Attack on Titan (Season 1: Part 1) Blu-ray Review
“Attack on Titan” is easily the biggest thing to happen in anime in over a decade. Personally, I don’t remember anyone making a really big deal about any series since the six episode mini-series of “Fooly Cooly,” and to be honest, as good as “Fooly Cooly” is, I don’t remember even it getting this kind of buzz. However, after watching the twenty-five episode first season it’s not hard to understand how “Attack on Titan” gained such a following.
“Attack on Titan” is a fantastic mix of action and horror. The story is character-driven with three compelling leads and a strong supporting cast of dozens of secondary and tertiary characters. Nearly every episode of the series ends on a cliffhanger, so binge-watching the entire season is an easy thing to do. Also there is a mid-season reveal that is so exciting that it may be the single most memorable moment of anything that I've watched in the past several years. Most importantly the show takes itself seriously and is incredibly dark, which makes it especially appealing to an older generation that grew up watching things like “Ghost in the Shell” and “Neon Genesis: Evangelion.” The violence in this series is one gory gut punch after another, and while not every character that is stamped to death or bitten in half by one of the “Titans” is one that has been built up specifically, watching every one die still delivers an emotional impact because the writing of the series is so strong.
I am fairly new to blu-ray but I was surprised to see how incredible modern anime looks in high definition. “Attack on Titan” looks stunning on blu-ray and that is even more impressive considering the predominant colors used in the series are browns, greys, and beiges. As far as special features go there is really nothing I felt was worth bothering with unfortunately. There are two “voice actor” commentary tracks for two individual episodes, and the other special features have to do with the voice acting process, and the distribution. For whatever reason there were no interviews with the author of the original manga, the Japanese director, or art director of the series which would have been the only behind-the-scenes types of special features I feel would have been worth watching. I’m honestly not usually interested the actors’ perspective on things, and listening to a “voice actor” talk about their process, for me at least, is like watching paint dry. Also there are also forty-seven minutes of comedic spoofs, or shorts in the bonus features, but even as a big fan of Japanese humor I found these to be dull and not worth watching.
One of the bigger deals about the Funimation release of “Attack on Titan” was the English language dubbing for American audience. I think the Japanese dubs are better 99% of the time, and although the English dub in this series is decent, this is another case where I think the Japanese version is better. “Attack on Titan” has a lot of dramatic speeches with a ton of yelling and personally I think the cadence and sound of the Japanese language is much better suited for this type of thing, especially considering that this isn't a trope of American movies or television. (Plus the direction the American dubbing took with the secondary character of Levi Ackerman really had me groaning but this in particular probably speaks to how much of a nerd I am more than it does to the quality of the American voice acting in the series.)
On the downside there are only 13 episodes, which is annoying because it means you’ll have to pay for two disks just to get the entire first season. The regular edition is $25 and the deluxe edition is $50 (which according to Amazon.com reviews is a complete rip-off). Considering that the entire first season is available to stream legally, and for free on Hulu.com ( http://www.hulu.com/watch/485466#i0,p0,d0 ) there is nothing on the blu-ray, other than superior quality, and not having to watch Hulu commercials, that makes this worth spending money on. Also according to Wikipedia there are a couple of bonus episodes that haven’t been released yet and I was hoping they would be on these versions, however the second part of this season hasn't been release on blu-ray yet so I will save my complaining until after part two is available.
Bottom line: If you haven’t seen “Attack on Titan” and you are a fan of anime, kaiju, or would like to see an action/horror series that is incredibly dark and has a serious tone, drop whatever you’re doing and go to Hulu and watch it. Unless you absolutely just can’t stand to read subtitles (in which case, I’d say suck it up and learn to appreciate them) or you are a huge fan of the series like myself, and plan on watching it multiple times, this isn't something that is worth spending money on. However if you want a high- quality physical copy of the series than $50 (total) for 25 episodes, on DVD and blu-ray both, is a pretty decent value.