Lucky for me, one of Shonen Jump's most recent hits has an animated adaptation that's just wrapping up at this point. Reviews for it have been rather mixed at best, and having looked at the manga, I'm surprised it managed that much.
SERAPH OF THE END (Owari no Serafu), based on the light novel series by Takay Kagami, with art by Yamato Yamamoto, and storyboards by Daisuke Furuya. First published in 2012, and first published in North America in 2014.
Yuichiro lives in a ruined world. The majority of the world's population was killed off by a combination of a deadly virus and a vampire invasion. The only survivors are children, and most of them have been spirited underground to serve as blood farms. It's this world in which Yuichiro lives, where his only companions are his friend Mika and the other survivors from their orphanage. The two eventually decide to make a break for the surface world, but only Yuichiro manages to make it. Four years later, Yuichiro is itching to join the army of vampire hunters that live on the surface, but they feel that Yuichiro needs to learn the value of cooperation and patience. Before he can do that, though, he'll also need to learn the value of trust and friendship if he's going to survive his trials and strike back at the vampire menace.
I'm not an easy woman to scare, but if there's a single phrase in the world of manga that sends a chill down my spine it's "based on a light novel." More often than not it's a kiss of death for the quality of any given manga. More often then not, it guarantees that the story's ambitions will be sky-high, that it explain EVERYTHING to the audience in giant infodumps like they are idiots, and season all that with a few otaku-friendly ideas or archetypes that can easily be turned into shows or merchandise, and their transition into manga is often an awkward one. Seraph of the End is no exception to this rule, which means anyone who choses to read this is in for a rough time.
The biggest problem this story has is also its most inescapable one: the main character. Yuichiro is a pain from beginning to end. He's constantly angry, stubborn to a fault, and too cocky for his own good, and it's these three qualities which serve as the wellspring for all of his problems. From the very beginning, if he was willing to just let others into his life and to learn from them, he wouldn't have lost all his childhood friends and he wouldn't have to half-ass his way through his trials to become a vampire hunter. It certainly doesn't help that Yuichiro is clearly meant to be a knockoff of Attack on Titan's Eren Jaeger, but he's a poor one at that. Eren's anger comes from a more righteous place than Yuichiro's, and as Attack on Titan progresses, we see that Eren's own stubbornness and anger aren't necessarily positive qualities worth rewarding. They make him dangerous at times, and those same qualities sometimes get him into serious trouble. In comparison, Yuichiro is constantly rewarded for being stubborn and charging his way through his battles like he was Leeroy Jenkins reborn. He has no cause to change his ways when being his stupid, stubborn self gets him everything he wants anyways.
The rest of the story is no less derivative, it's just that it's derived more from light novel tropes in general than it is from anything specific. To start with, the majority of the story takes place at a high school. Yes, it might be a post apocalyptic world that's overrun with vampires and ruled under martial law, but the law of anime and manga averages demands that everything be set at a high school. You'd think that under such conditions it would be more like a military academy or training camp, but nope! For all intensive purposes, it's just like every other Japanese high school in every other anime and manga you can think of. OK, there's one big difference: apparently this school has a dungeon that's there solely for the purposes of testing new recruits. Maybe their school used to be the place where some of the kids from the Persona series used to go. There's also the matter of Yuichiro's classmate and superior officer, Mikaela. She's our token girl, but her primary purpose is that of Exposition Giver. At any given point, the story will stop dead in its tracks so that she can explain all the rules and details of their world in a fashion that's only slightly less awkward than starting each conversation with "As you know..." Admittedly, she endeared herself to me a little by snarking on Yuichiro at every opportunity for being both a loner and a virgin, but they weren't enough to save the story for me.
I feel like the writer wasn't so much writing an original story as he was grafting elements from other, more popular series together like the manga equivalent of Frankenstein's monster. There isn't much thought or consistency when it comes to either the plot or the cast, and the end result is both frustrating and awkward to read.
This might be the first time I've ever seen a separate credit for storyboards on a manga. Normally it's a task that's handled by the artist, and from what I see here I don't see much of a need for him. The only place where Furuya's skills are of any use are during the fight scenes. There he makes skillful use of both perspective and scale to give the fight sequences a sense of energy and flow that the rest of the art desperately needs. As for the art itself, there isn't a great deal to say. The character designs aren't half-bad, especially when it comes to their bold, angular eyes. On the other hand, they all tend to look alike around the face and the male characters look so similar that it can be hard to distinguish them in larger group shots. It also doesn't take much advantage of its setting. The story features both a giant Gothic underground city and a crumbling, overgrown Tokyo, but Yamamoto can barely be bothered to draw it most of the time. After all, why could you draw interesting settings when you can draw another high school?! No, I'm not going to get over that anytime soon. Overall, the art isn't bad, but its good qualities are overshadowed by its more mediocre ones.
Seraph of the End wastes whatever potential it might have had by cribbing too hard and too blatantly from others and by making the lead a moron who survives only because of authorial dictate. The show might be able to get by on flashy animation, but this one is just as dull and dead as the vampires they fight.
This series is published by Viz. This series is ongoing in Japan, with 8 volumes available. 5 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print. This series is also being currently serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, also available from Viz.