December 13, 2021
By Andrew Osmond
This time it’s vampires. In recent years, we’ve seen civilisation ended umpteen times over, often by zombie apocalypses, but now the bloodsuckers get a turn. It makes a difference. Zombies and Titans may tear you up and eat you, but at least they don’t laugh sadistically and tell you how much they’re enjoying it. The vampires in Seraph of the End aren’t just killers, but bullying killers, which makes it much more personal.
The manga Seraph of the End was still in its early chapters as the TV show begins, but here’s how it starts. In the near future, humanity is struck by a catastrophe that wipes out nine-tenths of the population. Most of the survivors are children, including some who are taken in the aftermath by vampires and enslaved underground, their blood siphoned off for their captors. A close-knit ‘family’ of kids try to escape, and are brutally killed – with the exception of a boy, Yuichiro, who reaches the surface world and is taken in by surviving humans. Obsessed with avenging his friends, Yuchiro longs to join the fight back, in the Japanese Imperial Demon Army.
By now, you’ll be probably thinking – let’s be honest! – of another recent anime which had vengeful humans fighting ravening monsters. That goes double given that the anime Seraph of the End is made by Studio WIT, the folks animating Attack on Titan. But while WIT’s Titan experience was surely a factor in the studio getting Seraph, let’s not take the analogy too far – after all, both series are part of an action-apocalypse genre going back decades. And there are already obvious differences. The Titans are mute man-eating Godzillas, whereas Seraph’s vampires are hatefully suave, human-sized sadists (though they aren’t the only menaces in the series). Seraph is also set in a recognisable near-future Tokyo, where the humans fight the vampires with supernatural weapons… but let’s not spoil too much.
WIT is still developing its identity as a studio. It grew out of Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell), much as Production I.G itself grew out of Tatsunoko nearly thirty years earlier. Titan showed that WIT could be a skilled adapter. Hajime Isayama, who writes the Titan manga, has even suggested the anime should be considered the definitive version of his story! But with Seraph, WIT has taken the highly unusual step of bringing the original writer on board, even while he’s composing the story in manga form.
That writer is Takaya Kagami, who was also working on the Seraph manga with Daisuke Furuya (storyboards) and Yamato Yamamoto (art). Kagami himself is primarily a light novel writer who’s produced two long series, A Dark Rabbit has Seven Lives and Legend of the Legendary Heroes. Both have been adapted as anime. It’s been announced that Kagami will supervise Seraph’s anime scripts through the entire show; he’s also drafting bits of story for the anime before those bits appear in his manga. It’s an elaborate way to co-ordinate an anime and manga which are being made simultaneously (hopefully avoiding filler!) Even if the anime and manga do eventually part company, we’ll know it’ll be in a way the original author approved.
The anime director is Daisuke Tokudo, whose CV may give some clues about what kind of show this will be. He’s previously been an episode director on action fantasies like Attack on Titan, Guilty Crown, Xam’d Lost Memories and a realistic anime disaster drama, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. The scriptwriter, Hiroshi Seko, is also stepping up. Having written individual episodes of shows like Titan and Terror in Resonance, Seko is writing all 24 episodes of Seraph of the End. Even with the manga writer guiding him along, that’s still quite an undertaking. Seko has also written a novel spun off from Attack on Titan, subtitled Lost Girls, which focuses on the pivotal characters of Mikasa and Annie.
As a manga, Seraph has already swarmed the sales charts, reaching the top ten in Japan and the top three in America. It’s spun off a series of prequel light novels, also written by the tireless Kagami – if the anime’s a success, there’s a ready-made film or video spinoff right there. Confidence in the property was high, given that its 24 TV episodes were on the slate from the start. There’s no cancelling this apocalypse…
Seraph of the End is released on UK Blu-ray by Anime Limited.