The young woman wore a black wig, a Scout Regiment pleather jacket, a white shirt and brown knee-high boots — and half of her body from head to toe was drenched in fake blood. She was standing amid a small throng of others sporting similar costumes waiting for their beloved actors to walk down the red carpet for the live-action Attack on Titan world premiere in Hollywood. While I was familiar with the series, my memory was a bit foggy with the details having streamed the only season available once. My fanboy companion, however, knew exactly the character portrayed by the bloody cosplayer: Marco. Apparently, she had been haphazardly and hastily half-devoured and then discarded by a towering mindless humanoid giant, a Titan. But then fanboy called out the young woman for picking such an irrelevant character and proceeded to point out others, including a Titan, for carrying a sword, which never happens in the series, and two female cosplayer scouts who had walked happily together down the red carpet but actually hate each other. It’s some sort of faux paus only true fanboys or fangirls would understand. This failure to fully embrace all the characteristics is called not in continuity.
Here’s the thing about this world of anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (the print version of a Japanese comic series), live-action adaptations, YouTube gaming channels, cosplay: I don’t understand all the hype about any of it, not one bit. But that isn’t to say that it’s unimportant or child’s play. In fact, the Attack on Titan manga series has sold over 45 million copies worldwide between 2010 and 2014. For perspective, To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies since 1960. But the real kicker is the devotion of those who are into it.
One thing I realized at the premiere: Don’t mess with cosplayers or their parents. For instance, after a guard moved us media folks in with the fans, a mother and father advised their costumed children to push me out of the way. Then, a few seconds later, as the crowd swelled, the nearby blood-soaked cosplayer had a valiant defender complain to the crowd: “My friend has social anxiety, like, really bad, and you need to give her some space.” And not forgetting to mention my fanboy companion’s behavior. Given the craziness around the two lead actors, I am surprised no one fainted. But the reality is that these actors didn’t seem all that important to the crowd — I guarantee that most of the fans didn’t even know the actors’ actual names. What was important was that the actors actually got to fully portray the characters that the fans had bonded with so closely.
Despite my frustration with the crowd, once we were finally seated in the theater, those nearby were kind, cool, fun, sincere, nice, etc. While fanboy was able to speak to them using some foreign-to-me anime and gaming lingo, I was intrigued with how easy it was to start a conversation (as long as you knew the language). But once the lights dimmed, the anticipation and even concentration were palpable.
As mentioned earlier, my only familiarity with the subject was the anime streaming on Netflix. The basic storyline involves mankind barricaded from mindless cannibalistic giants called Titans. The humans had been at peace with the destructive monsters for 100 years until the Colossal Titan knocked a hole in the wall, allowing the sadistic clan to wreak havoc and destruction by gruesomely feeding on humans just as a famished cat would eat a can of tuna. Titans cannot be killed unless there is a bloody blow made to the nape of the neck. That’s where the Scout Regiment comes in. It’s their job to protect the civilians by killing Titans and to further explore land outside the walls.
In watching the anime series, a couple of things came to mind. 1. How could giant humans be so sickeningly ruthless? and 2. It is easy to get attached to the characters, most of them having some redeemable trait. And with so many twists and turns and WTF moments in the series, the deep character development and raw human emotion managed to draw me.
The live-action movie, however, as fanboy put it, was disappointing and traumatic. Director Shinji Higuchi seemed to destroy the redeeming facets of the series by hyping up the gore and debasing some of the more prominent characters with junior-high antics. The elements of love, attraction and desire had been very subtle in the series, but were blatant and overt in the movie. It just diffused all the goodness I had come to recognize in the series. While it can be thrilling to see any live-action adaption of a comic series, it’s just unfortunate the director didn’t seem to grasp the importance of keeping the characters pure.
For those who are intrigued, the manga can usually be found at local comic and online book stores, the anime with subtitles on Netflix. The movie, however, will be released in Japan in August with no official release date for the U.S. At this point, only 200 people in the world have seen it, which gives fanboy some bragging rights. Nevertheless, it does give curious readers the ability to catch up on the series before the movie comes back to the U.S. and judge for themselves.