With the Attack on Titan manga doing extremely well and Season 2 of the anime on the horizon, I finally decided to watch the OVA’s as an extra way to immerse myself into the universe again. It was also the perfect excuse to get back to watching OVA’s as I said I would do months ago (see! Told you I’d get back to it…eventually), so as promised, here’s another round of OVA minireviews – the Attack on Titan edition!
Ilse’s Notebook: Memoirs of a Recon Corps Member
Based on an early side chapter from the Attack on Titan manga, “Ilse’s Notebook” explores the story of a Scouting Legion member after she is separated from her squad. The OVA does a good job of expanding on her journey of survival, showing her traversing the land and writing in her notebook, in addition to showing Levi and Hanji during their mission before they find her remains. Ilse’s interactions with the speaking Titan are largely the same as in the manga, but her death is a bit over the top. In the OVA, she continues narrating her experiences in her notebook, even as she is inside the Titan’s mouth, before dying. I have no doubt the scene was trying to be powerful, but for me it just came off as silly. Interestingly, at the end of the OVA Levi and Hanji find her body placed inside of a tree, almost as a sign of worship or reverence from the Titan that killed her. This had really interesting implications considering that all they found of her in the manga was her notebook.
No Regrets: Parts 1 and 2
“No Regrets: Parts 1 and 2” are based on the spin-off manga series written a few years ago. I wrote an extensive review about this manga before and the issues I had with it, and unfortunately, the OVA’s don’t fare much better. They’re gorgeously animated, as is expected from Studio Wit, but the characters and plot suffer much of the same issues as the manga did. The fact that his friends are killed off screen is also an issue because of the impact they were meant to have on him, as was explored more in Part 1. The scene when Levi goes berserk and kills the Titans is very animalistic-looking, but the fact that he kills much fewer than in the spin-off manga makes it painfully difficult to believe his ascension to becoming the best soldier in the Scouting Legion just a year later. These OVA’s aren’t much better than the manga they’re retelling, but the animation is certainly worth it and manages to make the friendship a little more convincing.
“Distress” features an original story of the 104th prior to their graduation. They’re assigned to work in teams, but as expected, Eren and Jean don’t get along, and this makes things difficult for their leader, Marco. There’s a surprising amount of character development for Marco, and this is rather nice considering his limited role in the anime. Things go awry when Krista is kidnapped by bandits, and they must all work together to save her, leading to a pretty cleverly done rescue mission. Overall, I think this OVA was decent. It gives character development where it’s least expected and manages to have clever moments as well.
The Sudden Visitor: The Torturous Curse of Youth This OVA is based on the ending panels Isayama likes to close out the manga volumes with. These are often very comedic and completely random, such as Jean hiding from his mother or Sasha holding a cooking contest (among others). “The Sudden Visitor” combines many of these random scenes by merging them into an amusing but heartwarming narrative. Jean is rather distant with his mother, and after getting into a scuffle with Sasha, is challenged to a cooking contest. They compete to hunt a large boar for the contest, and after Sasha kills it and claims it for her team, Jean reflects on his past with his mother and the food she made him. He presents a homemade omelette at the contest and is declared the winner because of the love he put into the dish. This OVA is definitely the most comedic and lighthearted of the four, but it’s still very well done because it still handles the emotions in a mature way.
The Attack on Titan OVA’s are overall good, and I hope that the OVA’s for Season 2 will be even better. Season 2 should cover a lot of amazing content for the OVA’s to reference and work from.
After reading the newest chapter of Attack on Titan, I can say with certainty that it’s one of the best chapters in the series. Emotional and epic on so many levels, I haven’t felt this strongly about a chapter of Attack on Titan in a long time. What this chapter reinforces is just how much I love Eren’s character in the manga, but it also saddens me even more because of just how poorly his character is portrayed in the anime and live-action movies (can we just pretend the films didn’t happen?).
Every time I have a conversation with someone about Attack on Titan, the general consensus is that his character is terrible and perpetually angry in the anime. “All he ever does is yell!”, they say. Most of the people I talk to about Attack on Titan don’t read the manga, so when I tell them that he doesn’t act like that all in the manga it surprises them. But to illustrate why the manga version is better than the anime version, I’m going to bring in a specific example of a scene that plays out very differently in the manga versus the anime because of how Eren is characterized.
