Attack on Titan Restored My Faith in Anime

“I can take him, no problem.”

My faith in anime was at an all-time low. I had thought about completely giving it up more than once. The last show I really enjoyed was Gurren Lagann and before that, Akagi. Those series came out in 2007 and 2005, respectively. Since this is 2014, that means there had only been two great shows in the last seven years. That’s pathetic. Nobody in Japan seemed interested in creating a good series any more. All they care about is selling moeblob merchandise which cater to the lowest pedophilic denominator.

And then I watched Attack on Titan.

I’m not going to say this series is perfect. It’s not. It isn’t the next Cowboy Bebop or Haibane Renmei. It has flaws. But it is a huge step in the right direction. It tones down the moe factor, ramps up the action, and even took the time to include a plot. These are the only things I ask for in an anime. Unfortunately, most anime are incapable of meeting these three criteria. Attack on Titan, however, made all the right moves.

The setting is an amalgamation of fantasy and sci-fi. The world is medieval, but they have some advanced technology (the 3D maneuvering device which essentially lets a person swing around like Spider-Man). Human civilization has cowered behind massive walls, protecting them from giants. The giants only have one purpose: kill as many humans as possible. The basic story is that the giants are trying to get into the city, and the humans are trying to keep them out. It doesn’t get more straight-forward than that.

Here comes everyone to kick some ass.

What made this series so much fun was how it went straight for the action, and as the series progressed, it never let up on its breakneck pacing. The battles get bigger and more intense as the show goes on. The fights themselves are extremely well animated. They were quite spectacular, with tiny humans swarming like flies around the giants, trying to take them down. Even killing a single giant was an arduous task, and the fact the city gets attacked by dozens at a time makes the tension even greater.

There are a few twists in the story, most notably the main character, Eren, has the ability to transform into a giant himself. Don’t worry, it’s not much of a spoiler because it happens early. They drop a few hints here and there that perhaps the giants are genetically engineered and perhaps the setting is actually in the future, having come after some distant apocalypse. The show isn’t quite clear, but I expect to get more answers if they produce a second season.

There are really only three problems with the series. First, the characters all fall squarely into annoying genre tropes. There’s the brash main character, Eren, the stoic military leader, Levi, the badass chick, Mikasa, and the whiny bitch Armin. They all seem to be directly lifted out of a handbook of cliches. Without much character depth, I could see how someone wouldn’t like this series. For me, though, their interactions were still interesting enough (combined with the amazing fight scenes) to sustain my interest. The second problem is that the action scenes tend to devolve into a shonen mess near the end. At first, the battles would last about two episodes. But then the series gets to a forest battle, which lasts an ungodly number of episodes. The pacing starts to drag a bit, and it becomes annoying that nobody can kill the nigh-invincible female giant. Thankfully, though, the battle does end, and there is a satisfying conclusion to the series. The third problem is that all the characters scream their lines almost 100% of the time. I chalk that up more to Japanese acting rather than the series itself. Hey, it’s anime, what are you going to do?

Obligatory cosplay picture.

Thematically, the show is incredibly nihilistic. Characters die left and right. Sometimes it seems like there won’t be enough people remaining to reach the final episode. The series quite expertly conveys the terror and despair of the central characters in their fight against the giants. They know the struggle is futile, and the viewer can truly feel the hopelessness that they experience. The show doesn’t pull any punches, no one is safe, nothing is sacred, and the show is all the better for it. The grisly subject matter and attention to the horrors of war make the show work beyond a string of mere action sequences.

Overall, Attack on Titan was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Like I said, it isn’t perfect. However, it is a single diamond in the sea of smelly anime turds that have been produced over the last decade. The action is great, the animation is stunning, and the pacing is relentless. The story is perfectly serviceable, too, just don’t go in expecting anything mind-blowing. Considering how horrible anime has become in recent years, I’d say that Attack on Titan has restored my faith in anime.

Verdict: Awesome

13 Responses to “Attack on Titan Restored My Faith in Anime”

  1. 1 Rei IV
    May 18, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Glad you enjoyed this anime, Brik! My fascination with Attack on Titan is precisely because its grisly nature and nihilistic undertones. Even when Eren “saves the day”, there are great causalities and consequences for his actions (or lack there of). Things really don’t seem to improve much for him and the rest of the cast even with his transformation as a “triumph card” for humanity against the Titans. He also even risks becoming the every thing he despises; a mindless, bloodthirsty monster. I’m squeamish when it comes to gore and violence but it’s very effective here and the Titans are some creepy/ugly/scary motherfuckers because there’s almost an LOL aspect behind their (sometimes comical) designs/appearances.

