I’ll admit defeat early. Maybe I’m a nerdbomber for binge-watching anime. Outside of the maybe not so great, but nostalgic, “Dragonball Z”, or fond memories of the wonderful “Cowboy Bebop”, I never thought I would find myself watching Japanese animation; we’ll make an exception for Hayao Miyazaki films one day though, no worries.
I’ll go ahead and tell you “Attack on Titan” isn’t for everyone, but if you A) Enjoy TV character development, or B) Love thematic and symbolic storytelling, then this is likely something you would be captivated by.
The vastly popular manga “Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)” was converted almost frame by frame, and adapted to beautiful, thoughtful animation that draws you into its bleak world within only a few episode’s time.
This is an imaginary world, where humanity exists within the boundaries of three-tall skyscraper-size walls, protecting their existence from the dangers outside. These dangers are humanoid, 3-story tall monsters, called Titans. They can’t talk, and seem unintelligent, with their only purpose: eating humans. These creatures are grotesque, haunting, and viciously efficient in eliminating humanity.
We meet a young Eren Jaeger, who lives with his adopted sister, Mikasa Ackermann. Eren is a hothead kid who doesn’t play by the rules, and doesn’t stand around for laziness. While Eren gets himself in trouble, Mikasa gracefully keeps him safe, whether he recognizes it or not. Their other young friend, named Armin Arlert, is brilliant for his age, and the storytelling reminds us often of his ability to think critically and strategically.
All seems well until a Colossal Titan blows open the wall defending Eren’s hometown, and his mother is eaten by a titan before him. Eren is so young, and unable to do anything to defend her, and has no choice but to flee. It is a horrific moment, no question, but its consequences play out in such a beautifully visual way, as Eren swears to devote his life to killing every single titan to avenge his mother.
The children grow up, and as all within the walls are to do, enlist into one of three military branches and stave off the incoming waves of titans. It’s a brutal reality, as many are sent certainly to their death. Actually, the world of “Attack on Titan” is so rich with depth, that the halfway point of each episode is marked by two explanatory elements to help the viewer understand the science behind certain military strategies, or equipment. It’s very deep.
What struck me deeply is the connection you feel to even the most obscure of characters on the show. Every character is quite distinct, and acts… well, how you would expect them to. Some people are desperate and can’t listen to reason. Other characters are smooth and calculating, biding their time in order to strike. All, of course, working together to complete a full cast, and even if you’ve only known a character for an episode or two, their death feels very meaningful.
“Attack on Titan” is packed full of symbolic expression, with themes about the purposes of war, and even taking a stand against the popular opinion, and seeking out the truth and what is righteous. There are many moments in the season that I cannot soon forget, and not just for how artistically appealing the illustration is, but also for the message driven home for those who watch the show.
Yes, anime truly isn’t for everyone, but I might argue that “Attack on Titan” could very well be a gateway drug for those who have considered it. It’s too great of a work of art to just brush off. It’s compelling, and purposes a call to action. It’s funny, dark, realistic, and entertaining, but of all things, it demands a watch.