Anime has always been one of those worlds that I have always been curious about, but have never gone beyond wading toe deep into. Growing up in the 1990’s I was always a fan of Toonami and I remember fondly watching Dragonball Z and Mobile Suite Gundam Wing after school. Then when I was slightly older, Adult Swim launched and even though it is filled with mostly original programming today, it was full of anime at the beginning with shows like Inuyasha, Kikaider and the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Now thanks to Netflix and Hulu, I can branch out into other shows that aren’t as fully on the radar and with friends like Kyle and Amanda offering recommendations; I can broaden my horizons like I’ve wanted. Last year, I stumbled onto last year that has been gaining a lot of popularity in the past few years both at home in Japan and here in the States that I’ve come to love with a passion: Attack on Titan.
For those that aren’t familiar with the series, the show takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has sealed itself behind a series of three large circular walls to prevent their extinction at the hands of giant, man-eating monsters called Titans. It is like a medieval zombie show with some slight steampunk elements since humanity’s army (divided into three corps) use devices to propel themselves through the air to gain the ability to fight back the titans and take them out. One day, after many years of peace, the town of Shingashina is attacked by a giant titan called the Colossal Titan, who proceeds to destroy the first wall. In the chaos, a young boy named Eren Yeager sees his mother devoured in front of him as he is carried away to safety. He swears to destroy all titans and join the army to accomplish this goal accompanied by his best friends Armin and Mikasa. Sounds pretty awesome right?
The show has become a full-blown pop culture sensation; they even produced a live-action movie in Japan within the past year. While the movie does look pretty cool, there are some things that bother me such as the use of modern weapons like tanks and RPGs and they changed most of the character’s names. There is also the issue of the cast being all Japanese, and the reason I mention this is because in the manga and anime Mikasa is the last person of Asian descent alive and this is something really important to her back story. All of the other characters are predominantly white or European and it would be the only exception where I feel that making an adaptation of an anime with a mostly white cast is okay. It will still be an excellent movie, but I mostly wish that a studio like Legendary Pictures or Warner Bros. had the ability to make an adaptation of the series.
I know that American adaptations of popular anime have been less than stellar, such as the Dragonball movie we do not speak about, but it would be cool to see what a big budget adaptation could be like for this series. Given movies such as Dragonball or even The Last Airbender, I can see why so many fans who love this series would be so afraid of a studio getting their hands on it but there is potential in the right hands for it to be incredible. I mention Legendary and Warner Bros. because of their success with Pacific Rim and Godzilla, two movies that show they can handle elements of Attack on Titan very well. Think about what it could look like to see either a motion capture or fully CGI titan on screen battling Eren and Mikasa. I am also going to be the foolish optimist and hope that Hollywood has somewhat learned from their mistakes and would do a better job now than they would have years ago.
As with other adaptations, there is the question of “how are they going to/what way would they go about adapting this as a movie?” and I think Attack on Titan lends itself well to an adaptation. The first thirteen episodes of the anime could work as a movie since it tells one cohesive story-arc with a beginning, middle and end with some hints as to where it could go in the future. Telling the origin story of the main characters as well as the Battle of Trost, the storyline would begin with the day the Colossal Titan emerges and destroys the wall, setting Eren and his friends on their path. From there, the movie would show their bonding with their fellow soldiers and training and then the fateful battle of Trost. It is definitely possible to make such a movie that is epic in scale and faithful the anime and manga. There are also opportunities to flesh out the characters like Mikasa or Jean and build on who they are in the source material. Give a talented director like Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) the helm and a mostly unknown, young cast and you’ve got part of a great movie on your hands! Why should we have an American adaptation? Well, I wouldn’t want a purely American influence but rather collaboration with a studio like Toho for Japanese distribution, similar to what happened with Godzilla last year. To distance the movie from earlier adaptations, I’d like to also see them keep the creator of the series involved and have him sign off on things. Plus, if this is done right and is successful enough, we could have something similar to Harry Potter, where we have a series of films that follow the characters as they grow up and are released a year or two apart until the story is ended.
What about all of you? Do you think Attack on Titan can work as an American made adaptation?