Live action adaptation of a manga can be a hit or miss. To be fair, I have only watched a handful of live action adaptation in recent years, some were pretty good with notable example being Death Note and Samurai X, while some were complete disaster (Dragon Ball Hollywood adaptation anyone?).
This week, Attack on Titan part 1 began its screening in Indonesian theatres and I have just returned from watching it, and so decided to write my impression. I’m a pretty big fan of the original manga from Hajime Isayama, although I watched just a couple of episodes of the anime adaptation. The live action Attack on Titan movie, however, is a loose adaptation of the original storyline. Some characters is featured and important plot point is still there. Although if you are a fan of the original manga, you will notice something is just out of place, odd and some of the story is just cringeworthy. Below is my take of the first of the two part movies. Obviously while I won’t spoil the important part of the movie, consider yourself warned of reading some spoilers.
Let’s begin with the cast. As I’m never a fan of Japanese movies and knows nobody from the actors and actresses featured here, let me apologize for that first. I won’t critic the performance of the actors/actresses (hint: they were not bad at all), but I just want to point out how the casts is relevant to their original character counterpart from the manga.
First, I’ll begin with Mikasa, which in my opinion is the most suitable cast in the whole movie. In the original manga, Mikasa is the only oriental character and has a mixed blood. Kiko Mizuhara, as a mixed blood herself, is just perfect to play the role of Mikasa. As the original setting is in medieval western and all characters aside of Mikasa are western, seeing the whole casts as Japanese can be a little weird. However if you accept this as a separate story and considering the movie itself didn’t mention anything about Mikasa being the last Asian heritage, it’s understandable. Putting the setting issue aside, let’s continue with the rest of the casts.
Eren (Haruma Miura), the hot-headed main protagonist is actually good enough to play his role. My only complain with Eren character in the movie is that he has interest in romance, while original Eren doesn’t even care. Armin (Kanata Hongo) is pretty suitable too to play the role of a weaker character, although he doesn’t appear to be a strategist in the movie, which is slightly disappointing. Both of them is not my favorite, but I have to say that Sasha (Nanami Sakuraba) and Hange (Satomi Ishihara) is pretty good.
Sasha, as a potato girl, umm, I mean an always-hungry-girl is portrayed very well. Although her reliant on bow later in the story is quite retarted seeing that 3D maneuver gear is present, even if she’s good with bow. Hange obsessive character is portrayed well too, however it’s unfortunate that her role is rather useless in the movie, despite being a squad leader.
Jean (Takahiro Miura) however, is a mixed story. He played the role of a hot-headed guy that has an opposite view from Eren, so they are often seen fighting. The differences between the manga and movie is that, he’s a complete jerk in the movie. His sole purpose in the movie is to have unreasonable fight with Eren.
Unfortunately, that’s the end of the casts from the original manga. Important characters like Krista, Ymir, Annie, Reiner, Bertolt and Connie are nowhere to be seen, while others like Hannes and Levi are substituted. It’s understandable though that these casts are missing as they play such an important role later that’s outside of the scope of the movie adaptation. However it’s unfortunate that some important characters is substituted and that is one thing that I personally don’t like.
Next is Souda (Pierre Taki) which plays the role of supporting old-man character for Eren, Armin and Mikasa, and is a substitution for Hannes. Seeing that Hannes is so much of an important character to our 3 protagonist and Souda role isn’t that different, it’s unfortunate that his character is substituted. Captain Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa) is yet another substituted character, this time for Captain Levi. Unlike the well-loved Levi, Shikishima is another complete jerk. See, even as the strongest one in the squad, he just killed a couple of Titans and then just stand on the top of a building, smiling while seeing others being devoured by Titans.
