What They Say:
Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by enclosing themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of giants. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a giant in over 100 years. Teenage boy Eren and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a super giant that appears out of thin air. As the smaller giants flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single giant and take revenge for all of mankind.
The DVD release has a 5.1 English Dolby Surround Sound release and a 2.0 Japanese stereo track. Attack On Titan relies a lot on the amount of music and effects due to the post apocalyptic era it is set in, and it does deliver on that. No need to change from the default settings in English, as the audio comes through quite clearly and concisely, and the issues I had previously with the synching (outside the screen catches) seems to have been rectified because it wasn’t noticeable in this release, similar with the Japanese audio has no select problems either with the extras seems to have also turned up a notch so no adjustments were needed. In short, an excellent audio.
The video quality of AoT is fantastic for the most part, in terms of animation to audio and how it flows through; there are no issues whatsoever in regards to transition and to syncing with the audio aside from the above mentioned issue. The combination of the CGI and animation as the squad spider-man their way throughout the cities goes through brilliant and in a widescreen format it has a real epic quality to it.
Reiterating the eye catches, the subtitles for the Japanese text go through way too fast and it is hard to manage to read through everything which again, though in this release there is an extra that actually sorts out that problem so not as big an issue as you will see.
The menu is actually really basic considering this is a top tier show in terms of marketing and popularity – all the DVDs are set on a blood red menu with the corps two sword sign in the background and the selections horizontally below the words ‘Attack On Titan’ of Play All, Episode Selection, Set Up and Bonus – whilst on the extras DVD, they simply scroll vertically all the extras available for selection. Nothing fancy, does its job but thought there maybe something a bit more attractive for such a high-profile release.
Attack on Titan extras continue to be awesome, so they slice at the neck of the Titan selection, starting with a couple of commentaries for episode 14 and episode 25. Episode 14 involves Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J Michael Tatum (Writer, voice of Erwin) and Matthew Mercer (voice of Levi and UK con Ayacon international treasure) – lot of information as well as some fun stuff, whether it is the change of the opening theme the clash between heroism vs. destruction, how the human reacts to Titan Eren (compares to X-men), the psychology of the characters, adapting the long speeches into English, talking about fanboyism of the series, about their characters (Matt researching his character, and what he represents as a solider, and as hope, following the rules yet his own style) – a bit more of a fun quota by these gentlemen but enough to talk about.
The second commentary on the final episode involves Mike again, but also involved Lauren Landa (Annie) and Bryce Papenbrook (Eren). If you read the review, the fact Lauren is commentating basically gives away a huge spoiler so I won’t say what it is, but this definitely a commentary you want to watch AFTER you’ve seen the show. The fact it is Laurens first show, with big spoilers on her character and how interesting she becomes with how the story goes along and how it would worked out and how her character changes is definitely a unique aspect for a VA commentary as this is pretty much her first role and she is thrown head first into it. Usual things are also discussed like the favourite aspects of the series (how bloody the series a la zombie apocalypse) says no fanservice whilst being more ‘realistic’, how they take the cliffhangers and where they would like to see the story go. I’m sure they want a sequel as much as anybody does…
We get Attack On Titan at Anime Expo – where we see the producer George Wada discuss a lot about the show, the direction and production, combined with fans talking about why the show is so good and unique to them (including a ton of AoT cosplayers) with various interviews with George at a panel and backstage.
We next have the new clean opening and ending, as well as a US trailer, but finally we get the return of the funny chibi shorts, Fly Cadets Fly – showcasing days 14-25 which basically is always some sort of problem/issue which is more comic than the show…before a Titan appears and ends up swallowing the people involved. Whether it is pranking the sensei, sneaking into the girls dorm (TO RETURN A BAG…HONEST!), Mikasa wondering if she is in love with Eren, or actual graduation, it’s comic, silly, and ends with the people involved in Titan stomach acid. And yes, it is actually funny.
Also on the first disc, we have the Eyecatch Gallery, which I mentioned earlier is an extra which allows you to read the incredibly fast subtitles in stills and what they actually mean. Showcases the eyecatches and a description of them from each episode, including all the long walls of text, being much appreciated considering how quick those subtitles went. A surprising but welcome extra.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Attack On Titan was a show that came into a lot of hype when it was originally aired in Japan with a lot of hubbub about what a unique anime it was at the time of airing. With the first half of the series done, it did a good job in setting the characters and showcasing how violent and twisted this world has become, but I did mention that it felt surprisingly similar to various other series outside of that, and whilst a good show, was still unsure why it was so popular. The second half I thought may showcase those reasons…especially with Levis’ introduction and some interesting twists so does it actually now deserve the hype in my opinion?
