Attack on Titan (Wit Studio, 2013)

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Attack on Titan, one of the most popular anime in recent years taking social networks and anime conventions alike by storm. So many parodies, crossovers, and fanart have come out of this one show it’s astounding. Fast-paced action, a Westernized setting, and an engaging plot gave it all the right elements to gain attention outside Japan, and what kind of reviewer would I be not to give my input on it?

For those who haven’t heard the Attack on Titan hype here’s a rundown: Humanity has almost gone extinct due to the existence of “titans,” giant, humanoid beings whose sole purpose for existing seems to be killing humans. No one knows their origin or their motive. Humanity has been pushed into living inside a series of walls which serve to protect them from the titans. The three walls, Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina, have guarded humanity for 100 years. However, one fateful day, the wall is broken and humanity’s fight for survival is escalated. A young boy, Eren Jaeger, witnesses his mother’s death to the titans and vows to kill every single one of them as revenge.

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The 104th graduating class; complete with height!

Attack on Titan has fantastic and diverse characters with moral crises and painful backstories that come with living in a world where humanity is going extinct. Eren Jaeger is our protagonist, a young man dedicating his life to eliminating Titans from the world. It is his sole purpose in life and he hopes to one day travel outside the walls that restrict him so. He is your typical anime hero: brave, fearless, oblivious to female advances, and fiercely loyal to his friends. Mikasa is an interesting character, a girl hopelessly devoted to Eren but she is one to rarely show emotion. She thinks rationally (except when it comes to Eren), is a cold-blooded killer and an absolute badass when it comes to fighting Titans. Armin is the scaredy-cat friend who has the best brain on his shoulders, but is terrible at fighting. These three form the Three Musketeers of Attack on Titan. Other cast members include Jean, probably the most mature of the graduating class and also the most grounded. He knows how futile the fight is but continues for the sake of his comrades. Sasha is the potato loving girl who is the star of pretty much the most hilarious scene in anime this year. Finally in the Recon Corps there’s Hange who is an adorable Titan-obsessed nerd and Levi the most serious, dark, and closed-off person in the show but containing badassery rivaling Mikasa.

Honestly, this show is addicting. I think it might have the best first episode I’ve ever seen. An entire way of life is destroyed in the first 15 minutes and it’s just amazing how it does so without any backstory, just a small history lesson. The pacing of the show is fast and powerful, something important happens pretty much every episode for the first half which just makes you want to watch more and more. However, this is also a point where Attack on Titan fails. Although the first couple of episodes are compelling and engrossing, the pacing abruptly grinds to a halt once Eren “dies” during the Battle of Trost arc. The anime goes from adrenaline pumping slaughter madness to “let’s just sit here and think.” It’s a little off-putting. The pacing then once again picks up after the Recon Corps depart on their first mission, but stumbles again in the forest, where Eren spends an entire episode debating whether he should turn into a Titan or not, which is just painful to watch for 20 minutes in something that could be shown in probably 5 maximum. Finally, when the show reaches the last arc, it is all compressed into just 3 episodes when it deserved at least 4. The whole plan and fight with Annie occurs without much debate that likely would have occurred over the possibility of other human-Titans existing. The final fight was also a little lackluster for a shonen anime, but because they left themselves with very little time they couldn’t do much about it. It also would have been nice if other supporting characters got to assist in Annie’s capture other than Mikasa and to an extent Hange.

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Wait…who are you again?

This pacing issue also plagues the cast. Attack on Titan has a fantastic cast of characters, the only problem being that it doesn’t give you enough time to get to know them. The plot advances so quickly it becomes tough to remember all the names, and this leads to lack of emotion for when some of these characters die. I had trouble remembering who the hell Marco was and why he was so important, and I still cannot name the entire ensemble of the Recon Corps who survived, or who died for that matter. Honestly the only death I really cared about was Petra’s, because she was a such a sweet, nice lady to Eren. I still hate that she was killed off, but I understand it. Also at some points the characterization suffers, especially when it comes to Eren who can’t decide to fight Annie in the last scene despite his intense hatred of Titans and the fact that she killed like all of his allies. It’s aggravating to watch, yet so satisfying to see Mikasa and Armin get pissed off at him. Another frustrating moment is his indecision in the forest whether to go Titan or trust his comrades. It’s odd to see Eren shift from an “action first” kind of guy (seen when the Colossal Titan appears in front of him, saving Mikasa, etc.) to this indecisive kid.

As for the music in Attack on Titan, everyone knows the opening by now. If you don’t, you’ve missed out. It’s no joke one of the best openings for a shounen show ever. It’s just…epic. The vocals, the lyrics, the visuals, the everything pretty much tells you: sit down motherfucker it’s time to watch some awesome anime. It’s a masterful opening and well deserving of its fame and various parodies. Sadly the full version isn’t as good, but you won’t hear it unless you do hunting for it. The first ED is calming and a great way to wind down after watching a thrilling episode, and I find it’s nice music accompany while you think about what will happen next. The female vocals are nice, I like how it picks up in the middle, and the piano lead in is great. The second OP is pretty awesome too, almost as good as the first with a shredding guitar thrown in and more German to sound more imposing. It continues the theme of making you feel that what you’re about to watch is epic. The second ED is meh, it sounds like a very typical shounen ending like from Bleach or Naruto. As for the OST, which has some odd names, “at’aek ON taitn” is a great track for building up suspense, and when it explodes in German singing it is just grandiose and beautiful. The church vocals and the white noise sprinkled in is fantastic and an interesting choice. The even stranger titled “凸】♀】♂】←巨人” is a great violin track and is used when the characters are thinking about their next course of action and also as the lead in/out between the commercial breaks. The track slowly builds up to become more and more hectic to showcase the characters’ impending doom.

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Ah, how I love this art style.

I’d lastly like to bring attention to the art style present in Attack on Titan. The show makes a unique choice of using big bold lines to outline characters that I think is really interesting and also refreshing from normal anime art. The use of bold lines also helps the characters stand out from the background, as well as accentuate their facial features. Which reminds me, Attack of Titan does not at all suffer from the issue of “sameface,” characters have different body proportions and face shapes which help make the world seem more realistic. The show also makes use of CG in order to create scenery, specifically in the case of buildings and towns. Although some criticized it as lazy, I think the CG mended well with the art direction and helped give the animation an interesting look.

Attack on Titan is the revitalization of shounen that anime needed. It showed to the anime community that shounen does not have mindless violence, it can carry a heavy plot with dark moments and tell its story in less than 100 plus episodes. Although there is still more manga material to be adapted, Attack on Titan showed that seasonal adaptions can be successful and will hopefully inspire future manga adaptions to focus on being seasonal instead of attempting to cover all the material as fast as they can as that leads to filler. This show has helped anime become a bit more exposed to the mainstream due to its immense popularity, and its fame is well-earned. With an engaging story, great art, and amazing OP I’m glad Attack on Titan is currently one of the poster boys for the anime industry. Although its not a perfect show, it’s great for beginners and fun to watch when you want some Titan-killing violence. Personally I can’t wait for the next season, and if you’re looking for a show to get into anime or just want an overall quality show to watch that is Western friendly, then Attack on Titan is for you.

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