Director: Tetsuro Araki, Series Composition: Yasuko Kobayashi, Original Manga: Hajime Isayama
Voice Actors: Yuuki Kaji, Yui Ishikawa, Marina Inoue, Hiro Shimono, Yu Kobayashi
Studio: Wit Studio, Production I.G.
Attack on Titan was the first anime I decided to watch from the latest season. The hype surrounding it was huge and I helped perpetuate it over at AUKN and here by repeatedly singing the praises of the staff and manga in previews. It is genuinely justified because the manga is a dark, shocking and moving and even inspiring. A really great read.
I must admit I am not far into the manga but I feel the translation to the screen via anime has been perfect and captures the action brilliantly. Which is why this post is long, full of spoilers and littered with images 😉
The world of Attack on Titan sees the human race on the brink of extinction brought on by a sudden attack from wave upon wave of man-eating giants known as Titans. Mankind only survived because it sealed itself in a medieval style city with a series of three progressively higher walls around fifty metres tall which were taller than the biggest of giants. 100 years later and people live in peace in this city.
The city is richly painted with a range of colours and intricately detailed in a European style. There are canals, fields and farms, windmills, mock-Tudor (not medieval, I know) houses, stone battlements and town squares and huge gates.
The art direction is fantastic with so much detail. Just look at the flowers.
So beautiful. Isn’t it soothing?
The anime loves to show off all the detail in wide-angle shots and with a camera that pans around and allows the viewer an insight into what the city looks like and build up a sense of the order, normalcy and comfort that humans live in and setting the audience up for trauma as we see it get crushed by… getting ahead of myself. It’s so detailed that the ad breaks are signalled by still images from the manga giving the city plans and details on the defences. It’s not just walls that serve to stop the Titan, there are other defences like artillery and the Garrison, one arm of the human military, who reinforce the town and defend the walls.
It’s a pretty evocative location for the action to be set in because you get a sense of a whole world existing here.
Outside of the city there seem to be endless forests populated by Titans. We only get a glimpse of the outside world because a group of humans known as Scouts, another arm of the military, are brave enough to try hunting down Titans in their own territory.
Their ultimate mission is to find out more about the Titans and where they come from. They use what is known as Three Dimensional Maneuver Gear which is like a body harness which has a gas powered propelling system which shoots out wires with grappling hooks.
These guys can swing around the Titans and strike them with their swords in dramatic scenes where the camera swoops around to keep up with these highliy kinetic troopers.
This is all context though as the story focusses on a teenage boy named Eren and his foster sister Mikasa.
Eren is weak and relies on his sister Mikasa to protect him.
Eren is also sick of living inside the city and wants to see the outside world even if it means joining the Scouts, something Mikasa thinks is ridiculous because he would be better off behind the walls of the city. Most people hold this attitude because it is promulgated by the religion spouted by priests who roam the streets praising the walls as an act of God.
Religion tends to breed obedience and the protection offered by the walls has bred complacency in a population too scared to venture outside. Eren derides them as little more than cattle waiting for the Titans to devour them. One of the themes of the show is the idea that freedom and exploration are the natural rights of humanity and that the outside world with all its liberty and danger are a better alternative than being cooped up and restricted. Complacency breeds mediocrity and ultimately robs life of meaning.
The world is big and cruel, nothing is guaranteed, not even the stability of the ground people stand on or the walls…
When the Scouts return from battle, it is clear that they have been hammered… or torn apart is a better description.
In a great scene designed to signal the audience how bad these Titans are and how complacent the population of the city are, a crowd gathers and mutters its misgivings over the mission of the Scouts. What’s the point?
Then a mother confronts the leader of the Scouts asking where her son is and she gets a grisly answer.
Despite her anguish and sadness she yells out at least he had the balls to die fighting for humanity. Better him than me, you might think.
Not Eren. Not even the prospect of death can dull Eren’s curiosity about the outside world which drives his mother insane with worry.Why venture outside and face death? His father has a different opinion and accepts that humanity and its curiosity shouldn’t be suppressed.
Mikasa? Well she figures Eren’s hopeless but she’ll look after him like she always does. This all takes place in a family dinner scene which you had better savour…
…because it all goes so spectacularly bloody wrong when a new giant, even larger than the previous giants, appears out of nowhere and destroys part of the wall around the city allowing smaller giants to flood in.
The anime really goes to town with the attack. The presentation has been top-notch so far, the build-up perfect as themes and setting are set in place and the characters are set off on their courses but it gets better (or worse depending upon whether you are a potential victim!) as we witness the horror of the Titans descending upon the populace and why they are so bad.
The Titans look so damn creepy. Tall, naked humans with vacant expressions or malicious grins…
So far it seems that there’s no intelligence behind them just pure simple cruelty. They are animated brilliantly to have a well-defined height, weight and heft which is shown in their movement and the way they casually tear through buildings, the heavy debris that gets thrown up zips across the skies and comes crashing down on those who try to flee.
The camera shaking with such violence as smoke and clouds erupt from impact sites.
The Titans are tall lumbering beasts.
Actually, they remind me of malicious children with ants…
I found these things are genuinely unnerving. Perhaps it’s the idea that there is something higher on the food chain than me and it eats people like I eat pocky.
Whatever the case they tower over humanity and casually snack on people.
Eren races home with Mikasa and sees that…
… I won’t spoil it any further, just watch the anime.
I have watched episode two (one of the images above comes from it) and by the time this goes out I will have watched episode three but I will refrain from writing any more because people should discover the rest of this series for themselves. All I will say is that episode two continues with the attack and is all about the raw emotion faced by the survivors and their escape to the part of the city with higher walls… and that’s enough of me boring you.
I don’t usually do a scene by scene commentary like real ani-bloggers (although I did with xxxHOLiC) so in my next preview I’ll just give my thoughts on the anime without going into too much detail. I’ll probably revisit this at some point as well because I want to look at random things connected to it…
Can’t leave without putting up the fabulous opening and ending theme: