ANIME REVIEW: Attack On Titan: The Complete First Season (2016) U.S. Blu-ray/DVD Combo (Funimation Exclusive)

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———>>> WARNING! MASSIVE SPOILERS WITHIN! WARNING! <<<<———

A century ago cannibalistic giants referred to as Titans appeared and pushed humanity to near extinction overnight. Incredibly, there was enough time and enough of us left to create this new “eco-system” for humans to live in. It was surrounded by a great outer wall, with two inner walls. The Great (outer) Wall was named Maria with the first inner wall being named Rose and the second named Sina (spelled Sina and pronounced See-na in the English dub. It’s misspelled on the map below). A class system was created. If you were rich you lived behind Wall Sina. If you were poor you lived behind Wall Maria, and I guess if you were middle class, life behind Wall Rose was your home.


Outer districts exist too. See the photos below. The half circles attached to each wall on the map denote a district.

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The year is 845 and for a century mankind and giants have lived in an uneasy peace thanks to Wall Maria. However all that suddenly changes with the breach of the wall at the Shiganshina District. The first two episodes graphically chronicle how this happens with the sudden appearance of a new giant. A Colossal Titan as it’s referred to. Most Titans are minuscule compared to this giant and the Walls, and they all have a general look: naked and no genitals, yet male and female giants exist; even children and most have freaky looking countenances. But this Colossal Titan stands taller than any of the walls, has no skin, with only its musculature and ligaments exposed. One kick and the wall is breached allowing the smaller Titans into Shiganshina. Attack On Titan anime may be an “alternate reality,” for it’s unclear where in history it takes place. Based on clothing, architecture and armaments shown (i.e. castles, fire for light, cannons, muskets) the time frame could be anywhere between the 12th to 15th century, but there is “steampunkish tech” present called the omni-directional mobility gear (ODM for short) that suggests to me this could be some kind of “alternate reality.” This gear is worn by the military and it’s the only way a normal sized person can combat a Titan on its own terms. The first time I saw this in action in the trailer it reminded me of Spider-Man’s webshooters, but in the style of bulky steampunk tech.


Below is a live action mock-up of the omni-directional mobility gear

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While the “military” of the populace fail miserably to stop the onslaught of the Titans another new Titan appears, the Armored Titan for it has skin texture that appears plated. The job of this one is to breach the gate of Wall Maria inside the Shiganshina District. Once that happens all Titans inside now have access to the land between Wall Maria and Wall Rose. The human population is devastated. Survivors retreat via boats (a river runs straight through all the walls) to sanctuary behind Wall Rose, which makes life a lot tougher for everyone due to the population increase. Famine is the result.

Our three main characters are Eren Jaeger, adopted sister, Mikasa Ackerman and Eren’s longtime friend, Armin Arlert. In the first two episodes they are young kids, Eren and Armin appear to be around the 12 or 13-year-old mark, while Mikasa looks to be a bit older. All three are from the Shiganshina District and were present and accounted for when their community was attacked by giants. Eren’s mother was killed and he saw it happen. Traumatized, he vows a near psychotic revenge, with his sole objective to eventually join the military and then the Scout Regiment which will allow him to venture outside the walls to combat these man-eating motherfuckers face-to-face on their own turf.

Once episode three happens there’s been a two-year jump in time. Eren has finally gotten old enough to enter boot camp. Mikasa follows him into the military for she has tasked herself with being Eren’s protector whether he likes it or not. Mikasa ’s backstory when they were younger involved a tragic confrontation with slave traders who killed her family and Eren was the one who saved her, killing the remaining men while she was forced to kill the final trader herself. They are bonded by this tragedy. Armin also joins him for they’re best friends and he also wants to fight back. Over a period of 5 years (aka 2-3 episodes) the three are trained, they make friends, and an occasional (and temporary) enemy, and learn Titans can regenerate lost limbs, even a head, and the only way to kill them dead is to cut them deep behind the neck, which is why all soldiers fight them with a pair swords.

