7 Seeds (2018) Netflix Anime Review

7 Seeds (7SEEDS セブンシーズ Sebun Shīzu) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yumi Tamura. It has been published by Shogakukan since 2001, first in the magazine Betsucomi, then in Flowers. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic future, long enough after a meteoritehits Earth that new species have evolved, and follows the struggles of five groups of young adults to survive after they are revived from cryonic preservation. The title comes from seven caches of supplies, called “seeds”, laid down by the Japanese government. In 2007, the series won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōjo manga. An anime adaptation by Gonzo for Netflix was announced and released on June 28, 2019. A second season has been announced.

Plot

When astronomers predict that the Earth will be hit by a meteorite, the world leaders meet to develop a plan for human survival called the Seven Seeds project. Each country will preserve number of healthy young people through cryogenics, which will allow them to survive the devastation of the impact. After a computer determines that Earth is once again safe for human life, it will revive each group.

The Japanese government creates five groups of survivors named Winter, Spring, Summer A, Summer B, and Fall. Each group consists of seven members, who are not told about what will happen before they are put in cryonic preservation, and one adult guide who is trained in wilderness survival. These groups are scattered across Japan: the Summer groups in southern and northern Kyūshū, Fall in western Honshū, Spring in central Honshū near Tokyo, and Winter in Hokkaidō. The project also prepares sealed caches containing seeds and instructional books near the “seven Fuji”. These seven Fuji are not related to the famous Mount Fuji, but are regional landmarks also named Fuji:

  • Bungo Fuji in Ōita Prefecture is Mt. Yufudake, where the cache is marked by a statue of the Buddha Dainichi;
  • Ogino Fuji in Kanagawa Prefecture is Mt. Kyogatake, where the cache is marked by a statue of Monjubosatsu, the bodhisattva Manjusri;
  • Kobe Fuji in Hyogo Prefecture is Mount Futatabi of the Rokkō Mountains;
  • Natori Fuji in Miyagi Prefecture is Mt. Taihaku, near Sendai, where the cache is marked by a statue of Kokūzō;
  • Akan Fuji in Hokkaidō is Mt. Meakandake, where the cache is marked by a statue of Senju-Kannon, the goddess of mercy.

Awoken from the cryogenic sleep many years later, the young men and women find themselves amidst a hostile environment bare of any human life. Their former home country Japan has greatly changed. Completely alone, they can depend only on themselves to survive in the new world.

7 Seeds takes place an unknown number of years after the collision of a large meteorite with Earth. As a result of the impact, the climate of Japan has greatly changed from what the characters knew from the present day. In the Kansai region there are only two seasons, a dry season and a longer, heavier rainy season. Takahiro of Winter group describes the winters in the northern island of Hokkaidō as being as mild as in Kanagawa Prefecture where he grew up. In addition, sea levels have risen greatly: downtown Yokohama is completely underwater, only the top hand of the statue in Nagasaki Peace Park is above the surface of the ocean. The geography of Japan has changed as well: after an eruption of Mount Aso, Kyūshū has been split into two islands, and the Kansai region is separated from central Honshū by a wide strait. The series depicts a Japan in which, as a result of the new environment and mass extinctions, ecosystems have changed and several new species of animals and plants have evolved.

For example, on the island where Summer group B first lands, off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture, Botan notes how few of the ecological niches are filled, including no birds or flying insects, and that the limited number of species are still radiating to fill empty niches.[ In particular, a local rodent resembling a rabbit is in the process of speciation into herbivorous and ravenously carnivorous versions, which are still visually similar. Other dangers new to the characters include swarms of carnivorous white cockroaches and gigantic Venus flytraps, sundews, and nepenthes. Species that are unchanged but were previously unknown in Japan include banana trees and crocodiles. Semimaru notes that neither on the island nor on the Kyūshū mainland do they see any ants, bees, or similar insects.

