"Please change Eren's character," Attack on Titan author, Hajime Isayama pleaded of AoT screenwriter, Tomohiro Machiyama. "He's not that sympathetic as a shōnen manga hero. ...I want him to be an ordinary youngster who gets paralyzed with fear when he sees a titan."
Such were the requests from Isayama in an effort to make main protagonist Eren more relatable as a character. Isayama admitted that Eren’s fearless attitude, even when standing face to face with the monstrous Titans, made him difficult to relate to. Furthermore, if Eren was going to be the main character of the live-action film, he’d have to have a different personality than he does in the manga and anime. While the original story depicts Eren as a dauntless young man, adamant in his revenge on the titans, the first film will have Eren merely take his first steps towards becoming a Titan slayer, (mostly because he’s seeking to atone for his failure to protect his home and loved ones). Machiyama describes the effect as producing a “frightening drama,” and adds that he’s proud of how the finished product depicts an ordinary young man wandering through a hellish environment. Despite fan predilections, Machiyama is not out to ruin Titan. Significant changes in environment and characters abound, however, Machiyama still believes that the movie will be well-received, stating that moviegoers can better sympathize with Eren and his desire to escape.
Best known as a film critic, Tomohiro Machiyama was chosen by the film’s director, Shinji Higuchi, and creator Hajime Isayama to write the script for the live-action Attack on Titan. In his recent interview with movie magazine Eiga Hiho, Machiyama shed some light on the adaptation process, explaining the reasons behind the changes made including the absence of fan-favorite Levi, and his personal challenge to bring AoT fans something new.
Citing concerns over Japanese actors playing essentially German characters, the production team elected to change the setting to Japan. "This is already a fundamentally different world," Machiyama explained. "So we'd have to put in Japan." You may recognize in the trailer the ruins-filled island of Gunkanjima, selected to be easily recognizable to movie audiences as part of the country.
Changing the setting, however, brought with it a new set of problems including Easternizing the character’s names. For a time, Machiyama considered giving everyone in the movie Japanese names, but in the end decided to leave the principal characters’ monikers as they are in the anime, under the assumption that new names come into fashion as times change. Early on, Machiyama was considering making Levi, by far Attack on Titan’s most popular character, the movie’s central figure. He says the idea was dropped, though, since the letter V, nonexistent in Japanese (and in Machiyama’s opinion rare throughout East Asia) wouldn’t have fit with the Japanese setting. As RocketNews24 pointed out, by those standards Lil and Kubal should have been tossed out as the Japanese language doesn’t have an L.
"I think fans of the anime will get rather heated over [the changes]," Machiyama stated, but hopefully they may take comfort with this universal truth of filmmaking today: the worse the adaptation, the stronger the call for a re-make, two sequels, spinoff franchise, and ride at Disneyland. The first film opens in Japan on August 1. “Attack on Titan: End of the World” will open in Japan on September 19.