I’ve talked about Attack on Titan a bit on this blog in my previous reviews of other anime. I also recently finished volume 16 of the English version of the Manga by Kodansha so I though I would write about my thoughts about the series thus far. Kind of like a review but more of a reflection.
I remember when Attack on Titan (I’ll call it AOT for short) first came out. I go to Sheridan, which is world renown for its animation and illustration program. If you though it was big on the Internet it was even bigger at my school. There were times when I couldn’t go a day without seeing the survey corpse shirt or vest. In my Japanese culture class one student actually did her finally paper on the series (I did mine on the Kimono cause doing it on manga/anime would’ve been to easy). So I watched the series and at first wasn’t too sure what to make of it. The animation and art were amazing and the soundtrack kicked ass, plus need I mention the killer opening song?
But animation and music can’t make a show on their own. Story and characters are needed and this is where AOT for me fell kind of flat. The main character Eren Yeager wants to kill all the titans after he watches one eat his own mother. His motivation is solid but unfortunately that’s all he thinks about. He never changes or thinks about anything else. He also only seems to have two emotions: Angry and scarred. Now to be fair if you lived in a world inhabited by giants whose only purpose is to eat you and your friends then you probably would be in a similar situation, but the other character manage to bring in some emotions. We never really see a happy Eren, confused Eren or thinking Eren. He’s either yelling or whining and that’s about it.
Mikasa is okay. She’s also cold but if you watched your parents die in front of you then you’d be in a similar situation. Like Eren the reason for her behaviour is understandable but it still makes her bland. This doesn’t help that Levi the Survey corps captain is also a cold badass. He’s essentially Mikasa as a guy. Levi however I enjoy more since there is an air of mystery around him that is never entirely revealed. As the series goes on we find out more about his backstory but never too much. In volume 15 he confronts his old mentor leading to one of the most satisfying fights in the series thus far. Mikasa doesn’t have this charm. It’s also strange that the show never makes a big deal that she is the last Oriental in the world. You’d think the show would go into depth about how the responsibility of an entire race and its culture rest on Mikasa but they never do. Avatar the last airbender showed Aang coming to terms with the fact he was the last of his kind. This made him a much more enjoyable character, Mikasa doesn’t get this treatment. Armin Eren and Mikasa’s best friend is enjoyable but also kind of generic. He’s the smart one who comes up with plans to defeat the titans. He’s not bad, in fact he’s my favourite character and in volume 16 he gets lots of character development. I won’t go into detail for those who haven’t read it but rest assured Armin starts to grow up. He’s still kind of generic but I have a soft spot for underdog characters like him. The rest of the cast is actually really enjoyable. Jean get the most development in the series going from selfish frat boy to battle hardened solider who cares for his squad. Sasha aka Potato girl is great. Zoe Hange is a great quirky character with her strange titan fetish. For the most part the side characters are more interesting than the main ones.
At first I didn’t enjoy the story, I found it boring and simplistic. Humans were good and the titans were bad. I breezed through the first half of the series pretty bored. Then the second half started and my interest grew. It also helped that we finally got to see more of the world. The first half kept us in the crowded Trost district, which to me felt, boring and cramped. The second half has wide-open fields, small villages, forests, courtrooms, dungeons etc. It was easier to get invested in the world later on. The story also got much more interesting. It was no longer all humans are good against the evil titans. Now we found out that some people we’re actually helping the titans. There were spies in their ranks. Friends became possible enemies and the plot got much more intriguing. I wanted to find out who this spy was. Who was helping the titans and why were they doing it. Why would you help monsters that want to eat you? I was invested the anime ended on a perfect note leaving me wanting more. So I checked out the manga.
To my great pleasure shortly after the anime ends we start to get answers that the anime left us with. We finally find out who the colossal and armoured titan are. We find out why the female titan in part two wanted Eren and we find out who is really calling the shots in the city. In fact at the end of Vol 16 we get a glimpse at what happened to Eren’s father. We still don’t know what is in the basement but that we’ll probably be revealed at the end.
I find as the story of AOT goes on it gets much more political. They start dealing with issues of corruption and the kingdom’s oppressive rulers. It still keeps its trademark action and blood but unlike the begging it’s not senseless. They’re comes a point in the series where the main cast become fugitives and have to fight the other corps for their survival. Its much more painful for the character to have to fight and kill comrades instead of titans. When Levi or Mikasa attack a member of the garrison unit or military brigade, people they’ve known for years you can really feel the pain they’re going through. While some may dislike this tone shift I greatly enjoyed it. If I wanted to read pointless fights I’d go read some basic shonen like Naruto or Bleach. AOT was THE anime of 2013 and I expect more. It took a while but fortunately I got more. The series still has its problems, Eren is still a boring lead, it can be difficult to determine which events are happening in the present and which happen in the past (though this is more of an issue with the manga) and as the author has stated in an interview he has postponed the ending of AOT a few years. Hopefully he doesn’t extended it beyond its merit, Akira Toryiama wanted to end Dragon ball after the Cell Saga but was forced to create the Majin Buu saga which in my opinion was the weakest arc in the series.
If you haven’t checked out Attack On Titan yet its available on crunchyroll.com or through Funimation.com. The first season has been released as two Blu-ray/DVD volumes from Funimation You can watch it subbed or dubbed (I’d recommend sub). The show also airs on Toonami at 3 am Sunday (yeah it sucks but that’s the only time you’ll catch anime on western TV.). The show is also available on Netflix. If you want to read the manga the English version is available through Kodansha comics. Vol 9 picks up where the anime ends.