In the Kansai region, Fall group domesticates flightless birds about the size of a chicken and sheep that have grown to resemble llamas, which can be ridden, milked and shorn for wool. Izayoi tells Natsu that a local wasp is deadly, killing with a single sting, and another species has a sting that sickens the victim for a day. According to Akio, corn is the only crop from their seed cache that grows in the area’s soils, but Fall group also cultivates a variety of tobacco with a narcotic effect when smoked.

In the southern part of central Honshū, Natsu, Arashi, and Semimaru of Summer group B cross a desert with cactus scrub. Throughout the region they find remains of large reptiles that revive from estivation during the rainy season, which remind Natsu of velociraptors from Jurassic Park. These “dinosaurs”, as the characters call them, have grassland and woodland varieties, and during the rainy season are the dominant predator from the south coast to at least as far north as Tokyo.

On the island where the Spring group first lands, off the coast of the Kantō region, Hana notes that there are no vertebrates on land or in the sea, and Momotaro describes the ecology as similar to that of the Carboniferous Era. On land, there are giant insects the characters call “boat beetles” and swarms of bees with stings that are painful but not deadly, which force the group to live on rafts off-shore. In the island’s swamps, there are giant praying mantis and giant dragonflies. While at the island, the group lives off shellfish and shallow-water nautiluses, but see no bony fish. The characters find the climate changed as well, as it is too overcast to see the stars for the first two weeks after they are awake, even though it is spring, a season that in the present day is noted for clear weather.

On the mainland of the Kantō region, Spring group meets large aquatic lizards living among the submerged ruins of Yokohama, which hunt in groups. Nearby, in the ruins of central Tokyo, the party from Summer group B is attacked by a giant predatory fish, which Takahiro of Winter group identifies as descended from a deep-sea fish, the only kind of bony fishes to have survived. They also meet a fungus-like growth Takahiro calls “blue mucus”, which infects Hana’s skin when she touches it. This growth goes dormant in the dry season, and Takahiro realizes it is intolerant to salt and uses it to cure her.

In northern Honshū near Sendai, Natsu, Arashi and Semimaru of Summer group B find the first flowers they have seen during their journey over most of the length of Japan.

In southern Hokkaidō, Winter group encounters grasslands populated by many mammals they do not know, including small-eared rodents, herds of unknown ruminants, and tigers with saber-teeth. They also meet wolves with the ability to project illusions normally used to help hunt.

My Personal Thoughts

7Seeds (or 7 Seeds, take your pick) puts emotional impact and personal revelation before anything else. Despite the synopsis above, this isn’t really Natsu’s series. 7 Seeds sets itself more to be an ensemble, flitting between numerous groups of characters, all struggling to survive after awakening from cryo-sleep on an Earth now devoid of mankind’s influence. Each cast of characters is suffering their own emotional journey, often influenced by the lives they led prior to going into cryo-sleep, and the very fact that they were forced into cryo-sleep against their will. Every episode is predicated on tying the character’s emotional struggle to whatever latest task is required to survive. We constantly flit about between these groups, sometimes even flashing back to events prior to the start of the series, all detailing the tragic lives these people now lead in this new and deadly world, filled with monstrous bugs and lethal fungi.

The trouble is that 7 Seeds doesn’t get a whole lot else right besides its efforts to get you balling tears. Every episode is rife with problems, from visual failings thanks to mediocre animation and art design, to cutting tons of the manga’s original content in order to cram in as much of the story as possible (12 episodes of 7 Seeds ‘Part 1’ equates to over 80 chapters of the original manga!), to simply botched concepts that fail to lend believability to the whole scenario. This means there’s a lot, and I do mean a lot, you have to overcome in order for any of the harrowing events these characters suffer to actually pull at your heart strings and leave you a blubbering mess as the author intended.

7 Seeds starts decent enough. Natsu, a shy teen girl, wakes from her cryo-sleep aboard a sinking ship, with a few other people rushing to abandon it before its too late. While the series maintains an air of mystery it actually work pretty well. That first episode is all about discovering what’s actually happened to them, and even when the series unnecessarily cuts between two other groups (one of which doesn’t appear again until over six episodes in) and the animation flags, it’s still engaging, if troubled.

