Wednesday 7 October 2015

First Impressions: Attack on Titan: Junior High

Attack on Titan: Junior High

The final anime season of 2015 brings some good and bad news. The good news is that Attack on Titan has finally returned! However the bad news is that this return isn’t the season two that many were hoping (and still waiting) for. Instead this season marks the debut of Attack on Titan: Junior High (Shingeki! Kyojin Chūgakkō) – a comedy reimagining of the franchise based on the parody manga of the same name. Production I.G. are fully spearheading animation duties this time around, with Studio WIT seemingly ducking out for the time being. It might not be a season two, but will this fill the void in the meantime?

Attack on Titan: Junior High re-imagines the cast in a modern-day high school setting, as Eren and Mikasa set out on their first day of Titan Junior High School. Of course this was never going to be straightforward, and after a few mishaps involving some of their new classmates and accidentally walking into a Titan classroom the group manage to settle in. Until the Titans appear that is! Fuelled with rage by a previous incident, Eren goes on the attack and vows to take down all of the Titans.

Though it might seem obvious to some, it’s worth mentioning that Attack on Titan: Junior High is a show that will most likely be lost on newcomers. To those who have never experienced Attack on Titan before this episode will come off as cutesy comedy that the anime business is in no short supply of, but the existing fandom will instantly be able identify the kind of humour this series is aiming for. All of the key jokes are straight send-ups of scenes from the original, and without knowledge of those most of the context will be lost.

Just take the opening for example. Linked Horizon return once again to provide the opening theme, kicking off with an epic-style intro reminiscent of “Guren no Yumiya” before developing into a much more cutesy version with the chibi survey corps swinging around the school grounds – along with some of the proper series’ opening’s more provoking imagery. Junior High wastes absolutely no time in being a complete send up of its straight-faced counterpart and this is only the beginning.

The Titans are no longer giant, human-eating monstrosities – not they’re giant middle school bullies smashing down walls and stealing the normal sized people’s lunches. The revelation is brilliantly executed, with the Titans plucking out humans as if they’re about to snack on them before spitting them straight back out again. Meanwhile chibi-Eren’s prophetic dream mirrors the death of his mother, but instead this time it’s a packed lunch on the receiving end of a swift decapitation.

And despite being shrunk down to childlike proportions, the characters are still the same gang you know and love. Mikasa is still hopelessly obsessed with Eren, Sasha is still hungry, Connie is still aloof – it’s amazing how well that the characters can be dropped into this wildly different setting without being changed all that much. However this episode didn’t introduce the entire cast right off the bat – Armin will make his debut in the next episode while Levi and Hange making a quick cameo at the end here. With all three of them likely to play a reasonably large part in the show it’ll be interesting to see just how straight the show decides to play them. Armin especially since the opening (and next episode preview) revealed he has something of a gimmick to him.

Attack on Titan: Junior High is pretty simple comedy that will only really appeal to existing fans of the series, but it’s the perfect opportunity to play up the many eccentricities of its cast to comedic effect. At its worst it’s a fun way to kill 20 minutes or so, and at its best it has some genuinely laugh out loud moments and looks to provide a few more as the rest of the cast is introduced. Only time can tell whether the appeal can last over 13 episodes, but right now it feels pretty good to have the show back in at least some form.

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