We left last time with Eren in the case of Levi, as he is sent for trail as the demographic of the common vs. the elite is again discussed as they wonder if Eren is societys saviour or monster. This episode I will admit certainly gave me smiles as it really showcased what a badass Levi is. Considering most people’s favourite character, Levi is a no nonsense guy who seems cold-hearted but has his quirks, and it seems with the best interest of his crew whilst also having a great mind for planning and tactition. Here, he interrupts the trial by brutally beating down Eren, showcasing he can control him if he needs be if they are concerned about him going rogue in Titan form. With this, he is put in a squad with true elites the Special Operational Squad, with one of them being very memorable named Hange…who has a bit of a Titan fetish shall we say? Despite the darkness and seriousness of the show, it was actually amusing seeing someone so excited about studying the Titans to the point of chatting to Eren all night and even naming some of the species…even as she gets too close and they want to kill her. However, something happens and to her (and others) shock, the two Titans they had in terms of examination get killed, and they suspect someone in their ranks – which leads to the main conflict and suspicion through the arc – both the best and worst things about this set.
The next part is sadly the only real chance we see the rest of the quirky cast in action (to an extent) as the main focus as from here on the story is mainly on Eren and Levi – we do get some hints that there is something wrong with one of the characters as a potential traitor (which becomes much clearer after a rewatch) but for the time being, Armin, Mikasa and the others are deciding which team to join. With Recon Corps commander Erwin basically telling them straight out how dangerous it is to join, pretty much most of the team bar one interesting exception do join them to make sure they are reunited with Eren. Jean in particular is pretty touching in his movement as a reference to his old friend Marco, but I do feel it was a bit overdone as Marco was only in it a little bit without too much relevance to the plot and made it feel like he was a really important character, when in reality he wasn’t. This is why I feel that what I mentioned before as protagonist syndrome and the anyone can die scenario, it doesn’t seem that well developed as I hoped it would be. That said, the emotion is there and seeing Eren reunite with everyone is a pleasant surprise, albeit this is pretty much the most to see out of everyone that isn’t Eren now for the rest of the arc.
The Recon Corps now take full stage as they head out on a Titan expedition and the big plot comes into play. With a strategy in play and the team spread out, they begin tracking Titans, killing some and display signals so everyone knows what is going on. Unfortunately, there is a new spanner in the works. A previously unseen female Titan is now around…and she is definitely different. She seems to showcase surprising intelligence and able to block, defend or avoid the death strikes to the neck, and in turn, is squashing officers left, right and centre. It becomes pretty obvious that she is in fact, similar to Eren and a human who can become a Titan, but even more obvious she is one of the members we’ve seen before when she spares Arwins’ life. And lets just say it is painstakingly obvious who it is, yet it takes to the end of the series for them to work it out – which doesn’t really add for dramatic effect or a major twist when it comes to that so it comes off as seeing most of the crew being a bit dumb (granted – it appears Arwin knew quite quickly and had a meeting later but when I first watched it, I felt like facepalming). It leads to a great moment when Eren wants to fight the Titan but Levi is calm and cool and refuses him to do so, even when the female Titan is killing others. This showcases his experience, intelligence and all out badass as he manages to trap the intelligent Titan ready to be escorted back…
…like it was going to be that easy.
With a mole apparently in the squad, it leads to the team now figuring out who the female Titan is. Granted, it was pretty obvious if you paid attention (and figured it out by the look of the Titan, there were only two female characters with that hair colour/style, and one of them was in the squad, the lovely Krista, who delivered horses to Arwins’ crew when they were spared) but at the same time, the reveal and indeed the lead up to the reveal was actually quite touching, especially that the character in question was quite quiet for most of the show yet it shows she did have feelings for her crew, and almost has a similar belief to Eren in one respect…but does it for her methods. In fact, there are a lot of strong heartfelt moments, whether it is members of the Corps wanting to bring back the dead whilst the more heartless want them remain in MIA, seeing Levi making sure not to break character when one of his squads’ father talks to him about his daughter who idolises Levi…unware that she died on the field. It leads to a final battle between Eren and the female Titan who, after a failed battle in the grounds, Eren returns with a vegence despite nearly dying when he, Mikasa and Arwin form a plan to trap her, as the decision of civilian deaths around vs. the greater good of killing the Titan comes to a close. To say it sets up for an inevitable and hopeful sequel is an understatement, and with a continuing manga and this being a very popular series, I will be very surprised if there isn’t a sequel.