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During those five years the Colossal Titan has kept a low profile and there have been no other attacks on Wall Rose by any other Titan. But of course the day the kids graduate from bootcamp, with Eren getting offered the Scout position he was always aiming for, the Colossal Titan re-appears. The outlying district of Trost is now in danger, with the Titan kicking a hole in their wall just like he did in Shiganshina, but things are different this time, the Armored Titan doesn’t appear and there’s no breach of Wall Rose from inside. For the most part the limited knowledge humans have of Titans, and their experiences with them, rightly indicate they aren’t intelligent creatures, but with the Colossal and Armored Titans there is a vibe of “pre-meditation” on their parts. For the next five episodes the recently graduated cadets are thrust into making sure Wall Rose is never breached for if it ever is mankind truly is back on the endangered species list. These next five episodes on Disc #1 subtitled, ‘The Struggle For Trost’ is kind of like watching the anime version of Platoon (1986) or Saving Private Ryan (1998) in that in this case the psychological reality of warring with giant, man-eating humanoids is realistically portrayed as cadets are killed and/or eaten alive (in some cases swallowed hole), and select survivors are traumatized and become useless to the group for a bit. One poor bastard (not a main character) seen in episode #8 even deep throats the business end of a musket blowing his brains out as he and two other cadets hide out in a supply building. I guess death by musket was more appealing than the prospect of being eaten alive by a giant. I can understand that.

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The big revelation in the final two episodes on Disc #1 is that Eren can somehow transform into a Titan, giving us some insight into the existence of the other Titans and possibly why the Colossal Titan disappears as quickly as it appears. He was presumed dead earlier when he saved Armin from the mouth of a Titan. He had had his leg and arm severed in the process before being swallowed. Then a mysterious Titan appears that has a deadly grudge against other Titans and proceeds to kill any other Titan it sees. He’s also different looking than most, making him stand out even further. After this Titan is beaten within an inch of its life finally by its brethren, Eren erupts out of the back of its neck with a fully restored arm and leg, but with no immediate memory of what happened. In a rather gruesome flashback in episode #9 we see him in the stomach of the Titan amidst the limbs and bodies of other soldiers it’s eaten, and he vows to continue to fight on. That’s when Titan Eren bursts out from inside. But we end this disc on a downbeat note since Mikasa and Armin weren’t the only ones to see Eren erupt out of the back of this new Titan. Captain Kitz Woerman (pronounced Vorman in the English dub) and his regiment also saw it to and they brand Eren, Armin and Mikasa traitors to be killed, but as a canyon is fired at them, Eren transforms into this half-formed Titan, protecting them.

‘The Struggle For Trost’ continues and concludes with four episodes that make-up Disc #2 bringing this story arc to a whopping nine parts. Now that Eren and friends have gained the trust of the military as a whole thanks to the last minute intervention of Commander Dot Pyxis, the focus now moves to how in the hell are they going to plug that whole the Colossal Titan made in Trost’s wall? Pyxis address the masses of soldiers telling them Eren is going to transform into his Titan form and pick up a massive boulder that fell into the city when it was breached and smash it into the breach. The soldiers who made it out alive are now shitting themselves thinking they are going to have to go back in and fight more Titans. One of the soldiers losses his shit and threatens AWOL, whole two others wonder who’s next to have a nervous breakdown. Thankfully, Pyxis tells them those who do not want to fight can sit this one out and return to their loved ones, and a bunch of them actually leave. I don’t blame them.

The plan is to lure all current wondering Titans to one part of Trost near the wall, while Titan Eren moves the boulder, a team will accompany him and keep all other Titans off him so he can plug the hole. Titans don’t like Titan Eren and will attack him on sight and try and eat him. What I wasn’t expecting was how fucked the plan gets when Eren for no reason turns and attacks Mikasa who’s watching on a rooftop behind him. The plan has now gone seriously South. Mikasa tries to reason with him by landing on his face, but all he manages to do is knock himself out when he tries to punch her. It goes without saying a lot of soldiers die, but they were going to die anyway. But if the plan worked their deaths wouldn’t have been in vain.

