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Attack on Titan: Junior High Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Attack on Titan Junior High DVD-BD CoverSome junior high students you just want to see be eaten up.

What They Say:
Eren and his friends are the hapless first-year students at Attack Junior High, a unique school for both humans and Titans alike. That’s right… Titans go to class, too – in their own gigantic classrooms with their larger-than-life school supplies and benches as big as buildings!

And while most humans are happy to avoid the massive monstrosities, Eren will stop at nothing to exact revenge on the hungry Titan who ate something more precious than human life – his mom’s homemade chee-burg bento! Join the secret Scout Regiment as they plan to stop the Titans while Eren masters the omni-directional mobility gear to clean the massive wall surrounding the campus.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show does play with some bigger action sequences, relatively speaking, from time to time but mostly it plays to a fun and loud comedic tone. That has a lot of things going on across the forward soundstage while the 5.1 mix bumps a few things to the rear from time to time as well. The dialogue itself is well placed and the various levels work well to highlight certain scenes to give it the impact it needs. The bigger action pieces, more notable toward the end, aren’t going to be anything to really get super excited about but it achieves the goals that it has to. Both tracks come across in a very clean and clear form and capture the tone and feel of the show well.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, plus a video commentary. Animated by Production IG, the show takes the designs well and changes them to this form as done in the original manga and has fun with it. It has a flatter feeling overall but it captures the look of the manga well while also blending in from the anime a good bit. The encoding works the more real world colors and school design as you’d expect so there’s a clean look about it with bold colors here and there and lots of solid areas that hold up well. The show goes playful with bigger moments from time to time but overall it’s a fairly standard comedy series design with episodes clocking in at about fifteen minutes each.

Packaging:
Owing to the popularity of the main franchise and hoping to connect with that, the limited edition release for this gets a nice heavy chipboard box to hold the Blu-ray case. The box is pretty solid with some appealing key visual artwork across it that shows off the chibi designs and all the expressiveness of them. Both sides work different aspects and character configurations that make me smile and that means it achieved the right goal in that regard. Within the box we get thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold the DVDs and Blu-ray’s on hinges. The front cover artwork uses the back of the box artwork which looks good, but obviously not as colorful. The back of the case has some fun imagery from the sports festival episode that makes me grin. The reverse side is pretty nice as well with the left panel breaking down the episodes by number and title as well as the extras while the right side has a Levi and Hange focused piece with other supporting characters there. Within the box we also get a really great mini composition book that serves to bring together a lot of the Japanese booklet and marketing material with character and episode profiles and a slew of art pieces. I love the design of it as it just hits all the right pieces of a composition book.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works the simple approach with clips from the show playing, which works nicely as it plays up the humor, motion, and tone of it well with the variety of clips. The logo runs through it with the serious classic logo and that tagged on Junior High part and that helps to set the tone as well. The navigation itself is certainly going the minimal approach with a kind of pavement style bar along the bottom that’s oversized for the expansion pieces but looks very empty with the small font of the actual navigation. The strip works well in that it’s functional and easy to navigate with problem free elements throughout it. It’s not the most engaging of menus but if you’ve got it on a loop you’ll see some good bits for it and it catches the eye.

Extras:
The extras for this release go a bit further than some others, notably for the English language side. Two dub commentary tracks are definitely appreciated but also getting a video commentary from three of the actors for the last episode? Now that’s just some silly fun. The set includes a number of promos, web previews, and the various commercials used to showcase the series. And we also get the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the obviously popular original property of Attack on Titan, the deluge if spinoff material over the years was a given. It’s what publishers know and it’s what editors crave while trying to ensure they don’t dilute the original. Kicking off in 2012 in manga form was the Junior High comedy manga series from Saki Nakagawa. It ran until last summer with eleven volumes, providing more than enough material for Production IG to work with for this fall 2015 anime adaptation. With a fifteen minute running time per episode and a twelve episode run, the show is one that plays to the familiar but doesn’t overstay its welcome. I could see it working well as a truly short-form anime series as well, but with the fanbase that exists and the gap between seasons of the original series, this was the right kind of space filler that’s just a delight.

The premise is pretty simple in that we get these cute chibi versions of the cast as they attend junior high, a segregated place walled off from the upperclassman that are the Titans. We see some cute bits early on and throughout when these guys make their way into the world of the Titans and it’s like watching mice scurry about in a larger world. I’ve always enjoyed the shrinking stories over the years and how the world looks from that perspective and when this series plays with it there’s a lot to like as the cast tend to not realize where they are until it’s too late. Not surprisingly, the junior high kids aren’t supposed to go over the (or through) the wall and are put through a familiar regimen of training and studies in order to be productive members of society. And the show works a range of characters from the original work to good effect so that most viewers of that series will like seeing their favorites and sometimes obscure characters show up.

Not surprisingly, however, is the focus on Eren and the others. Eren’s come to the school because he wants to destroy the titans because of his lunch being stolen by one of them and his intensity works comically well as it’s skewered here and most are just kind of ignoring him because of it. He does make friends along the way and Mikasa is always looking out for him, but the show blends more to an ensemble feeling along the way. Eren provides some of the basic motivations, however, and that draws in plenty of others along the way. The natural friendship with Armin comes into focus quickly and there are plenty of cute bits that provide minor twists on his relationships from the main series. It’s not a deep dive or subversive series, so it does miss some opportunities there, but it has its moments overall.

Because it’s a junior high thing, even with Titans in the background, it does work with a lot of familiar story ideas. Once the stage is set and the basic introductions are done, the show runs with the sports festival event and the school festival, the latter of which plays big in the final episode with the Titans crashing it to steal their food stands to great effect. Dodgeball makes an appearance, which is utterly adorable, and we thankfully avoid any sort of pool or beach dominated episode so that awkwardness doesn’t appear. I did get a kick out of the gang early on trying to find the right clubs to join but end up getting suckered into the Wall Cleanup Club while hoping to join the secret scout club so that Eren can learn more about taking down Titans. Wall cleanup is something that we saw in the original to some degree but I definitely got a kick out of it being a club here.

Character material is what really makes this work and there are just so many gags along the way that it works surprisingly well, even with the repetition at times. The bits with Annie and her cheeseburger bit is adorable and I loved that we had a brief piece with Ilse and her notebook that plays out in a truly horrifying way when you really think about it. The running for class president bit is one that goes on just a bit too long but seeing how that gets subverted at the end is definitely amusing. We even get a story gag about Jean getting a love letter and trying to figure out who it’s from. My favorite thing has to be Hange and her trying to get more funds from Levi for her club that involves trying to understand captured Titans, which are basically baby titans that she’s got in the club room that are continually trying to eat her, much to the freak out of everyone else.

In Summary:
While I suspect I may have gotten more out of this show if I had watched it during the simulcast season weekly instead of a marathon session here, there’s definitely a lot to like. I do find humor in these chibi spinoff pieces and this one does some cute stuff while not going as far as it could in really toying with fans. I do like the concept and the execution works well while the animation is spot on and totally appropriate for it. Funimation’s release does a lot of good stuff here with a very funny dub that captures it right, some great extras for dub fans to enjoy with the audio commentaries and video commentary, and it’s all wrapped up in a fantastic package with a great booklet included that just delights me thinking about it. It’s a show that may not cross over to all Attack on Titan fans but it’s definitely well put together.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 2 Commentary, Episode 8 Commentary, Episode 12 Video Commentary, Promo Videos, Web Previews, Commercials, Textless Opening & Closing Songs

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 21st, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 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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