Review/discussion about: Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen
A few weeks ago, I shared a meal with my grandparents, brother, and other cousins. During the dinner, we talked about all manner of topics. Our grandfather’s brother named Georgie. The notion that bigger teeth brings beauty later in life. How awesome that grand meatball tasted.
At one point, the topic turned to familial connections, the bonds we share with each other. I stated that I would die for them. They are my family, so this statement sounds obvious. At least, I hope it is obvious for most.
I sincerely believe it. Strangers pass by. Friends come and go. But family. Family is forever. Yu of Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen believes the same. Unfortunately for Yu, he does not get to have dinner-made conversations. Instead, he gets an almost abysmal anime.
This second season (really the second half to the split-cour) of Owari no Seraph (called Nagoya from here on out) begins shortly after the first season (really the first half).
The anime has a glaring issue that persists across most of this season: nothing actually happens. Hyperbole, yes. Events occur and characters move, sure. But the conclusions or outcomes are no doubt insignificant when the bigger picture is looked at.
The anime has essentially five main conflicts that occur one after another. The first conflict is Yu’s team contrasted with Makoto’s team. The second is the multi-front battle. The third is the rescue attempt of Guren. The fourth is Yu aiding Mika. And the fifth and final conflict is the angel and demon clash at the end. Each conflict introduces drama, and each conflict does almost nothing.
The first conflict is designed to accentuate the inexperience of Yu and the other members. They get beat by Guren and reluctantly accepted by Makoto and his team. A nice approach – except for that fact that Makoto’s team gets decimated over the course of a few episodes. Two members are killed off by some vampires, two others are killed off by the angel-demon contraption, and Makoto is left alone. Meaning the initial comparison has nothing come of it since the (supposedly) less experienced squad moves on without a single loss.
The second conflict brings about a lot of action. People die, swords swing, and tension ensues. The purpose of the attack is to wipe out the vampires once and for all. But, as the anime shows, that is all a lie. The attack is nothing more than a sacrifice. In other words, the battling is just the myriad of characters and soldiers stalling for time – they are fighting for nothing.
This conflict is hurt further by the audience knowing nothing of the situation. The audience learns next to nothing about the vampire society. The audience learns next to nothing about the behind-the-scenes deception of the vampires and the humans. The audience learns next to nothing about the more otherworldly aspects – namely the angels and demons.
The third conflict revolves around getting Guren back after he gets captured. Yu being Yu, he decides to bring the fight to the vampires to save Guren, a man he considers part of his family. The resulting failure of the rescue – the attempt meant, in the end, nothing – is certainly an asinine development. But it is the later betrayal of Guren (regardless of whether he is in control or not) that turn his speeches on camaraderie and family into nothing. Plus, Guren ending up back with the humans means the rescue triply meant nothing.
The fourth conflict is arguably the only one that means anything more than nothing. Established in the first half of the split-cour, Mika works to save Yu from the “evil” humans, forcing him to go to impossible lengths to save Yu. Furthermore, the conflict is the only one that exists throughout most of the season leading up to its finale in the grocery store. Mika becoming a vampire, despite fighting off the temptations for years and years, could arguably be more nothing-based drama. But this conflict, compared to the others, actually has a meaningful impact on both the characters involved.
The fifth and final conflict is easily the sloppiest. The angel-demon contraption has nothing in terms of context. The vampires and the humans all do nothing as the demon comes forth. Krul Tepes is (supposedly) killed off when she does almost nothing to retaliate. Kazuki does nothing to save his sister despite how much his character is built on his strong relationship with her. Yu essentially resets everything back to how it was before the contraption appeared (minus a few characters), meaning nothing important happened plot-wise.
Collectively, the narrative does next to nothing.
Nagoya continues, for the most part, the artistic direction and actual animation that it had with its first half.
The background art itself still has a painting-like quality to it. While the locations tend to blend together as grays, browns, and blacks, this dreariness contributes nicely to the dreary mood of the anime. Lighting is not as much of a focus, unfortunately, causing the anime to lose an opportunity to further cast darkness over the show.
Nagoya’s animated sequences are a mixed bag. Downtime does have some fluidity in eye or head movements, and there are even subtle shifts, such as Shinoa moving her hair out of the way to better hear Yu’s heart or Yu scooching backward while Mika rests in his arms and bites on his neck.
Of course, the anime also includes many a battle, yet, despite the swords, axes, and pikes, the anime rarely depicts choreographed fights. As such, the battles become less flashy and more simplistic with lots of cuts or smoke. Considering that the anime touts itself as having action, having these animated sequences be so lackluster adversely affects the anime.
