Oct 01

Anime Review – Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) is a 25 episode Anime series from April 2013. Based on a popular Manga series written and drawn by Hajime Isayama from 2009; the series is about the remnants of humanity that have sealed themselves off in multi-sectioned cites each surrounded by gigantic walls. These walls are meant to keep out the Titans, creatures with one goal, to eat every human alive.

The premise is a solid one, full of intrigue and plenty of places to go story-wise. The only defence against the Titans are equipment called “3D Vertical Manoeuvring Gear” that lets the wearer grapple onto wall and other surfaces to quickly manoeuvre around a Titan in a similar way Spider-Man or Batman could.

We follow Eren and his, much more interesting, sister Mikasa as their section of the wall gets broken into by Titans and their mother eaten before Eren’s eyes. He swears vengeance and to kill every Titan on the planet; to do so he joins the military and Mikasa tags along to make sure he doesn’t die. We see their training, the different sections of the military where the elites and the rich hide themselves, and what it’s like outside the wall. I can’t talk about much due to spoilers and a twist that happens around episode 5. What I can say is that this world is a very complicated place, lots of thought has gone into everything and we soon see humanity isn’t just threatened by Titans but how the government handles everything. There are a lot of shades of grey in how this world operates. There’s even a religion set up around the walls, people worshiping it and denouncing any that would damage them; as would probably happen if humanity were there for enough generations.

It’s no wonder this series is so popular, with a large fanbase and for while it was hard to avoid anything from this series. However I can’t help but see a very flawed work with so much unused potential. I’m not sure it was a case of overhyping or just wanting something different from the series, but I’m just disappointed in it.

The problems start after the twist in episode 5. It was one of those “did the series really go there” moments and then we find out that not only wasn’t the show “going there” but it went in an entirely different direction. Some may like that direction, I just find that it shifts the focus of the series away from the interesting aspects it had and into a rather generic Shonen set-up.

Worst of all is that since then the protagonist became a secondary character almost, even a plot device at times, and is the least interesting character in the show. This series is crammed with interesting characters; too much I’d say since there’s not enough screen time for all of them to get proper development, but the main one is incredibly underused. He is just boring, lacks any presence, and most of the time his is whining about what’s happening around him rather than doing something about it. Which seems very contrary to what he began as, the one with drive and determination in the new recruits, and makes his inaction very frustrating to watch.

That wasn’t helped by the pacing problems the series has. Stories just feel overly extended to the point where you could watch every other episode and not miss what was happening. Every plot is stretched to its limits and beyond and it’s no wonder only the barest minimum story points got resolved at the end of the season. When season 2 rolls around I doubt much of anything will got resolved other than the things that are pushed in the way of the main plot. Also while I do like the expansive world they have it has some real problems with the world building. There is a lot of telling rather than showing, especially when they use the adbreak cards to get across information that is very “blink and you’ll miss it.” Which is a horrible way to convey information to the audience.

The animation can be gorgeous to watch in the fight scenes but then look like a shoe-string budget whenever anything else is going on. They seem to have the budget management skills of the Neon Genesis Evangelion team. Beautiful imagery of people swinging through a city doesn’t make up for the cheap and nasty visuals when they’re on downtime. It shouldn’t be a choice of one or the other when there are plenty of series that balance both out without resorting to animating paintings with no in-between frames.

The Titans are designed in such a way to be either utterly terrifying or Sci-Fi Original Movie level hilarious. Sometimes both together in a creepy way, but it’s mostly just hilarious. They range from ‘spastic Ken doll’ and ‘pissed off anatomy dummy’ for the different types, since all of them are naked but without genitals. I don’t feel terror for the characters when a Titan runs towards the group in a parody style camp run, arms flailing everywhere, I just laugh because it’s so ridiculous. I guess that’s part of the point that something so terrible, something that could wipe out humanity, is just so ridiculous looking. So far the Titans haven’t become less menacing despite their designs, which is a good thing. But it just has the air of “you expect me to take this seriously?” whenever they’re on screen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s impossible not to laugh.

The music is something I can’t complain about. Very well done and a joy to listen to. It’s no wonder the first opening sequence was so good it became an internet meme to attach it to every other series because it fit so well with everything. Search for “Attack on Pingu” for proof of this.

Overall I want to love this series, I really do. There’s so much there that could make for a great story, but then it just messes things up time and again so it’s hard to keep watching knowing any resolution is going to be disappointing. Any questions raised will not be answered but instead raise more questions while trying to make you think things have been resolved. I don’t hate it, it’s not even close to most mediocre Anime I’ve seen, but it’s hard to recommend it as a show to watch. The first five episodes are good, but it’s down hill after that until it levels off at a pace that’ll make sure nothing important ever gets resolved.