Anime: Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan
Studio: Wit Studio, Production I.G
Original Run: Apr 7, 2013 to Sep 29, 2013
Genres: Action, Dark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
After being driven to the brink of extinction by mindless humanoid monsters called titans, what’s left of humanity has found refuge in the confines of three great walls: Maria, Rose and Sina. Titans cannot breach the Walls and humans cannot safely venture outside. But the stalemate is broken when the hitherto unseen Colossal Titan appears one day and breaches Wall Maria, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of its hapless residents.
Eren Yeager, young boy who experiences a staggering loss during the fall of Maria, vows to kill every last one of the titans. Accompanied by his devoted adoptive sister Mikasa and clever childhood friend Armin, Eren joins the military and later the Survey Corps, a branch of the military that runs reconnaissance missions outside the Walls. But as far as Eren is concerned, becoming a monster to fight monsters may be a little too literal or comfort.
I went into this show expecting a typical shounen fighting anime. You know the kind; a young hero rises up, goes from weak to strong and saves the day over and over with determination and the power of friendship. But as those of you who’ve watched this know, what I got was utterly different from what I expected, and in the best way possible. Shingeki no Kyojin is not an uplifting tale about humanity’s valiant struggle against a vastly more powerful foe. Rather, it’s a dark, bloody, bleak and refreshingly realistic story about how absolutely fucked human beings would be if giant monsters with a healing factor and an insatiable hunger were to one day appear. The answer is near-extinction.
My opinion of this anime fluctuated quite a lot. The beginning few episodes left me mostly indifferent and even though that changed as the plot progressed, by the end of the anime I could still only say that I liked it well enough. But after I had some time to really digest the whole thing, I came to love it with a passion. I would say that SnK is the best anime I’ve watched in quite some time.
My favorite element – and there are quite a few to choose from – is the psychological aspect of the characters, most of whom are soldiers tasked with fighting the titans. Snk takes painstaking effort to drive home the fact that the natural reaction of people when faced with gigantic monsters intent on eating them alive is not courage or determination but rather, mind-numbing fear. In fact, those who are eager to fight the titans are portrayed as having some major issues as in the case of Eren and Mikasa, two of the main characters. Soldiers, not just the fresh recruits but also the experienced ones, are terrified of the titans. Many of those who join just want to be selected for the Military Police and have safe lives inside the inner wall. The Survey Corps, which is the only branch that habitually encounters titans, is a group of semi-insane oddballs who are looked down upon by most. The conflicts are in no way glorified; even when humans scrape together a victory, it’s with heavy casualties that erase any celebratory feelings.
The physical elements are riveting as well. The three-dimensional maneuver gear which is the only thing that allows humans to fight the titans with even an illusion of equal footing provides us with some stunning, exhilarating scenes. The battles, no matter how grim the outcome, are always a sight to see. And the fights between the titans themselves are nothing short of awesome. Even though the pervading atmosphere is one of despair and fear, SnK also has moments of sheer, breathtaking brilliance. The battle of Trost and almost the entire Female Titan arc are perfect examples of this.
Not only did SnK shatter any expectations I had of it but it also presented a narrative that’s fresh and unpredictable. Save for the first three or so episodes, there was not a moment when I was bored. It made me cycle through a myriad of emotions, ranging from shock to sorrow to excitement, often within the span of a single episode. For once, I have no complaints either. I’m not saying that this anime is perfect – because nothing is ever perfect – but I have no real criticism to offer.
As cliché as it might sound, I am completely sincere when I describe this anime as epic.
It took me a long time to warm up to SnK’s characters. It was hard to connect with them, entertaining as they were, and it didn’t help that most of them were obnoxious in one way or the other. Nonetheless, they did eventually grow on me.
One thing that I did appreciate about the main character Eren even during my indifference phase was that he was notably darker than most heroes. His ambition, propelled by a dream of freedom as well as a thirst for vengeance, is to kill all the titans. That in itself isn’t all that remarkable until you consider the complacent attitude prevalent among most humans inside the walls. A non-heroic protagonist who goes against social order for such a violent dream appeals to me. The fact that Eren seems more than a little insane doesn’t hurt. His foster sister, Mikasa, is both interesting and puzzling. Her entire existence seems devoted to Eren and she rarely shows emotions. She is also one of the strongest characters in the show, second only to Levi who holds the title of Humanity’s Strongest. It’s hard to care for Mikasa as she comes across as a flawless soldier with not much of a personality besides her Eren-complex. But her willingness to stand against anyone and anything, consequences be damned, for Eren, and maybe Armin to a lesser extent, makes her a fascinating figure. The third of the trio, Armin, is the designated smart guy. He is quick to notice facts and details that most would miss. His developing ruthless streak combined with his ability to think fast under pressure means that he has the potential to become quite terrifying in his own way.
A new set of important characters are introduced in the second half. The Recon Corps Commander Erwin, Humanity’s Strongest Levi and resident mad scientist Hange are particularly significant among them. Their entry also marks a point where the world of SnK is expanded beyond soldier training and random titan invasions. Politics, society and power games come into play. Erwin’s manipulative brilliance, Levi’s quirky, no-nonsense attitude and Hanji’s hilariously crazy enthusiasm for titans all considerably liven up the story while adding further diversity to the characters. The rest of Eren’s trainee squad are also further developed, though that does unsurprisingly come with a great deal of angst.
SnK has a sizeable cast and a lot of them do get killed but they are all memorable regardless of screen-time or development. I consider it a credit of the show that it got me to mourn – not all that deeply but still – characters that were in the story only briefly before they were summarily killed off. Despite the fact that most of these deaths are similar, i.e via hungry titans, it never feels gratuitous or meaningless.
Art and Music:
Shingeki no Kyojin has a very distinct art style that perfectly suits the atmosphere of the show. The toned town colors and gritty way everything is drawn fits the bleak atmosphere of the show. While it does have a jarring tendency to use a lot of still shots, that can be forgiven considering the quality of the stunning 3D Maneuver Gear sequences and the chilling encounters with the titans.
I wasn’t actually aware of SnK’s soundtrack fame when I watched it. But found out about it soon enough because whole show is wonderfully eargasmic. From the opening and ending themes to the OST, nearly every track is amazing and complements the scenes greatly. I’d say that this anime has the best soundtrack I’ve heard so far. The epic music that accompanies some of the most powerful scenes in the show definitely heightened their impact on me.
I’m with the majority on this one. I love this show. It’s exhilarating and entertaining. Season two cannot come fast enough.