Crash Analysis: Attack on Titan Part I and II (Japan, 2015)

 

maxresdefaultIn the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if you love science fantasy, but want something a bit more horror ridden, check out Shinji Higuchi’s live action two-parter Attack on Titan.

The two films are based on the much loved anime series, which is based upon writer/illustrator Hajime Isayama’s renowned manga. The story revolves around the emotional and enraged Eren (Haruma Miura), his half-sister, Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), and their friend Armin (Kanata Hongo). The three live with the rest of humanity in giant walled cities to protect them from attacks from gigantic Titans that feed on human flesh. The Titans are naked, have no reproductive organs, and are oddly stoic as they attempt to invade and consume. No one knows where they came from, what they really want, or how to get rid of them.

Sound pretty wild? It is. But for fans of the anime series, the problem with the films exists in the fact that story and characters are compressed, and some storylines have changed. In addition, thematic value is compromised. Fans of the much more explicit and gory manga are disappointed that the anime series held back, although they may appreciate the films more. What many fans fail to understand is that manga is manga, an animated series is an animated series, and a film is a film. They are three distinct artistic entities. After all, there is no way to encapsulate the animated series into roughly four hours of film, which means characters and storylines have to be altered, combined, or abandoned. The best a fan can do is take each entity as something whole and unique, and try not to draw comparisons. Screenwriters Yusuke Watanbe and Tomohiro Machiyama worked hard to bring fans and newcomers alike a solid storytelling experience (especially in Part One), and one can only imagine the difficult task they had trying to compress such a mountain of material.

“Attack on Titan” is the first series I ever binge watched. The story not only captured my imagination, but the series could have been called “Pure Rage” thanks to Eren’s drive to destroy the Titans. This intensity did spill over into both films, but to a lesser degree, which did not detract from the overall storyline.

Attack on Titan Part I is certainly the better of the pair. In this portion of the tale, we are not only exposed to the origin of renewed attacks against the city, but we soon learn that the wealthiest reside in the innermost walled territory, which means that the poor immediately inside the walls are fodder for the Titans and serve as a buffer appetizer. Although the series explores the layers of politics and military units in greater detail, new viewers should easily understand what’s happening.

The Titans are formidable and frightening – and relentless. They’re so hungry for human flesh, which must be the equivalent to us eating shrimp, that they consume souls fully clothed. Special Effects Director Katsuro Onoue certainly did an excellent job in bringing the terror on a grand scale. The special effects, combined with Shoji Ehara’s strong cinematography, helped capture a fantastical walled world that shone as something both intimate as well as terrifying.

The second part is more of an elongated action sequence as the army goes outside the walls to confront the Titans head on. Moreover, the movie becomes surreal at points as if David Lynch walked on as a consultant. Either way, we learn of the Titans’ origin, and learn of the fate of our heroes and the future of the walled cities. Once again, however, themes prevalent within the series have been sacrificed, which is a disappointment.

Both films make for a decent double feature in your own home. If you have not seen the animated series, or indulged in the manga and novels, you will most likely engage in them once Shinji Higuchi’s films capture your imagination. In that regard, the films serve as a great launch pad for the wild world Hajime Isayama created for us.

Attack on Titan Part I: 3 out of 5 stars

Attack on Titan Part II: 2.5 out of 5 stars

(Photo from YouTube.)

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