The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Attack on Titan: Junior High
How would you rate episode 1 of
Attack on Titan: Junior High ?
Well, I guess this was inevitable. Attack on Titan is an unstoppable megahit, meaning not only do we get OVAs, sequels, and live-action adaptations, we also get the occasional ridiculous gag spinoff. In Attack on Titan! Junior High, Titan's familiar characters are now junior high schoolers on their first day of class, racing the bell and running into some titan-shaped trials along the way. I sure hope you like the exact gags you'd expect from a goofy version of Attack on Titan!
Because that's exactly what you get here. As Eren, Mikasa, and all the rest of the old characters race to school and settle into their first day, Junior High runs through a gamut of all the jokes you'd expect, possibly even the very jokes you yourself made while sitting through some of the original series’ less exciting episodes. Eren knocks into Christa running with toast in her mouth, leading to a “don't touch my Christa” gag for Ymir. Jean gets ignored by everyone, but loves being stepped on by Mikasa. Sasha likes food. Slapstick continues to ensue.
If you're expecting fresh comedy or complex jokes, you're not going to find them here - Attack on Titan! Junior High is a simple gag comedy that rides entirely on your existing knowledge of and affection for the original Attack on Titan series. Most jokes reduce to “hey, remember that thing from Titan? Well, what if it was silly?” My favorite bits here were more of the incidental gags - I liked how the show played off some of the imagery of the original (like starting with the birds in flight, a metaphor that was already pretty overblown in the original series), and the base concept of Mikasa being herself in a silly junior high show is inherently pretty good. The character designs are also expressive and a nice inherent joke, though I hope you weren't expecting too much animation from a gag spinoff. The show also very occasionally commits to a more layered gag, like when the Christa toast-in-mouth joke is repeated with Sasha holding a watermelon, and then undercut by Jean. But overall, this series is basically just the jokes everyone was already making about Titan, now animated. If you're a Titan superfan desperate for more time with these characters, this might be worth a look - otherwise, probably not.
If you can humor me for a moment, please imagine a giant, semicircle-shaped meter. Let's call it "The Dial of Comedy." Sure, comedy could be measured any number of wildly different ways, but let's pretend this dial has only two extremes. The arrow goes to the max-right side for "hilarious" and falls to the max-left side for "painful." That's because these are two extreme reactions to attempted humor, one positive and one negative, based on whether jokes succeed or fail and how violently they do so. My point is that if you put Attack on Titan: Junior High before this dial, the arrow would probably stick straight up. The show isn't funny ha-ha, but it's not unfunny in any physically painful way either. It just sort of exists, playing out the most obvious versions of the simplest possible jokes you could make about the franchise. (Needless to say, it's pointless to try and watch this as a comedy on its own without being familiar with Attack on Titan. The parody material relies completely on being familiar with the original story.)
Actually, saying that the show relies on easy jokes is not entirely true. It would be more accurate to say that Attack on Titan: Junior High doesn't really write any jokes of its own. It's essentially a chibified version of the original series plot, repeated almost beat-for-beat, but set in a lighthearted Japanese middle school environment instead. That is the first joke, the last joke, and all thirty jokes in the middle. This gets especially weird when events that were supposed to be funny in the original show play out basically the same way in this "parody." For example, Jean's attempt to confess his feelings for Mikasa by complimenting her hair was supposed to be funny in the original show, and it's played exactly the same way in this parody version, right down to the shot composition. The punchline comes when Jean sees that Mikasa and Eren are close, but in AoT Junior High, he just tries to strangle Eren, which is much less funny than his original trust-forsaking reaction. Heck, even the infamous Sasha-eats-a-potato schtick plays out the same way, except it's a rice ball now, and once again, the punchline of her too-harsh punishment for being a hungry idiot is skipped entirely.
Unsurprisingly, the show becomes a little funnier when the actual Titans show up. These Titans attend a Titan-sized middle school and bully the human students rather than consuming them, because they eat the kids' school lunches instead of scarfing the kids themselves down. That's the peak level of humor you can expect from this lukewarm parody. This is just the same thing as Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals, if you remember that little oddity. It's aimed at junior high schoolers, and it seems like it was written by junior high schoolers. You probably won't get any real laughs out of it, but it's cute and well-animated for what it is, and if you're desperate for more Titan content in the long wait for season two, this isn't painfully bad like the terrible chibi shorts Studio Wit released with season one of the original series. It just sort of exists. More inoffensive Titan-themed products for the Titan-loving mainstream, which skews younger than the late-night otaku market. We probably shouldn't have expected anything better.
