Reviewby Theron Martin,
Episodes 1-12 streaming
Two different groups of people find themselves in a strange land without a clear understanding of where they are or how they got there. They eventually are told the truth: the Earth was faced with a potentially catastrophic meteor strike, and they were all put into cryosleep as an emergency back-up plan to ensure humanity's survival. Now the Spring Team and the Summer B Team - two of five teams of seven put into cryosleep, hence the project designation "7 Seed" - must forge their way in this new world with or without the aid of their designated guides. As they seek to both survive and find the other teams, they must contemplate why they were chosen, what they have left behind, and whether or not those they meet are friendly or not. For one former teenage couple, even more is at stake: learning that their love is actually still alive on the other team.
Netflix has commonly labeled anime titles it licenses as “Original Netflix Productions” even when they have aired on Japanese TV, but occasionally one of its titles actually is made specifically for Netflix. This series, which adapts the first part of a manga which ran from 2001 through 2017, is one such title. It debuted everywhere at the same time and all in one batch, in what is presumably the first of at least two parts. That's because this installment is marked as “Part 1” and because the story just ends at the end of episode 12, with a cliffhanger shortly before its ending but nothing that constitutes even an episode break, much less a seasonal break, as its final scene. In fact, it does not resolve anything or complete any kind of story arc. That would be even more frustrating if the series actually had its act together in the first place.
The first episode constitutes the single biggest problem on that point. The episode is so busy introducing a few (literal) raftloads of characters that it does not bother to lay out its essential premise; that does not come until episode 2, when the truth about what's going on is finally revealed to both characters and audience. It also throws in a contextless scene – one where an authoritarian figure is being shot by a bunch of underlings – which will not make any sense until several episodes later. Once the premise is finally revealed, it raised a boatload of practical questions, but unanswered questions of that nature is par for the course for one of these “sleeper” series. Some elaboration on those questions does play out very slowly over the next ten episodes, with the pacing of the reveals definitely being anticipatory of a story much longer than 12 episodes. That's fine if more content is planned to be animated but a miscalculation otherwise.
The result of the scenario is a sizable active cast which only gets bigger as the series progresses. What starts out as one and a half groups of survivors soon expands to two, then to three, then adds in a random survivor of the fourth group, then later adds in a fifth group for good measure (which also explains the first episode scene I mentioned earlier). And that is without counting the whole volume of characters which appear in lengthy flashbacks. Along the way some of the groups subdivide, making for even more smaller groups, and the writing is wholly unable to manage them all. Early on the lion's share of attention goes to the groups involving Arashi and Natsu, with both of them splitting time as the viewpoint character in those scenes, but in the later stages Hana and the groups involving her come to dominate outside of the flashbacks. Along the way some characters who seem important early on even wholly disappear for lengthy periods of the series.
The writing does try to develop the characters that it focuses on, but the results are uneven, with some characters getting backgrounds extensively developed but not their personalities. Most of one episode is even spent on a flashback featuring a character who is already dead when one of the groups encounters him. That flashback does provide valuable information which fills in a lot of holes, so it is not an egregious use of time, but it does sap valuable time for the still-living cast. The composition of each group also raises big questions about why they were chosen the way they were; some definitely have valuable skills (one is an architect, for instance), but too many characters have little or no demonstrable value so far, and why include children in this scenario? Making one of the groups a bunch of rejects, under the premise that chaos is sometimes more effective than order, definitely has some merits, but here it seems more like an excuse to have a bunch of characters with questionable qualifications together. At least the naming themes are consistent, with each member of each team having at least some part of their name related to their group's seasonal label; for instance, on the Spring Team, Haru means “spring” and Hana means “flower.”
The editing of the series is also a problem. In a few too many places the transitions between groups are too abrupt, and some connecting scenes are outright skipped, giving the impression that a lot of content is being boiled down into these 12 episodes. The length and timing of the flashbacks also leaves a bit to be desired. At times the series shows that it is capable of respectable character interplay and even some satisfying drama, but not consistently enough. This is only the second title that Yukio Takahashi has directed (the other being the much more light-hearted Dog and Scissors), and the lack of experience helming more ambitious fare like this shows.
The series does not shine on the production front either, though it has less major problems there. The CG enhancements look weakest in the depictions of fire and in the meteors shown in the opener but are at least passable in animating a boat and train cars. Character designs are diverse (except where cousins are involved), distinct, and generally attractive, and the animation effort by GONZO shows few problems with staying on-model, but action animation as a whole is nothing special and the series is at times too conspicuous about making common animation shortcuts. Background illustrations may be the series' visual strong point, though curiously the color scheme and lighting effects tend towards the brighter side, which seems at odds with the bleaker bleak tone of the series. The series is capable of being graphic – there is graphic violence and some gruesome descriptions and visual content, as well as an attempted rape scene – but that is less frequent than might be expected for a survivalist story. Fan service is effectively limited to a single shower scene. The supporting musical effort is wholly unremarkable and unmemorable.
Netflix is providing the title with its typical array of subtitle and dub options, including the latter in English. Unlike most of Netflix's anime acquisitions, the English dub for this one is provided by Sentai Filmworks. The cast is primarily populated with prolific Sentai/ADV regulars, though it also includes the likes of Funimation regulars Jad Saxton and Josh Grelle. The dub in general is a fully satisfactory effort, with possibly the best performance given by Grelle in a limited role as the feature of one flashback arc. Allison Sumrall also impresses with her singing in a smaller role in that same arc.
Ultimately, the one thing that makes 7SEEDS watchable is its storyline potential. For all of its messy execution, it is saved by its compelling story elements: the star-crossed lovers seeking to find each other, how pregnancy fits into this new world, why certain characters were accepted, how these people can come together or fall apart in making a new world, and how the rumored Reaper fits into all of this. That's just enough to get me to watch a second part if it ever gets made.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Compelling story elements, some good character development
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