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Attack On Titan Part 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

16 min read

Attack On Titan
Attack On Titan
Some series it’s best to not get too attached to most of the cast since they may not last. Attack on Titan is definitely one of those series.

What They Say:
When the man-eating giants called Titans first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother. He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction. The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is about as expected as we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the new English language adaptation is in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. Due to the setup of the disc, you can’t change on the fly to sample either track (and it involves a good bit of moving around in the menus) so I only sampled a bit of the English language track. The show as a whole has a solid forward soundstage design to it where it uses the action to move across the screen in some good back and forth moments as they flit about while there’s also some good impact when it comes to the Titans stomping about. The series features a lot of action and that hits some very good notes throughout, but it is constrained to its original stereo designs. The 5.1 mix bumps it up in various areas as it goes on but there’s not a lot thrown to the rears here. What the mix does is increase the overall impact and comes across as a bit louder in general. But both tracks do some good stuff here and it’s very well designed for the property.

Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set has thirteen episodes where nine are on the first disc and four on the second, which is where the extras are as well. Animated by studio Wit, the series is one that definitely looks great and it has a much stronger feeling when it comes to colors and detail than the HD simulcasts I had been watching, especially early on. The animation has a very good look to it, a little more stylized than most, and it has a very good quality about it with the colors, detail and the overall presentation of it that really makes it feel like much more than normal. The transfer takes all of this and runs with it as the colors are rich and solid throughout, the animation’s fluidity comes across really well and the high impact sequences stand out even more. There’s a lot to like here and it’s very easy to be invested in it because of how appealing it looks.

With the limited edition packaging for this release, it’s going to be something that will be divisive for fans based on personal preferences. The release is done as a digipak with the whole hardcover book feeling that has the big plastic trays inside to hold the discs, the left side with the DVDs and the right side with the Blu-ray’s. The front of the package has the standard imagery that really does stand out no matter how many times you see it as Eren is along the bottom in the burning remains of the city while the top has the Colossal Titan peering over the Wall with flames all around. The logo through the middle is done in bloodied silver against the darkness of the Wall and the combination of the three pieces really is striking. The back cover goes simple but effective as well with a black background that has Eren in his leaping mode with his sword out that works as a great action piece with a nice bit of focus. This is underneath the insert that’s not glued to the package under the shrinkwrap which does the standard sell of the premise, the extras and the technical information in a pretty clean and clear way.

Opening up the digipak, the left side under the discs has a good bit of classic almost map-like design that fits with the style of the show while also breaking down the series in this set with the episodes by number and title. There’s also a breakdown of the discs and extras as well. The right side under the discs gives us a close-up look at the Colossal Titan which is always a good bit disturbing. In between these two things we get a twenty-four page booklet that I really wish was placed separately rather than bound to the package since it’s just awkward. We get some decent character bios and artwork and some cute translated four panel theater comics as well. Add in a couple of pages of great promotional artwork and it’s a very nice booklet.

The menu design for this release has its positives and negatives that makes me both love it and hate it. The main menu design is a strong one, if expected, as we get the image of the Colossal Titan reaching over the Wall with the flames behind him. Unlike the cover, it’s a light brighter here and comes across more as though the whole thing is one fire, giving it a lot of pop and detail that’s more visible here. The logo is done in the bloodied silver across the middle which looks good and the whole thing sets the mood nicely. The navigation is kept along the lower left where it does it in a kind of classic way with the red background for it and white text while keeping the coat of arms along the right of it. Navigation is easy, though there’s the obvious frustration of the language tracks being locked. What really bothered me with the design of the menu though is that when you use the pop-up menu during playback, it only gives you the selection of going to the main menu. This defeats the point in so many ways, though it’s only a problem with marathon play where you want to find out which episode you’re on, and it left me frustrated. And naturally, when doing normal play, you can’t load the extras from the pop-up menu which still drives me nuts.

The extras for this release are pretty good overall as we get some familiar pieces and some not so standard pieces owing to the popularity of the series. The clean opening and closings make their appearance here and we also get an eyecatch gallery, which I wish we had more of. There’s also a couple of commentary tracks provided by the English language team for episodes three and thirteen.

