Guren Ichinose, heir to the Ichinose clan, is attending First Shibuya High School as a new freshman. While it may look like a normal high school on the outside, Guren knows of the dark secrets behind the facility; a special place where selected students are trained in the ways of dark arts and combat, ruled by high ranking clan officials. In order to plot his revenge against the Hiragi clan that took his beloved away from him, he has to suffer and survive through the trials pitted against him, while trying to hide his hidden strength and abilities.
Set before that fated day, before the trumpets of the apocalypse sounded and the destruction of mankind came to the world.
This is a story about how the world was before it came to an end.
Foreword: I’ve seen both the anime adaptation and I’ve read the original manga. I’ll do my best to keep major events in the original out of the review.
Seraph of the End – Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen is a prequel to the original Seraph of the End manga and anime adaptation, set a year leading up to the Apocalypse and approximately eight years before the events in the original manga. The light novel takes an odd setting approach for the events leading up the apocalypse, having only a couple of moments that really shine in the light novel; but the real test is whether or not the journey to those noteworthy moments is worth reading for.
Like I said earlier, this light novel takes place before the apocalypse hit the world and it sets our main characters in a high school. It’s an odd spot for the story to begin but it happens anyway. Most of the events that happen in the school are rather forgettable and are used as a way for our characters to interact with each other. There’s quite a number of moments where Guren encounters a situation where he’s being bullied, and he’ll state to himself not to lash out in the terms of anger for the sake of hiding his strength. Long story short, it’s about a bullied teenager in high school, with hints of action and fantasy. In fact, our first actual mission doesn’t come until the last chapter of this two book light novel.
Guren Ichinose is our main protagonist in this light novel prequel, and throughout the volume, we get to see him struggle through the clan based hierarchical high school. The main theme is oriented around the idea of power and how to obtain it. Guren’s objective is to take down the Hiragi clan but as the story goes on, he comes into conflict about the methods used to obtain it. And with a certain character having the same objective but using very different procedures, it pulls him deeper down into an internal strife as he tries to understand what is right.
“It was my fault. For not having more power. For being born into such a lowly clan.”
When the plot isn’t covering Guren directly. The other characters are covered in their clan backgrounds and their relationship to Guren. There’s not much characterization for those other side characters except a couple of individuals getting a very short spotlight. For example, Shinya, one of Guren’s classmates, goes into his own family history as being adopted Hiragi family member and its negative implications while Sayuri, Guren’s guardian, goes into her faithful loyalty towards Guren ever since he was a kid.
The illustrations in the Seraph of the End light novel are the most distinct I’ve read so far, using a blurred mixture of colors and patterns for textures. The color illustrations have a murky color palette to reflect the darker aspect of the light novel, and even the brighter colors have a tint of gray mixed with them. The regular illustrations on the other hand look very similar to manga drawings, using patterned textures for the clothing and shadows.
Seraph of the End – Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen is a light novel prequel that covers themes of power and control for dominance. However for a good amount of the time, the novel spends its time establishing Guren’s relationships through uninteresting high school adventures. Only in little segments and at the ending parts of the volume does the light novel show off its high points.
Rating: Average – Recommended*
* = If you are a fan of the original series, I would recommend this book.
Afterword: Reading the light novel gave me the exact same feeling as the anime adaptation. If you put the time and effort into caring for these characters, you will be rewarded at the very end. In this particular case, 268 pages until a very good chapter…
Author: Takaya Kagami
Illustrator: Yamato Yamamoto
Translator: James Balzer
English Publisher: Vertical Inc.