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Armin is the one who “wakes” Eren up and gets him back on track, but there’s never any explanation, at least not yet, why Eren tried to kill Mikasa. By the end of episode #13, ‘Primal Desire: The Struggle for Trost, Part 9’ the hole is plugged and now all they have to do is dispatch the Titans trapped in Trost. Cannons do the trick. I like how this show pays attention to “detail” in that there’s a short prologue that takes place 2-days later where anyone who’s available is tasked with retrieving the dead, and there were 207 soldiers killed during this massive nine-part battle, and we get to see one soldier we know find the dead body of another soldier we used to know. We also learn Titans have no digestive tract, after they eat all the people they want to eat they puke up their remains in a gelatinous, orange ball. Titans don’t need to feed on humans; they eat them for the pure enjoyment of the kill!

The introduction of what is clearly going to be an intrinsic character for the rest of the series, and I only say that because I’ve seen the live action movies, happened earlier with a couple of really short cameos, Captain Levi (he’s a legendary Titan killer and second-in-command of the infamous Scout Regiment) makes one last cameo in a scene where Eren has been shackled and put in a dungeon. He asks Eren what his intentions are. Eren replies in semi-psychotic fashion he wants to kill all Titans!

‘Eve Of The Counterattack  (Parts 1-3)’ on Disc #3 is the set-up to the next big battle with the Titans. The plan is to retake Wall Maria, go to Eren’s home in the Shiganshina District, and get into the cellar for Eren’s father has hinted to the boy when he was a little what lies there may be the origin of the Titans, and Eren’s ability to transform may have come from an injection his father gave home. But before any of this takes place Eren is put on trial with the Scout Regiment and the Military Police giving their two cents on what should become of the boy. The MP’s want him killed, but the Scout’s think they can use him to win this war, and so after Captain Levi plays his hand and beats the living shit out of Eren to prove a calculated point, the judge rules in the favor of the Scouts. What’s learned in these three episodes is the Scouts are kind of the equivalent of a Seal team, the best of the best, and in a mass gathering the remaining cadets are to make their career choice, join the Military Police or the Scouts. Most join the MP’s because it’s not a career where they’re likely to see daily combat, but a few (i.e. Armin and Mikasa) join Eren in the Scouts. In these episodes we also learn a bit more about the Titans, thanks to Zoe Hange, the Scout’s resident scientist, who studies these creatures and experiments on the ones they capture. Titans don’t breath, they get their strength and vitality from sunlight and their limbs are as slight as tree bark. And they cannot be reasoned with. There is no discernible intelligence, they’re much like animals. But they do feel pain.

Continuing with the “emotional traumatizing tone” of Platoon (1986) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), a tone which sets this anime series above most others I have seen and is the empathizing icing on the cake, continues in these 3-parter when the kids we’ve grown to mostly love are gathered around these bonfires. This is how they dispose of the dead.

Titan and human revelations abound in the next story arc, the 6-part ‘The 5th Exterior Scouting Mission’ that rounds out the episodes on this disc. By the time this arc is over its clear the mission to reclaim Wall Maria will be an ongoing one for the series rather than for this season. What Commander Erwin (pronounced Ervin with a V in the English dub) Smith and Captain Levi (incidentally Levi in the anime is one of the good guys. In the movie adaptation he’s a villain) tell Eren is that there first priority is to go to Eren’s home in Shiganshina and find out what secrets his father was hiding about the Titans in the basement, but there’s an ulterior motive that slowly gets revealed over this arc. Only Erwin and Levi are privy to it, for what they believe is there’s a spy in their ranks!

Once the scouting party leaves the protection of the Karanes District they are in open land where ODM gear is useless, and are, as expected, set upon by various Titans. Out here they encounter a new Titan, a Female Titan who’s skinless like the Colossal, but not nearly as tall. She’s about the size of Eren when he transforms. This Female Titan is intelligent, and can move in ways the more animalistic-minded Titans don’t even consider. This makes her fast and lethal and through her encounters we see just how much Eren has to learn controlling his Titan form. She can harden portions of her skin, making her invulnerable to slashing attacks, she also knows enough to cover the nape of her neck when fighting soldiers. Even her regenerative powers are a lot quicker than Eren’s. Because of these encounters the Scouting Regiment their losses are profound.

