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16 Jul 2013

Review: Attack on Titan

Author: Xerostyle | Filed under: Reviews
by Greg Mallory

 

This review has spoilers.

 

With the amount of buzz surrounding it, Attack on Titan is surely doing something to garner it’s attention. Whether it’s a series of death threats over a character resembling an early 20thcentury military leader, or being the most popular new anime this season, Attack on Titan has received quite a bit of buzz.

 

 

 

In the world of Attack on Titan, humanity is no longer at the top of the food chain. The emergence of Titans, giant, unintelligent, neigh-indestructible humanoids that eat people, have driven humanity to the brink of extinction. The last human stronghold, a city with gigantic walls, prepares soldiers to protect everyone inside from titan attacks, while also sending out recon teams , trying to learn about possible other human settlements and learn about the secret of the titans.

 

Titan follows the story of Eren Jaeger, a young, brash son of a doctor, who witnesses the destruction of his hometown due to an attack by an enormous titan that appears in an instant and destroys one of the main walls, and vanishes as quickly as he came. As a result, many smaller, but equally deadly titans make their way into the town. As Eren and his adoptive sister make their way deeper into the walls of the city, he witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of a titan, and Eren vows that he will join the military and eradicate the titans from the face of the earth.

 

 

So, in this fantastic world of human eating giants and the world within the wall, Attack on Titan does three things incredibly well. The setting itself is phenomenal. The world inside the walls feels cramped, and the main character’s dreams of seeing the world outside of the wall is a breath of fresh air, compared to the ever present “I want to be the best, and overcome the odds” stories that are all too common in anime as of late. The futility of life in the walls feels real, and not too heavy handed, and really shows the true horror of living life having to survive, rather than being comfortable sitting at the top of the food chain.

 

The art style of Titan uses exaggerated, sweeping facial expressions, thick outlined, very stylized character art, reminiscent of the gambling show Kaiji. This, in coordination with more classical background art really brings the characters to life. Each character is easily identifiable, and doesn’t suffer from the common “same face” syndrome most anime has. It’s a real breath of fresh air, and really works. The childish faced and oddly happy titan faces make the idea of being eaten alive even more alien and terrifying. The actual uniform of characters is intricate, but not overwhelming to look at.

 

Characters in the show are also written in such a way that their motivations seem relatable, without forgetting the fantasy setting. Eren isn’t the never-laughs-always-gets-down-to-business main character with only one thing on his mind, and likewise he isn’t the easy-go-lucky-everything-will-work-out-because-of-friendship type either. He is surprisingly well maintained, and the rest of the cast follows suit. Even though they’re in the crazy world, they’re just living in it, and it’s easy to feel for each of the main cast. Unfortunately, the setting and characters don’t have much to back up the rest of the show.

 

 

The main fault of Titan is although it tries to break new ground by exploring an interesting and new genre for anime, it still is so deep in the grooves of what makes a conventional anime, it spends its time trying to shock you with the initial grotesque nature of the titans that it doesn’t ever dig much deeper than that. The main character never has to experience what it means to be a human in a world of being the minority, at least not after the reveal that he is in fact a human who can turn into a Titan. Instead we get the same rinse-repeat story of “finding out I am what I need to destroy” and even more so when Eren doesn’t even bat an eye when he uses his powers to save his friends. He doesn’t need to worry about being the human in a giant’s world. He gains their power  to defeat them, but maintains his humanity. It also opens up the idea that the titans aren’t an unstoppable force of nature, and instead says that they’re more than likely just biological robots. Following the logic of the show so far, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that there will be other people who can change into titans, and more so, there will be people fighting on the side of the titans who can change. It comes off as simply silly, since relating to the hero is harder to do, now that he’s a super-powered titan man.  Since he isn’t a human, following him as the perspective of human behavior is asinine, since he doesn’t have the same helplessness that a human would have.

 

 

It’s a real shock, because the show gives the impression that anyone can die, when Eren is eaten by a titan, and loses both an arm and a leg. It sets the stage by making Mikasa, his stoic overprotective adopted sister, the main character for two episodes, until the reveal that Erin is alive, neigh unkillable, and part titan. To top it off, the overwhelming power of the titans is almost belittled by the sliding scale of power the supporting cast has. Mikasa is shown killing titans without breaking a sweat, and much of the cast fares about the same, but to let you know humanity is at terrible odds, they either just say “humanity is at terrible odds” or they show one instance of a schmuck without his grappling hooks getting chased down and eaten. It has to be stressed that it’s rarely a single titan grabbing up a group of people and just eating them all at once. It’s almost always one on one, or even more often, two or more of the giants cornering a human. It’s hard to really take in how overwhelmingly strong they are when they’re ripped apart by people in one moment, and then it takes two to corner someone to really make them feel hopeless.

 

It’s really unfortunate too. The show had a lot of promise, especially for something that on the surface feels really fresh. It’s unfortunate that it’s only skin deep. Titan doesn’t really sink its teeth in, and grab on like it should. It doesn’t stand out in a crowd, it unfortunately covers up everything new and interesting with convention, and it suffers because of it, which really is a shame. Titan holds itself back at every possible step and instead of trying to fly, it barely gets off the ground. What could have been spectacular becomes the same mediocre drivel that is so often the focus in anime today.  Attack on Titan has so much unused potential, that it is hard to recommend to anyone outside the die hard anime fan.

 

Attack on Titan: 2/5

 

  • DaisukeMeltsMyFace

    I was with you until you said that Eren lost his struggle against the Titans. I know you’re an Ex- English major, so I know that you’re familiar with inner struggle or Man vs. Self. As soon as Eren becomes a titan he’s met with his inability to control his new-found power and has to rip himself from the womb of comfort that envelops him when he is in the titan form. I don’t know about you but I don’t believe that a 5/5 rating means a perfect show, with that said I would give this show a 4/5.

  • $31406939

    Yeah, his main fault with the show seems to be it doesn’t break traditional anime tropes. The world is fantastic and filled with mystery, while the characters are just your typical anime characters. The story is still unique enough from most other anime that I’ve seen for it to be good. I feel the score is more around 3.5 range.

  • xerostyle

    I’m not an ex-english major. but I’m fully aware of Man v Self. It takes a single episode to show he’s got control over it. The characters are written in such a childish manner, that none of them go through an arc. I mean the entire season ends with nothing being accomplished, and nothing really being learned. The entire arc is “Titans are bad, we don’t know who titans are, but people can be titans.”

  • http://lunacysunshine.weebly.com/ LunaCySunshine

    You know, I hadn’t really noticed a lot of these details until this article. Very nicely written.