Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

ATTACK ON TITAN

Watched via Netflix/Crunchyroll

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: It has been well over a hundred years since the last “titans”, large humanoid creatures known for their brutal attacks, have been seen by mankind. While they once terrorized and drove humanity into walled cities, they have long since been regarded as mere legend. With the titans’ absence, citizens and the militia have grown soft and ill prepared for danger. It comes as a brutal shock that the titans return and destroy the perimeter wall. Eren, a young boy at the time, survives the ferocious attack at the expense of seeing those he loves fall before the strength of these monsters. It is with a heavy heart that he vows to destroy all titans and rid the world of their cruelty.

Insert a time skip and we see Eren, his adoptive sister, and childhood friend join the military to be trained to fight off the titans to seek their revenge. They overcome many obstacles along the way, but eventually get through basic training to be placed in an exterior town on wall duty. Their first day of duty and their training is put to the test by another attack by a giant titan.

Attack on Titan gets you instantly hooked with its shocking revelations and constant action. The author of the original manga this series is based off of does not shy away from horror and drama. If a character needs to die to move the story along he follows through without batting an eye. Aside from a recap episode or two, this series never slows down or disappoints with its compelling and traumatic plot. This isn’t your typical shounen anime series.

PLOT: Once upon a time, Titans appeared and knocked humans from their spot as the dominant predator, chasing them behind huge walls in order to survive. After a hundred years, humans feel relatively at peace behind their walls and barely feel true fear of the Titan threat, until one day when a colossal Titan breaks a hole in the outermost wall. Humanity is thrown into a panic, losing more than a third of their habitable territory, and Eren Jaeger’s life is destroyed, as he watches his mother be eaten by a Titan. Enraged, Eren vows to kill all Titans, and so he and two childhood friends enroll in the military to learn how to fight against Titans.

At first, it’s not clear how Attack on Titan is going to play out. Initially, the show focuses on Eren’s childhood and military training, acting more like a coming-of-age narrative than anything. After a quarter of the show, though, the focus switches to the fight against the Titans on a broader scale, and slowly the show becomes a political thriller. This is an interesting change, but a solid one, since Eren isn’t a terribly interesting main character. The main thing Attack on Titan has going for it is the sheer horror of the Titans, and showing the vicious fight against them is fascinating.

The show does get uneven in its pacing, though that barely detracts from its enjoyability. It begins with a good amount of character development, worldbuilding, and flashbacks, but then it launches into nonstop battles that tend to drag on. Really, when you’re spending three minutes recapping per episode and have a battle spanning nine episodes, the pacing borders on ridiculous. Fortunately, the battles are still exhilarating and tense, and there’s enough intrigue and revelations to keep you hooked. Attack on Titan wouldn’t work without such an interesting core puzzle, but because of that it can test its viewers’ patience and still come out on top.

SETTING: Eren, the main protagonist, grows up in a sleepy and simple outer village town that is just one part of a larger society of walled-off city states. One of the aspects I enjoy the most about Attack on Titan is how it references historical elements without seeming like a direct reference to them. The clothing and architecture of the various villages and cities are evocative of the European middle ages, while the titans themselves reference back to Greek mythology. The technology the soldiers utilize to fight the titans seems both dated and advanced in a way that causes this series to seem timeless and refreshingly new. I suppose if anything was distracting it is the mechanics of the fighting equipment, I’ve never been much of a fan of steam punk type machinery, but really with all the highly elaborate world building in this series, it is hardly something to get hung up on.

Speaking of world building, outside of the walled cities lies a world highly undeveloped and unexplored. Humankind knows titans roam the world outside of their domain, but they don’t know where they come from and what their objective is. Throughout the series more and more of the expanded universe is slowly revealed to us in ways that constantly have us deconstructing and revisiting our interpretations of the world we, and the characters, think we know so well.

I think a lot of this show’s appeal comes from the solid world, which has rules for every situation and always follows through with where human nature would take you. Even if the movement gear is a little strange, the basics of how the world works make sense here and don’t shy away from the selfishness of humankind.

SETTING: The world of Attack on Titan is basically boiled down to the territory within its walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rosé, and Wall Sina. These walls enclose a surprisingly large amount of territory, and as a result there’s a good mixture of settings within the show. The outermost wall, Wall Maria, seems to have small, agricultural towns within it, as well as forests, while the second wall is similar, if a little more populated. The third wall, Wall Sina, encloses the capitol city and thus has stuck-up, upper-class people and expensive architecture that couldn’t exist within the outer two walls. Humanity’s been shaped by the walls in other ways, as well, with military recruits striving to do well so they can work with the Military Police within Wall Sina and live a life safe from Titans. Finally, and most interestingly, there’s even a religion built around worshipping the walls, showing the full extent to which humans will fixate on whatever happens to save their skins.