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This mission is not to go to Shiganshina, but to trap and kill, and find out who this female Titan is. But is she the same spy who we see later on kill one of the Scout members as they’re slinging through the trees? Probably, but this means she can recover a lot quicker than Eren could after being pulled out of his Titan form. Levi and Erwin lure her into this forest where ODM gear works just fine. Once they have here right where they want her, she is assaulted on all sides by cannon blasts housing spikes trailing steel cords. She is effectively held in place, but if you’ve seen everything she did before this moment, you’ll know she’s still dangerous as all hell, and has one more trick up her sleeve. Desperate to keep her identify a secret, she lets out a soul-piercing roar that brings every other Titan in range to her, and their sole job is to eat her. But Levi knows even though her Titan form may be shredded into pieces now whoever she really is has escaped. With the mission an utter disappointment they intend to head back to town, but the objective of this female Titan isn’t complete yet and she still needs to take out Eren. That’s right Eren was used as bait for this mission. In an unexpected turn, the female Titan re-appears again confirming indeed their spy got out alive, and she makes quick bloody work of the group Eren was riding with (some characters we were introduced to once Eren joined he Scouts are killed) and he’s now forced to turn Titan to take her out!

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But he was never any match for her to begin with. Eren’s fighting techniques are crude and fueled by rage rather than thought out and executed, and she eventually severs his head off with a kick, and eats Eren out of the nape of the neck! For a brief moment I thought this show just killed off their central character, but Mikasa who witnessed the whole thing refused to believe he was eaten. She and Levi go after her on the theory she’s holding Eren under her tongue, which ends up being true, begging even more questions. Why did she want Eren alive and not dead? There’s someone she answers to, but who?

The combat scene between Titan, Levi and Mikasa is extraordinary. Levi finally shows off why he’s so legendary in Titan combat as he manages to maim her do a degree where they can slash open her mouth and retrieve Eren. They now return to town, but not the district they left, to Stohess this time. Since Eren’s contribution to the Scouts was an utter clusterfuck leading to massive deaths, he’s now turned over to the Military Police. This final episode, Defeated: The 57th Exterior Scouting Mission, Part 6,’ concludes with a poetic touch for Eren who’s semi-conscious in the back of a wagon with Mikasa. When they were kids, and the Scouts were coming back home, he lined up with the other spectators to watch, this is where he got the fantasy of wanting to be a Scout. That scene is in the first episode, but now he’s on the other end of it and spotting a boy and girl in the crowd watching him with gleeful eyes and the reality of being a Scout was more tragic than he could have ever thought when he was a kid.

Disc #4, the final blu-ray disc in the set, houses the season’s final three episodes, the ‘Assault On Stohess’ arc and it focuses solely on unmasking and capturing the Female Titan! A flashback in episode #24, ‘Mercy: Assault on Stohess, Part 2’ shows how the Scout Regiment determines who the Titan is, and when it was initially revealed their Titan spy was in their ranks I thought they meant she was in the Scouts, which would make it pathetically easy to find out her identity. Just find the blond chick, but when they said they had a spy they meant in the military, and it’s eventually determined Annie Leonhart is that spy/Titan. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this anime yet, you’ll meet Annie in bootcamp in the beginning of the series, and see her pop up from time to time throughout.

There are two reasons for trying to capture her: 1). The Scout Regiment needs to be exonerated. I think the higher-ups believe Eren had something to do with the losses the Regiment incurred. 2). Her very existence suggests there’s a “hidden agenda” going on that reaches very far up the political food chain and a properly executed interrogation might answer a ton of questions. Unfortunately the plan Erwin has concocted to capture Annie goes seriously sideways, because simply put Annie sees through the ruse of Armin coming to her and needing her help to smuggle Eren out of town so they can have enough time to prove to the Military Police Eren is an asset and not a liability.

Their intent is to get Annie underground to a part of an underground city that was never completed where she would have a hell of a time becoming a Titan, but she never makes it down those stairs. Armin tries to reason with her, but when she shows her true colors before transforming I had the impression she’s probably a psychopath, and thus unable to be reasoned with.

Now Plan B has to be initiated and that involves having Eren transform and take her out, but deep down he can’t get past seeing Annie as a traitor and thus cannot transform, until he finally understand to fight monsters you have to become one, to put it simply, and then we get a battle royal between them right in the middle of the rich district, which didn’t bother me too much. Eren gets beat again, but he’s in another mindset now, and despite having an arm and a leg gone, he quickly recovers and puts Annie’s Titan down for good, but she has yet another one last trick up her sleeve. As they pull her from the nape of her Titan’s neck she encases herself in crystal, the kind of crystal she can harden parts of her body with, and she did this just to protect her secrets. Unable to crack it, she’s put in a dungeon and watched over night and day. I suspect we’ll see more of her in Season 2.

