Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Seraph of the End
In the near future, a deadly virus suddenly wipes out all humans over the age of thirteen. The remaining children are taken in by the vampires, a deadly race of blood-hungering superbeings who dwell in fabulous cities beneath the earth and treat humans like livestock. Yuichiro yearns for the day when he can rise up and destroy his oppressors, and attempts escape with his family of orphans. Only Yu survives, but what he learns after fleeing the vampires' city makes it seem that his goal of killing them may be more than just a pipe dream.
Are you sick of vampires? Yuichiro is too, but he has a more compelling reason than market over-saturation. In the near future, a terrible virus wipes out all of adult (and teen) humanity, leaving Yu and his friends at the orphanage at the mercy of their new vampiric overlords. Far from taking in the orphaned humans, vampires see this as their opportunity to start their very own human herd in their secret underground cities, bringing the children there in order to feed on them. Daily bloodlettings are held and some kids are paid to go to a vampire's home and allow them to feed off the hoof, as it were. The compensation is great, but it's made clear that this is essentially prostitution, albeit with blood instead of sex. Eventually Yu and his fellows from the orphanage (children appear to live in whatever family groups they were in pre-virus) stage an escape attempt, with Yu as the only survivor. His flight from the city shows him that not only were the vampires treating the kids like livestock, but they were also hiding something pretty big from them, which casts even more suspicion on the bloodsuckers than before.
If this sounds like a cruel story, it is. More than that, Seraph of the End delights in its cruelty – the vampires are the sort of gleeful evil fiends who do more than send chills down your spine: they fill you with disgust. Scenes of horrible death aren't lingered over per se, but just a little too long is spent on them, just enough to make sure that you're upset and maybe a bit uncomfortable. This is all especially true of the first chapter, which is by far the most emotionally gruesome. Later chapters, which take place mostly after a time skip of four years, dial things back quite a bit, striving for a lighter tone. It almost works, but like Yu, readers are almost trapped in the memory of what came before, and the final scenes of the book give us good reason for that.
There is a fair amount of hopping around through time in this volume, and the pacing is very similar to another of Takaya Kagami's works released in English, albeit as an anime: The Legend of the Legendary Heroes. The flashing back and forth mostly works here, but there are points when you wish it would just proceed chronologically, most notably in the second chapter. Unlike its redundantly named predecessor, Seraph of the End is not based on a light novel, although it does have a novel counterpart featuring a different hero and taking place during the time Yu was in the vampire city; this may account for some assumptions made about reader knowledge of the past. (As an aside, Kagami is also responsible for the novels for A Dark Rabbit Has Seven Lives.) Like Legend, Seraph of the End is somewhat lacking in likable female characters, with female lead Shinoa harping on Yu's virginity (she does explain it, but it's still annoying) and just generally being unpleasant. Naturally your tolerance of her will vary, but she seems to go out of her way to not be nice rather than to actually help him fulfill his goals and requirements. In fact, on the whole the characters are the weakest part of this volume, with everyone sticking to one defining character trait for the most part, although we do see Yu's gooey center underneath his tough exterior as the book goes on.
Yamato Yamamoto's artwork is light on backgrounds outside of the vampire city but looks good nonetheless. Inside the city he gives a remarkable sense of space, as if this impossibly ornate cityscape can't quite reach the farthest echoes of its cavernous existence. There is a decent sense of movement (apart from one awkward running shot) and people are fairly distinct from one another. The color foldout (or mini-poster) is quite pretty, even if some of the perspective looks a little off.
Seraph of the End deals in vampires, mysterious prophecies, and wounded heroes, all things we've seen many times before. Despite that it really does work as an interesting story, one that it's easy to get into. It is unrelenting in its crueler aspects and doesn't always balance silly with serious very well, but it is still a good read and worth checking out if you're looking for something on the dark side.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Pulls you right into the story, good use of old tropes, and the idea of underground vampires is interesting. Lots of questions are raised, keeping you reading.
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