Friday, October 2, 2015

Attack on our Intelligence

   I’m sitting in theater seat E10, my wife next to me, my brother and his wife in the seats ahead of us. We’re not big anime fans, yet Attack on Titan looks promising, so we are willing to enter a theater surrounded by Otaku, a scene I normally would not be a part of. Not that there is anything wrong with Otaku, they’re pretty cool, but I am just not that into anime, with some exceptions.
(The following contains spoilers!) 

   I like Berserk, Vampire Hunter D, and Attack on Titan. The other anime I have seen tend to be annoyingly “progressive,” advocating for things like warring on religion and wealthy people, and promoting androgyny. I, personally, believe these ideas tend to be destructive, leading to the prominence of collectivism, and ideas which lead to boys refusing to become men, and then, of course, refusing to have families. I will stop there before I wander into severe controversy, and this is a movie review.

   But at the beginning of the movie was a computer animated short of an animal based UN, lead by a lady lama, congratulating itself for voting to end poverty, inequality, global warming and injustice. Noble goals, for sure, but the last time the UN voted for this we got Agenda 21, a plan, that if implemented, would have led to a serious loss of liberty. The ideas in Agenda 21 were so bad that the Republican Party added a plank to its platform in opposition to the Agenda 21 items. Looks like we might have to take a look at what it is the UN is doing now, because odds are, they are still planning to wall us up, force us to do menial labor, and restrict free enterprise, all in the name of saving us from Climate Change… or 50 foot human eating Titans. The irony of this ad right before the movie is not lost on me.

   That being the case, I know that I have a very different perspective on the plot and message of
The series of walls they hide behind.
Attack on Titan. As I already acknowledged, the Otaku are a “progressive” lot. They will focus on the fact that, to defend themselves against the 50 foot monsters, they built three walls, and keep the poor in the ring closest to the danger. They would focus on the fact that the government condemns innovation and markets because they lead to environmental destruction, resource depletion and war. However… I don’t interpret the story of Attack on Titan to be to the left at all. I think there is something else going on here, and rather than advocating giving up a society filled with sewage treatment plants to a lifestyle that forces people to poop directly into our rivers and streams, I can’t help but wonder if all of this environmental rhetoric in the series is, in fact, a warning about what we will lose if we continue down the path groups like the UN are trying to force us.

   It’s worth stating that the movie starts with three characters, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, complaining about the way their lives are restricted. Armin wants to be free to invent, but the laws won’t let him. Mikasa, in conflict with her anime self, is very much a follower who wants to go along with whatever Eren wants, and he wants to see what is beyond the wall, because he simply does not fit in with society and keeps getting fired. Eren’s inability to fit in with what is expected of him drives him to decide to climb the wall and escape the tightly regulated life that he has been given, so he can experience the freedom of being able to do and go whatever and wherever he wants. Frankly, you cannot be more "beat you over the head Conservative" than that if you tried!

"2, 4, 6, 8! I'm just trying to emigrate!"
  Unfortunately, this plan to see the world is stomped short by an attack by the six hundred and fifty six foot tall Colossal Titan, who proceeds to kick a massive hole in the wall letting the smaller, but still huge, ten to fifty feet tall titans in. Now, in the anime, these titans are deformed, and twisted and contorted. But in the anime, they are deeply disgusting and disturbing, but the first shot of the Titan invaders brought the room full of Otaku to their knees with laughter. They looked ridiculous. Rather than being terrifying, the Titans, as they began eating people left and right, managed groans, laughs, and anything but the sort of reaction you would expect for a horror themed story.

   One of the fifty foot monsters actually got a decent make up job, and could have been scary, but when she opened her mouth to eat Mikasa (something that did not happen in the anime) she cackles like a wicked witch, completely blowing the one moment that at least started scary.

