2013 marked something big for the world of Anime. Attack on Titan (or Shingeki no Kyojin) made it’s debut and to put it simply, the world went bat-shit crazy for it. Hajime Isayama’s humble work of art bought a mass of fans together since the manga was animated, and over the years it’s popularity has only grown further. I arrived late to the party in 2014, a year after the anime had finished and upon completing it, I was left craving more gory action.
With the recent announcement of season two hitting us in Spring 2017, I thought it would make sense to prepare everyone for what to expect – and if you haven’t joined the Attack on Titan craze then hopefully this should persuade you to at least give it a whirl. Then you can make your own assumption about a series that doesn’t look set to be leaving us any time soon.
So let’s kick off with the basics; what is it actually about? Humanity lives within cities protected by towering walls in an attempt to keep out naked human-eating giants called Titans. No one knows of their origins or why they only eat humans, but it’s the job of the military to ensure they’re kept out. Of course, things go downhill rather quickly and a super duper sized Colossal Titan appears booting a hole in one of the walls, thus ensuing carnage. It’s here we meet our angry teenage protag, Eren Jager, who after witnessing the death of his mother at the hands of a Titan, vows to join the Survey Corps in order to defeat these monstrosities once and for all. Easier said than done…
Attack on Titan is most certainly not for the faint-hearted. I was taken aback at just how harrowing it really is. Episode one had me saying “yikes” to myself on multiple occasions, before eventually developing eliciting cries of ‘HOLY SHIT’ the further I got into it. You really do feel as helpless and prone as humankind does. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, chances are, they do. Isayama doesn’t shy away from making characters disposable either. As soon as you start taking an interest to a particular person, you have to bare in mind they could be Titan-chow in the next episode. No one is safe. The idea of ‘naked giants’ may seem funny at first but, these colossal foes are creepy, unpredictable and brutal.
Several unique qualities associated with the Attack on Titan universe help make it stand out. One of the main ones for me is the detail and depth of the 3D Manoeuvre Gear that the military use. You can tell Isayama has really taken his time to research the potential engineering of this Spiderman-like gas propelled mechanism and again, it perfectly reflects the vulnerability of humankind because if the gas runs out: you’re going nowhere. Your blades can easily break due to the flexibility of the metal, so should you take out that Titan and save your squad member or keep it for a more desperate situation? Another thing I find particularly interesting is the strong influence of European history. The architecture of the cities looks like something fresh from a charming, quaint German village, and even the names of some characters (Jean Kirstein, Armin Arlert, Sasha Blouse) appear to have strong European origins.
As for the story, well it has it’s strengths and weaknesses. For the most part it’s very good. It keeps you interested, introduces new characters periodically and occasionally throws in a bombshell to ensure you’re enticed throughout. That being said, I did feel some areas went on a little too long, mainly the Female Titan arc. I thought we were going to be stuck in that forest of ‘big ass trees’ forever. The ending isn’t disappointing, but I couldn’t help but feel a little deflated after it. But that isn’t to say this isn’t a great series. Sure it has some qualities that are typical for it’s kind, but it offers a great array of action, an interesting story and a fantastic, varied cast.
I was left wanting more and so decided to start reading the manga and let me tell you, you’re going to be in for one hell of a ride. Some chapters I can’t wait to see animated and I really hope they stick to the story as well as they did with season one. My main concern is that too much time will be wasted on the political debate with Erwin. That section was far too long winded and dull so please keep it short and sweet Studio Wit! You’ll soon find that the fight isn’t just against the Titans, but also humanity, which makes for an interesting plot diversion for a time. The art (particularly within the first five or so volumes) is a little rough around the edges, which may not be to some readers tastes. However, Isayama has taken on everyone’s criticism, and when you see his work in more recent chapters, you begin to really respect the time and effort he has put into this project as well as his drawing skills.
If you would prefer to see the anime, I’d probably recommend watching up until around episode eight in order for you to get a feel for the characters and story. With any luck you should find yourself glued to it by episode five’s cliffhanger – and before you know it you’ve stayed up all night watching the rest. Be sure to check out the OVA’s as well: No Regrets is worth a watch if you’re a Levi fan, but there are also three other episodes which involve the majority of the other main cast members and offers a lighthearted rest from the constant death and destruction. All things considered, I adore this series, and I am more than ready to dive straight into another 25 episodes of angst, drama and Titan slaying; so who’s with me?