What They Say:
This special edition of Attack on Titan volume 17 includes a DVD of the OVA “Ilse’s Notebook,” a side story animated by the same studio behind the main Attack on Titan anime. The OVA isn’t available anywhere else!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only and it’s done up in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is certainly familiar enough in sound design to the TV series so it has all the right nods here and comes across well for both the action and dialogue. It’s a bit quieter overall since there’s not a lot of action, but the mix handles the Titans well in the big and small scenes and the dialogue is well placed where needed throughout. The show always provided a good balance during its run and this one largely mirrors it while not stretching itself in any new directions. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2013, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The single episode has plenty of space and works a good bit rate at higher levels for it as it brings the quality of the animation to life. With it working off the same production as the TV show, the result is one that blends well with the existing material and adheres to it so as to not look radically different. The standard definition transfer is certainly a little jarring if you’ve only seen the show in high definition before but it’s a clean looking release outside of some minor line noise during an occasionally camera panning sequences. Colors are solid and properly muted for the world and detail is well handled within the constraints of the standard definition world.
The packaging for this release is fairly simple as we get a thin cardboard box that holds the DVD keepcase and the manga volume inside. The box itself uses the same artwork as the manga on the front with a nod towards what’s within along the bottom while the reverse side goes for a standard DVD back cover, providing the details and all that you need to know in a clean form here. The DVD case itself is done up well with the image of Levi, Erwin and Hange together walking through the woods, but it feels like it’s darkened more than it should be. It’s laid out well with the logo and the nod towards the OVA title and being part of the special edition. The back cover adds a little more artwork and a good summary of what it’s about. The production credits take up a decent bit of space and we get some good shots from the show as well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release goes for the good image of Levi and the others walking through the forest with them off center to the right. This lets the navigation and logo sit on the left side of the screen, blending surprisingly well with the background artwork. It has a brighter and cleaner look than the packaging itself does and just feels richer and more appealing across the board. The navigation is straightforward with subtitle options at the top level as well as scene selection and you can also turn the subtitles off and on during regular playback as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally released with the manga in Japan back in 2013, this special edition was the first OVA to hit that I believe is categorized as episode 3.5, allowing it to take place amid the other training events that were going on for the main cast at the time. OAD episodes like these are dicey in getting pickups and I’m still surprised that Kodansha USA not only was able to do but chose to do it. Admittedly, I’m still hoping something can be worked out with Funimation as well because they need a collection of them in high definition and dubbed for the fans. But being able to get the OAD here and enjoy it in the meantime – in a very affordable way overall – is definitely a good thing. With a list price of $20 with the manga included in the bundle, it’s definitely worth exploring.
This episode in particular is one that I like as it focuses on Hange herself, though we get a little time with Levi and Erwin along the way. With the scouting forces as strained as they are after recent events with the loss of the wall and significant territory, being forced back a good bit, the scouting missions outside take on greater significance because of the scale of the threat that’s even closer than it was before. This has everyone even more tense and it has Levi even more focused on doing things right and bringing everyone back home. Hange, however, is looking at the other part of their core mission in understanding the Titans. She’s pleading to figure out a way to capture a Titan again for study, but the higher-ups aren’t interested in that at the moment as the last time they did it ten years prior it cost them twenty soldiers.
So while out on a mission, it’s no surprise that Hange gets a bit taken with an Abnormal Titan that she comes across and does what she can to try and draw it into a makeshift trap. What we end up getting is a discovery that it’s very unique compared to the others when she finds a notebook from a lost member of the group from years ago, Ilse Langnar. Discovering his body in a tree and copious notes, it reveals that there are new facets to the Titans that they were wholly unaware of before. It’s a chilling flashback sequence as it digs into the terror of a lone man that knows the end is near but struggles to gain as much information as possible. It’s a surprisingly intriguing bit of information that really left me wanting to know more as well as it’s the kind of thing that hints of just how much the higher ups really know compared to everyone else.
Having avoided learning anything about this since it first came out, it was definitely a treat to get a taste of something new in the Attack on Titan realm. There’s an endless number of stories that can be told within it and a way to really expand it all in intriguing areas. Working some stories in the background aspect of events while Eren and Mikasa are getting involved in training works to flesh out some good stuff and give us a little more time with the supporting cast that wasn’t around until later in the series. Kodansha Comics did a solid job with this release overall, though I’m sure some will have minor quibbles with subtitling (too many lines sometimes!), but these are minor and negligible overall. Good stuff and definitely worth seeking out for fans of the property.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: December 15th, 2015
Running Time: 23 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.