What Makes Seraph of the End Enjoyable

People rightly point out the flaws in Seraph of the End.  The middle of the show exhibits many high school anime tropes, some facets of the animation can be lacking despite the incredibly immersive backgrounds, the plot is not so straightforward, and it may be accused of being an Attack on Titan look-alike.  However, with Attack on Titan, the story only dragged me along by way of suspense.  After nine episodes, the only character I cared for was Mikasa, the world was too horrific to be loved, the society was filled with too many treacherous and cowardly people for me to root for their survival, and the bold lines of animation and still frames bothered me.  With the exception of the use of still frames, Seraph of the End proved to be the exact opposite and provided some interesting ideas for me to chew on.

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Recently, my friends introduced me to a fascinating book called The Way of Men by Jack Donovan.  They had been prompted to recommend it by my article “The Post-Modern Fallacy on Manliness.”  (A while back, I mentioned that I was contemplating an article on the topic of manliness, and the result of that meditation seemed to fit Aquilon’s Eyrie more.)  Few works explain male psychology so well.  In particular, Donovan displays a perspicacious degree of Classical learning (he quotes Cicero, St. Augustine, Livy, and others) and knowledge of psychological and sociological studies.  Though, I will say here that his atheistic perspective gives an incomplete picture of man, and one wonders whether the tactical virtues of strength, courage, mastery, and honor are a good replacement for the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, prudence, and justice.

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Essentially, Donovan’s tactical virtues relate to the most important purpose of men throughout history: defending the perimeter from a nation’s enemies.  Only a very small fraction of men in commercial society perform this role.  However, men still dream about defending the perimeter.  Even if their career happens to be sitting at a desk all day solving computer problems, they get home and play violent video games, watch action movies, or otherwise try to place themselves vicariously in the shoes of people who place themselves in harm’s way.  These stories usually feature a small team.  Usually, one can come to know only between three to five people intimately, about same number as the army organizes into a fire team.  In primitive times, one would tend to place complete faith in such a team–think of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.

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Attack on Titan makes the viewer try to learn about too many characters at once for us to properly get to know them, while Seraph of the End is tightly focused on five very lovable characters–and nothing enables vicarious enjoyment like love!  Furthermore, while Attack on Titan better reflects modern society with the vast numbers of people seeking their own safety, it does not carry the audience back to a time when men were forced to fight for their survival.  What am I trying to say?  That Seraph of the End is more archetypal, like a Norse or Greek myth.  Adding to that archetypal sense, humanity’s population has been reduced to a smaller size and dwell within a curiously alien and untamed landscape–curiously alien because, though the cities and buildings are man-made, the heroes really have no connection to the modern, commercial society which begat them.

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Actually, the vampires have more of a connection to the destroyed cities surrounding them than human beings.  Why?  Because the way they think resembles the worst school of thought to derive from modern society: Communism.  In the Communist societies of the 20th century, we saw a sharp divide between the ruling class and the working class–much sharper than that seen in countries ruled by monarchies in previous centuries.  After all, to the vampires, one is either a noble or livestock.  No middle class exists in the vampire’s society!  Also, Queen Krul Tepes gives human greed as the reason for making war on the free remnants of humanity, which reminds one of how communists accuse capitalists of greed.  Then again, the vampires’ refusal to see the divine image in human beings, rejection of patriarchy, and considering themselves as the highest beings reflect the Marxist form of atheism.  (Yes, the rejection of patriarchy stems from the rejection of God the Father.  Though, the curious thing about heaven is that the best way to align oneself to the Father’s will is through seeking the aid and intercession of the Queen of Heaven, Mary the Mother of God.)  Unlike human society’s enthusiasm for childbirth, vampires don’t seem to be able to reproduce.  New vampires must come from human beings.  This reminds me about how left leaning people tend to have fewer children on average.  This impels leftists to try to gain control of education in order to subvert the children of conservative families away from the beliefs of their parents.

Only appropriate response to living in a communist society.

Only appropriate response to living in a communist society.

That sums up why I found Seraph of the End unique.  Besides that, it was fun to watch Yuuichiro enthusiastically slaying vampires and to be immersed in a world which feels similar to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.  For what reasons did my dear readers keep watching this show?

