This past weekend saw the release of the first Attack on Titan compilation movie—Attack on Titan: The Crimson Bow and Arrow. And while viewers of the anime will have seen everything in this film before, the movie does manage to address the series' largest flaw: the pacing.
To start, there is a clear improvement of visuals in The Crimson Bow and Arrow when compared to the TV series. While many of the shots are taken directly from the anime, they have obviously been retouched to be cleaner and more detailed. Moreover, some of the dynamic scenes of Eren and the others swinging through the city of Trost are new to this film, making what was already the coolest-looking part of the anime even cooler. Simply put, Attack on Titan has never looked better.
The Crimson Bow and Arrow covers the first story arc of Attack on Titan, namely the prologue and the battle for Trost. In the TV anime, this arc takes 13 episodes—around 4 hours and 45 minutes. The movie, in contrast, tells the whole story in a mere 2 hours. To accomplish this, a large amount has been cut. The movie begins just as the series does, showing the fall of Wall Maria. The film then jumps directly to Eren’s graduation ceremony before going into the battle proper which takes up the rest of its runtime.
These cuts serve to vastly improve the pace of the film. Gone are the lengthy exposition and the conversations designed to do little more than fill out an episode's runtime. Thus, everything is much more focused and to the point. Scenes never go on for too long, and there is a good back and forth of action and drama scenes throughout.
Of course there are also downsides that come from cuts—especially as it relates to the supporting cast. The Crimson Bow and Arrow skips the entirety of Eren's training. Thus the supporting characters who were all introduced in this section of the story lack their backstories in the film. And without backstories—i.e., knowing where they have come from and what their personalities were originally like—they aren't able to develop as characters either.
This is also a problem for the main leads as well—specifically Eren and Mikasa—though to a lesser extent. While the prologue is nearly unchanged from the series, Eren and Mikasa's first encounter is abridged to a series of short flashbacks that total about ten seconds each.
However, in an odd twist, The Crimson Bow and Arrow feels more like an ensemble story than does the series from which it is cut. Despite there being less overall development of the supporting cast, they get a far greater proportion of the screen time when compared to that of the series. In other words, while Leon's backstory has been cut, all his scenes in Trost remain intact, making him feel like a much more important character because of how often we see him. The same is true for various other supporting characters.
For the most part, the soundtrack in the film is identical to that of the series—except in one glaring case. In the series, the climax of the Battle of Trost (when Eren attempts to carry a huge boulder while Mikasa, Armin, and the others protect him) is set to a powerful and triumphant rock ballad. It fits the climax well and makes the scene feel even more important than usual, thanks to the unique score. However, the film replaces it with more generic background music—the same as the other music heard constantly throughout both the TV show and film. It robs the scene of much of its impact and, comparatively, makes the climax a bit of a letdown.
As far as anime compilation films go, Attack on Titan: The Crimson Bow and Arrow is a darn good one. It tells the core story well, hitting the most important emotional and dramatic moments of the plot. It also makes the story flow more smoothly as it never gets bogged down in lengthy exposition for too long—though character development in general does suffer as a result. If you enjoyed the series but thought that it often dragged or you want to know what Attack on Titan is all about but don't have time for the series, Attack on Titan: The Crimson Bow and Arrow is for you.
Attack on Titan: The Crimson Bow and Arrow was released in Japanese theaters on November 22, 2014.
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