Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Six years after the events of the first God Eater game, Lenka Utsugi is a new recruit at Fenrir's Far Eastern branch. Ever since the aragami, hideous monsters with an appetite for anything, including human flesh, were unleashed on the world, Fenrir has made it its mission to arm its soldiers with weapons known as “god arcs” to stem the tide. Now a new generation of soldiers and god arcs have emerged – New Types whose weapons function as god eaters, actually consuming the aragami and putting them out of commission for good. Lenka has the capability to be one of those New Types and to help save the world, but first he has to learn to follow orders. Just because Lenka feels something is right, it doesn't mean that the rest of the world will agree.
Based on the series of popular action RPGs, God Eater's first seven episodes have the unenviable task of convincing viewers that this series can either live up its source material or stand separately from it. Since this isn't always the case with game-based anime, it's a relief to see that, while certainly not perfect, God Eater does manage to develop an interesting story on its own, albeit one that owes a lot to most other science fiction stories about brash teens with mega weapons being the Last Hope for humanity.
The characters are arguably the weakest aspect of the package. Lenka Utsugi is your typical fiery young man. Because he came from a slightly different background from his comrades, arriving from an area outside of Fenrir's immediate protection, he's the usual wild card character. He doesn't like to take orders, he believes that what he thinks is right is always the way to go, and he'll do anything to protect the innocent. Alongside him are his deceptively laid-back commanding officer, Lindow, his bright-eyed buddy Kota, the mature big sister type Sakuya, and the underdressed and feisty (but with a tragic past) foreign girl, Alisa. While these characters do work together well to progress the plot, and we do see some significant changes in their attitudes over time, they all start out the series being very stereotypical, which can make getting into the show difficult.
It's around episode four that things really begin to change. That's when Lenka begins to realize that when Fenrir says they're going to protect “humanity,” they really have a very specialized idea of what that means – they'll only take in people with the ability to wield god arcs and their families, leaving those not “chosen” to fend for themselves. This blatant discrimination within the Fenrir organization smacks of projected selective breeding, so that the surviving humans will all have the ability to fight aragami using god arcs or god eaters. While the death Lenka witnessed in episode two was terrible for him, at least that person was an actual soldier on the battlefield. The people Fenrir refuses to save are civilians who simply don't fit their requirements for survival.
From here the story gets more intense, both in terms of Alisa's past (and her need to be the center of attention) and the interspersed flashbacks to when three scientists inadvertently created the aragami and unleashed them on the world. The use of these flashbacks works surprisingly well, providing just enough information to fill in a few blanks while still maintaining a nebulous air as we wonder what happened to get where we are in the present. The included booklet does offer a couple of spoilers (for non-game players) on that front in its character profiles, but even if you do read it and learn a few things not mentioned thus far in the series, there are still plenty of questions left to ponder. Framing the flashbacks in black-and-white is a particularly good choice, giving them an air of having happened long ago, even though we know that at least one of the scientists is still active in the story's present day.
The art and animation are interesting for the most part. While there is a slight sense of something odd about the aesthetic, it isn't jarring or distracting, but more calls attention to itself now and again. The aragami designs are particularly good, with many of them having the look of a mythic monster from Chinese or Hindu tales crossed with a dinosaur. The biggest issue to me is the fact that almost no one wears any protective gear out on the battlefield – bare chests, exposed stomachs, and plenty of other questionable fashion choices seem to make the characters more vulnerable than they need to be. The women are particularly bad on this front, with Sakuya's outfit being impractically flowy (seriously, it looks like a risqué 1920s dress that Miss Phryne Fisher would wear), and Alisa's not only leaves all of her vulnerable areas exposed but also offers nothing in terms of support. This may seem like a silly complaint, but when most of your story is set on the battlefield and isn't shy about showing the damage the aragami can do to a human body, fanservice should perhaps take a backseat to practicality.
Probably the most striking aspect of this show is the music, particularly the insert songs. While the opening and ending themes are good – the ending is amazingly melodramatic – the real prize is the song “Human After All” in episode five. Its haunting, eerie melody and vocals bring a quality to the show that it previously lacked, and while it could easily have felt out of place in a show about huge guns and gross monsters, it instead tempers both of those things, giving Lenka and Alisa a human quality that wasn't given enough emphasis before.
This is one of Aniplex of America's expensive sets, so it may make interested buyers feel better to know that there are basically four extra episodes included here. A twelve-minute prequel is included, as are three full-length inside-the-anime episodes, with each one focusing on a different area of production: interviews with creators, a critique from a Japanese anime critic, discussions with ufotable, and a look at the composers. That makes this a much better deal than many of AoA's previous releases, especially if you're interested in what goes into creating a show. There is an English dub track available, and while the actors do a fine job, they seem stymied by the lip flaps in several cases, giving the dub an unnecessarily stilted sound.
God Eater's first half grows on you as the episodes go on. It isn't a masterpiece, but it does make some interesting storytelling choices, and it really knows how to use its music to best effect. It won't change the face of game-to-anime series, but it's also better than it ought to have been, even with some of its more questionable aspects.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Great insert song in episode five and strong music in general, Alisa's past greatly enhances her character, good use of flashbacks, interesting (and extensive) extras
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