ANIME REVIEWS: “Date Alive” and “Attack On Titan”

ANIME REVIEWS: "Date Alive" and "Attack On Titan"

Two of the summer’s best-selling anime series are both
violent and difficult to categorize. 

Date Alive: The Complete First Season
Funimation: $69.98, 4 discs: DVD/Blu-ray

Date Alive
has been described as a spoof of otaku
(anime fan) culture. Initially, it feels like an sci-fi harem comedy. Thirty
years earlier, Asia was devastated by a disaster called a “Spatial Quake” that
killed more than 150 million people. That scale of destruction hasn’t been
repeated, but minor Quakes have occurred in Japan, centered on Tengu city,
where Shido Itsuka (voice by Josh Grelle), a typically good-natured schlub, is
a student at Raizen High.

Shido learns the Quakes are caused by supernatural beings
called Spirits, who take the form of the buxom babes. To seal the Spirit’s
devastating power, Shido must win her heart and conclude the deal with a
kiss—which he quickly does with characteristic kindness. Typically, the Spirit
joins Shido in high school, taking the name Tohka (Michelle Rojas). Her hot
temper fades to adoration.

Soon, a second Spirit appears, the ultra-childish Yoshino
(Tia Ballard), who prefers to speak through a rabbit hand-puppet. Another kiss,
another seal.

Shido also finds himself pursued by Origami (Michelle Lee),
a member of AST, the corps of Spirit-battling girl-warriors, who fight in
revealing armor suits.

Further complications are provided Kotori (Bryn Appril) who
describes herself as Shido’s little sister—when she’s not captaining the air
ship Fraxinos.

The first several episodes feature the usual panty shots,
cleavage shots, showers scenes and visits to hot springs—all of which provide
opportunities for romantic contretemps. The story takes a dark, violent turn
when the murderous Spirit Kurumi (Alexis Tipton) arrives. She catches a group
of thugs tormenting a kitten—and blows them away. Kurumi is followed by Mana
(Felecia Angella), , who kills Kurumi every time she appears. Naturally, Shido
can’t let that happen, so he sets out to win over Kurumi with kindness, even
after her cold-blooded murders sicken him.

Director Keitaro Motonaga never manages to reconcile the
weird disjunctures in tone. Date Alive
often feels like group of slashers has moved into Keitaro’s apartment house in
the romcom Love, Hina.

Attack on Titan, Part 1
Funimation: $49.98, 4 discs: DVD/Blu-ray

Based on a manga series by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan has also been adapted to
a light novel and a live action film. Centuries earlier, mankind was suddenly
attacked by gargantuan, virtually indestructible humanoid creatures called
Titans. They instantly heal when they’re wounded and even regrow severed limbs.
They’re vulnerable only in one spot on the back of the neck.


Overwhelmed by the onslaught, humanity has withdrawn to
small, walled enclaves. When a super-colossal Titan (over 150 meters—or 492
feet–tall) attacks his home city of Shiganshina, Eren (Bryce Papenbrook), the
son of a prominent doctor, sees his mother devoured as a neighbor carries him
and his friends Mikasa (Trina Nishimura) and Armin (Josh Grelle) to safety. In
the city of Trost, the trio trains with the military cadets to fight the Titans
and, “take back what was ours.”

In Episode #8, a powerful renegade Titan appears and begins
attacking the other giants. Sometime earlier, Eren was injected with a
mysterious substance by father, that’s given him a curious ability. He doesn’t
really transform into a Titan, he sort of creates one’s body around himself that
he controls from inside its neck, like a Gundam pilot steering his mobile suit.

Eren is not a terribly interesting central character: He
makes bold declarations about killing every Titan, but he lacks the depth that
makes hero memorable. Mikasa, who may remind otaku of Erza in Fairy Tail
without the sense of humor, insists she’ll stick with Eren and defend him, even
when he doesn’t want her to. Armin is wracked by self-doubt and comes across as

Tetsuro Araki, who directed the supernatural murder mystery
series Death Note handles the action
scenes of humans striking back at Titans with an agreeable panache. In Japan,
where Attack on Titan scored a huge
hit, commentators have seen the assault of the gigantic Titans as a metaphor
for the terrors of  the Fukushima
disaster. For American viewers, the scenes of the naked humanoids wandering
through the streets, chowing down on people like pretzel goldfish, may recall
George Romero’s cult horror classic, The
Night of the Living Dead

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As an American viewer/cinephile, Attack on Titan more or less reminds me of German Expressionism and Weimar cinema—especially The Golem and Dr. Caligari—at least in mood and subject/theme, if nothing else.

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