Warning: If you have not seen or read either the Attack on Titan anime or manga, there will be major spoilers revolving around Eren’s character. Read at your own risk!
In the finale of the Attack on Titan anime, Eren is forced to battle Annie and his inner turmoil after learning of her betrayal. He hesitates to fight her to the point that his friends are forced to place themselves in danger. What finally gets him to transform and aid them in the fight is not Mikasa’s, Armin’s, or even Jean’s words of encouragement and motivation, but being crushed by rubble and needlessly injured.
In the manga, Eren is hesitating to fight Annie because of their history as friends and sparring partners. He’s having a hard time conceding that their trust is now broken, but Mikasa’s words are what push him to fight her. Because he transforms earlier and epically uppercuts Annie, his friends are not forced to put themselves at risk, and together they can all fight as a team to take down Annie. The manga version is much superior because Eren gains his resolution much more quickly, and it leads to a great battle.
The reason why the anime version of this scene is bad in comparison because it changes the foundation of his character. On the surface, the differences may not seem like a big deal – the transformation happens either way, so why does it matter, you ask?
The reason it matters is because in the anime, Eren has no reason to be hesitating this much because of what happened in the Forest of Giant Trees. In that battle, Eren’s character was already being put down because he was forced to not fight back. Levi’s squad put his safety above their own, so when they die at the hands of the Female Titan, Eren blames himself and tries to avenge them.
The Forest of Giant Trees battle plays out more or less the same in the manga and anime, so at this pivotal juncture when Eren can and should fight back so that no one else has to die, he completely freezes up in the anime. It not only forces more people to potentially die for him, but it kills the momentum of his previous battle with Annie and squanders his motivation without good reason. As a result, it makes him less apt to be a suitable main character and it’s largely responsible for why he is negatively received in the anime.
Eren’s character in the manga is much more nuanced and interesting than his anime counterpart, largely due to just how much he grows and changes over the course of the story. Eren is not just an angry and screaming shonen hero in the manga. His anger is certainly a part of his core personality, and while it fuels him for much of the story, he learns a lot along the way and doesn’t let it completely define him.
For example, early on in the battle of Trost, Eren’s unbridled rage at the death of Thomas and the recklessness that follows leads to his squad being devoured. However, he learned from his mistake – he no longer acts blindly and leads his allies into danger. They work together as a team, and because of this, they can minimize the casualties. He learns to use his anger as a weapon and not let it control him. This also applies to his Titan form as well – over time, he learns to control it and not be overcome with anger, often fooling his enemies with his expected, uncontrollable rage before proceeding to gain the upper hand by strategically using it to his advantage.
Not only is Eren capable of thinking ahead and using his rage effectively, his compassion for his friends and comrades makes him a selfless character too. He is always striving to protect them as much as he can, even if it means sacrificing his own life for the greater good. He does this in response to the sacrifices that were made for him, and resolves to take control of the situation whenever he can in order to protect them further, highlighting his morals and maturity.
Eren has always been guilty about the sacrifices made for him, but as the series progresses, he learns to accept that they sometimes have to be made for the greater good. These sacrifices were often consciously made so that he could live on and save humanity. Instead of blaming himself, he learns to trust in them and ensure that those sacrifices aren’t in vain through his own actions. This fact has become especially apparent in the most recent chapters of the manga.
Armin chooses to act as a diversion, essentially a suicide mission, but Eren – understanding the high stakes of their situation and his role in it – doesn’t try to stop him because he understands what has to be done. If this had happened at the beginning of the manga, there would be no doubt that he would have tried to stop Armin, or maybe even reacted recklessly and caused more harm than good. But through everything that Eren has experienced and learned throughout the series, he learns to accept sacrifices and become more trusting. Rather than being crazily angry or selfishly hesitating, he trusts wholeheartedly in his friend, knowing that his actions can change the course of humanity and make a difference.