Then we have Hiana (Ayame Misaki), who is a single mother but become the love interest of Eren for some reason. Sannagi (Satoru Matsuo) plays the role of a comrade, who is a little stupid but extremely strong (he could throw a Titan for godsake!) and could attack Titan’s legs with an axe, completely out-of-place in the Attack on Titan setting. Sannagi is like a combination of Connie and Reiner, and that is actually a bad thing. Finally, we have Fukushi (Shu Watanabe) and Lil (Rina Takeda) that played the useless lovey dovey couple, which has obvious resemblance to Franz and Hannah.
The setting of the movie is a bit different than the source material, unlike the original manga that took medieval western setting, the movie took place of a distant future on somewhere in Asia with some modern structure still visible. This put the setting on the odd side. First, we have an inactive bomb where Eren is standing in the beginning of the movie, then when the Colossal Titan attack the wall, I remembered to see an (inactive) helicopter dropped down. Yet, with such advanced modern weapon clearly visible, the weapon they used against Titan are some old cannon. Even weirder is that explosive material is seen as a weapon against Titan later in the story (and worth a steal), yet when they exploded, it small enough that it could only damage one Titan legs. This just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The storyline took a quite different approach than the manga too. Eren started without parent and Mikasa is not his foster sister, although both of them and Armin is still a childhood friend and expressed their desire to see the outside world. One of the most powerful scene in the manga, where Eren mother were seen eaten by Titan and Hannes saved both Eren and Mikasa, is sadly absent. Instead, we see Eren tried to save an old woman and Mikasa tried to save a baby when they are running away after the Titans attack. They are separated afterward when Mikasa is seen last time as one Titan tried to devour her, again taking a different route than the manga.
Timeskip to two years later, Eren and Armin are seen joining Scouting Regiment (or Survey Squad) and is on a mission to fix the destroyed wall Maria. With Hange as the squad leader, they went out to the outer wall and encounter Titan for the second time. This is again, differs from the manga in which the time skip to 5 years and their second encounter with Titan is when the Titan began another attack. The mode of transportation is also different, while the manga only have horse, there is no horse to be seen anywhere in the movie, instead a military vehicle is used.
Despite being the Survey Squad where each of them should have received training of using the 3d maneuver gear, none of the Hange squad is seen using it initially, and could so only running away and got eaten when Titan attack them. One had to wonder if they are actually looking to commit suicide instead of fulfilling their important mission. Of course that is until Shikishima and Mikasa (finally return) shows the prowess of the 3d maneuver gear and it’s actually pretty awesome. Near the end of the movie, we could finally see a scene of Eren (sloppily) using the 3d maneuver gear.
Another oddity is the existence of some cheap romance added, which is something rarely seen in the source material. Eren and Hiana is seen together a few times and hinted to have romantic feeling (or maybe one sided from Hiana). It goes even worse when Mikasa is seen afraid of Shikishima for some reason and is obedient to follow his advance (in front of Eren even, to make him jealous), something that is really out of character for Mikasa. That’s not to mention that Mikasa, when she returned to the story, appears without the red scarf that she received from Eren, something she treasured a lot in the manga.
You might notice that I mostly just did rant this whole time, but I had to give some positive point to the movie too. The Titan terror is pretty well presented, while the CG is nowhere near Hollywood level, it’s still good enough to present the whole dark atmosphere. The Titan might look like B-movies CG sometime, but I can’t complain much as it’s well presented for it’s purpose, also to be fair, the Eren and Colossal Titan is done very well. The 3d maneuver gear action scene is really good too, something I had to give applause, although the lack of it uses by the squad is disappointing.
Attack on Titan live action adaptation in my opinion is not bad at all, that is if you see it as a standalone movie not associated with the original manga. If you see it from the viewpoint of the manga, then you’ll be sadly disappointed. Accept it as separated thing, lower your expectation and you might find it enjoyable. For me, it’s cringeworthy and upsetting a couple of times but at the next moment, I was absorbed in the action and enjoyed the terror of Titans devouring weak humans. That’s actually good enough to convince me to go watch the second part when it screens sometime next month.