However, there are certain sequences that prove Nagoya does not always rest on its laurels. In particular, the sequence where Mika battles through a road of enemies to get to Yu involves a lot of movement, perspective, and coolness. Other sequences, like the final fight between Yu and the demon or Yu and the gang versus the top-hat vampire, while not as involved, make the anime less static than it tends to be otherwise.
Lastly, the character designs remain the same as before. Shinoa, Yu, and the other humans are rather plain in design. Some have accessories like bows or glasses. Some have oddly colored hair. But generally their designs are not that intricate. The vampires are more eccentric than the humans, making the vampires’ designs more unique and therefore slightly stronger.
For both groups, their actual outfits are decorated with buttons, medals, and other additions. Most interesting of all is the choice of color. The humans wear black attire whereas the vampires wear white. Color symbolism often dictates that black equates to evilness and white equates to goodness. Meaning, having the colors swapped between who one would usually believe the good and bad guys to be induces a subconscious muddying of morality. An idea that, while not explicit, has a presence in the anime.
The characters of Nagoya are difficult to discuss mostly because the anime refuses to properly do much with them – nothingness seeped into the characters, too.
Out of the entire cast, only two characters receive adequate attention: Mika and Guren.
Mika continues mostly where he left off. The vampires dislike or toy with him, he hates humans, and all he thinks about is Yu – and blood. His refusal to fully turn himself into a vampire by consuming human blood (he has satiated his thirst through Krul Tepes’s blood all this time) begins to consume him, and it is this consumption that Nagoya focuses on with his character for about three-fourths of the season. His inability to control himself, his anger at himself for his urges, and his conflicting feelings towards humans.
All the while, he never stops thinking about Yu. His actions always revolve around finding or helping Yu and not disappointing him (by becoming the very creature that Yu hates). Consequently, in what is perhaps the anime’s smartest bit of writing, he and Yu finally reunite when Mika is at his most desperate. I.e., Mika’s thirst for blood and Yu reach an apex.
Yu, valuing family above all else (more on this shortly), gives Mika exactly what he wants: himself. Yu shares a private moment with Mika, he gives Mika his blood, and he reassures Mika that Mika will always be family to him – vampire or otherwise. The moment is nice, signifying development of Mika’s character. Afterwards, Mika still has trouble trusting humans, but he at least comes around for Shinoa and the others, turning him into the best character that Nagoya has to offer.
Guren is the other prominent character. Outwardly, he is a jerk, a rude and arrogant dude. Inwardly, he cares deeply for his squad mates – perhaps more so than anyone else.
Over the course of the season, he leads, he falls, and he “betrays.” Quotes because it technically is not his fault. His weapon had been implied to be difficult to control due to the strength of the spirit possessing it and Guren’s love for said spirit. (Shinoa’s older sister in both cases.) So him succumbing to temptation is not completely out of the question.
The real problem with the betrayal is that it (like the story) does next to nothing. Yes, Guren’s tears while in his possessed form indicate that his true self hates the kin-killing monster he becomes. But it serves little purpose. His actions do not drastically affect the outcome of the season. He does not confront major players besides Yu who, in response, just spouts even more dialogue on family. And, most importantly, Guren’s betrayal does nothing for himself. The betrayal (and, indeed, the whole season) does not provide growth for his character whatsoever.
To be fair, Guren is humanized through a flashback involving him and Yu. He compares himself to Yu, encouraging him, advising him to live and push on until the day he can fight for the one who needs his help. Shinya, seemingly his best friend, also humanizes Guren indirectly: Guren wholly trusts Shinya, counting on Shinya to save everyone in his stead and proving how good a friend Guren can be. These instances make up for some of the improper handling of his character but not all of it.
Now, due to the focus on Mika and Guren (and the focus on a story that does nothing), the rest of the cast is forgotten about. Deeply forgotten about. And that is putting it lightly.
Yu starts to leave his him-against-the-world mentality, relying more on his comrades and acting more friendly towards them. However, he still spouts the same dialogue about family over and over. He is certainly consistent in his ideals which deserves a small amount of praise, but he repeats the same thoughts on family ad nauseam, turning him into an annoyance rather than a worthwhile character. He does seem to gain some control of his powers near the end of the season, but, because the angel and demon concepts had gone unexplained up to that point, his control does not make much sense.
Shinoa, arguably the most popular character of the anime, loses her edge. In an attempt to mold her into a more serious, reliable leader, the anime cuts down on her smug, snarky attitude – her defining trait. The tradeoff, not surprisingly, failing to work. As a leader, she gets her group into horrible situations and even causes issues (and deaths) for others based on her decisions. And because her smugness heavily disappears, so does her intrigue. And despite her older sister gaining (a minimal amount of) relativity, Shinoa’s overall importance to the anime diminishes.