It’s in Episode 2 that 7 Seeds pulls back the curtain, detailing that the ‘7 Seeds Project” is meant to repopulate the Earth after the discovery of an impending disaster. The project, as we come to learn, involved forcing unwitting civilians into cryo-sleep, either by paying their families off, or simple kidnapping. That part of the idea already doesn’t make a lot of sense, though it pales in comparison to the concept of a handful of 7-man teams working to repopulate the planet (You need several thousands people to stave off genetic disorders from a limited gene pool.) The series eventually retcons this, later adding this was an ‘experimental’ effort. Also, individuals are chosen for their ‘special skills’ and while some characters are architects or botanists, there’s an awful lot of Japanese Traditional Dancers or Baseball players, who you wouldn’t think would have any practical value in restarting humanity, especially high school baseball players. The very concepts of the series’ conceit don’t make a lot of sense, and that can really hinder more discerning viewer’s ability to get invested.

Another inherent problem is the tropey writing. One of the biggest annoyances to the story is how often assholes are ‘redeemed.’ The trope of redeeming an asshole isn’t terrible in and of itself, but it is when several characters are shown to harbor rapey elements, such as one young man who sexual assaults both girls in his group, and jumps on another woman multiple times, only for his unwanted advances to be brushed aside, and his character to be expanded upon to give him ‘excuses’ as to his poor behavior. There’s even a full on attempted rape later on, though these 12 episodes don’t redeem that particular rapist just yet. (I’m pretty sure he gets redeemed based on dialogue queues.)

Another issues is how much logic the series throws out in order to achieve its emotional highs. In one such instance a group of humans living in an underground shelter suffer from a horrible plague, that if unleashed above ground could threaten any attempts by humanity to reclaim the Earth. One character decides that to lure out everyone who is infected she’ll sing her beautiful song, pied-pippering them into a cold storage room, where they will be locked away and frozen to death. The ludicrous nature prevents this from feeling like the emotional gut-punch the series wants it to be, turning the episode into something that’s all too difficult to take seriously.

End of Spoilers

Assuming though the emotional gut-punch at the cost of logic is still your thing, and you’re not bothered with the examples above, know that 7 Seeds has cut so much, and rearranged so much, that you might be better waiting for the official manga release, if it ever gets one. 7 Seeds not only trims a ton of content, and condenses other sequences, but reorders loads of events. Sometimes it’s to the benefit of the story, introducing characters that are, at least, a bit more interesting than our initial four man cast. At other times we snap cut to stuff that feels disconnected from anything we were witnessing before hand. Episodes often end with a thud, lacking an impactful moment to send audiences out on a high, dying to know what happens next. You’re often left with one last scene that falls flat on its face, and then the credits roll, and you wonder what was the point of any of that additional content.

Ultimately 7 Seeds may be the worst title Netflix has launched yet. It’s ugly, it’s tropey, it’s poorly adapted, and abandons logic far too often to try and pull at your heart strings. If the concept still seems like your thing, cross your fingers someone decides to officially translate it, though that seems like a long shot seeing as the series has been concluded for two years now. I’m not much of a fan for the core story, but I feel for anyone intensely interested, as this version of 7 Seeds is an absolute awful way to experience it.

I will rate this Anime 9/10.

GenreSurvival
Manga
Written byYumi Tamura
Published byShogakukan
DemographicShōjo, Josei
MagazineBetsucomi, Flowers
Original runNovember 2001 – July 2017
Volumes35 (List of volumes)
Original net animation
Directed byYukio Takahashi
Written byTouko Machida
Music byMichiru
StudioGonzo (season 1 & 2)
Studio Kai (season 2)
Licensed byNetflix
Released June 28, 2019 – present
Episodes12 (List of episodes)

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