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15 comments on “What Makes Seraph of the End Enjoyable

  1. JekoJeko says:

    I think I got the vibe you’re talking about from the opening episode – the world felt like it had a lot of scope for exploring different sides of humanity than AoT had (being, overall, quite limited in that respect and relying more, as you said, on suspense). It was mainly the overload of tropes, aside from the AoT-lookalike trio, and the overbearing exposition of plot that took me out of being interest in the show’s implications and being bored by where it predictably went each episode.

    I can’t say I found any of the characters lovable, unfortunately, but then again people have completely hated the characters in my favourite shows – it all comes down to taste, I guess, and most of the dialogue and action, to me, felt more like an echo of the shounen genre rather than a new voice for it to speak from. Judging by the interesting connotations you and other critics have drawn from the show, I think it could have done a lot better without the cliches it establishes itself with, drawing less attention to them and more to the dynamic world that really should have had more of a spotlight than just blunt exposition, at least to begin with (since my opinions on the show can only cover the first three episodes).

    I don’t know, I’ll have to give it a go one day, probably after I overhear the response to the second cour.

    Thanks for sharing my article!

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    • I do wish that they explored the world of Seraph of the End more, but I hope that they get around to that in the next season. Yuuichiro is similar to the main character in AoT, but he eventually gets out of revenge mode–probably something about his sword’s demon telling him how happy this desire made her–and becomes more concerned about protecting his new family than avenging his old one. Also, Yuu softens much more in five episodes than the other fellow ever will. But, I can see why you might not like these characters.

      You’re welcome! Yours was one of the best articles I read on Seraph of the End–even if on the negative side!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MIB says:

    Good article.

    I must confess I’m not smart enough to follow or comment on the key points you raised but I will say that I was a little disheartened, after the thrilling opening episodes, to see the show fall into the old anime trap of pandering to the status quo – vis-a-vis the academy episodes. I had flashbacks to Blue Exorcist – which is a great show btw – with Yu basically supplanting Rin Okumura and rival Shiho standing in for Ryuji Suguro!

    Thankfully things picked up once training was over and the true battles began but it does illustrate a problem with anime that many writers don’t feel confident in striking out on their own, or maybe are encouraged by their editors to stick to the familiar material as to not alienate fans looking for a quick anime/manga fix.

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    • Thank you! For this article, I might have put too much pre-writing into it; so, having reworked these ideas over and over to myself, I wrote too concisely for other people to follow. Basically, Seraph of the End reflects many of the ideas Donovan’s book had about primitive societies, especially how men would form gangs for the protection of their tribe. In doing so, the show perhaps evokes a subconscious desire in the male psyche to do the same, which adds to the vicarious enjoyment of the show. As for the other thing I found enjoyable, the vampires remind me of communists, which makes me root for the heroes even more. 🙂

      The show certainly had a very unoriginal middle. And, I do think part of it has to do with editors saying to their mangaka to stick with what has worked. But, with many of the high school tropes out of the way, I hope that the next season will be more interesting.

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  3. […] In his celebration of Seraph of the End, Medieval Otaku mentions the atheistic view of the series’ vampires. [Medieval Otaku] […]

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  4. marthaurion says:

    Small correction about the show: The vampires have a distinction between a regular class (basically the grunts that everyone in the main cast was able to beat easily) and the noble class (which caused trouble for even Guren). This regular class is arguably a middle class of sorts as they gain the benefits of being a vampire unlike human livestock, but don’t have the power of a noble. So there is a class structure within the vampires themselves.

    I was under the impression that communism as an ideology intended on dissolving the class system. While it’s possible that in practice, the creation of two classes occurs, you shouldn’t characterize an ideology based on one example in practice. Also, vampires believing they are the highest beings is actually more consistent with Christianity, which teaches that man is made in God’s image.

    Also, I’m surprised that you would compare the vampires to an atheistic society. The humans seem like the better analogue to the Christian characterization of atheists to me…they were willing to perform human experimentation to figure out new weapons they could use against the vampires.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One can argue that there are distinctions among the vampires to some extent. But, I see these lower class vampires as more like servants of the nobles than an autonomous middle class. One of Marxism’s goals is to abolish classes, but in practice a ruling class always forms in Communist countries while the majority of the rest live in poverty. This has been the case in Russia, North Korea, China, and many others I’m sure.

      Concerning Christian doctrine, the angels have always been considered higher than humanity in the chain of being. There are special cases where certain saints have a higher status than all or some angels. For example, the humanity united to the Godhead in Christ is higher than the angels and St. Mary is the Queen of Heaven. But, human beings are only the highest beings in physical reality. I don’t think that the vampires recognize a higher spiritual reality; otherwise, they would be forced to recognize human beings as persons also.