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As I knew this entire season ends on a note that leaves more questions than answers. Why are people able to become Titans? Who’s the Armored and Colossal Titans? Why are they different than your average Titan? Why are these new, intelligent Titans working against humanity? Who in the government/military know about them? And most importantly what does Eren’s father now about all this? Might I add Eren’s father was not present when their home was attacked, he was on a trip, and so is still alive . . . somewhere. In the shows closing moments Commander Erwin Smith makes a new pledge now, to ferret out the Titans living among them.

the_wall_titanStick around for there’s one final scene after the credits, which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. It’s a shot of the wall the Female Titan was trying to scale before Mikasa sliced her fingers off and sent her plummeting into Eren Titan’s rage. A place where she grabbed, the wall crumbles just enough to show us half the face of another Titan, possibly the Colossal Titan. But it looked like it was actually embedded inside the wall. Now that I think about that might explain something. In this world there are religious fanatics who worship the walls themselves claiming they’re some kind of omnipotent entity, well, that face may give some credence to that belief, and pose even crazier revelations to come in Season Two.

Funimation has released Attack On Titan in various editions in the past few years, splitting the series into two parts on disc, but this past January 24th they finally released it in a complete season set that you can either get as a stand alone blu-ray or as a Funimation  Exclusive Limited Edition DVD/Blu-ray combo. You buy either from their own site or on Amazon.


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Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English Dolby TrueHD, 2.0 Japanese Dolby TrueHD—English subs

Extras included . . .

  • Commentaries With the American Cast/Crew on Episodes 3, 13, 14 and 25
  • The Making of Attack on Titan (52;34)
  • Attack on Titan at Anime Expo (16:21)
  • “Chibi Theatre: Fly, Cadets, Fly!” (47:15)
  • Eyecatch Gallery
  • Textless Opening Songs – “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen” (1:34) and “Jiyuu no Tsubasa” (1:31)
  • Textless Closing Songs – “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai” (1:31) and “Great Escape” (1:31)
  • U.S. Trailer
  • Trailers

Now that I’ve seen the anime it appears the two live action movies was based loosely on episodes #1-13, with a revelation to why the Titans exist not yet realized in the anime. I’ve never read the manga, so the movies may have taken that particular revelation from that.

I heard about this anime many years ago when I came across a trailer for it when Funimation first acquired it. Right from the start there was something about it that caught my attention. First off the animation looked incredible (character and action, but especially the action), secondly, the plot was so strange, giants marauding around a city and eating people?! And these kids combating them with this gear they sling around on like Spider-Man?!

As time went on I could tell, this show was something special because Toho decided to make a 2-part live action movie on it. In the review I did of the two movies I stated they were more visceral than the anime, and I kind of still stand by that (for some reason the Titans come off far creepier in live action), but now that I have finally seen the anime in its entirety I will admit the series has much more depth of character and plot, and I can now fully understand why fans were disappointed by the films. But the flicks could have never done what the anime series did because in a movie, even a 2-part one, there just isn’t the time to play with the finer details of character and story. I say treat the two movies like a short story and the anime series like a novel, both have their pluses and minuses, and both I love for different reasons. For anyone who’s never seen either yet, I recommend starting with the movies, if you like what them then go into the anime.

Just to show you further how popular this “mythos” is becoming Warner Brothers is trying to get the rights to make their own movie here in the U.S.

I’m very picky about the anime I collect, especially series, and of the shows I have seen in the past decade (The Guyver, Zetman, Parasyte), Attack On Titan ranks number #1 as the most engrossing! Very much looking forward to Season Two, and there’s already a trailer!

 

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About Shawn Francis

Movie collector and horror writer.
Gallery | This entry was posted in ANIME REVIEW: Attack On Titan: The Complete First Season (2016) U.S. Blu-ray/DVD Combo (Funimation Exclusive). Bookmark the permalink.

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