When a highly anticipated property receives its translation, rescripting, and dubbing, consternation and grumbling are always sure to follow. How closely do you (and can you) stick to the original writing and voicing? Stay too close, and you run the risk of unintentionally dulling a property; move too far away, and you could alienate a fanbase. With Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), FUNimation mostly found a nice middle ground with one of the most engaging anime of recent years.
Attack on Titan traces mankind’s resistance against the titans – creepy, sketchily-drawn giants that devour humans – when they unexpectedly tear open walls that had held them at bay for a century. Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, a trio of spunky youngsters, join other cadets and the larger army in the fight to defend civilization against a seemingly unstoppable threat. This DVD combo set encompasses the first 13 episodes. The first half mostly deals with demonstrating the deadly threat of the titans, as well as showcasing the training by Eren and the others, while the second half deals with a large-scale battle between the army and their gigantic foes.
Attack on Titan is one of anime’s most gripping series both because of its genuinely terrifying plot, in which everyone is in constant danger and no one is safe, and because of the look and feel of the series. From the dark, but colorful shades used, to the most unique and fun anime weapon of recent years, 3D maneuver gear, the series bleeds a style that’s all its own. But SnK is more than skin-deep. During my first viewing of the series, when it originally aired, I was so taken by sudden plot developments and the horrific (though rarely gorey) imagery that I missed the well-constructed tale. My viewing of the DVD helped me focus on the storyline, which functions by unfolding rapidly and then slowly unraveling both secrets of the world in which the characters live and the back stories and personalities of the characters themselves. Series fans rewatching the show will also note plenty of little giveaways in character quotes and actions that foreshadow major events later on.
FUNimation, for its part, does an admirable and heartfelt job in putting together its dubbing for the show. The voice acting is generally well done, with Jessica Calvello’s voicing of Hanji Zoe an absolute revelation, and in fact, an improvement over the original voice actress, whose performance was already well-regarded. Josh Grelle’s performance is also notable, as he takes Armin is a different, and less feminine, direction than the original, and does it well.
The dub, however, is a bit uneven. Character lines are sometimes stilted and awkward. But rather than a production problem, I see this as perhaps revealing the nature of this property. Attack on Titan has a very distinctive personality, revealed through a unique cast (think potato-lovin’ Sasha Blouse); their outbursts and asides sounded strange upon my original viewing, and all the more so when translated to English. This is mostly a problem in the training episodes, which are peppered with strange bits and up-and-down pacing, the latter of which is a minor issue throughout these first 13 episodes.
While FUNimation’s release is typically short on extras, it does come with some commentary tracks for SnK aficionados (I enjoyed hearing the English voice actors discussing the audition process). The Blu-ray quality itself is excellent – the series contains numerous opportunities to let the medium shine, not least of which when the soldiers are ziplining through the air.
The popularity of Attack on Titan is undeniable, and the Blu-ray release demonstrates why – high quality animation, superb style, and an engaging story. Even with the proliferation of this and other series availability online, the Attack on Titan Blu-ray is one that many will want to own – and rightly should consider purchasing.