God Eater Part 1 (Episode 1-7) (Cert 15)
1 Discs DVD / 1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 161 minutes approx.
Don’t worry this isn’t a blasphemous title nor are any deities injured or indeed devoured at any point in this series. So, does that make the title misleading? Of course not – this is anime where titles rarely have any direct relevance to their subject, even video game adaptations like this one.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan in 2071, the world has been ravaged by grotesque monsters called Aragami, which can be defeated by weapons called God Arcs, which have been developed by an organisation called Fenrir. Using cells from Aragami the weapons react to their users called God Eaters and take the form of either a gun or a blade.
However a new generation of God Eaters can switch their God Arcs between the two forms and are known as New Types. The story revolves around a New Type named Lenka Utsugi fighting in the Far East branch of Fenrir, driven by a personal desire to slay all Aragami. But first he has to master his New Type skills which isn’t easy when he is thrust into the heat of the battle from the get go.
Regular readers will know that I don’t play video games so I am coming into this series with no preconceptions of what to expect nor with any reference points as per any changes made in this adaptation from Ufotable. With that in mind I don’t whether this was influenced by Attack On Titan or vice versa, since the two protagonists are very similar.
One immediate difference is that Lenka isn’t as angsty as AOT’s Eren Jaeger whilst Lenka lacks Eren’s paranoid personality, partly due to the CGI animation that makes his character so flat. Like other shonen heroes however, Lenka is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach in that he has a nascent power that reveals itself during a moment of duress and needs subsequent nurturing.
Like lesser-known heroes though, Lenka seems to get a grip on his New Type ability rather too quickly and it goes to his head but he is brought back down to earth with a bump when he faces giant Aragami called Vajra, boasting impenetrable armour that ruins his God Arc. Yet, deep within there is another stage to Lenka’s powers, Burst Mode, which kicks in whenever he is really angry that seems to help a lot.
It might be down to the series only having 13 episodes, but Lenka isn’t a particularly well developed character and his role as the central figure is overshadowed by his fellow God Eaters. There is well-meaning but timorous classmate Kota Fujiki, self-absorbed Russian New Type Alisa Illinichina Amiella, stoic team leader Lindow Amamiya, tough chick Sakuya Tachibana and aloof Soma Schicksal.
Showing no intention of letting the horny teen males down, the females are attired in inappropriate and skimpy clothing, except for commander Tsubaki Amamiya although she probably hasn’t seen her feet in a long time if you catch my drift. Alisa wears a plaid mini-skirt and a halter top for underboob fans, while Sakuya was presumably called away from a beach dinner date as suggested by her long dress and high heels!
Putting this aide, the personalities and back-stories are far more intriguing than Lenka’s. Kota talks a big game and shows lots of enthusiasm but when she visits her mother she crumbles, while on the battlefield she regularly freezes under pressure. Alisa is overly confident in her abilities but can back it up, until a traumatic near death experience recalls a pivotal incident from her childhood and sends her into a spiral of depression and lack of self-esteem.
The most fascinating part of the story comes in the flashbacks, rendered in black and white, relating the tale of three scientists working on the Oracle project in which they experiment with certain cells and appear to have created the Aragami. Complete with government cover-ups and a new breed of mutant creature appearing, we can only surmise at the moment how deep the ramifications of their actions are and what connection the trio have with the modern day cast.
At the halfway mark God Eater hasn’t shown much in the way of originality as explained earlier and this is not just down to the characters and the storylines either, leaving a big question mark as to where its appeal is. Fans of the game will provide a readymade audience but they will have their own gripes to make concerning comparisons and changes.
Derivative content aside, this show is surprisingly entertaining and director Takayuki Hirao has successfully melded the action and drama elements to compensate for the aforementioned shortcomings. By sticking to telling the story and punctuating the big moments with all out violent battles, any signs of pretension towards this being high art are negated in favour of accepting its role as escapist action.
Visually the blend of 2D and CGI animation takes a while to get used to but this is a rare occasion where this marriage of styles works exceptionally well. The CGI enables full circular camera movement and smooth, fluid action sequences that being the show alive with their energy and spectacle. The downside is that the characters a little stiff and they look too cell shaded against some the photo real backdrops.
In Japan the show wasn’t well received because it was taken off air for six months with four episodes to go due to production issues by which time most people had given up on it. Hopefully the break between releases from MVM won’t be as long, and thankfully this set doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, making the wait for part two a little easier to endure.
There are a lot of answers to come in the second instalment of God Eater and in spite of the by-the-numbers story and character tropes, this opening salvo is quite a busy and involved sci-fi romp that has done a great job in securing our attention.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Ending Animation
Rating – *** ½
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