If you follow anime at all, you've doubtlessly heard about Attack on Titan. It's the biggest
release (on both sides of the Pacific) to hit store shelves in years.
There's been an incredible amount of extremely positive buzz concerning
the show, and all of the anime viewers here at DVD Talk were jockeying
to cover it. So, is it as good as all of the hype? Pretty close. While
it's not perfect it is an excellent show with a lot of action, intense
suspense, and some shocking twists that keep viewers glued to the
It's been over 100 years since the Titans appeared and nearly wiped out
mankind. No one knows where they came from, but they are incredibly
deadly. Ranging from 10 to 50 feet tall they look just like large
people (except for the fact that they have no genitalia) but they're
mindless and they only eat one thing: humans. Titans regenerate at an
incredible speed and are nearly unstoppable. Even decapitating them
with a cannon shot only slows them down until they can regrow their
head. The only way to kill one is to slice a section out of their neck,
between the base of the skull and the nape, anything else is useless.
Humanity was pushed to the brink of extinction, but was able to save
themselves by erecting huge 200 feet high walls and hiding behind them.
There are three concentric circular walls that hold all of the Earth's
human population: Wall Shina, the inner most, Wall Rose in the middle,
and the outer one, Wall Maria.
Eren Yeager and close friend/adopted sister Mikasa live with Eren's
parents near Wall Maria. It's a decent life and while Eren and his
friend Armin dream of someday traveling outside of the walls, they know
that will probably never happen. While the Titans are a deadly threat
outside of the walls, inside life is good and even the soldiers have
That all changes one day when a new Titan appears. 200 feet tall and
without any skin, the "Colossus Titan" breaks a hole in the outer wall
and a smaller, but more powerful creature, the Armored Titan, rips a
hole through an inner wall allowing the man-eating giants to gorge
themselves on people. Eren sees his mother devoured by a Titan and
though he, Makasa, and Armin all manage to make it through Wall Rose,
many people are not so lucky. Twenty percent of humanity dies, and
those that survive face starvation since the fields inside Wall Rose
can't support all of the refugees. After seeing his home ruined and
loved ones killed, the three friends enroll in the cadets and train for
years in the difficult art of killing Titans. Eren is driven by one
goal: to kill every Titan there is.
While the plot sounds pretty simple and straight forward, this could
easily be a mecha show with the plucky young protagonist vowing to
become the best pilot ever, the show is anything but typical. While the
violence is dialed up a couple of notches (people are eaten after all,
and while the camera cuts away just before the jaws snap, it's still
pretty intense... seeing a screaming person being put into the mouth of
a Titan is fairly common) that's not the thing that really sets this
anime apart from all of the rest. There are a couple of aspects that
work together to make this a standout show.
First is the twisting plot. I won't reveal any spoilers in this review,
but suffice to say that by the end of the second show, I knew exactly
what was going to happen. I didn't know how it was going to come to
pass, but I was confident that I could predict the major plot points
that were going to occur. Except that I was wrong. There are a couple
of events that really took me by surprise. Afterwards I readjusted by
thinking and knew how the show was going to play out. And I was wrong
again. I've been on the edge of my seat ever since.
The program also gets kudos for not only showing the horrors of war,
but the aftermath too and how the soldiers are affected. Many of the
soldiers end up suffering from the psychological affects of what
they've seen and it's not pretty. They crack up, they run away, and
some just go catatonic. This really drives home how horrible the
battles are (even after they have been shown) and makes the show all
that more powerful.
While I really enjoyed the program, it isn't perfect. The flaws are
pretty minor though. The pacing is uneven at times and the first
episode was actually a bit slow and had me wondering what all of the
fuss was about. The other problem I had was with the design of the gear
that the soldiers use to fight Titans. The steam-punk inspired,
compressed gas powered, waist mounted, retractable grappling hooks and
cables that allow the soldiers to swish through the city like
Spider-man on his webs are a bit silly. Every time they were used I had
to forcibly suspend my disbelief. It wasn't too hard, after all they
are fighting mindless 40-foot giants.
The 1.78:1 AVC 1080p image is outstanding. The animation is
stunning in parts and the show really pops in HD. The lines are tight
and the level of detail is excellent. There are some soft sections, but
these were intentional. When characters are thinking back to the days
before the initial attack that starts off the show, the picture is just
a tad less distinct, as if the peaceful days gone by were just a dream.
It's a subtle effect but it works very well.
Viewers have the choice of the original Japanese language track in
Dolby TrueHD 2.0 or an English dub in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. I usually
prefer the Japanese track when watching anime, but I have to admit that
the English dub was excellent. In a lot of ways it packed more punch
than the Japanese track due to the dedicated subwoofer channel. It was
used fairly sparingly, but in this case less is more. When there's a
battle going on and the sub kicks in unexpectedly, it's shocking and
impressive. Just listen to the scene when the Armored Titan breaks
through Wall Maria. The forceful boom made me jump the first time I
heard it. The English actors did a really good job too making the dub
stand up very well.
Unlike most anime releases, this set has some pretty decent bonuses
included on the discs. There are two commentary tracks, on the third
episode with the English ADR Director Mike McFarland and English voice
actors Bryce Papenbrook, Trina Nishimura and Josh Grelle and on episode
12 with Mike McFarland and actors J. Michael Tatum, Scott Freeman and
Clifford Chapin. I'm not really a fan of commentary tracks on anime by
the people who did the dub, but this one is there.
The thing that really surprised me was the nearly hour-long
behind-the-scenes piece, The Making
of Attack on Titan. Again, this dealt with the creation of
FUNimation's dub track, but I found it fun and informative. Well worth
watching even if you're not a fan of secondary language tracks. The
best extra has to be Chibi Theater:
Fly, Cadets, Fly! These shorts tell the adventures of the cadets
in chibi form.
Rounding out the extras are an image gallery, a textless opening, and a
While I won't go so far as to say that Attack on Titan is the best anime
ever, it is the best that I've seen in a while. Filled with some very
frantic action, an intense story, and some truly surprising twists,
it's a show that anime fans should not miss. Highly Recommended.