In addition to that, there’s a lot of great material here. An original extra is included with a nearly hour long making of segment that delves into the series as a whole – with spoilers for the first part – that has the English language actors, translator and others talking about the show with clips mixed in. It’s always fun to see the cast talk about their characters and the show and this one really gives them the time to do it. We also get an eye-catch gallery that provides stills of each of them from this set and translates them. I’m glad it’s here separate, but it’s a real mistake to not have it during the series as well as that information is critical during a regular viewing for expanding your view of the world. The other big extra here is the Chibi Theater segments. These are simple and cute chibi versions of the cast going through their first days and we’ve seen this type of material before. Here, with the amount they cover, it’s just under fifty minutes worth of additional material that is simply hilarious to watch – though we recommend it in small doses.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga series by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan is a twenty-five episode series from Wit Studio and Production I.G. that aired in the spring of 2013. I had actually missed out on the simulcast as others were covering it, which worked out well since the series had so much hype and attention about it as it went on that I always worry about getting too caught up in that. What made it fun getting into the show was that my kids had watched it before me and have raved about it for ages, never mind all the things they’ve bought along the way due to the love of the show. In experiencing the show disconnected from the hype, it’s easier to just get into it, especially in marathon form, to see what it is that it wants to do and to just savor the moments, especially this particular studio that’s looking to really make a splash.

The series takes place in an alternate reality world where we see that just on the cusp of an industrial age, the world went wrong. A hundred years prior to where the series start, the world encountered a predator that was hunting them down called Titans, humanoid creatures that seem largely mindless that are ranged between six meters tall and upwards of twenty meters tall that range the countryside and devour humans whenever they see them. This has gone on for all this time, largely pushing humanity towards extinction. The only thing that has kept people alive in at least this particular Germanic style area is that a series of massive walls were built, circling three different layers of protection with smaller cities along the outskirts that are protected by their own walls along the main one to serve as attractors for the Titans. It’s from here that the defenders of the wall push back against them, keeping mankind within the walls safe for those past hundred years.

The focus on the structure of how humanity has survived is definitely interesting and with it focusing on this post-feudal kind of era of humanity, we get something where there are some solid weapons and designs that allow them to push back against this bizarre, naked and mindless Titans. They’re humanoid to be sure but there’s a lot off about them with the lack of reproductive organs, being male for all the ones that we see and the way some of them are almost falling apart. There are also some unusual ones that just seem crazy called Aberrant ones and the surprising colossal titan that is taller than all the rest by a significant measure. Add in another with a heavier and thicker body that can ram things and the show gives us a time when humanity is fully under siege and the relative safety of the last several decades is threatened. Interestingly, the Titans can be killed if you strike them properly on the nape of their neck and that can cause them to disintegrate shortly thereafter. But it’s not easy to do and the sheer number of Titans means that even though mankind has pushed back, it’s never won a battle in all these years, instead just retreating further and further into the walls.

What we see in the first few episodes of the series is when all of this is about to change as one of the small outer wall cities is about to be attacked by a group of Titans that have gotten in. Our focus is on a boy named Eren Jaeger who ends up losing his mother in this bloody attack, to the point where he sees her eaten before his eyes. The only thing that really keeps him going at first is that he knows his father, a doctor, is out there somewhere and that his friends of Mikasa and Armin try to shock some sense into him before some of those from the Garrison that drag him out there in a hasty retreat. We get some solid quiet time before all of this to get familiar with the characters, but it’s the chaos the draws us in as we see the kind of terror that humanity is living under, even if it hadn’t broken through the wall for the past hundred years. And this incident and the loss that Eren goes through is a prime motivator for him going forward. When you want revenge more than anything else, you’ll either find a way to do it personally and without help or you’ll use all the tools and resources you have at your disposal.

So after a deadly and chaotic year that follows those events where a significant portion of the population walks to its own doom in order to save the rest, Eren and his friends end up going into training to join the military side of the nation which is broken up into the survey corps that explores the outside world, the garrison forces that work the walls and the military police the carry out the king’s will. Eren’s intent on killing Titans, but the training is hard on him as he seemingly has no real skill or talent. Mikasa proves to be a very skilled fighter, using the special maneuverability grappling hooks and three dimensional attacks against Titans in a great way, while Armin is slowly revealed to be pretty solid at the tactical side of things. The training period over the first few episodes is decent as it covers how the fight against the Titans is carried out, the weaknesses and some of the problems that the fighters face, especially when it comes to the seeming futility of it all.

As a setup, the first four episodes do a very solid job of introducing us to a whole lot of things and making it a very engaging world, if bloody and deadly. What the show does from there is far more interesting as the next nine episodes comprise an entire action sequence. It’s a bit more than I suspect people might have expected going into it, but when marathoned, it’s a thing of beauty. With five years having passed since Eren lost his mother and having just now graduated, the next wall is under attack by the Titans and they begin a massive sprawl into the city, causing chaos and death all around as they kill and eat while people attempt to flee. This forces the garrison side into action and we see how the new trainees that just graduated are dealing with it about as well as many veterans as there’s just this absolute fear and terror that comes from facing such monstrosities that live only to destroy you. Eren has been so singly focused for so long that he’s primed and ready to go even while coping with the fear he has.