   In the chaos, Armin disappears, and somehow Eren is the only one to manage to not be eaten. The
Literally only scary until she cackles like a witch!
story then skips ahead two years. There’s a bunch of other characters that we are introduced to. Hanji is just as crazy in the movie as she is in the anime, Sasha is just as hungry. They are both are a lot of fun, for the brief screen time they have. They are both played for laughs. Eren is now angry, but he is far from the brutal berserker he is in the anime, and Armin, apparently, managed to survive somehow. Oh, and surprise, Mikasa was eaten, but managed to survive without explanation, but now she hates Eren, which of course causes Eren to freak out as he discovers that Mikasa has hooked up with military legend Shikishima… although the plot is vague enough that his fit may have been because they replaced fan favorite Levi with this jerk…

   At any rate, somewhere in all that is a plan by the military to repair the wall by blowing it up more, hoping that the wall fragments would collapse onto the hole created by the Colossal Titan. Honestly I’m not sure the plan was well thought out to begin with, but their explosives are stolen by a guy who conceals his face, but is probably the Colossal Titan in human form, and they mention there’s a rebellion against the government somewhere in the midst of that. In the midst of this is where where the Conservative messaging shows up again. Characters complain constantly about that various regulations that they have to deal with. For instance, the government has to grant permission for people to get married, and has to approve people having kids. Armin complains a second time that he is not free to invent things, and openly laments the loss of technology like “flying machines.” Sure enough, a government official is there to force him to recite the reasons why that tech was done away with. “They destroyed the environment, depleted resources and lead to endless wars,” Armin recites robotically, as if memorized from a school book. If promoting global warming alarmism is the intent of the story, they are doing this wrong, because this looks, to me, like a Conservative trying to warn about what adapting the insanity of Agenda 21 (now relabeled as Agenda 2030) really means.

Somehow managed to survive being eaten. 
   From there, pretty much people are standing around helplessly as they get eaten, except one guy who manages to somehow lift up and throw one of the Titans, Mikasa, who despite being eaten earlier is now a Titan killing expert, and the obnoxious Shikishima who is constantly eating apples, just to demonstrate what a jerk he is. Anyway, Shikishima goads Eren into joining them in attacking the Titans, but I don’t think this was as much to encourage him, but to eliminate competition for Mikasa…. And Eren is eaten.

   Except he doesn’t stay that way. Without explanation, or anything leading up to it, Eren transforms
His only dialogue is literally, "raaaaah!" 
into a Titan himself, aka a rubber suit with a hydraulic jaw. He beats back all the titans, then collapses, and then Eren's friends cut him out of his Titan and the movie ends there with a big fat “to be continued…”

   To say that it was nice to see Conservative ideas in a Japanese movie is an understatement. Again, I know that Otaku will rant and rave about how I’ve got it all wrong, but again, the main characters are constantly complaining about the way the government is restricting their lives and movement. I’m sorry, but wanting the government to back the heck off is quintessentially CONSERVATIVE! And yes, it turns out that the government is right, there is danger beyond the wall. But years of living with every move strictly regulated leaves the characters completely helpless to deal with that danger when the wall falls. Most characters are so used to waiting for a hand out from the government that all they can do is scream as they are picked up and consumed. The government that has taught its people to sit and wait for them to act has created a people completely incapable of defending themselves. “Cattle,” Shikishima calls them, in a rare moment that I find him sympathetic. How is that not a warning about the dangers of massive government?

   In the anime, fighting the Titans requires the group to start thinking wildly outside the box. When
I won't lie, Hanji is my favorite character in the movie. 
the government discovers that Eren is a Titan shifter, regulations demand he be killed. The military comes to his defense, and in defiance of the regulatory state, they begin to work with him to try to develop a plan to permanently defeat the Titans. Flying in the face of regulations, Hanji captures two titans and begins experimenting on them. They start to learn about the Titans because they are willing to defy the rules. I’m sorry, but this is CONSERVATIVE. If you cannot recognize this, then you have no clue what Conservatism is really all about. Sadly, with the way the very Liberal media and academia go out of their way to malign Conservatism, I will understand if you don't know that.

Derpy! Der! This is what passes as scary in this film.
   With that said, the movie is utterly terrible. The special effects are understandably shabby. I get that they didn’t have a Hollywood budget, but they could have at least tried not to make the Titans look like a bunch of dorks running around literally shouting “derpy derr!” The plot contains some deep themes, but rather than coming up slowly, and subtly it bursts out at you in moments that beat the audience over the head. The rest of it is basically people standing around and waiting to be eaten.

   The good news here is that if you are a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this movie is so bad that it is unintentionally hilarious. But the story that the film is based on deserves better. Much better. It is sad that such a deep and meaningful tale of standing up in the face of terror and annihilation didn’t get the film it deserved. Should Hollywood select this one as a project to Americanize, as they have done with a number of Japanese horror movies, they would do well to make this a trilogy, and following the arc of the first thirteen episodes much more closely.

Make it a trilogy, and follow the anime closer next time!

Two out of Five Stars. 

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