Film & TV

Review: Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan has taken the anime world by storm, Sophie Lodge immerses herself in the epic.

Screen Shot 2013-12-22 at 18.29.51

This summer the anime world has been obsessed with two stunning new debut shows from Japan; ‘Free’ and ‘Attack on Titan’ (Shingeki no Kyojin). If you are “down” with the anime scene and you haven’t heard of Attack on Titan you must have been living under a rock. This series was sky-rocketed to fame back in April due to its extremely disturbing content and its hardcore fans, who literally bungee jumped off buildings in the name of cosplay. When I say extremely disturbing content don’t get the wrong idea (you pervert); in my eyes it could qualify as a horror anime. Attack on Titan follows the story of young Eren Jaeger, a boy who lives within the walls of humanity’s last settlement. The rest of the world was massacred over 100 years ago by the titans; giant humans with a taste for human flesh (see what I mean about the horror element). The first season tracks the fall of the outer wall of the settlement, the massacre that follows, and Eren’s resolution to join the Survey Corps, a branch of elite military which works outside the walls to kill and research titans after his mother is (quite graphically) eaten.

While its graphic content might be alarming to someone like myself (I’m more of an Ouran High School Host Club girl), its initial interest lies in its shock power. Many animes aren’t willing to push this far and Shingeki no Kyojin has been criticised for being unnecessarily gruesome, particularly in its first few episodes. I don’t think this was necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I had to look away at some parts but it’s a realist portrayal of the horrors of war. To me it broke a boundary in popular anime and captured the resonance of the carnage of war.

While the art style of the manga has been criticised for being messy, the animation used in Attack on Titan is on par with other animes released in 2013. There’s a beautiful contrast of settings between the busy, medieval Germanic town scenes and the stunning panoramas of countryside outside the walls and both benefit from its modern animation style. It isn’t the most extraordinary animation I’ve seen this year, with anime taking leaps and bounds in its ability to capture rain and water in particular, but it’s of average quality. Instead Attack on Titan has focused its energies on successfully animating 3D manoeuvre gear; the military equipment used to attack titans which allows characters to fly from building to building like Spider-man (hence the bungee jumping cosplayers). While at first, to me, the Titans looked clunky and unrealistic, their disproportionate features actually succeed in making them more haunting and sinister. In general, you aren’t concentrating so much on the animation when your favourite character may or may not be about to die.

As I mentioned it’s a bit gorey, though I think if you can handle Fullmetal Alchemist you can probably handle Shingeki no Kyojin. What made this anime such a success is its 5 star storyline. I have not read the manga yet (it hasn’t been released in English past volume 9 yet and I hate online scans) but I know from friends that it’s a killer (no pun intended). Attack on Titan isn’t afraid to kill off a main character, and its cliff-hangers keep you clicking “watch next episode” until the early hours of the morning. I know one guy who blitzed the entire series in less than a day. It might be a little too serious for you shoujo fans but it’s refreshing to see such an original storyline with such depth. You could call it stereotypical in that it follows the story of a young boy out for revenge against a dead parent when he finds out he has a special power (whoops spoilers), but there is something different in Attack on Titan that’s hard to describe. There’s no pansy love interest or “resolve” to protect the protagonist’s family. Eren literally just hates Titans and wants to kill them all (it’s a bit obsessive really). It’s setting is different, it’s characters are more three dimensional and there are some brilliant plot twists in there I’d really like to talk about. It has also been praised for its strict following of the manga (even down to camera angles) instead of flying off on a tangent in the last few episodes like so many other good animes.

I was talking to another editor this week about how I hardly read film and book reviews because I find them so subjective. There’s no way of knowing whether or not you’ll agree with me, but the statistics speak for themselves. Six of the seven English volumes released as of October 2013 made it into the New York Times Manga Best Seller list, 20 million copies of the manga have been sold in Japan, and it is definitely one of the biggest animes to come out of Japan this year. It’s definitely worth watching the pilot at least, even just so you understand those cosplayers at Expo dressed up as inside-out people.

What did you think to Attack on Titan? Could you not pull your eyes away or did it make you want to claw them out? Let us know in the comments below

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