The rest of the main group – Mitsuba, Kimizuki, and Yoichi – are painfully forgotten about. Mitsuba has an older sister that seems to be working for the evil humans, but, similar to Shinoa, that relationship is not expounded on. Kimizuki gets a small moment near the end of the season where his beloved sister, the girl who his entire character revolves around, is subjected to horrific treatment. But when he is thwarted with a single sword stab and when he chooses to abandon his sister without putting up much of a fight, Kimizuki becomes more of a joke than a person. As for Yoichi, he may as well not even exist for how much the anime ignored him.
Everybody else cannot be discussed because they are even less prevalent than these three. And as far as themes are concerned, the obvious one is family. Different aspects of family are shown as the season goes on. Yu proves how far people are willing to go for their family when he throws himself into the fray. The commander of the humans proves what happens when one does not care about family. And the notion that family means more than shared blood rings throughout the season. The anime does not explore family on the vampire side, so the theme itself is not as strong as it could have been, but the theme is explored to some overall extent nonetheless.
A less obvious theme is that of temptation. Vampires are tempted by blood, and humans are tempted by freedom. But the theme is more nuanced than that. Mika is tempted (indirectly) by Yu. Guren is tempted by his weapon. Yu is tempted by family. For many of the characters, the prospect of attaining their desires drives them forward. To be fair, the theme itself has no outright exploration, but, since the angel-and-demon backdrop exists, the theme of sin – temptation and greed go hand-in-hand – cannot be ignored.
Does Mika, Guren, and some themes make up for the incredible amount of other problems the cast have?
Barely. Just barely.
The opening track of Nagoya has to be talked about first because of how poor it is. The tone, especially in the beginning, is overly optimistic. As such, it contrasts too much with the dreary mood that the rest of the anime steeps itself in. The song also does not do the vocalist justice. She is either forced to sing in a standard, almost conversational tone or forced to strain for specific notes. The only interesting part of the piece is the otherworldly sound-effect that seems as though it is produced by dropping a piece of metal in an icy cavern. But (obviously) that is not enough to make the OP even remotely worth listening to.
The ending track, however, is a lot stronger. The beginning and middle adopt a captivating tone that is simultaneously chilling and beautiful. Varying the pace of the piece also furthers the song’s complexity which in turn furthers its strength. This time, the vocalist can flex her prowess, matching the song’s highs and lows, quicks and slows. The ending lyric is a bit silly – a “Trick Star” does not make much sense in the context of the anime let alone in real life – but, overall, the ED stands as a nice addition to Nagoya.
The original soundtrack (expectedly) uses the same kind of music that the first half used. Most of the tracks are filled with drums, triumph, and ominous sound-effects, setting the atmosphere in a manner that befits the oft soldierly show. None of the tracks are particularly noteworthy, however, so they remain as simple additions rather than praiseworthy ones.
Voice acting sees a similar fate. Saori Hayami’s feminine voice for Shinoa is still attractive to hear. Miyu Irino as Yu can be a bit grating when he starts pouting or yelling. And Kenichi Suzumura as Crowley coats his words with a childish lilt. The only above average performance comes from Kensho Ono as Mika for the struggle and pain one can hear in his voice.
This type of show, where the characters are in danger of being killed off or maimed or otherwise needing help, usually gets me. I have to know if the characters are going to be all right because I just do not like being kept in the dark about their safety. And so, I found myself being pulled along by this one.
But that was the only trait keeping me interested. I was not a fan of any of the characters. Yu was too annoying; Mika was even more so. Mitsuba, Kimizuki, and Yoichi were barely relevant. Guren was too much of a jerk, and the other vampires were either too arrogant to root for or too lame to take seriously. And since Shinoa lost a lot of her smug, she too was not as fun to follow.
The action as well was uninteresting. None of the fights were cool or memorable. In fact, a lot of them blended together, especially when Yu and the humans almost never seemed to win or even succeed in any way.
The anime’s comedic moments were sparse. The anime’s drama was not gripping. The anime’s romance could have been more pronounced. I was simply not entertained by the vast majority of what the anime set out to do.
Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen has a slew of issues. The story does nothing, the characters are forgotten about, the animation is par for the course, the music likewise so, and, as a whole, it fails to entertain. Family may be forever, but, thankfully, this anime is not.
Story: Terrible, so much nothing in the narrative it hurts
Animation: Fine, nice background art, okay character designs, and about average actual animation
Characters: Bad, themes on family and temptation surround Mika, Guren, and a spectacularly awful rest of the cast
Sound: Fine, bad OP, good ED, okay OST, okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, the safety of the characters was the only enticing part
Final Score: 3/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3