Attack On Titan: Hollywood Must Learn From Japan's Success - And Failure

On Monday, Variety broke the news that Attack On Titan is set to become the latest live-action anime adaptation from Hollywood, continuing a trend that began with 2014's Edge Of Tomorrow and continued with 2017's controversial Ghost In The Shell and Death Note films.

Warner Bros. was reported to have been in negotiations for the film rights in January of this year, and at the time, David Heyman (Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts) was attached, but he's since been swapped for Andy Muschietti (IT) in the director's seat.

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Attack On Titan -- or Shingeki no Kyojin -- is wildly popular, with sales of Hajime Isayama's multi-award winning manga frequently hovering at the top of the best sellers list both in Japan and the US. The anime series has been received with no less enthusiasm, quickly earning a reputation as a gateway show for newcomers to the medium.

It's so popular, in fact, that this forthcoming movie isn't the first time the horror-fantasy world will have been brought to the big screen. Toho Pictures did it twice in 2015 with back-to-back features. The films were moderate hits at the box office but were met with a mixed reception from critics and fans.

Their successes and failures make for a good blueprint for Warner Brothers and Muschietti to learn from.

Toho was the original home of Godzilla and suitably, the Japanese movies' visuals are where they really shine, combining practical and CGI effects to bring the gore, terror and -- most importantly -- the scale of a Titan invasion into human territory a horrifying reality.

Like most live-action zombies, real super-sized actors were used to play the hungry giants, which proved appropriately jarring to look at as they peered in through windows in search of their equally real, cowering prey.

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As many reviewers noted, they're best taken as "trashy" B-movies on a blockbuster budget. Where they fall apart is in the writing, mainly in the costly liberties taken with certain aspects of the source material.

The drastic plot alterations in the second film aren't necessarily an issue if you can accept the films as works in their own right, but the absence of fan-favorite characters like Levi Ackerman is much harder to ignore.


Screenwriter Tomohiro Machiyama explained that the reason for some changes was geographical. Attack On Titan takes place in a Germanic setting with a predominantly Caucasian European population. This would have made the Japanese actors look pretty out of place.

Once the films' location was switched to a Japanese one, Levi -- with his distinctly un-Japanese name -- was considered expendable to not make the cut. Instead, a movie-original character, Captain Shikishima, served in his stead.

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Unlike Ghost In The ShellDeath Note and other anime, Attack On Titan clearly lends itself more comfortably to Westernization because, in setting at least, it comes pre-packaged as such, meaning we should get to see the deadpan face and '90s curtain-cut of Levi in the flesh at last. That choice may divide audiences, but could the property also unite a viewership hungry for something different?

Next Page: Is Attack on Titan the Next Game of Thrones?

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