Attack on Titan
Original Title: 進撃の巨人
Genres: Action, Horror, Thriller, Tokusatsu
Director: Higuchi Shinji
Attack on Titan is one of the most anticipated theatrical adaptations ever. But, that’s not in the sense that everyone has been looking forward to seeing it. It’s because everyone is waiting in anxiety to see if it lives up to even a hint of the original.
Humanity has been nearly wiped out by the Titans, and the remaining thousands have erected a series of giant walls to keep the monsters out. After living in peace for centuries, it all comes crumbling down along with the wall, allowing the hungry hungry Titans to enjoy a buffet of human steaks. This disaster sends but a few hundred survivors into hiding deeper into the fortress.
Among the survivors are Eren (Miura Haruma), Mikasa (Mizuhara Kiko), and Armin (Hongo Kanata). Together they join the special forces, and their first mission is to close off the outer gate and take their territory back.
In doing so, they must endure man-eating monsters, and even more monstrous deviations from the renowned anime and manga. There are more changes made for this adaptation than most fans would like. Some cuts were justifiably necessary, to accommodate as much story as possible into two feature-length films. However, many of those changes and decisions just took away from the strength of the storytelling.
Let’s start with movie-Eren not being as strong or thirsty for Titan blood as the Eren of the anime. A huge reason for that is the removal of a scene which shows the character’s source of motivation – something that made the audience really empathize with him and his mission of genocide. That scene is of the traumatic experience Eren goes through when watching his mother get devoured by a Titan.
As matter of fact, Eren’s parents aren’t even in this first film, rendering certain plot points in the source material up in the air. But in effect, Eren is reduced to being a character without a strong enough vendetta.
We can go on and on about the changes, like how the film replaces the anime’s arguably most popular character, Levi, with a guy named Shikishima (Hasegawa Hiroki). Shikishima is at times a bad ass, but his homoerotic mannerisms may make fans question if he is a suitable replacement for Levi.
Other changes that will cause anguish with fans include how Mikasa was changed into a character who was once pure but made to be broken and spiteful by both the Titans and Eren. Another, her backstory of being the last person of Asian heritage is made null because of, well, every other character being Asian. Or how the Colossal Titan is the only major giant to be a part of this story…
There are so many changes that long-time fans will find more to be displeased about than be satisfied. On its own, the film is just alright. The film is helmed by Higuchi Shinji, a veteran in the worlds of anime and daikaiju (giant monster) tokusatsu films, and backed by Toho – the studio that created Godzilla.
So, the scenes in which the Titans are attacking the humans have the feel of a daikaiju film, though made much darker and gruesome by the movie’s premise. Seeing real humans ripped apart and eaten alive made everything look even more grotesque. The Titans themselves, brought to life with the help of rubber body suits and CG, look pretty damn horrifying.
The scenery and world were really well-crafted, made possibly by the eerie atmosphere of Nagasaki’s Battleship Island, though a lot deviates from the source material. The world no longer is reminiscent of old European villages, and instead we have a world made up of renovated ruins. However, this change really made the world feel like it was on the verge of the apocalypse.
The ability to enjoy Attack on Titan is dependent on fans’ willingness to accept the fact the the film was made with the intention of making it a piece of its own. The film could have been brought to life in a much more acceptable form with the help of Hollywood actors and budget, but those kinds of resources aren’t available in Japan.
Are the changes and deviations good enough to win over the hardcore fans of the anime and manga? Simply put, no. Not only were tons of iconic moments and characters cut from the film, but also a lot of the clever storytelling that came with them.
Reworked motivations of characters made them less sympathetic, appealing, and overall interesting. Also, it’s worth commenting that Takeda Rina and Misaki Ayame, both very capable with action scenes, were highly underused and reduced to weak roles.
What was once a unique story – one that mixes shock, gore, and a fun game of “Who’s side is he really on?” – has been simplified to be one that relies only on shock and gore. Attack on Titan is difficult to enjoy as an adaptation of the epic anime, but admittedly, easy to as a daikaiju flick.
But hey, at least fans might get hungry from the numerous human buffets.
Watch this film…
…if you’d rather see a bloody daikaiju flick instead of the deep and fun adaptation it could have been.