By Charles Solomon | Animation Scoop July 18, 2014 at 6:00PM
Two of the summer’s best-selling anime series are both violent and difficult to categorize.
Date Alive: The Complete First Season
Funimation: $69.98, 4 discs: DVD/Blu-ray
Date Alive (2013), has been described as a spoof of otaku (anime fan) culture. Initially, it feels like an sci-fi harem comedy. Thirty years earlier, Asia was devastated by a disaster called a “Spatial Quake” that killed more than 150 million people. That scale of destruction hasn’t been repeated, but minor Quakes have occurred in Japan, centered on Tengu city, where Shido Itsuka (voice by Josh Grelle), a typically good-natured schlub, is a student at Raizen High.
Shido learns the Quakes are caused by supernatural beings called Spirits, who take the form of the buxom babes. To seal the Spirit’s devastating power, Shido must win her heart and conclude the deal with a kiss—which he quickly does with characteristic kindness. Typically, the Spirit joins Shido in high school, taking the name Tohka (Michelle Rojas). Her hot temper fades to adoration.
Soon, a second Spirit appears, the ultra-childish Yoshino (Tia Ballard), who prefers to speak through a rabbit hand-puppet. Another kiss, another seal.
Shido also finds himself pursued by Origami (Michelle Lee), a member of AST, the corps of Spirit-battling girl-warriors, who fight in revealing armor suits.
Further complications are provided Kotori (Bryn Appril) who describes herself as Shido’s little sister—when she’s not captaining the air ship Fraxinos.
The first several episodes feature the usual panty shots, cleavage shots, showers scenes and visits to hot springs—all of which provide opportunities for romantic contretemps. The story takes a dark, violent turn when the murderous Spirit Kurumi (Alexis Tipton) arrives. She catches a group of thugs tormenting a kitten—and blows them away. Kurumi is followed by Mana (Felecia Angella), , who kills Kurumi every time she appears. Naturally, Shido can’t let that happen, so he sets out to win over Kurumi with kindness, even after her cold-blooded murders sicken him.
Director Keitaro Motonaga never manages to reconcile the weird disjunctures in tone. Date Alive often feels like group of slashers has moved into Keitaro’s apartment house in the romcom Love, Hina.
Attack on Titan, Part 1
Funimation: $49.98, 4 discs: DVD/Blu-ray
Based on a manga series by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan has also been adapted to
a light novel and a live action film. Centuries earlier, mankind was suddenly
attacked by gargantuan, virtually indestructible humanoid creatures called
Titans. They instantly heal when they’re wounded and even regrow severed limbs.
They’re vulnerable only in one spot on the back of the neck.
Overwhelmed by the onslaught, humanity has withdrawn to small, walled enclaves. When a super-colossal Titan (over 150 meters—or 492 feet--tall) attacks his home city of Shiganshina, Eren (Bryce Papenbrook), the son of a prominent doctor, sees his mother devoured as a neighbor carries him and his friends Mikasa (Trina Nishimura) and Armin (Josh Grelle) to safety. In the city of Trost, the trio trains with the military cadets to fight the Titans and, “take back what was ours.”
In Episode #8, a powerful renegade Titan appears and begins attacking the other giants. Sometime earlier, Eren was injected with a mysterious substance by father, that’s given him a curious ability. He doesn’t really transform into a Titan, he sort of creates one’s body around himself that he controls from inside its neck, like a Gundam pilot steering his mobile suit.
Eren is not a terribly interesting central character: He makes bold declarations about killing every Titan, but he lacks the depth that makes hero memorable. Mikasa, who may remind otaku of Erza in Fairy Tail without the sense of humor, insists she’ll stick with Eren and defend him, even when he doesn't want her to. Armin is wracked by self-doubt and comes across as whiny.
Tetsuro Araki, who directed the supernatural murder mystery
series Death Note handles the action
scenes of humans striking back at Titans with an agreeable panache. In Japan,
where Attack on Titan scored a huge
hit, commentators have seen the assault of the gigantic Titans as a metaphor
for the terrors of the Fukushima
disaster. For American viewers, the scenes of the naked humanoids wandering
through the streets, chowing down on people like pretzel goldfish, may recall
George Romero’s cult horror classic, The
Night of the Living Dead.