“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton
Finally, one of the most anticipated anime releases of the year is out. Attack on Titan was almost certainly the top anime of 2013. This magnificent horror was one of the most gripping, thrilling and shocking series to come out of Japan for a long time. Even watching it on Blu-ray or DVD you realise just how scary it can be at times.
The big question is whether or not this new release lives up to both the original manga by Hajime Isayama and to when Crunchyroll streamed the anime first time around. The answer is: “Almost.”
For anyone who has not come across the series, it is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which most of humanity 100 years prior to the story was wiped out by a race of man-eating giants known as “Titans”. These monsters are seemingly unstoppable, the only way to kill them being to slice through the nape of their necks. What remains of the human race now lives in a giant settlement surrounded by 50 metre high walls. Humanity has not been attacked since then, but then one day a “Colossal Titan” as tall as the wall strikes. Along with an “Armoured Titan” it breaks the outer wall, resulting in hordes of Titans entering the settlement and humanity remembering the sheer terror of the Titans.
Amongst the survivors is a boy named Eren Yeager, his adoptive sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their close friend, the highly intelligent Armin Arlert. Eren, so enraged by the terror caused by the Titans which includes eating his mother, decides that he will wipe out every single Titan. Eventually all three decide to join the army, hoping to go for the Survey Corps, aka the Scouts, which specialises in going outside the walls and investigating more about the Titans. Thus they begin their crusade against the Titans, with Eren being the most passionate, Mikasa the master soldier, and Armin the brilliant strategist.
This first collection of episodes covers the original Titan attack, Eren’s army training, and the whole of the Battle of Trost. In terms of the content of the anime itself, it is brilliant. For most of the time it is really scary and gruesome. There are scenes of people being eaten by the Titans which are truly shocking. For example one scene features someone being eaten, but their arm is sticking of the mouth, so when the mouth shuts the arm flies across the screen. Makes you wince in horror.
Then again there are moments of action, moments of humour, and moments of elation. Aside from the gigantic situation, the characters in Attack on Titan help to make it such a wonderful anime. It is not just the main trio, but all the side characters too. Every viewer will have their favourites, whether it is brilliant solider and cleanliness obsessed Captain Levi; the scientist of ambiguous gender Hange; or comic glutton Sasha Blouse (responsible for the creation of anime’s most famous potato).
However, while the content of the anime is great, there are certain aspects of the release of this collection that seem questionable. The scene selection seems all wrong for starters, and then there is the issue of the translation. For example, while the manga and the Crunchyroll subtitles refer to the “Survey Corps” and sometimes refer to it as the “Scouts”, in this script provided by Funimation it is only referred to as the “Scout Regiment” for some odd reason. Other translations just seem out of place if you are already familiar with the script. One scene during Eren’s training sees him falling over in special training harness used in the fighting (the “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment”). While Eren is hanging upside down the drill sergeant yells at Eren in the manga and the Crunchyroll sub: “What are you doing, Eren Jaeger?” But in this release it becomes: “What is your major malfunction, Jaeger?” Were all the translators busy watching Vietnam War films while working on this?
One thing that will not be short of in this collection however is bonus features. Aside from episode commentaries there is an entire disc of extras, if you choose to go for the collector’s edition. These include textless opening and closing, the US trailer, a making of documentary, and a special humorous “Chibi Theatre” known as Fly, Cadets, Fly!
Attack on Titan is indeed brilliant, and the quality of the Blu-ray displays the animation at its best, although this reviewer must confess that with all those changes with the script, one is slightly tempted to stick with the Crunchyroll version.