      It is true that one sees religion in neither among vampires nor human beings. Using Human experimentation in order to develop weapons is not particularly Christian, unless Yuuichiro deliberately risks his own life for the good of the whole–which is not the case here. I’ll have to develop my argument on this point more in the future. Thanks for your comment!

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      • marthaurion says:

        Yeah, but isn’t saying that communism is evil because countries distort the ideology similar to saying that religion is evil because some people are extremists? Similarly, I don’t know if communists tend to be atheists, but even if they did have a tendency to be atheists, that doesn’t mean that communism is somehow an atheist principle.

        I mean…vampires similarly think of themselves as the pinnacle of physical beings. I don’t see how that’s any different than the Christian doctrine. We can’t really assume they don’t submit to some divine entity. For all we know, they could believe they’re doing their god’s work by purging the humans and claiming dominance of the Earth (similar to current human thought).

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      • Well, with religion or political ideologies, we usually see the adherents of these worldviews as the their representatives. Of course, some representatives more accurately represent their movement than others. In Catholicism, the saints are the best representatives of religion, and the Church consistently honors them and tells its followers to imitate them. So, when someone tries to blame Christianity for slavery, we can point to various saintly pontiffs who routinely emancipated slaves and the movement to abolish slavery in the Middle Ages as being more in the spirit of Christianity.

        On the other hand, we can look at the founder of communism, Karl Marx, and see opposition to religion, atheism, and support of rebellion in his writings. His contemporary adherents, especially Engels, held the same attitude, and communists have been violent since the Paris Commune in 1871 through the 20th century. But, you are right on this: though all devoted communists are atheists, not all atheists are communists.

        “For all we know, they could believe they’re doing their god’s work by purging the humans and claiming dominance of the Earth (similar to current human thought).” Well, let’s go back to the idea of there existing two sorts of rational beings under Christian doctrine: human beings and angels. Both have the divine image because both have intellect, reason, and free will. Our relationship is characterized by good will. If another species of rational beings were discovered, we should also owe them our good will unless they proved intent on doing us harm. If the vampires have a god which tells them to exploit and kill human beings, it must perforce be an evil god and therefore a false god. Yet, very often people do grave harm to other people because they do not believe they have to answer a Higher Authority. But, I am curious to see whether the second season will explicate whether vampires are intent on exploiting and killing humans from an evil philosophy or an evil religion.

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      • marthaurion says:

        It sounds like you’re trying to say that because the saints are a positive representative of Christianity, they are therefore the appropriate representative of Christianity. Why would the proper representative not be the underlying ideologies, as they remain the most objective? In that sense, I would argue that while Christianity has many flawed ideologies, there are some tenets that promote positive behavior, so it would be hard to call it necessarily “evil”. Similarly, while communism has its flaws in practice, I would hesitate on calling it necessarily evil because it is founded on ideas of fairness, which is something we should strive for, even if not in the sense that the ideology proposes.

        That still doesn’t answer my question of how it’s different for a vampire to say they are the highest being and for a human to say they are the highest of physical beings.

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      • To fully understand an movement, one needs to see how its members act and to compare their actions to their tenets. Sometimes an ideology overreaches, and human nature proves incapable of fulfilling the goals set by it. At other times, it is useful to compare its members’ actions to their ideology in order to test for hypocrisy or lies.

        Among Catholics, we have the saints to show that it is possible to conform to the commandments and counsels of God. Ordinary devout persons also advance in holiness, though they may not achieve the same level of sanctity in this life. Furthermore, we find that the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the Church Councils, Doctors of the Church, and orthodox theologians all support the concept of sanctity and charity which the saints practice as the goal of human life. So, doctrine and human action have a correlation: there is neither hypocrisy nor impossible idealism in the Christianity.

        With communism, one must make the same comparison between Marxist tenets and Marxists. They say that they wish to make a classless society. Revolution is their means for establishing this society. Revolution requires leaders, and these leaders never step down after gaining power. So, Marx was naïve about human nature in this regard. This desire to overthrow the existing order has always included religion as one of its targets. Marx himself was very hostile to religion—the opiate of the people, in his opinion. This same hostility toward religion is so prevalent among his followers and even the writings of the first communists that it cannot be separated from the movement.

