Long ago, mankind was driven to near extinction by gigantic creatures known as Titans, grotesque humanoids who prey upon man, not for sustenance, but for pleasure. To ensure survival, the remnants of humanity constructed three large walls in order to keep the Titans out. Eren Jaeger, born in a time of peace, is thrust into battle when the Titans manage to break through the outermost wall for the first time in a century, as he joins the Scout Regiment, an elite military unit dedicated to venturing past the wall to combat the Titans.
After a battle within Wall Sina against the Female Titan ends in a bittersweet victory, Eren and the rest of the Scout Regiment must now face an onslaught of invading Titans coming from within Wall Rose, with forces being dispatched to uncover the location of the wall’s breach. However, nothing can prepare Eren and the others for the horrifying truths about to be unearthed. As the Scouts rush to save the wall, they uncover dark secrets about their own members and question what chance humanity stands against the Titans when the biggest threats of all come from within…
The first season of Attack on Titan, released back in 2013, was an absolute smash hit across the whole globe, capturing the interest of both hardcore and casual anime audiences alike with its slick animation, intense action and unique setting. The wait for the second season was long, but in 2017, we finally got a follow-up, and it was everything people were hoping for and more. Now, we have Attack on Titan: The Roar of Awakening, a movie that crams the many twists and turns of the second season into a recap film to prepare fans new and old for the upcoming third season, set to broadcast in the summer.
In my humble opinion, recap movies based on a series can be a very hard thing to execute, and the biggest factor in that is pacing. In adapting a single cour into a feature film, you’re essentially trying to crowbar four and a half hours’ worth of content into around a two hour film, and the balance isn’t always easy to get right. You can either end up cutting out too much, leading to a disjointed and confusing experience that moves far too quickly to keep up with, or go the other way and try and pack so much in that it moves too slowly, and you might as well just watch the TV show. Thankfully for fans of Attack on Titan, Roar of Awakening doesn’t run into any such issues at all, being a stand-out example of how to do a recap right.
What makes Roar of Awakening such a good recut of the TV version is mostly down to the way the original series was structured. Attack on Titan Season 2 was chock-full of flashback sequences, and these are the most obvious omissions from the film version, but due to the nature of flashback scenes in general, they can be excised with ease, not leaving any real gaping holes in the narrative. Although not overly crucial to the story, these flashbacks did offer a lot of insight into certain characters’ backstories, so it’s sad to see them go, but within the context of a movie, I can totally understand why they were removed, as it would be next to impossible to have them remain and not destroy the flow. A lot of people would argue that even within the TV version the huge amount of flashbacks were a big pacing killer, and in this regard, the film is a marked improvement, even at the expense of the characters.
The only real roadblock that Roar of Awakening runs into with regards to the pace is an identical issue to the source material, and that’s the 20-odd minute straight dialogue scene that happens a little past the halfway mark. People familiar with the events of Attack on Titan Season 2 will probably already know which scene I’m talking about, and it is quite the slow-down after such an intense first half, but I view it as a necessary evil. The scene in question is incredibly vital to the plot and I don’t think they could have really cut around it in any way, and it does come sandwiched between one of the best action scenes in the franchise and the climactic finale, so there isn’t a better way it could have been handled.
As for the actual story in Roar of Awakening, I absolutely adore it, as it easily beats anything seen in the first season of the TV show. There are so many twists and turns interwoven into the narrative that it keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats for the whole experience, and it makes for an intense and satisfying watch. There is one particular bombshell that is dropped towards the halfway mark that is so huge and devastating, yet is revealed so nonchalantly that, if you don’t see it coming, it will literally leave your jaw agape. I’ve not seen anything like it, and it’s truly something to behold. Pepper in a good amount of Attack on Titan’s trademark 3D movement gear sequences, which implement CGI to create some amazing and kinetic action sequences, and you have an edge of your seat thrill ride that most anime can’t come close to.
The one area where Roar of Awakening falters in comparison to the TV version is in terms of its characters. Sasha, Christa and Ymir in particular all suffer due to cuts, although there’s plenty of good stuff left in. Reiner and Bertholdt in particular see a lot of focus in comparison to Season 1, and despite some missing scenes, we still get a lot more of Christa and Ymir than we have before. Fans of the main three characters, Eren, Mikasa and Armin, may be slightly disappointed by their lack of screen time in the first half of the film, and fan favourite Levi is missing for almost the entire duration, something that could also potentially dishearten people.
Although still relatively new, Wit Studio are very quickly making a name for themselves as one of the most talented production companies around. With Seraph of the End, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and The Ancient Magus’ Bride under their belt as well as the mammoth Attack on Titan franchise, to say they’re quickly becoming huge is an understatement, and seeing the animation on display here, it’s no surprise. Aside from some less than stellar CGI for a particular Titan, Roar of Awakening looks fantastic, with a distinctive and recognizable style, fluid motion and the aforementioned impressive 3DMG scenes.
Veteran composer Hiroyuki Sawano (Aldnoah Zero, Kill la Kill, Seraph of the End) returns from both seasons of the anime to score Roar of Awakening, and does an excellent job. His music for the franchise has always been top notch, but the grand and sweeping soundtrack works especially well for a movie, enhancing the cinematic feel of the adaptation. Also returning are the swathe of well known Japanese voice actors, who all give stellar performances. The cast includes famous seiyuu such as Yuki Kaji (My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ghoul), Yui Ishikawa (A Silent Voice), Marina Inoue (The Seven Deadly Sins), Daisuke Ono (Black Butler, Durarara) and Romi Park (Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach).
Attack on Titan: The Roar of Awakening is a tightly paced and action-packed thrill ride that is bound to look and sound spectacular up on the big screen thanks to some outstanding animation and music.
Attack on Titan: The Roar of Awakening is coming to UK cinemas for a one-night-only screening; details here.