Manga Eren is really complex and interesting, and the fact that Anime Eren is nowhere near as developed is infuriating. Not only did he not grow at all in the anime, but he constantly acted selfish and more like a crazed monster than a true friend and ally. Putting his friends at risk is not something Eren should not consciously do. It makes him a weaker and unlikable protagonist to follow because of how selfish and angry he acts. And instead of learning from his mistakes and trying to make a difference, he often doubts himself and lets other characters fight for him when he should be able to.
This isn’t to say that Manga Eren doesn’t doubt himself, but unlike Anime Eren, he internalizes his doubts and puts on a brave face because that’s what he has to do. He understands the world needs him and his capabilities, and he’s not going to let humanity down for a second. So if Eren’s character is so great in the manga, why is he so different in the anime? Why were these changes made?
Part of the problem is Hajime Isayama’s own views about Eren. Isayama does not like Eren’s character – he claims to have created him out of “necessity” for the plot, and therefore finds him unrealistic. As a result, he pushed the anime and movie studios to make Eren seem weaker and more afraid in order to seem more “realistic”. While I can sort of understand why Isayama isn’t fond of Eren’s hot-headed personality, it’s important to remember that Eren’s character in the manga is still adored by many fans.
Eren may be like the typical shonen protagonist, but he is loved for that reason because he is a strong, worthy protagonist. And it’s not like he doesn’t have flaws in the manga. He makes mistakes. He gets upset. He’s afraid of the titans just like anybody else, but his anger and desire to protect others and see the outside world overrides that fear. He is still just as compelling as the rest of the cast because of his resolve. For this reason, I disagree with Isayama’s claims that Eren is not a good or realistic character – Eren is a great protagonist because of his strength of will. That is what makes his manga counterpart the stronger, better character – he doesn’t have to be a weak, selfish character like he is in the anime to be interesting or realistic, because he already is.
There’s much more to Eren in the manga than just anger and selfishness, because he learns from his mistakes and is always striving to do better no matter what. He doesn’t give up, no matter how many times he loses, and it’s an admirable trait that should be recognized more than it is. My hope is that in the second season of the anime, Eren will become a more developed and interesting main protagonist not just bent on killing all of the Titans and being angry. He can still have those qualities while being a strong protagonist who matures and has a lot of epic moments.
For the rest of summer vacation, I’ll be doing a series of weekly posts discussing my favorite opening and ending themes from anime and articulating their greatness in a paragraph or two. I’m going to kick it off with the first opening theme from Attack on Titan, “Guren no Yumiya”.
A fast-paced, epic orchestrated theme with lyrics befitting of the characters and themes of the show, this opening sets up great things that will come from the show without giving too much away. The opening is exciting to watch, full of action and beautifully rendered shots including tidbits from the manga, which I particularly appreciated. The full song is an excellent suite that is as good as the one minute version. I loved this song as soon as I heard it, and it continues to be a song that I listen to outside of watching the show, whether it’s during a workout or writing, it’s great background music.
Attack on Titan’s explosive popularity has led to various spin-off series being published. From comedies to prequels, they all sounded like they’d be interesting, entertaining reads, but the one that piqued my interest the most was the spin-off titled No Regrets. It centers around Attack on Titan’s most liked and enigmatic character Levi and is written by Gan Sunaaku and illustrated by Hikaru Suruga.
No Regrets was by far the one I looked most forward to reading following its announcement. The idea of seeing Levi in a different setting that delved into his life before he joined the Survey Corps seemed like a great opportunity to expand on what fans already knew, perhaps even giving them something new to consider. In the original series, Levi is well-liked for his short height, vulgar language and sense of crude humor, prowess as a powerful soldier, a unique outlook on the affects of his choices, and being a total clean freak.
But besides his unique perspective on the world and his personality quirks, Levi’s past was a blank slate, a mysterious character fans knew nothing about. It seemed like a dream come true to have a spin-off centering around the fan-favorite of the original series, but despite its success, No Regrets is surprisingly short, with the last chapter expected to be released next month. After reading the most recent chapter, I found myself bothered by how much this spin-off has failed to meet my expectations. How did it fail, you ask? The answer is quite simple; this spin-off hasn’t told me anything new about Levi. At all. Yes, it’s a spin-off – a short one at that – and I realize that as such, it’s not canon. But regardless of its length, I was still expecting a different, new take on Levi’s character at the very least.
