Attack on Titan (進撃の巨人 Shingeki no Kyojin?, lit. “Advancing Giants”) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. It is set in a world where humanity lives inside cities surrounded by enormous walls due to the Titans, gigantic humanoid creatures who devour humans seemingly without reason. The story centers on Eren Yeager, his adoptive sister, Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend, Armin Arlert, whose lives are changed forever; after the appearance of a colossal titan brings about the destruction of their home town and the death of Eren’s mother. Vowing revenge and to reclaim the world from the Titans, Eren, Mikasa and Armin join the Scout Corps, an elite group of soldiers who fight Titans outside the walls.
Now let’s get on with this!
Attack On Titan is a romp in every sense of the word! First off, THAT opening theme song, Linked Horizon’s, Guren no Yumiya. The energy of this song meets the frantic pace displayed in each episode. At the same time, it calls forth adjectives such as duty, honor, and sacrifice. Similar to a delicious slice of pie with a side of ice cream, you automatically want to come back for more…even before the show starts.
Granted, it is also a Dystopian nightmare – an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. Where people live behind castle walls to protect themselves from giants. Giants. One would think a premise like this wouldn’t get off the ground. “Fee Fi Fo Fum”, fills my ear and my eye with a cartoonish, clown-like image of big humanoids who are gimmicks, not fear-mongers.
Boy, was I wrong?!
These giants strike dread into citizens behind the Walls because they eat people. Cannibalism doesn’t necessarily disturb you until it’s depicted. In the first few episodes, when the “advancing giants” break in, chaos ensues. Eren, the main character, loses his mother while he and his friends try to flee said chaos. A trauma he expresses through violent outbursts, verbal and physical, and via his Titan form. Not only does the murder of someone’s mother draw an emotional response but it is (additionally) the way she is dispatched. Arms, legs, most often, heads are severed between a Titan’s teeth. The images evoke a natural horror…
Throughout the series, the art can be noted as a significant strength. Titans have several appearances and many are stomach turning. Initial debuts of what I call the drones of the Titan hierarchy portray a lack of intelligence and a needless, sociopathic urge to kill. In other words, to see a smile or a face of childlike wonder in the midst of someone being pulled apart jars to the very core. Psychological terror at its best…
Furthermore, more evolved Titans, The Armored, Colossal, Female, and Rogue (the central protagonist’s form), only escalate the stakes. Each exhibiting physical characteristics which exude a strong trait like a runner’s physique (for speed/efficiency), armor (for stamina/endurance), or a vigorous musculature (for strength/ferocity). Notably, a transformation sequence that takes from Captain Marvel/Shazam of DC Comic fame; tantalizing to witness as lightning crashes down.
Once Eren is outed as a human who can transform into a Titan, Armin and The Survey Corps hypothesize the possibility of others of the same ilk. Paranoia and contempt of Eren’s role and continued survival become a predominant theme. In the eve of Eren’s changes and the increased volume (and precision) in attacks, investigations shift from outside to within.
Two definitive pluses of Titan are the supporting cast and maneuver gear. The latter are basically the means for The Survey Corps, humanity’s soldiers against the Titan threat, to fight their enemy on even ground. The Gear itself, is twin cable launchers strapped upon a soldier’s waist equipped with a bevy of sharp, steel swords. It looks like an amalgam of Spider-Man and Nightcrawler (or the closest approximation). Anyway, the fight visuals are simply mesmerizing…especially Mikasa and Levi.
Speaking of Levi, he is the resident BAMF (a term I loathe in print but it fits here). He is the catalyst and later, the mentor for Eren as their battle comes to fore. His combat proficiency has to be seen to be believed; fast yet elegant, fearless and lethal enough with a blade to produce hesitation in a Titan. In contrast, Levi is subject to humor (by the audience) and sometimes a steadying force. Sans constant fangirling, he is an outstanding character in his own right.
Mikasa and Armin, Eren’s lifelong friends, are the nucleus. They keep Eren from getting himself in more trouble than he should be in and give him support the outside world would not. In their own light, each of them serves a separate purpose.
Mikasa, Eren’s adoptive sister, stands as the other side of the coin to her “brother”. She internalizes her trauma and channels it to become the best fighter she can in order to… well protect Eren. Her resolve, eventual coupling with Eren, and apprenticeship under Levi, make her someone to watch.
On the other hand, Armin flexes his intellectual muscle while most around him do the opposite. He grew from a perceived coward to a competent diplomat and strategist. In fact he has integral contributions through several episodes: volunteering Eren for The Survey Corps, motivating The Rogue Titan after his first transformation, hypothesizing other human Titan, discovering The Female Titan’s identity, etc. Hopefully, neither dies.
Lastly, the grim and gritty pall of this series really attracts me to it. AoT is not afraid kill off characters; it has developed or push itself past where the audience thinks its boundaries are. After twenty five chances, I’m ready and waiting to see where the show can go! Potentially it can be one of the best anime of all time as long it stays true to its self.
Bye for now, KS.