The Attack on Titan franchise has had an incredible history among manga and anime fans, ranging from the popular manga, to the hit animated show, to the 4 spinoff manga series that the franchise has inspired.
Celebrating their world premiere at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood on Tuesday, July 14th, the Attack on Titan live action movie (part one of two, guys!) held a press conference and interviews before their red carpet debut. DefectiveGeeks (well, just me…) came down to the press event to get some answers for us weeaboos. At the press conference was director Shinji Higuchi, producer Yoshihiro Sato, Eren’s actor Haruma Miura (dreamy, quirky, perfect etc etc), and Mikasa’s actress Kiko Mizuhara (beautiful, well-spoken, perfect RBF, etc etc.)
They arrived, bowed and introduced themselves, then opened the floor to questions, which was greeted with crickets.
I popped up my hand, ready to take one for the team.
“What was your reasoning behind changing the characters of the movie to be all Japanese, as opposed to the original story, where Mikasa was the last Asian person left in the world?”
After receiving the translation of my question, the director laughed, and replied, “Well, I’m Japanese, so I speak Japanese, so my movie is Japanese, so my actors and words will all be Japanese also.”
Everyone sort of quietly stared at him, stunned, to which Higuchi followed up with, “That was a joke.”
The producer chimed in with a more judicial answer. When they first met with the creator of AoT, Hajime Isayama, they were told they had free license to do with they wanted with the movie, as long as the story kept the feeling and themes of the Titans and the apocalyptic world within it.
After AoT fans watched the trailer, a huge uproar ensued over the differences between the original work and the movie but, WELL, GUYS, the joke’s on you, because the director and screenwriters apparently never intended to have the movie mirror the manga. Shinji and the other actors went on to explain that it was their intention to have the AoT movie be a new story, with different feel to the story and characters than the original. Kiko Mizuhara mentioned that she did read the manga and saw the anime, but when creating her version of Mikasa, tried very hard not to be too influenced by the portrayal of her in the original work.
Although that information may scare some die-hard AoT fans, the truth is, these guys worked incredibly hard to give us a new spin on and old favorite, and in most places, they served the fandom well. Both Mizuhara and Miura mentioned that they both had intense physical training in order to prepare for all of the suspended wire work they had to do as part of portraying the 3D maneuver gear (renamed “omni-directional gear” in the movie). Higuchi chimed in that they never hired a stunt double for Mizuhara because her form and ability with the wires was flawless, but also, that they DID hire a stunt double for Miura, but fired him soon after they realized that Miura was better than the stunt double! Three cheers for the hardcore leads of this movie, who seriously took some super rough falls and swings in this movie.
As far as preparing for a worldwide audience… they didn’t. Higuchi sheepishly admitted that when they were creating the movie, they did not know they would be debuting it in the US first, and so went about creating it for a Japanese audience in mind. Despite that, the movie definitely holds up to the standard or AoT and Toho films alike.
Toho is best known for their successful Godzilla franchise totaling 28 movies over several decades, and also as the originator and master of the “tokusatsu” effect, which uses practical effects like real explosives, monster suits, and miniatures to create forced perspective and achieve larger-than-life depictions on screen. By combining practical and CG effects, I’ve got to say, it makes the gore in this movie… EXTRA, SUPER GOREY! I seriously had to cover my eyes a few times during the first titan attack because I didn’t want to throw up in the theater. BARF ALERT: CODE RED.
[About to jump into the movie and plot, so SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the 25 episodes of the anime or read the 50+chapters of the manga!]
The movie follows the basic storyline of the original: there are titans, they built the walls 100 years ago, it gets super bloody, super fast when the titans break in again and a militia is formed to fight these gross booboos. Pretty standard. However, fans will notice right away some weird changes in the beginning.
Opening on a bustling town that looks sort of like a Japanese Agrabah from Aladdin, Armin is the town’s tinkerer, promising to fix a boy’s toy before scooting off to fetch Mikasa, who is a sweet, quiet girl dressed in beige-on-beige shawls doing laundry. The two go to search for “that scoundrel who can’t keep a part time job”-Eren, who is found standing statuesque on top of a large bomb, the remnant of some long-forgotten past war (what…?), staring into the distance poetically. They joke about the bomb going off, when Eren suddenly stumbles off, and the gang finds the bomb is painted with an image of a woman standing near the ocean under the dirt encrusted on it. They idly talk about trying to escape the walls and finding the ocean one day. Eren is all, “Hey Mikasa, I’ll show you the sea some day” (…..M’LADY).
This whole opening sequence made me feel queasy. Was this about to turn into a typical “young boys just wanna be free and roam the world,” story? Mikasa was giggling and side-eyeing Eren… and there was no talk about them being adoptive brother and sister, and no sight to be seen of Eren’s parents either.
But then, thank the sweet baby Jesus that idyllic mood is broken. I mean, let’s be honest: we are all here for the TITANS, right? As the trio of youngsters gets berated for getting too close to the wall, the 60 meter titan that we know and love comes steaming, oozing, and crashing into their lives, creating a hole in the wall to allow a pack of hungry titans into the town, ravaging the city and chomping down on its people.