        You’re right that I did not explain the chief difference between Christianity’s understanding of man at the top of the physical order and the vampire’s understanding of themselves at the top. But, the background to my answer is at least there: vampires and human beings are both at the top of physical created order for the simple reasons that both races/species are made up of persons. Any being in the image and likeness of God is a person, which image consists of intellect, free will, and reason. To borrow from Kant, persons are ends in themselves, so it is immoral to use them as means. Thus, people are separated from the rest of the animal kingdom and are at the top of the physical order. Even though vampires may be stronger than human beings, that does not make human beings less persons than these vampires or give the vampires rights over human beings.

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      • marthaurion says:

        Wait…can you really state that there is no hypocrisy or impossible idealism in Christianity? That seems like the type of statement that needs some qualification. I really don’t want to attack your religion because that’s not what I commented to do, but that seems like such a core part of your argument and I can’t attempt to refute it without saying things that I’m guessing will cause offense. Can I just get away with saying I disagree with that statement as is and it would need to be qualified with a set of conditions before I could accept it as a premise?

        That being said, it feels like you’re talking about ideologies as single, immutable entities and the point I’m trying to get across is that while ideologies do have specific core beliefs, they are also composed of several key tenets. I’m just proposing that rather than rejecting an ideology as “evil” or as you said, “the worst school of thought to derive from modern society”, we should be open-minded enough to accept that while in practice, an ideology can be distorted by human nature, there are still many things we can learn from its tenets in theory.

        Oh, so when you say divine image, you actually mean an image of a divine? My mistake. Basically, are you saying that since humans share the appearance of our god, we are therefore deemed the highest of physical beings? And since vampires share that appearance they should necessarily treat humans the same way as humans would treat other humans? I guess I somewhat understand that…however, how can we assert ourselves as the image of our god when god by definition is not tangible?

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      • Yes, I really believe that there is no hypocrisy in Christianity. Generally, when Christians act badly, it can be shown that their bad actions don’t derive from the desire to please God but from political, greedy, or selfish motives or a delusion of some kind. Of course, I must confess to being very biased on this question. You’re free to give examples of Christians being hypocritical from a pure and correct desire to serve God, but I might not feel inclined to defend the actions of Protestants or Orthodox Christians–only Catholics! 🙂

        As for impossible idealism, I must confess that it is impossible to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ’s virtue perfectly; though, He is our example of how to live a good life. However, the Church does acknowledge that human beings are sinful and requires that we avoid grave sins absolutely and venial sins as much as humanly possible. When we do sin, we are called to confess, do penance, and strive to live virtuously for the good of other people and ourselves. This attitude seems to avoid impossible idealism by setting a high standard, acknowledging human limitations, and then providing the means for people to persevere in faith and good works.

        Concerning ideologies, it generally is impossible that there is not some truth in even rather erroneous ideologies. To use communism as an example, Marx writes very tellingly about the plight of a worker in the industrial revolution and on the theme of how the worker feels alienated from his work. Also, the idea that each should work and give to others according to their ability has a parallel in the Acts of the Apostles: “And all that they believed, were together, and had all things in common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as everyone had need” (2:44-45). Yet, the key difference between Christianity and Marxism on this point is that Christianity persuades, while Marxism compels people to charity by the threat of government force. Christianity still has monastic communities where goods are held in common, but all Christians are not forced to live this way. The Marxist proposes to take control of government and force his way upon all society, which has always led to violence. Resorting to force rather than persuasion has made communism “the worst school of thought to derive from modern society,” resulting in over 100 million deaths in the past century.

        If one removed the themes of revolution and control of society by a centralized government–communism’s two worst facets, one would not have communism anymore but another ideology.

        Yes, you definitely understand what I mean by divine image, except that I would emphasize that there is only one Divine, God, and our likeness to God is in our souls rather than our bodies–for Divinity has no body.

        God may not be tangible, but it is possible to know things about God even without the help of revelation. For example, Aristotle reasoned that all things in existence are or were set in motion by other objects acting upon them. However, if everything has been caused or moved by another thing, what is the first thing that put them into motion? The answer must be a unmoved Prime Mover, which Aristotle calls God. The Prime Mover is necessarily a self mover, because nothing forces it to act in a certain way but it does so of its own volition. A self mover differs from an inanimate object or plant, which requires another object to put it in motion, or an animal which responds to stimuli according to instinct. To be a self mover, the object would need at least reason, intellect, and free will; otherwise, its choices and movement would be subject to factors outside of itself. Since people have the qualities of the Prime Mover which make us also self movers, philosophy can show that we are in the image of God in this regard. Of course, the difference in the level of freedom between God and man is immense, but we can still claim to have the image or shadow of His ability to choose.