I find the steampunk level of the show’s technology to fit with the show’s major requirement that humans have a way to fight the Titans that gives them hope but still leaves them vulnerable. I doubt that the equipment would actually be invented in real life, but it’s an intriguing concept, and it works well within the logic of the show’s world. Your mileage might vary, but I enjoy seeing the inventive ways humans fight against Titans with the technology available to them, which mainly consists of sharp metal, cables, and compressed gas.

Critically, the show never shows what exists much outside of Wall Maria, leading you to come up with theories about what humans might find on expeditions. Maybe there are other human strongholds. Maybe the Titans have a secret base. Who knows? The entire world is effectively within three walls, which intensifies the need to learn the answers to the show’s biggest questions.

I think the mystery of what is outside of the walls is the most effective aspect of the show. There is nothing quite as horrific as what we imagine for ourselves. The moment we see the titans, they are already slightly less terrific, than what they could be based on our own ideas. I think in this case, the more mystery the better, so long as we don’t lose patience and grow bored.

CHARACTERS: Eren Yeager is your typical prodigal son. He fights for revenge and is granted natural abilities that allow him the ability to fight for the goals he strives to achieve. What is nice about this series is how he is forced to question his existence and role in fighting against the titans while he attempts to see the world solely through his black-and-white viewpoint.

Eren’s adoptive sister, Mikasa Ackerman, is highly protective of Eren and will do anything to become stronger and protect him, even at the cost of her own well being. She joins the military in order to remain by his side, as he insists on joining the armed forces. She is leagues ahead of her counterparts and easily the best in battle. While perfect in many ways, her heart is closed off to others and she only opens up to Eren do to their linked pasts.

Armin Arlert is the childhood friend of Mikasa and Eren. He is constantly mocked for his cowardly behavior, but his good intentions and quick wit end up saving the day time and again, and he ends up proving his worth in unconventional ways.

I couldn’t possibly go into the rest of the whole cast. Eren and his friends meet dozens of people along the way while they train and fight against the titans. Each character is carefully crafted and adds deeply to the plot of the story. The dark story lends itself well to developing the characters as we see what terror and danger will do to various groups of people. Some betray themselves and others in order to save themselves just for an extra couple minutes of survival, while others risk their lives in the face of known futility in order to save those around them.

I love the broad array of characters in this show, as they still manage to be individuals, even when they border on specific character types. Furthermore, the show brings in the darker aspects of human nature with its characters, too, but in a believable way.

CHARACTERS: Attack on Titan has a very diverse cast of characters that it works hard to differentiate between and to develop beyond the basics of their character types. This comes in handy because the main characters, Eren and his childhood friend/adopted sister/love interest, Mikasa, are both pretty boring. Sure, they both have some traumatic backstory, they both succeed in an annoyingly easy way because they’re incredibly driven by their goals. Eren can seemingly do anything, even go beyond the physical limits of his body, due to his desire to kill the Titans, while Mikasa’s just naturally good at everything and extremely devoted to Eren, which just makes her more boring. Fortunately, the other characters more than make up for it.

My favorite character is Armin, who might receive the most character development across the show. He starts out as a sort of sidekick for Eren and Mikasa, always unsure of himself and hating battle, and he doesn’t ever stand out during military training, either. Once that’s finished, though, Armin’s intellect begins to come out as he notices small details and correctly guesses the future moves of his adversaries. By the end of this show, Armin’s a critical component of the team, and I love Attack on Titan all the more for respecting Armin like that.

Beyond the main trio, the cast explodes and gets hard to talk about (or even to remember the names of). As I said above, there’s a nice variety present, and everyone plays off each other well. The show likes to introduce lots of new characters at a time, but this kind of works out because so many people die fighting the Titans, so eventually you get back down to a manageable core group to develop. I am sad that so many likable characters end up dying, but I also admire that the show’s willing to sacrifice almost anyone to the Titans, and it’s intriguing betting on how long someone will last. I guess, don’t get too attached to anyone, and expect that your favorite secondary character might die, and then you should be fine. Awareness is half the battle!