The first reason why No Regrets failed to be a good prequel spin-off for me was because it barely explored the aspects of Levi’s character that fans already know and love. His obsession with cleaning was only shown in one scene, and his vulgar language and sense of humor is not nearly as pronounced. Furthermore, in the original manga, within a few lines of dialogue, Levi’s described as being a notorious thug before joining the Survey Corps – and this too was barely touched on in the prologue and first chapter. All of his distinguishable traits were glossed over in No Regrets, almost as if Sunaaku wasn’t sure how to portray Levi, and ended up just eliminating Levi’s existing personality while undermining any potential to build on it with new developments.
The things fans already knew about him aren’t made to be more interesting in a different context, and since he isn’t given any new or different character traits from the barely existing ones, he’s a rather boring protagonist in No Regrets. So much of the time, instead of making me sympathize with Levi or provide some insight into his thoughts, I felt the story and illustrations were more focused on making Levi brooding and attractive for the sake of fan service.
Instead of being a well-written, interesting character, he spends a lot of time saying “…” while glaring, and every time this happened, I was confused of what I was supposed to be learning about his character. Was I supposed to be learning anything at all, or am I supposed to think of how nice he looks as he glares boringly at everyone? Regardless, it was a poor means of character development, and did absolutely nothing to enhance Levi’s character or add anything new. It’s lazy writing, not to mention it muddles the pacing of the story – which barely exists as it is.
The second reason why No Regrets doesn’t really work as a good prequel spin-off is because the “new” character development Levi does get isn’t much to work with. Levi has to deal with his dilemma to kill Erwin and, while interesting, stems from… I don’t even know, that’s how little it’s mentioned.
Levi, in the original series, is a surprisingly complex character, revealed through his facial expressions and speeches. In No Regrets, it seems like Levi doesn’t have a personality; his interactions with his comrades, Isabel and Farlan, are hardly interesting, and though there are fleeting moments that suggest some kind of bond between the trio, these are few and far in between, lacking any real emotion to make me invested in their camaraderie. What I do know isn’t much; Isabel looks up to Levi as a brother figure for a reason that was barely mentioned, and Farlan… I don’t know. I don’t have any words to describe him, that’s how bland he is. Worry wart, maybe? Bickering-Nuisance-to-Levi-Every-Couple-of-Chapters?
But when these characters SPOILERS die and I find myself not caring because I don’t know jack about them, but instead interested in how their deaths will affect Levi, that isn’t a good thing. The original series is brutal, and every major and minor character fatality is violent and depressing. When the spin-off can’t render that same kind of power and emotion through the deaths of their “main characters”, it’s like they weren’t written to be genuinely cared for in the first place. Although, I admit that the way their deaths are handled is one of the few things this spin-off has done kind of well.
By the conclusion of the most recent chapter, Levi is beginning to face the consequences of his decision first-hand, and perhaps the reason I found it so effective was because it’s reminiscent of a similar situation in the original series. Though I may have cared less, their deaths were a good – albeit late – means of showing Levi’s progression into the battle-hardened soldier that fans know later on. Regardless, it’s a pity to admit that Levi’s choice, along with his moral dilemma, is the only good, interesting part of No Regrets. While it gives audiences a sign of Levi’s potential to grow and be a more complex protagonist, the fact that it took seven chapters to get to this point – while doing nothing to supplement fans with anything else to be invested in – is ridiculous.
Thing is, a series can’t be carried by a character’s moral compass or goals alone. Good stories and characters require more substance to drive it forward and make it compelling. What I mean is that a well-written character may be driven by their goals and aspirations, but it isn’t until their feelings and goals are challenged that they become conflicted. These situations add complexity, and the clash of differing ideologies makes them compelling and interesting characters, because a change can be tracked right away.
