Attack on Titan: Part 1 Blu-ray Review

Titan Smash

The crowded, rushed story of Attack on Titan’s live action adaptation snags a few critical components. Social classes visibly exist between defensive walls; citizens accept their ranks at birth. What’s left of society, some 100 years after civilization crumbled underfoot of the human-esque Titans, doesn’t veer from Japan’s overall culture. Fit in how you’re expected to or be labeled a rebel.

Broken into two parts (mimicking the multi-film value of American teen sci-fi/fantasy) Attack on Titan blitzes through sloppy exposition and rather thin character. A trio introduces the world – Eren (Haruma Miura), Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara), and Armin (Kanata Hongo) – and carry it through to the expected Titan battles. Once there, it’s chaos. Key story components come in and drop out, while others drag the middle chapter down. It’s understandably difficult material to translate given the time, but choices disrupt flow, pace, and cohesion.

Choosing spectacle and a barrage of attacks from the effectively conceived Titans, a cruel tone begins to appear. Dark, moody, morose, and to an extent, rife with hopelessness, the odds appear insurmountable against human fighters. Bloodshed splatters onto the camera lens, people violently split apart when eaten, with detached limbs flopping around the battlefield. Titans add gore too. Their lone weakness requires ripping open their necks with swords via illogical (if totally exciting) sword acrobatics.

Dark, moody, morose, and to an extent, rife with hopelessness, the odds appear insurmountable.

For awhile, it’s thrilling. Even without knowing who’s being slaughtered, visual effects set scale and tension. Paired with the ugly ingenuity of the Titan designs – accurately replicating the manga/anime in live action – it’s enough to feed thrills and fear into the mix. The Attack on Titan property has that power, overriding some glaring misgivings in terms of structure.

Constant flashbacks, errant character actions, sloppy narrative composition, and the disappointing lack of greater social perspective leave the film feeling hopelessly commercial. Certainly, familiar elements of Japanese fiction exist. The creation of ODM troops, who use rocket propelled wires, hooks, and swords to fight Titans, captures the scientific ingenuity prevalent in Japan’s sci-fi. Yet, this method of killing monsters comes in after a flash forward edit. Context for these troops goes missing until expository dialog fills in gaps later. Despite two films with which to tell the story, pace surges forward.

Blame time, blame the amount of effects needed, blame the restrictive Japanese film business in comparison to other countries; they’re all assumed valid. Director Shinji Higuchi, former special effects director on Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy, finds the appropriate level of escapism, with brutal popcorn cinema action. The cliffhanger cut-away is smart too, even if everything before falls into a jumble.

Attack on Titan: Part 1 Blu-ray screen shot 10

Video

Prior to the Titan attacks, society is content. Visual style reflects bright contrast with a reduced, if vivid, palette. Superlative depth and fidelity highlight this opening chapter. It’s not to last long.

Color restrictions hit harder in the back half. Titans sleep at night, which means the mission to repair a hole in the defensive wall happens under moonlight. It’s a slight change from the sun drenched first act. Blues overwhelm the image while the sedate black levels falter in keeping imagery dense. Washed out and flat, it’s lackluster in depth, but still holding on to facial detail.

The plethora of green screens and visual effects have their own impact. Softness causes a drop which feels like a loss of resolution. It’s inconsistent though. One or two severe moments battle noise. Funimation’s encode is enough to fend off any greater consequences.

Once the sun rises – in time for the vicious finale – warmth seeps back in, if not black levels. This is clearly post-production sapping the energy to match the morose tone, not the disc.

Audio

While channel separation lags behind US blockbusters, big action moments still produce results. Attack on Titan’s massive first strike opens with ridiculously good low-end support and wide dynamics. A Titan’s footsteps lead into a lengthy attack, where debris fields and destruction fill the soundstage. Some effects specifically mix into the rears – Titan roars, precise strikes – while others blend in to the rears without distinctiveness.

Ambient touches fill in any dead zones, from dripping water when underground to crowded cities. It’s pleasing. The fun stuff comes as ODM soldiers begin their attacks, whipping about the soundfield and channel accuracy picks up. Stereos becomes greatly involved and attacks sound multi-directional.

Extras

A trailer package filled with Japanese and American trailers makes up the bonus menu.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.