If there isn’t, then this story does feel very incomplete. With so many of the characters pretty much left by the wayside (even Mikasa is barely in the story bar when deciding to join the Corps, and the final plan to trap the Titan), those issues are almost equalled out by just how much action there is, the detail in the battle grounds, the sheer ballsiness of Levi, the discovery of the Female Titan, and the final bloody battle. The show is extremely unique despite my issues from the first set, the battles have got a ton of room to manoeuvre into and whilst once Eren was discovered to have Titan powers, the fact other humans could also be involved and have similar abilities was never considered and brought into hindsight very brutally. And whilst at least from where I was seeing the female Titans’ identity was pretty obvious, the realization of Arwin and the female Titan when she refuses to kill him, combined with all the points made in the episode when they reveal her officially means you want to rewatch and realise everything that came together.
The series on a while I definitely am fond of – in fact, it nearly made me see what the huge hype was. The uniqueness of the setting and the battle style, combined with a good range of characters meant whilst it is definitely taken seriousness, there are enough quirky characters to break up the seriousness when it needs to be broken up. The animation is superb, with the settings and the spider-man like gear swinging around, it has a real edge compared to a lot of shows especially when it was released, hence the huge buzz about it. Levi as a character was a big surprise as how much of a stoic badass he is, yet there is enough of a character there that there is more to him. Arwin I became a big fan of despite being put on the backburner with his intuition and bravery despite by his own admission not a good fighter compared to Mikasa. The music is incredible and the dub is very good, with some fun behind the scenes stuff as well.
I cannot see this as a series that really deserved the hype it got. This arc has quite a few problems – the obvious being the twists weren’t exactly difficult, and the fact so many of the cast that was introduced in the last arc (even main characters) are pretty much ignored just for Eren and Levi. Granted, Levi is a great character but the moments when you see Arwin, Krista, Jean, even Mikasa are too little in this arc, and you have to really focus on the corps, and the fact most of the new characters do actually die in the arc. Like the first set, whilst the violence is shocking, the fact is there isn’t enough character development to feel for them when they die, referring protagonist syndrome that the truly well known ones do survive (the show does try to bring Jeans’ friendship with Marco in the last arc, but as Marco was not in it that long and didn’t get huge focus, it didn’t really get me as much) and the idea of Eren getting stronger and more wise to his Titan form is pretty standard shounen formula. Worse, Eren as a lead is reduced to mostly crying as he seeing comrades die, and wants to help but bar the end, is pretty much a spectator and/or punching bag to Levi/The Female Titan. I did like the female titans speech and her thoughts before she fights Eren in the last episode, and a lot of us vs. them motifs are used smartly throughout (when she confronts one of her colleagues who wants to make a difference, but can’t bring himself to pull the trigger…) so there is a lot of intelligent moments in the show, however in the end, the only thing I can see is how popular it got was due to what was showcased on at the same time, this was so unique and out of the pot that it got a huge fanbase.
Before anyone lynches me for that, I did like this series – it is a great gateway to anime that is outside the box of the Narutos, Bleach, Dragonball, etc when it comes to battle, has no need for fanservice to sell the series and realises on its visual appeal, shock value, music, character and background design, the post apocalypse like setting and it can definitely drag in fans, even non-anime fans in – and for that, I totally understand. However, there are quite a few flaws in it, and for me, it definitely isn’t perfect, especially as it ends so abruptly with lots of questions and the future to be discussed.
If there IS a sequel though, I certainly will be watching it. It is definitely a good, borderline great series, but not one that will be in my top 50 anytime soon.
Attack On Titan finishes in what it intends to be – an action based story with colourful characters, superb designs and animation, and go through the story of surviving an apocalypse and how to deal with quite well. Incredibly unique when it came out and has a strong place in the anime market today. Whilst I feel it is a bit overrated though and this arc despite the action definitely continues that thought, it is still a good series that is a great way for people to get into anime and for current fans to enjoy something that does stand out amongst the fanservice and shounen.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 27/10/2014
Running Time: 277 minutes