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Andrew Osmond on the second part, and what’s next…

How will it end? This is the burning question for Attack on Titan fans, and it’s certainly not answered in the second volume of the anime series. Rather, Volume 2 shows a world which is still in the process of expanding, bringing on a great many vivid new characters – and arguably the most vivid of all isn’t even a human, but a sexy woman Titan who stomps all over the series. Yup, you read that right, a sexy woman Titan. Don’t get too close or she’ll twist your head off.

The other new characters include the members of the elite Survey Corps team, who we glimpsed a few times in Volume 1 but who finally get proper introductions here. The most memorable of the bunch is the coolly brutal Levi Ackerman, who rivals death-girl Mikasa as a hardass icon of the series. Watch what he does in the first episode of this set and you’ll get his measure. He’s voiced in Japanese by Hiroshi Kamiya, whose other roles include the Loki-like villain Izaya in Durarara!! and the hapless protagonist Koyomi in Bakemonogatari and its sequels. Bizarrely, Levi has been turned into a hugging pillow in Japan! Each to his or her own, but we’d feel safer hugging a Titan.

Levi’s backstory is only hinted at in this anime volume, but it’s already been told elsewhere in the franchise, in the spinoff manga prequel Attack on Titan: No Regrets. This spinoff is being adapted as a two-part anime OAV, due for release in Japan in December (part 1) and next April (part 2). Here’s the Japanese trailer to whet your appetite.

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Meanwhile, the main anime series is getting the compilation treatment, with its 25 episodes being condensed into two cinema movies. The first, subtitled Crimson Bow and Arrow, will open in Japan in November, while Wings of Freedom opens next year. They’re reported to have new dubbing and remastered 5.1 sound, though there’s no word that they’ll add anything else to the saga. Still, it’ll be an opportunity to see the Titans on the big screen before the really big event in 2015.

That event is two live-action Titan movies in the summer, though for live-action they’ve got a heck of a lot of anime talent on them. Perhaps the biggest anime name in the credits is Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the man who designed the blank-faced Rei in Evangelion (twenty years ago!) and time-skipping Makoto in The Girl who Leapt Through Time. He’s now reportedly helping with character design for the live-action Titan. Does that mean he’s handling the Titans themselves? The screenplay will be by Yuusuke Watanabe, whose credits range from the two live-action Gantz film to the new Dragon Ball Z film, Battle of Gods.

Originally, the live-action Titan director was going to be Tetsuya Nakashima, feted for Kamikaze Girls and Confessions, but he jumped ship a while ago to be replaced by Shinji Higuchi. Higuchi was one of the original founders of Studio Gainax and his resume reads like an otaku’s wet dream. It includes Assistant Director on Wings of Honneamise, loads of work on the old and new Evangelions, three monster-turtle Gamera films in the ‘90s, and the 2006 remake of the disaster epic The Sinking of Japan.

But Higuchi also has form in sending hideous giants stomping through cities and kicking the stuffing out of them. Two years ago, we reported from a Tokyo exhibition on special effects (‘tokusatsu’) cinema. It included a specially-made film directed by Higuchi, which borrowed the demonic giant ‘God Warrior’ from Ghibli’s Nausicaa and set it loose in modern Tokyo. And then this year, Higuchi took time out from developing Titan to make, of all things, a car commercial – with Titans! Here it is:

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It should be said that the commercial was made before production on the Titan films commenced; the movie Titans may look different from those above. Story details are also unclear, with reports that the live-action films will include ‘new’ characters and villains (will we see Titan’s answer to Mari Illustrious?). What we do know is the film-makers are using a dream location – Hashima Island, an extraordinary ‘ghost island’ of giant ruins off Nagasaki, better known as Gunkanjima or ‘Battleship Island.’ It was the model for the villain’s ruined hideout in the Bond film Skyfall, and we profiled the island here.

But even with the live-action Titan films, anime compilation films and an anime prequel in the pipeline, fans are still clamouring for a continuation of the main anime series. Scuttlebutt suggests Studio WIT has been waiting until the manga had continued long enough to sustain another 25 or 26 episodes, rather than resort to filler or splitting off from the manga story. As it stands, the anime series stops midway through book 8 of the collected strip; manga writer Hajime Isayama is polishing up book 15 in Japan.

One question, of course, is how much more there is to go. Interestingly, Isayama has indicated he won’t challenge One Piece or Berserk in the field of lengthy epics. Interviewed this September, the artist said he’d like to wrap Titan up in about another three years. Assuming a similar work-pace to what we’ve seen so far, that would suggest around ten more books of the series – perhaps enough story for a third run of twenty-odd anime episodes. On the other hand, fantasy fans know epics can grow completely out of their creators’ control – just ask Tolkien, or George R.R. Martin!

And then, of course, there’s the killer question: How will it end? Isayama seems to be a master of baiting constant readers. When he’s not trolling them about whether Armin is a boy or a girl, he’s lets slip that he’s envisaged an ‘everyone dies’ ending – perhaps he dreams of stealing the “Kill’em all” tag from Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, who has said some rather harsh things about Titan. But honestly, we should enjoy the situation. While many anime franchises spread over umpteen arcs with no end in sight, Isayama’s plotting has hung us up on tenterhooks, and no net dweeb can spoil the last page. And if you’re experiencing the story through the anime, and want a glimpse ahead, here’s one tip; wait until after the credits on the last (for now) episode.

Attack on Titan, part 2, is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

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