From the very beginning of No Regrets, nothing lends itself to characterizing Levi in any real way, and throughout its entirety, Levi continues to be a blank slate, and no measures are taken to show fans anything new about him. It struggles to repeat what fans already know, but fails to give Levi any new, unique features or real justification for his actions and behavior in the beginning of the story.
The discord between trying to convey who Levi becomes and who he was in his spin-off is apparent and makes it unclear as to who Levi’s supposed to be. No Regrets rides on Levi’s goal to kill Erwin, but there’s no real progression towards this outcome. Yes, I find his moral dilemma an interesting one, but there isn’t any clear mention of why Levi feels motivated to kill Erwin, or what spurs him to do so. The implications are there, but when I have to go out of my way to connect the dots without any insight into Levi’s thoughts, not only is a sign of poor story-telling, but also makes it difficult to pinpoint how Levi feels and why he acts a certain way.
No Regrets suffers from a lack of establishing the basic foundation of their main character in the context of the story, and Levi’s barely existing voice falls on deaf ears. It lacks any real conflict or stakes in the beginning – when character motivations and ideologies are important and will affect them – so when situations do turn sour and the characters are forced to overcome them, it’s harder to become genuinely invested or sympathetic to the character’s plight. It’s unfortunate that this series was unable to capture meaningful plot points and character interactions as skillfully as the original series it is based off of, because Levi is a great character who had the potential to be a compelling protagonist if his back story wasn’t so poorly thought out.
But to be honest, despite the fact that this spin-off has no discernible story or character motivations, it’s not all bad. Suruga’s art is pretty nice and crisp looking, and does a good job of conveying what emotions the characters do have. The art style is fairly accurate in its portrayal of recurring characters from the original series; although, the designs for Isabel and Farlan look like they were plucked from a different series entirely and inserted into No Regrets. Despite the fact that not all of the character designs are convincing and belong together, the action is pretty fluid for the most part, but over time, I found myself missing Hajime Isayama’s magical, distinct and memorable art style. Some of the camaraderie between Levi, Farlan, and Isabel does manage to convey a sense of trust, and at times, the friction between Erwin and Levi is effectively conveyed and forces the readers to recall the circumstances of their tentative alliance.
In short, my biggest disappointment with No Regrets comes from the fact that there aren’t any surprises. It barely touches on what fans do know about Levi to make him an interesting character with depth, and fails to give them anything new to ponder. I’d say that No Regrets is still a pretty good read, and one that would probably be worth it for Attack on Titan fans interested in the lore of the series. It may not offer much in real character development and story, but the art is pretty good, and if anything, Levi’s somewhat random moral dilemma and the weight of his choice crashing down on him are the only good parts worth reading. But if you go in thinking you’ll see Levi in an entirely new light, No Regrets won’t quite meet your expectations.
I used to be that person who didn’t like manga. Preferring the colors and movement of the anime adaptations rather than the black and white drawings that were difficult to decipher, I could never see myself getting into a manga series. I always figured there would be nothing else I could glean out of the manga that I wouldn’t get from the anime. But then I started reading Attack on Titan, and my prejudices quickly diminished as I came to enjoy and appreciate it for its story, characters and art, so much so that I’ve taken to buying the volumes and reading them to my heart’s content. When I tell people to read this series, these are the chapters I want them to look the most forward to since everything about them is so well done.
Warning: This will contain a multitude of spoilers. Read at your own risk!
3. What Happened To The Left Arm (Chapter 10) Attack on Titan is infamous for the many mysteries it holds and the lack of answers. With that said, I was relieved that the author, Hajime Isayama, provided a much needed answer in “What Happened To The Left Arm”. The flashback sequence at the beginning of the chapter made for some of the most memorable pages I have read in the series. Another thing Attack on Titan is well known for is never shying away from a stressful insane moment, and this chapter easily lives up to that standard. I was under the impression that Eren would be completely safe given what happened before, but this chapter challenged my notions by introducing clashing viewpoints on the meaning of his Titan form.