Review: Attack on Titan has been one of the biggest hit series of the past few years, and on top of that its dramatic style makes it ripe for parody. Even so, that it gets its own dedicated series of 17 minute parody episodes is a little surprising, though hardly unwelcome. This is not quite a must-see for fans of the franchise, but I do strongly recommend it for those who are, as it is pretty thorough about poking fun at both itself and school-oriented shows in general. In fact, it is such a complete parody that it hits the original opener, closer, and even the Next Episode previous, too. Rarely have I more wanted to see a translation of those opening lyrics, since given the song and visual parodies, it has to be saying something funny.
The basic premise is that the principle trainee cast members of the base series are all fledgling junior high students slated to attend Attack Junior High. That, of course, requires getting to school on time, which is no small feat, given that Eren running into “toast in mouth” girl (aka Christa) is just the start of a progression of such encounters, including Mikasa's own ill-fated effort to be the one that Eren runs into. Even once they get to the school, which is surrounded by the intimidating wall, the misadventures continue, as Eren and crew at first inadvertently go to the Titans’ school instead, where everything is of enormous scale for them. Once in the proper school, they discover that their homeroom teacher is none other than the drill sergeant. The parodies get even more savage when lunch time is marked by the attack of the colossal Titan and the Titans who filter in turn out to actually not be interested in eating the students but their lunches. Eren futilely but comically attacks in a rage, as apparently he holds a grudge against the Titans because one once ate his favorite hamburger-cheese lunch.
Not all of the parodies land successfully, but enough do to keep a bemused smirk on the face of viewers and even induce a few outright laughs. Jokes can be found in both foreground and background, too, such as a certain couple getting lovey-dovey in the background during class introductions or the actual Attack on Titan series playing on the TV as Eren runs out of his house in the morning, and character traits are of course massively overplayed. Although the first episode does not get to Levi and the other Survey Team members beyond a cameo appearance at the end, they seem slated to show up as the upperclassmen. Various adults from the original series serves in other capacities, too, such as janitor.
In short, this may not be the funniest parody ever, but it's funny enough. It does require complete knowledge of the original series to fully appreciate, however.
Eren, his crew, and the naked man-eating titans are back! (Although they're looking decidedly smaller in this alternate universe.) Attack on Titan: Junior High has distilled each of the blockbuster hit anime's characters into their purest forms, aged them down a few years, and thrown them at each other in a school setting. Eren is a bouncing ball of Titan-killing determination, Mikasa stoically pursues his attention, Jean is full of himself, and Hannah and Franz cuddle lovingly in the background. Titans still exist but are instead giant-sized bullies after humanity's lunches.
The primary concern with a gag show based on a popular series that's already two years old is whether any of its parody-ripe scenes are still fresh. Re-enacting Sasha's potato-eating intro with onigiri isn't exactly clever. I'll admit that Eren repeating his trademark line about purging the world of Titans ad nauseum much to Mikasa's chagrin garnered a smile out of me, but there weren't any chuckles during this episode. I'm sure they'll introduce Levi in the next episode and he'll frantically clean things. There just isn't any underlying wit here.
Much of the jokes were simply repeated scenes from the original with slight variations. Jean and Eren get in a fight like they did in training camp, but instead bicker about their popularity in elementary school. Even the series' opening sequence, mirroring Linked Horizon's song that birthed a thousand fan videos, sounds like “Guren no Yumiya” played in reverse. Much of the opening animation is also shot-for-shot mirroring the original.
Honestly, the funniest part of this episode was the character designs themselves. Every character's face is graphed onto tiny bodies. Older characters like Reiner look extra ridiculous, but the sight gag isn't enough to carry the 17 minute runtime.
Attack on Titan: Junior High works if you need to scratch your Survey Corps itch before the second season premieres next year. You'll probably get all the jokes, it's just that you've already heard them before.
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