Reviewby Theron Martin,
Attack on Titan: Junior High
BD+DVD - The Complete Series [Limited Edition]
Eren Jaeger, who's set to attend Attack Junior High (which is surrounded by massive walls), hates the Titans for one simple reason: they stole his lunch and ate his favorite Cheese Hamburg. To make matters worse, this is something that the Titans do to everyone on a regular basis! Eren and his best friends Armin and Mikasa eventually join the school's Wall Cleaning Club, whose sacred duty is to clean Titan graffiti off the school walls, but he also wants to get involved in another top-secret club where he can learn to fight the Titans from his seniors. Unfortunately, some of those seniors are more interested in lording their status over the younger grades.
Some parody series are funny enough on their own merits that viewers don't have to be more than vaguely familiar with the source material in order to appreciate most of the humor. This is not one of those shows. Attack on Titan: Junior High expects viewers to be intimately familiar with Attack on Titan down to the smallest details, and anyone who hasn't seen all of it will be lost for big chunks of the experience. The more you remember about the main series, the funnier this is likely to be.
That doesn't mean that all of this series' jokes are dependent on prior knowledge, as some play on well-known anime tropes in general. For instance, the whole “running to school with toast in mouth and bumping into someone” routine in the first episode gets a rather funny extended alteration here, and even if you don't know all the characters that Eren bumps into, the gag still works on a pure slapstick level, as do at least a couple scenes in most other episodes to follow. Also, some of the character traits in this version (such as Conny's rampant stupidity) are played up to such a cartoonish degree that they can be appreciated independent of knowing much about the original characters.
Most of the humor consists of riffs on the original story though, with many scenes repeated virtually line-for-line but in much sillier contexts. Eren's “plugging the wall” scene, which was easily one of the most dramatic moments in the original series, gets feature treatment, but so does Armin's opening narration, Eren confronting the Colossal Titan, and many other key scenes. The series thoroughly delights in playing these silly variations of classic scenes straight, such as how the Titans eat people's lunches instead of actually eating the people. While the creativity of these comedically altered scenes can be impressive, the humor value leaves much to be desired. The attempts at grand irony frequently fall flat, though the Next Episode previews, which grimly describe totally un-serious things, work a little better; I definitely recommend not skipping them.
The series does better when it takes the basic traits of the original characters and either exaggerates or warps them. Armin gains such a severe aversion to being cold that he stays wrapped in his futon much of the time, and a later sequence where he's dressed up as a girl seems equally appropriate; although season one of the anime never brought it up, Armin was always the most effeminate-looking boy in the cast. The way Marco is handled – with everyone easily overlooking him – also makes a great inside joke for series fans, as do the scenes where Annie is cajoled into being a cheerleader. I'm not sure where Jean's grand obsession with being a popular ladies' man comes from, but that is occasionally good for a joke too. To make all of these gags work, Eren has to play the straight man, with his obsession with “chi-burgs” (i.e., cheeseburgers) being his only real comic exaggeration that allows everyone else to play off him too.
In a storytelling sense, these 17 minute episodes are generally standalones linked by a vague overarching plot, except for a multi-episode arc near the end about the school festival. Each episode does have its own theme, whether it's about who will be elected the new student body President, a dodgeball match, or studying (or not!) for make-up tests. The absolute weirdest one involves Jean getting a love letter from a Titan admirer.
While the humorous side of the series misses as often as it hits (Oluo's tongue-biting is almost never funny), the production effort by Production I.G is more consistently solid. The chibified versions of all the students are adorable, especially Krista, although most of the characters get their moments to shine. In a decided departure from the original series, the color scheme is substantially brighter and cheerier; even on the rare occasions when the series seems to be getting heavier, the show never becomes visually oppressive, and the animation effort is also good enough to suit the comedy well. The musical score favors reusing themes from the original series, although it has some lighter numbers too. The opener is a parody of original starting opener “Guren no Yumiya,” while the closer is an original song with some interesting visuals.
Funimation is releasing the series in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. Included on-disc extras are English audio commentaries for episodes 2 and 8, an English video commentary for episode 12, clean opener and closer, and a collection of promo videos and web previews. The Limited Edition version comes in an artbox with a window cling sheet for chibi-Eren and a 48 page booklet designed like Eren's composition notebook. It includes episode summaries accompanied by director's notes, assorted art pages, and various odds and ends, including a collection of student portraits for Eren's class. Both versions also include an English dub, which carries over everyone from the original series dub and competently casts the handful of new roles. Whatever your reaction was to the dub for the main series, it will probably be similar here.
Overall, Attack on Titan: Junior High does not rank among the funnier recent anime comedies, resulting in an only sporadically successful effort. It's good for at least a few laughs though, and seeing a much lighter interpretation of these characters' struggles can be a nice breather in between watching episodes of the much grimmer second season that's airing right now. In fact, that's exactly how I recommend watching Attack on Titan: Junior High.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Chibi versions of characters are adorable, definitely has its humorous moments
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