Edition of Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1 comes with a lot of physical content, such as an artbook, trading cards and poster; but what can one expect to receive when you put the disc into your player? Well pretty much the standard selection of bonus content you would expect to receive from any good anime release except this time they are split across the two discs and presented in a rather bizarre manner.
The first disc features original Japanese promotional trailers and TV spots alongside textless opening and closing songs, which are incorrectly titled as music clips. Ironically enough subtitles for the opening and closing songs – which act as translations for whats being sung – are displayed but they are not displayed during the episodes themselves; which is slightly bizarre. The second disc on the other hand features the 12 mini-episodes compiled together as one twenty minute feature known as Seraph of the Endless; all of which feature removable subtitles and are presented in Japanese with your preferred subtitle format (English, French, German etc).
Oddly enough the Seraph of the Endless Mini Episodes would have worked out better if the tweleve episodes were listed individually rather than as one big option on the menu. This being said each episode does feature chapter markers so you could easily skip to the next one.
Media: BD50 x2
Running Time: 2:22:06 (Disc 1), 2:22:08 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Japanese, French, German)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Netherlands (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Seraph of the End is a show which suggests to offer a struggle between vampires and humans with Yuichiro Hyakuya as the frontman for this entire endeavour; and while this may be the case there is actually a lot more taking place underneath it all; but unfortunately we do not necessarily get to see it all in this Season 1 Part 1 release of the series. Instead this set tends to focus on the character development on this particular Moon Demon Company Squad to which Yuichiro Hyakuya is a part of and the sudden realisation that his once-thought-dead brother Mikaela Hyakuya is actually alive; albeit as a vampire. This half of the series ends on a rather shallow-high-note; nothing has really been achieved, such as defeating noble vampires or saving mankind, but it does lay down the foundations of things to come in the future; the desperate struggle of both Yuichiro and Mikaela as they attempt to save each other well as the real intentions of the military and the vampires themselves. It’s an interesting set of episodes; but this is just a prelude of things to come.
One thing that did strike-out at me when watching Seraph of the End is how much it resembles other anime shows already available on the market; namely Attack on Titan and Naruto. In Seraph of the End the characters hide large walls to avoid the vampires; a similar concept used in Attack on Titan which sees the humans hide behind walls to avoid the titans – elsewhere the storyline ideal of one boy striving for revenge is also present. Finally of course the bond between Yuichiro and Mikaela is just as strong as the bond between Naruto and Sasuke found within the Naruto franchise. Disagree if you like; but to me the similarities are painfully apparent.
Amusing details aside the discs created by Universal Pictures UK are near perfect; but on closer inspection it does fall down slightly. Visual and Audio quality is as you would expect it to be, with a superb English Dub provided by FUNimation in 5.1 DTS Surround; but it’s menu layout and subtitles which can cause some confusion and disappointment. I’ve previously mentioned it in this article; but basically the menu uses buttons rather than text (like on traditional anime releases) and as such can be confusing for those that don’t use Universal Picture products. To me it’s not an issue; but for first time users it can be daunting. Another potential issue is the subtitles as the subtitle option on the menu is strictly for dialogue and subtitles for signs/translations can only be accessed using the subtitle button on your remote. Additionally subtitles for the opening and closing songs do not appear during episodes but they do in the bonus features; which I find slightly bizarre. Once again these are not big issues, nor will it effect my view on the series and overall quality of these discs; but it is worth mentioning as it is different to the normal anime release.
Overall Universal Pictures UK have brought us an exceptional release of Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1; it’s an action-packed emotional driven story that gets better and more intense as you progress and it seems the foundations have been laid down for more exciting things. The combination of this intense storyline, with high quality visuals and impressive vocal tracks, makes this one of the best anime releases of the year – and thats before you consider the exceptionally packaing and presentation that comes along with the Collectors Edition. Put simply you need Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1 in your collection; this isn’t Twilight – it’s a true end of the world struggle between humans and vampires and is well worth watching.
Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1 is now available within the UK as a Collectors Edition DVD and Collectors Edition Blu-ray release.