There’s a very good range of characters involved in the fight and because of the nature of it, we do get a number of losses along the way. It may seem like a series of casual deaths at times since they don’t get quite the glory moment or the mourning that you would see in some other shows, but it’s so well focused on the fight at hand since there’s so much at stake that it definitely feels right in how it’s portrayed. There’s some fantastic visuals in all of this as it moves forward, especially with the way the garrison fighters swing around and use their powered machines to propel them. Because the show is spending so much of its time on this single fight, it covers a lot of different areas as it progresses with tactical situations, refueling and trying to save others, even though that feels like a very distant concern considering the way the fear sets into so many of them.

Where the show gives us a twist, one that we think we know some of how it will be resolved, is that amid the first of the battles that Eren gets involved with, he does the heroic thing in rescuing Armin before he gets killed only to get killed himself. Literally eaten alive, losing an arm and a leg as he ends up in the Titan’s belly where we see others that have been digested, some of which are going through the last throes of life. Seeing this is separated a fair bit from when we see him eaten, which allows the show to focus on others for awhile while we await his return as you know it must come somehow. The big twist is that for reasons unknown, he’s able to will a fifteen meter tall Titan into existence himself with his body bonded to it inside. He can control it to some degree, but it’s a struggle for him to do so and realizing that he’s in it is half the battle right there since his mind has a hard time processing it. This is a first in the modern history of the world in the fight against the Titans, and it can radically change things – if others let him live long enough to figure it out. Because of the fear they all have to varying levels of Titans, there’s a whole range of emotions about how to handle him.

With so much of the show focusing on the battle, and the disposable nature of much of the cast, it’s hard to really latch onto people in particular as opposed to latching onto the whole overall concept. Attack on Titan definitely captivates but it does its best to showcase the characters as well to give you something to stay for. Eren is obviously the central focus, but having him out of it for a few episodes allows Mikasa to really come forward, including a flashback sequence that shows the first time Eren met and saved her when they were much younger and how she’s able to repay him in the present in a way. She’s the quiet type that wears her heart on her sleeve here, but she’s also a gifted fighter who has a range of just under the surface emotions come out during the fight. Armin gets less development here, but his arc is moving along pretty nicely as well as we see him being the one who has the curiosity to want to go outside the walls as a child to someone who will do whatever it takes to save his friends when he realizes how they truly view him as opposed to how he views himself.

Visually, the animation team behind this definitely adapted some parts of the manga more faithfully than others. The Titans themselves are pretty nicely handled as they have both the comical nature at times and the highly dangerous in others and there’s no holding back with the brutality they bring to the fight. The biggest change, at least in my perceptions, is that the character design work for the human cast is far better than Isamaya’s manga designs, which in my initial look through the manga made me not want to read it. They have a more polished look here and just flow better, but they’re still rough in all the right ways with some heavy line work along the outside of their designs to give it a bit more weight and its own feel. The action elements are definitely the best as the 3D design work captures the show perfectly with what it is the garrison fighters are trying to do and how they move and flit about and having that with top notch background designs for the city itself is what’s critically needed and achieved so well as it goes for a classic Germanic style series of walls and city interiors.

In Summary:
Attack on TItan is the kind of series that can definitely appeal outside of the traditional anime fan and it has the potential to be the next big evergreen series that we’ll be seeing popularized for years to come. And in many ways, it definitely earns that position with what it starts to do here, particularly in its multi-episode arcs that really wants to spend its time making sure we get what it is to live in this world. It doesn’t hold back on the creepy factor, the blood and the brutality of it but it ties the characters emotions and issues of living with such horrors rather well. I had passed over the series during all the hype and spent my time marathoning the first half of it which has given me a very good sense of how the flow of it all is, especially considering that the first half ends after a nine episode fight sequence that works across a days worth of back and forth. With great animation, a concept that leaves you wanting to know more and more of what the truth of the situation is and the uncertainty of who will survive, Attack on Titan is definitely worth the hype. FUNimation has put together a great release here, and a few variants for it as well so people can go either simple, middle or all out with the goods. This limited edition release hits all the right spots, a few problematic issues here and there in design, but for the most part a fan of this show will be really glad to have this on their shelf.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries (3, 13), The Making of Attack on Titan, “Chibi Theatre: Fly, Cadets, Fly! Days 1-13”, Eyecatch Gallery, Textless Opening and Closing Song

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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