The effects are simply amazing, with the first crunch of human bones erupting into a tug of war of titans pulling apart a villager. The violence is brutal and feels real, as eyeballs pop, and blood sloshes across the screen. The townspeople are ripped asunder by disturbing looking titans, played by actors in skin suits with bulging eyes, deformed, drooling mouths that open at the back of their heads, and drooping, flailing bodies that do great justice to the titans as they are portrayed in the manga and anime. It was utterly terrifying seeing these in real action, and die-hard fans will not be disappointed at their portrayal and the insane amount of bloodshed and mutilation they wreak on the town. The tokusatsu effects do make this feel more like a Godzilla movie the more you notice them, but it creates a profoundly raw violent feeling to all of the gore.
Now, the main plot divergence really starts here. Eren is separated from Mikasa, and trapped in a “safe house” watching outside as a titan approaches Mikasa who is terrified and clutching a baby she has saved (eyeroll). He’s unable to see her demise (The innocence of youth is over! It’s a metaphor! Boom!) but he hears screams and believes her dead. Rushing outside after the noise, he turns around to see the titans have descended on the safe house, crushing and killing all inside, and it seems Eren in the only survivor as he dramatically stumbles through his destroyed town.
Let’s skip the boring part where Eren is in training with the Survey Corps and Sasha the potato girl serves as the only amount of comedic relief in the entire movie (this lady loves her some potatoes, but hey guys, maybe let’s not reference it 10 times in 30 minutes). Flash forward a few years and Eren and his trainee squad are on the move to the outer wall in an attempt to repair it. Titans attack (Hey! That’s the name the movie!) on their way, but these noob lords are only able to scream and run around with their enormous flashlights. Cue dramatically lit scene of Captain Shikishima (who takes the place of Levi’s character for all intents and purposes), loading on his 3D manuever gear, then jumping from a rooftop to swing around the titan and quickly slice the nape of its neck, saving them. Comparable to the kind of angles and feeling we get from Spiderman’s web-slinging, the crowd cheered and roared as Shikishima flew between titans and buildings alike to save the trainees.
The first taste of the 3DMG isn’t our last, as a woman follows suit and slices another titan, landing in front of Eren. SPOILERS: It’s Mikasa. (OF COURSE SHE’S NOT DEAD, SHE’S A MAIN CHARACTER.)
So let’s address the elephant in the room: Why was Levi’s character turned into Shikishima? One of, if not THE, most popular characters in the series, Levi was a shoe in to please fangirls. One reason may be that Shikishima serves as a rival and mentor to Eren in this first movie, a role that Levi doesn’t really ever take. Shikishima is imposing, and also a (maybe) love rival for Mikasa. It’s obviously a weird guardian/child relationship, but once Eren sees Shikishima feeding an apple to Mikasa and then hugging her, he flips his shit and goes screaming his head off in the courtyard. And as we nerds all know, Levi wouldn’t be caught dead trying to hug a girl or waste his time being cocky and asking rhetorical thematic questions. So let’s say goodbye to our dreams of having Levi in the movie for now, unless we get lucky and he shows up in part two!
Now let’s talk about this awkward, single mother character, Hiana. WHAT IS HER PURPOSE IN THIS MOVIE? She’s a new character to fans, and she mentions she joins the Survey Corps because the government guarantees to finance the children of soldiers. Okay, sure, let’s throw a mom in there. That’s different. What is totally bonkers though, is that she catches Eren off guard after he flips his shit about Mikasa and takes him into a dark room, undoes her shirt and puts his hand on her boob saying, “Is a single mother okay with you?” She then mounts him, asking “Will you be the father of my child?” At this point, the crowd in the theater was screaming. WHAT IS GOING ON? Well, I’ll tell ya what. A titan peeks in and grabs her mid-coitus, and chomps down on her. WHY, GUYS? WHY HAVE HER IN IT AT ALL? Is the lesson to be learned that no one should bone Eren? That single mothers are doomed? That maybe if I look at this too closely, I will find nothing behind it? Who knows…!
After this awkward sexy sex scene, the true battle begins, with amazing action sequences that lead up to a part that mirrors the original manga exactly: Armin getting caught by a titan, thrown into its mouth, and Eren leaping in to save him, getting his own arm chomped off and swallowed by the titan in the process. The camera follows his terrifying slide down the titan’s esophagus, and he plops down in the stomach, only to see Hiana… half burned and mottled by the titan’s stomach acid. No, ye shall not bone Eren again, lass.
True fans know what happens next. In the heat of the battle, Eren transforms into a titan, destroying the other titans who are trying to eat his comrades, saving them. The movie ends when they pull him out of the back of the titan’s neck.
Roll credits. That’s right guys. It’s a two part movie. However, the second part comes out in September, so fans don’t have much longer to wait.
Although this movie is not a direct copy of the manga or anime, it definitely stands on its own as an impressive and moving work of a labor of love production from the famous movie studio that brought us the Godzilla franchise. The heavy emphasis on the practical effects definitely translates the violence to viewers in a way that pure CG usually falls flat on. So be prepared to have your inner AoT fan destroyed a bit, because it’s a new story, with a brutal translation.
Go. Watch. Be disturbed. Watch again.
There will be a limited theatrical release by Funimation in the US, so stay tuned for announcements from them!
This is IAMCHUBBYBUNNY, signing out… IN THE NAME OF THE MOOOOON!