        Then again, you could say that Aristotle’s proof for a Prime Mover or St. Thomas Aquinas’ First Way of the Quinque Viae, which I have tried to describe, is utterly wrong. But, that is one way philosophy without the aid of revelation can show that persons are in the image of the divine.

        That was my effort at trying to be succinct on complex topics. 🙂 Looking forward to your reply.

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      • marthaurion says:

        Well, I’ve never liked the argument that Christians who perform bad acts in the name of Christianity are “bad Christians”. I feel like the fact that they are able to use the name of Christianity in a way that others would call “wrong” is a problem in and of itself because it gives them a sort of power (maybe “justification” is a better word?) that they shouldn’t really be allowed to have.

        There’s an argument to be made about your criticism of Marxism forcing their ideals on society when Christians are equally guilty of this…more prominently in the past with the church trying to control all facets of society, but it still exists today. In fact, if Christians tightly held on to their belief, but didn’t try to force it on others, I would personally have no problem with them.

        Your argument about the characteristics of the Prime Mover only seems to predicate that the Prime Mover must possess some form of rationality and intellect. We’ve found proof of rational thought (specifically studies on empathy would be the ones I’m most familiar with) in non-human animals (fellow primates and rats). It seems somewhat arrogant of us to believe we’re the only ones with rational thought if we don’t at least try to communicate with other animals enough to find out whether we’re actually alone.

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      • The nice thing about Catholicism vs. other denominations is that we have a central governing body, the Magisterium, which can hand down objective judgments on the actions of other Catholics. This does make it easier to differentiate those following true doctrine from those straying from it. Though, I must confess that certain actions which would not be ignored nowadays were in the past. For example, Charlemagne’s forced conversion of the Saxons was argued against by certain scholars like Alcuin, and I think Charlemagne did eventually stop forced conversions, but it was not condemned by the ruling body of the Catholic Church of the time–to my knowledge, at any rate.

        When comparing forcing people to adhere to Christian doctrine vs. Marxism, it must be remembered that government, not the Church, forces people to adhere to certain laws. Ecclesiastics rule their flocks in the same way as the Roman senate once ruled the people: by moral authority. (The senate could not actually pass laws, only vote on them with the rest of the Roman people.) Where the opinions of the Church are respected, they can sway the people. Where their opinions are not respected (as in most of Europe and America), they hold little power. Most of the abuses one sees done in the name of Christianity are committed by absolute monarchs. In general, I ascribe to Aristotelian/Ciceronian/American notions that a good government has a balance between an energetic chief executive, stable upper class or aristocracy, and representation for the lower class–as we see in either a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy. This balance of power tends both to curtail abuses of power and to allow ways to redress wrongs. Usually, abuses of power occur more frequently when a dictator or king has absolute power or when there is no upper class, as in a pure democracy–which many writers say tends toward a dictatorship as soon as a popular demagogue rises up.

        So, I see oppression from either the Marxist or the Christian side as more of a problem with government than with religion. Christians will insist upon Christian morality being reflected in the laws, but a Christian government can afford to be more lax because, as St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, punishing certain sins would actually produce more injustice than leaving the punishment up to God–“Summa ius, Summa iniuria.” On the contrary, a Marxist government, which would exist either as a pure democracy or a dictatorship, has no higher authority with whom to leave the punishment of certain crimes. A Christian nation can leave the punishment of, say, atheists, fornicators, blasphemers, etc. to God. Contrariwise, a Marxist government must punish all dissidents within its courts, otherwise–to the Marxist mind–they go unpunished. This always produces abuses of power–the same kind one might also find in a Christian absolute monarchy. But, Christians are not obliged to create absolute monarchies in the same way that Marxist doctrine obliges the Marxist to create a pure democracy, which ends in dictatorship.

        Some animals have more empathy than certain people, and others have great problem solving skills, but I’m not sure if I would call these reason. The first quality is a kind of affection or love, and the latter could not rise to the level of human reason, i.e. the ability to philosophize. Of course, animals could not communicate their philosophy to us even if they could philosophize; but then, nature would be bestowing reason upon a creature uselessly. I know that various parts of an animal’s or human being’s anatomy are considered useless. Yet, the facility to philosophize being uselessly present in a dolphin or chimpanzee or another animal seems impossible to me.

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Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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