The anime specials that are included as bonus materials on BDs and DVDs are frequently overlooked and underappreciated as individual anime. Yes, these specials are certainly subpar compared to their respective parent anime, but considering their limited animation budget and restrained writing, it’s unfair to categorize these shorts in the same venue as we do with TV anime. In fact, quite a few of these BD/DVD specials succeed as genuinely entertaining in spite of these restrictions, supplementing these serious TV anime with lighthearted comedy and mild fanservice. And if you want an example of an effective and rewarding BD/DVD special anime, look no further than the Shingeki no Kyojin Picture Drama, a 9-episode series with the main cast as chibi characters enduring constant hardships during their days in the military training program.
What makes the Shingeki no Kyojin Picture Drama so memorable and enjoyable as an anime special is that it utilized the TV anime as its primary source of humor. Not only did this make the comedy relevant, but it was able to poke fun at the various aspects of the series that we respected, such as its story, its setting and especially its characters. Rather than relying on stereotypical anime/otaku humor, the content of these specials were related to events that occurred in the episodes or that emphasized a character trait, like Eren’s obsession with titans, Mikasa’s obsession with Eren and Sasha’s obsession with food. The comedy was balanced too, spreading the humor evenly across all platforms and making fun of multiple characters in each segment. The writing was superb as well, working to include the entire cast of characters from the military academy throughout the series, rather than just focusing on the main trio of Eren, Mikasa and Armin the whole time. Indeed, one of the most essential aspects of creating a successful BD/DVD special is to have awareness of its parent series and the ability to express satire through effective and entertaining writing.
Another significant characteristic that made this special so amusing is its chibi art style. Throughout the TV series, Shingeki no Kyojin featured a serious and tangible art style that was able to bring out the weight and brutality of its story and characters. Here, everything was cute and warm and friendly, a complete contrast to the realism that the TV anime strove for. Not only did it help make the specials feel carefree, but it was also able to turn one of the highlights of the series on its head with the chibi Colossal Titan. Yes, the menacing villain of the series was now a bizarre looking character. Even his incessant appetite for humans was nullified, and every time he ate our heroes, which happened every time, it was more adorable and hilarious than ghastly or gory. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect way than to have these comical picture dramas than with this chibi art style given how well it contrasted with the original TV anime.
The Attack on Titan Picture Drama is easily one of my favorite anime specials of all-time, and it should be used a model for how future anime specials should be produced. More often than not, the specials on BDs and DVDs are nothing too exciting or intelligent in terms of comedy or are pure fanservice, with female characters in skimpy outfits or ecchi situations with bare breasts and constant pantyshots. But the Shingeki no Kyojin Picture Drama is different than these lame or fanservice specials. They wanted this picture drama to be good, and they did put an effort into making this good. And it’s clever and witty, both in terms of its writing and humor. And as a result, it’s actually a pretty special special. And for being my favorite anime special in a long, long time, it deserves some praise and a spot in my 12 Days of Anime for 2014.