2. Their First Battle (Chapter 4)
“Their First Battle” is responsible for the excellent beginning of Attack on Titan and for why I am so enamored with the series. This chapter takes any notions of hopeful signs of the future and dumps them all down the drain. “Their First Battle” opens with an intense, epic battle between Eren and the Colossal Titan, and while it concluded with Eren losing since the Colossal Titan disappeared, it made me hopeful that his character was too powerful and important for anything grave to happen to him. My wishful thinking quickly dissipated when Eren was swallowed by a Titan. It was one of the most shocking and depressing things I had ever read, and had I not been about to walk in and have Christmas dinner with everyone, I would have bawled my eyes out.
1. Cry (Chapter 50)
“Cry” is the climax of what was an insanely stressful and intense story arc for me to read. The chapter covers a lot of ground, and while that may make it seem rushed to some, it was extremely well done and its transitions were seamless. From Krista and Ymir’s resolve to live for themselves, Erwin’s disregard for his well-being despite having his arm bitten off, or the cutest moment in the series between Eren and Mikasa, the chapter was well-written and gave each character equal opportunity to grow and develop. After finishing this chapter I came to realize how far the art style of the series has come. I’ve always appreciated the rather rough, imperfect yet distinct art of the series, but “Cry” is testament to how clean and refined it has become with each entry.
Notable Mentions: The World That The Girl Saw (Chapter 6)
Chapter 6 focuses on Mikasa and her contributions to the Trost Battle, while delving into Mikasa’s past. Her flashback reveals what bonded her and Eren, and the last panel breaks my heart every time.
Losers (Chapter 30)
Eren was defeated by the Female Titan, and Mikasa is determined to save him to the point of recklessness. Levi steps in, and it’s his finest moment in the entire series.
Still Can’t See (Chapter 19)
My love for the drama of courtroom standoffs in Phoenix Wright is responsible for why I like Chapter 19. This trial takes an unexpected yet unique turn, and I appreciated that it continued to build on fears established in an earlier chapter.
Don’t like my choices or think my list is too short? Feel free to comment below!
FUNimation has announced that they will reveal the English cast for Attack on Titan in March. Fortunately, FUNimation generally has a good reputation when it comes to making high-quality English dubs, so while I’m confident that they selected good voices for everyone, it doesn’t keep me from worrying every now and then. All I want is for Eren, Mikasa and Levi to be portrayed by talented voice actors that can convey all of their emotion and strength. If the voice actors can pull that off, I’ll be content.
Bravely Default is one of the most enjoyable, difficult games I have played in a while. I think it’s safe to say that I’m getting close to the climax, and I’m excited to see how it will pan out. I love the retro art style of the game, and it makes me want to play some of my favorite RPG’s again, such as Final Fantasy IX, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Kingdom Hearts II.
Speaking of, Kingdom Hearts III needs to come out sooner. Avid fans of the series have been waiting for eight years. Eight. Sure, we’re a dedicated bunch, but with the waiting easily continuing for another three or four years, I’m getting really impatient for its release. It had better live up to my expectations or else.
I don’t understand why “Living Dead” by Marina and the Diamonds isn’t on iTunes. It’s the only song of hers that I really like, and it isn’t on iTunes. Something needs to be done about that, especially since iTunes already has the problem of not including anime or video game soundtracks.
School has decided to slam me at once with all sorts of work–as I was expecting, but keeping track of everything takes a lot of time, constant planning, and constant printing. Good thing printing at the library is cheap, or I would have a serious problem on my hands.
“Twitch Plays Pokemon” is the most painful thing I have ever tried to watch–hilarious, but so painful. Watching Red pace in circles and check his inventory every five seconds makes me cringe and laugh in pity for the players trying to progress in the game (how they’ve managed to get this far is beyond me). If nothing else, the epic narrative that has emerged from this train wreck of a social experiment is the most enjoyable aspect of this gaming adventure.
I’m craving vegetables and fruits, both of which are in a very small amount in our house–that, and Roasted Garlic Sea Salt chips. They’re a delicious, highly-innutritious snack.
I’ve recently gotten into watching sports (living in a house full of guys would do that to anyone), and I really enjoy watching the Phoenix Suns play. They’re a fun team to watch, even if it tends to stress me out to no end. Here’s what I’ve learned–no one knows exactly what a travel is. Also, referees suck. They make some of the stupidest calls ever.