Attack on Titan is Overrated, but the Movie Could Fix the Show’s Biggest Problems


If fan art and cosplay choices are anything to go by, Attack on Titan is currently the biggest thing happening in anime. The show has become ubiquitous, and it’s about to become even more so now that the trailer for the live action adaptation has an English dub.

If the movie is any good at all, it will still be much, much better than the TV show.

As an anime, I think Attack on Titan is highly overrated. It’s too bad, because the concept is incredible. Though they look human, the proportions on the titans’ naked, asexual bodies are ever so slightly off, creating a chilling uncanny valley effect that makes for some of the more terrifying monsters in recent memory. It’s like Hannibal Lecter and the Joker got gene spliced with Godzilla, producing massive creatures with an insatiable yet frivolous taste for human flesh.

Unfortunately, atrocious pacing is enough to make even the most fearsome monsters seem benign, and Attack on Titan falls prey to some of the worst tendencies of go-nowhere anime shows that recycle character beats instead of advancing the plot. Every major and minor character screams some version of the same monologue about being afraid. The melodramatic representation of fear and resolve isn’t nearly as profound as the show thinks it is, especially when it makes you forget that the titans are around.

So why am I curious about the film?

As mentioned earlier, the concept for Attack on Titan is fantastic, and a film adaptation could solve a lot of the problems with the anime. In a two-hour movie, there simply isn’t enough time to indulge every character’s internal monologue, and I doubt that the production has the effects budget to build any more titan fights than are strictly necessary. With any luck, the movie will be a more efficient version of the show, complete with all of the thrilling aerial action and absent the fifteen-minute rants that inexplicably take place during thirty seconds of real-time combat.

Improving the action-to-dialogue ratio should also make for an entertaining spectacle. Attack on Titan has plenty of memorable death scenes and the horror becomes more pronounced the less we see of the titans themselves. A movie won’t have the same issues with overexposure and could increase the franchise’s reach to those unwilling to sit through 25 episodes of redundant exposition.

It all depends on how many sequels Toho Pictures plans to make. The first film looks like it will at least get to Eren’s transformation and a second part (Attack on Titan: End of the World) will be released only a month after part one, but even that’s unlikely to be enough to cover the entire story arc unless the film plans to resolve everything far sooner than the show (which wouldn’t be a bad thing). If not, the film franchise may soon be just as bloated as the source material.

Attack on Titan is directed by Shinji Higuchi and will debut in Japan on August 1. Attack on Titan: End of the World will follow on September 19.

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