REVIEW: Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) Live Action Movie
So this Deadly Diva just finished watching Shingeki No Kyojin (SNK) Part I. Don’t ask how, just be glad that that I did. Otherwise, this review would not exist. As someone who read the manga and watched the anime, my expectations were high. This is a franchise that I am fond of and I want to see it done properly. Adaptation from print or anime to the live action can be dicey. The more that human limitations are stretched in the source material, the more live action has to mess it up.
I was overjoyed to hear that a Japanese production company was handling the SNK live action film; we all know the tomfoolery that would have taken place if a US company tried to adapt SNK. I have not forgotten the debacle that was Dragonball Evolution and there is little faith in Disney’s upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell or Liongate’s Naruto.
Overall, the film stayed true to major canon plot points. However, there were some changes that rubbed me the wrong way as a fan of the source material. This is the point where this Deadly Diva will gush, side-eye and rage against the machine that brought the titans to life.
If you are wary of spoilers, this is the time to walk away. This Deadly Diva will not hold it against you. However (and this is a big ass however), if you choose to continue reading, complaints will not be entertained. In fact, you will be mercilessly mocked. You have been warned.
What I loved
The birds flying overhead
In the first episode of the anime, birds are flying overhead. They are a symbol of the freedom that Eren longs for and the sights that Armin is desperate to see. It may seem like a small thing, but it matters to this Deadly Diva.
This mad scientist lived up to all of my expectations. Though Hange’s gender is ambiguous in the manga, the anime and the movie portray Hange as female. After Levi and Mikasa, this is my favorite character. The biology major in me loves Hange’s passion for titan physiology. Equal parts academic and affable, Hange is one of the lighter and brighter points of Shingeki no Kyojin. Hopefully she gets more screen time in the part two.
Sidebar: I recognized Satomi Ishihara, the actress that plays Hange, by her lips. Yes her lips. She was in a drama called Shitsuren Chocolatier with Kiko Mizuhara, the actress that plays Mikasa. Throughout the entire series, the protagonist was infatuated is Satomi’s character, so there were lots of close ups of her lips as she ate chocolate.
The Colossal Titan (and his not so colossal friends)
Come on people, the series (for the purpose of this section) is called Attack on Titan. The moment the colossal titan shattered a hundred years peace by knocking a hole in the outer wall, this Deadly Diva smiled the smile of a fan well pleased, despite the deviations in Eren and Mikasa’s personality.
What made these titans even more disturbing than their anime and manga counterparts were their human faces. In the source material, the titans are human-like. You could see a resemblance to the people living behind the walls, but the titans lacked that certain something that made them completely human. So it was easy to separate humanity from the forces that were trying to exterminate them. However, the movie titans clearly have human faces, which intensifies the carnage. It’s harder to distance oneself from the atrocities committed by the titans when they look so much like the population that they are terrorizing.
What I questioned
When we meet Mikasa Ackerman in the manga, even as a child, she is bad-ass personified. When Eren is being picked on, the mere sight of Mikasa is enough to make the bullies back down. Movie Mikasa seems so timid. Every time she looks at Eren I can hear birds chirping and bells ringing. It should not be that way. However, a huge piece of Mikasa’s backstory was not used in the movie because frankly it no longer makes sense. In the manga, Mikasa’s mother is a bit of an oddity because she is Asian. Homogenous Asians are so rare that men plotted to kidnap Mikasa’s mother, as well as her less valuable half-Asian daughter, and sell them on the black market. Badassery must be genetic because Mikasa’s mother did not go down without a fight. Unfortunaltely, she and Mikasa’s father died in the struggle. But it is this life-and-death scenario that forged the Mikasa that I know and love.
Where manga Mikasa is fueled by the desire to not lose anyone else that she loves, movie Mikasa seems to be motivated by resentment, particularly towards Eren for not being able to save her when the titans attacked. Manga Mikasa seems cold, but that is focus. She knows that Eren needs her help so Mikasa makes sure that she is ready for whatever comes their way.
M.I.A. Levi Ackerman
Without a doubt, one of the most popular and well-known characters in the SNK universe is Captain Levi Ackerman. He may not have been the heart and soul of the series, but he was definitely the swift kick in the ass that they needed to get things done. For the love of Pete, he is “humanity’s strongest soldier”. So it is to be expected that the fandom screamed all manner of bloody murder when it was discovered he was omitted. Now the question is why is he nowhere to be found in this film (or the next).
Remember a little while ago a certain Deadly Diva told you that Mikasa’s backstory was not included because it did not make sense in the movie. It seems that is the same reason that Levi was not included. At this point this Deadly Diva knows you are wondering what that reason is. I guess I can be kind and fill you in. The setting of the movie was changed from a western nation similar to Germany to Japan. Since the movie is set in Japan, the characters’ names had to be changed to Japanese. Translating Levi’s name would not work in making the movie realistic since his name – which comes out to Rivai – contains a character that is not used in traditional Japanese names. So the filmmakers were left with a choice – they could change all the character names or not include Levi. Obviously, they chose to omit Levi. And now you understand why Mikasa’s backstory would no longer make sense in the movie.
What the eff were they thinking?
Mikasa was Eren’s girlfriend?
It seems that when the producers decided to omit Mikasa’s backstory, they replaced it with the wonky idea that she and Eren should be tragic teen lovers. Eren and Mikasa had a canonically strong, yet fraternal, bond that did not need to be romanticized. Eren was integral in Mikasa surviving the attack that left her an orphan. Mikasa was taken in by Eren’s parents and raised as his sister. She defended him against bullies. Hell, Mikasa even joined the military, following Eren to the Survey Corps to keep an eye on him. Knowing this, you can understand why I side-eyed this romantic pairing.
What it is about post apocalyptic scenarios that inspire filmmakers to have everyone living some teenage dream? I won’t even get into Hiana, the single mom that was ally ooping the cooch to Eren. I can understand the compulsion to pass on your genetic material in case you don’t survive, but there are titans afoot. It doesn’t exactly scream romance. However, when we consider that the movie plays out more like a horror film than an action film, all the youthful lust makes an odd kind of sense. We all know the trope – the more imminent and dangerous the threat, the more likely folks are to get that one last piece.
And now Mikasa is Bonnie to the Levi substitute’s Clyde?
How do we make the Mikasa-Eren dynamic even more awkward? Add in a questionable, and obviously rebound, relationship with Shikishima, known to SNK fans as not-Levi. Part of what this Deadly Diva loved about Mikasa is that she was strong in her own right. Her worth did not come from her romantic entanglements. This Deadly Diva could argue that Mikasa’s reluctance to develop that type of relationship could be a result of the murder of her parents and her attempted kidnapping. Knowing that having a child with Asian features could subject them to what she endured may prevent Mikasa from engaging in such affairs. But that is just this Deadly Diva’s head canon.
Back to the movie… That damn apple – Why was that even necessary? Shikishima was playing whose sword is the biggest with that stunt. How is the relationship even remotely acceptable? Shikishima is Mikasa’s superior. Mikasa is so damaged – emotionally and physically. Her eyes were not the eyes of a woman in love. Those weren’t even the eyes of a woman in situational lust. Mikasa looked like she was going through motions to hurt Eren. So I’m hoping that part two does away with this plot device. I just want my Mikasa back.
What should you do?
Is that is even a question? Watch Shingeki no Kyojin. If you’ve seen it already, watch it again. Then find your friendly neighborhood Anime Czar and let her know what you think.