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June 2, 2014

Bento Bako Weekly: Seraph of the End volume 1

seraphoftheend1Title: Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign
Author: Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto (art), Daisuke Furuya (storyboards)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Volume: Volume 1, $9.99
Vintage: 2012 by Shueisha, June 2014 by Viz
Genre: Supernatural, action, vampires

Humanity has fallen and vampires now reign. A deadly virus killed a large part of the population, wiping out anyone over the age of thirteen. The vampires took the surviving children underground and turned them into their personal blood banks. Some children, like Yuichiro Hyakuya, want to fight back, but lore states that the vampires are seven times stronger than humans, so killing them seems impossible. His foster brother Mikaela tries to convince him its hopeless, but only incites Yuichiro’s ire when he runs off with noble vampire Lord Ferid. Mika has his reasons, however, which he soon reveals – he’s been plotting a way to lead their family of orphans to freedom, and has stolen what he needs from Lord Ferid’s mansion. With freedom only a corridor away, everything come crashing down when Lord Ferid arrives and begins killing the children. When only Mika and Yuichiro are left, Mika tells his brother to run. In the end, only Yuichiro makes it out, and he’s met by a group of soldiers who claim everything he knows about the outside world is a lie. Lt. Colonel Guren Ichinose claims Yuichiro’s appearance is part of some prophecy to defeat the vampires, enrolls him in school, and gives him a very particular condition before he’ll allow the boy into the prestigious Moon Demon Company. Since Yuichiro is awful at working together with the other soldiers or following orders, he must make friends at the school before he’ll be allowed onto a vampire extermination team. Shinoa Hiragi also enrolls in his class to keep an eye on him and make sure he learns the meaning of cooperation. Almost immediately he finds himself with an accidental friend when he comes to the aid of a bullied classmate. Unfortunately he’s not allowed to harm civilians or his suspension will be extended, so he finds himself bullied right along with Yoichi. Yuichiro is obsessed with getting revenge for his family, and is drawn to Yoichi who claims to want revenge for his sister who died protecting him. The small moment of bonding is interrupted by a vampire attack, and Yuichiro rushes off to kill it despite Shinoa’s orders. Guren arrives, and when it’s pointed out that Yuichiro has inadvertently made a friend at school, he assigns him to a vampire extermination unit. To Yuichiro’s disdain, he also has to remain in school, but another opportunity to show his skills arrives when a classmate wanders into the Forbidden Chamber on campus. The hidden room is actually a training ground for the army, and inside Yuichiro finds the next step toward getting his revenge.

I actually kind of liked this one. It reminds me of Blue Exorcist, which is a series I’ve enjoyed. The premise isn’t that complicated, but it’s interesting and plays out well so far. The hero is loaded with most shonen protagonist clichés – short tempered, easily embarrassed by emotions and friendships, slightly abrasive, secretly good-hearted, impatient, eager to fight. What makes him (or any protagonist) stand out is his specific motivation – revenge for his family of orphans slaughtered by vampires. Interestingly, Yuichiro realizes that his revenge is likely the last thing his family would have wanted, but he selfishly plows toward it anyway. And given the volume’s twist ending, that’s probably for the best. The clichés continue, since the bulk of the volume is about Yuichiro making accidental friends while he pushes toward his goals. Those goals being to join the Moon Demon Company, and the annihilation of every vampire. Remarkably he already meets one goal in the first volume…sort of. He’s a member of the Moon Demon Company, but practically in name only. The Lt. Colonel doesn’t believe Yuichiro is ready for the next steps, like bonding with a cursed weapon, and it’s clear the young man still has issues working with others and following orders. He wants to work on his own and he wants to be alone, so no one else gets hurt, including himself. The friendship with Yoichi is kind of foisted upon him by the friendly classmate, but finally making a friend does seem to break some of the chains that bind him to his former family. He’s kept other people shut out for so long, then Yoichi starts to weasel his way in. And, I guess, Yoichi is also made a member of the Moon Demon Company? It’s not 100% clear, but Shinoa doesn’t hold back talking about classified information in front of him either, so maybe he is part of the organization somehow. Speaking of Shinoa, she’s the only thing really bothering me right now (aside from the way-too-fast pace of things for a first volume). Characters like her, the female mentors and guides, tend to either be over-sexed or made into little loli girls. Shinoa is the latter, though at least her face is mature looking, which reveals her greater experience (she already has a cursed weapon, after all). The art is solid, with excellent line work and inking, and overall good character designs (helloooo Guren). Although unfortunately we haven’t yet had a clear, solid view of the world’s demons, or how monstrous the vampires can become. All in good time, I’m sure.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

Review copy provided by Viz Media .

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