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The animators of Attack on Titan must have known they were going to have a hit, because they put a ton of love and detail into this series. I love the design of the titans, each ligament and muscle filament is carefully constructed to create awe and horror at the sight of these larger-than-life villains. Not to get into specifics and spoiler territory, but I love how each titan looks unique and individual. The “special” titans are each built with intention and purpose, and their actions and expressions add to the drama and subtleties of the storyline.

As for mankind, they too are carefully crafted into various roles and types. You won’t see any tropes here, each character feels real and is easy to empathize with. I suppose the only fault I can really find in the character designs would be the age of the majority of the cast. Everyone looks like they are younger than 25. There isn’t much variety as far as age and size goes, but that kind of goes hand in hand with the idea that the key players are all fighting against the titans and are in the army.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: I’ve got to agree with Whitney—the animators paid a ton of attention to detail throughout this series. Giants aren’t generally thought of as scary right now, but Attack on Titan changes that completely by making the Titans have unique ways of moving and fighting as a group, and then they up the ante by giving individual Titans, like the Female Titan, personalized movements and attack styles. Though the show does use some shortcuts (who doesn’t?), it makes the best of what it’s got to keep the fight scenes moving in a three-dimensional space, capitalizing upon the abilities of the 3D movement devices. I hadn’t expected the battles to be so impressive or engrossing, but the animators really paid attention to figuring out how to make the battles easy to follow while still being visually exciting.

On the other hand, Attack on Titan may have a respectable budget and strive hard to make its battles viscerally appealing, but it’s not pretty. The Titans, of course, look gross and are intentionally exaggerated in grotesque ways, but the humans also look a little rough-hewn and unappealing. It also doesn’t help that the budget seems to have gone more to the battles than to character moments, so characters’ faces can lose details and emotions, making it harder to empathize with them. The show does best at conveying sheer terror, but the remainder of the emotional spectrum is mostly beyond its reach, which can get a bit one-note at times. Good thing the show’s becoming more about politics and battles than about characters’ personal growth.

I can’t believe I forgot to talk about the titans’ movements. The way they move is all individualized and helps to emphasize how inhuman they are. I love that each has their own way of moving, and it makes them almost comical in a zombie-type way.

OVERALL: Attack on Titan is a wonderful series, and I can’t wait to see how the producers will continue this series, whether it is in a second season or solely in continuing to publish the manga. The only real hiccups in story and plot were the occasional recap or filler episode, which was primarily kept to a minimum (plus it’s rather expected with shounen series). The characters and story are exciting and highly mentally engaging. Even if you aren’t normally into shounen or action, I’d still recommend that everyone watch this series. It isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, but it is definitely a wonderful watch and will get older fans excited about anime again while reminding younger fans what more the genre has to provide. Whether you buy it, rent it, or watch it online, whatever you do, check out Attack on Titan or at the least add it to your list of anime to watch someday.

OVERALL: After finally watching it, it’s easy to see why Attack on Titan has been taking the anime fandom by storm. The show has many elements that appeal to a large group: underdogs, teens, angst, a little grotesque imagery, and awesome battles. The music can also be pretty great, especially when paired with Eren’s speeches. It’s a solid recipe for a hit, and it works even better when you work in some seriously intriguing elements like the mystery of the Titans and what’s in the freaking basement. Granted, the show’s got some uneven pacing and doesn’t always look that great, but it’s still completely worth watching. I may prefer character development, but I’ll still take a good political intrigue if it’s available, and this seems to be shaping up quite nicely in that direction. I just hope they animate another season, or else I’ll just be stuck devouring the manga and not seeing so many nice fight scenes.

FINAL SCORE: (8/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)
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One thought on “Attack on Titan

  1. Nice. Probably one of the better reviews of AOT that I have read.

    I agree with Crystals comment about the episode re-caps. I goes with the genre I guess.

    I’m surprised that you both only gave it 8 out 10. I think that it is one of the few “must see” out there. Have you considered decimal rankings, ex 8.2 or 8.7 similar to the Richter scale for Earthquakes. Although the Richter scale is logarithmic, where a 8 is not just 10 times, but 100 times more powerful than a 6. … but I digress once again …
    My son is in 6th grade and loves the series. He has the t-shirts and a green “wings of freedom” jacket, slightly large and baggy so it is like the cloaks the characters wear.

    Although I love it, I hope that they wrap up the series next year. I need answers and a conclusion.

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