    The only thing I thing I slightly disagree with you is in regards to the characterization. Seen, I can totally concede with the characters being somewhat caricatures and falling into genre tropes…. at least in the beginning of the series, but they do go through some rather drastic changes as the series progress, Armin being a perfect example. He was quite tactful, in fact, especially with the Female Titan! A complete 180 compared to what we saw of him in the beginning. Eren also shows he’s willing to listen to others and not immediately jump into a situation like he normally does….which is also what ironically gets his comrades killed in episode 21 (LOLz)

    • May 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      I didn’t see as much character growth as you did. Perhaps on a rewatch on blu-ray I’ll see it. And yeah, the titans are some creepy/ugly/scary motherfuckers. Their weird blank grins totally cranks up the weirdness factor, and is yet another reason why this is such a great show. I’m glad you like this one. I can’t wait for the second season.

  2. 3 Gazerbeam
    May 18, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Attack on Pacing’s pacing was actually horrendously bad from the get-go. The reason so many people don’t notice it is because everything else about the anime, while honestly only barely better than mediocre, is still miles ahead of the vast majority of modern anime today.

    It only gets to its most grating during the forest scene, but believe me, it was there earlier (I initially gave up watching the show entirely on episode 17… at that point the show proved to me I still had some dignity and self-respect left, at least enough not to continue watching 20-minutes of characters forgetting their own characterization and not being able to make a single decision). Months later (2 days ago) a bro had picked up the show and I decided to watch a couple past 17… and then the forest scene hit me like a rhinoceros in heat.

    Brickhaus, before I choose whether or not your review is serious, please reconsider the fact that you, as with everyone else who watched this anime after the fact, did not actually watch the entirety of the anime. You skipped ahead, past shit tons of pointless filler disguised as tension-building, and you did it not because the show is good but because so much other anime is bad, so bad that even *nothing happening at all* is entertaining.

    • May 19, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      “…please reconsider the fact that you… did not actually watch the entirety of the anime. You skipped ahead, past shit tons of pointless filler disguised as tension-building…”

      This is a weird statement to make. I can assure you that I watched every single minute of Attack on Titan. I didn’t skip anything. Honestly, I was really, really into it, and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

      I agree with you that maybe Attack on Titan looks falsely elevated compared to the rest of the shit that’s out there today. But it is a good show. Problematic? Yes. Good? Also, yes.

      The forest scene is where the pacing nearly falls off the rails, but I didn’t have a problem with the pacing in any of the other story arcs.

      This was a real review, not a troll review. I genuinely enjoyed the hell out of this series.

  3. 5 Princess Luna
    May 24, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry, but I’ve seen more action and excitement in an episode of Super Sentai than anime in general.

  4. June 25, 2014 at 7:55 am

    well I agree that the Anime nowadays seems a bit “off” compared to the old ones. Just harem harem harem ecchi ecchi ecchi, and etc. all the same. Sometimes the story is being destroyed by these kind of setting. Well, they need it to make some “money”

    AOT on the other hand kept me following it since its first episode, and read its manga all the way, waiting it every month (so frustrating) I can say that it still mind blowing, the plot twists and etc, but it has a very slow pace. Though, no problem for me 😀

    Overall, i agree with you, its not perfect, but it has the chance to hook up many fans 😀

  5. 9 g
    August 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I like certain parts of it but as a whole I didnt. There were way too many scenes of “strategy”.

  6. 11 Radochna
    September 5, 2014 at 7:52 am

    First – a promise: if I ever start a blog about anime and will need to describe most (stereo)typical characters of action shows based on mainstream shonen manga, I will quote the bald instructor as he sums up all military trainee part of main cast. It’s just so perfect and bull’s eye! And Eren is just a cherry on top of the cake of japanese young male ideal protagonist – doesn’t have any particular talents, but is most motivated then everybody around him. Ah!

    Just to make things straight, it didn’t particularily bother me. I don’t really mind showmakers using stock elements if they can do it well. I think that people who made Attack on Titan could and did. As a matter of fact I think that AOT is one of the best mainstream shonen ever (so far the only show from that cathegory I really enjoyed was Fullmetal Alchemist). It is a serious canditate for “The-Shonen-Show-That-Avoids-Most-Annoying-Shonen-Shows-Blunders” title.

    Eren, stereotypical as he is, is just in a right place between emo-whiney and overly self confident. He’s surprisingly reasonable in knowing his place if You compare him with other heros from the same production line. His hot-headed behaviour is well rationalised and not overboard taking the circumstances. Actually many characters are way above average when it comes to behaving rationally in some situations and realistically irrationally in others. And considering how often shonen-hero just comes and saves the universe by farting force in villain’s face, I was quite happy with Eren’s level of failures, the fact that he was so often unable to make a significant difference in final outcome and that his few successes had a high price to pay (gate sealed and titans cannot use it = gate sealed and people cannot use it).

    Also a lot of shows annoy the shit out of me by showing heroes that go succesfully through life following two or three very specific guidelines. AOT gives enough of a feeling that there are no choices that are always correct. It also does decent job in questioning simple didactic messages this sort of shows are often oozing even if it still maintain high level of character-building speeches.

    As to “everyone can die”, I got a bit suspicious when all the new recruits survived a forrest battle (it’s almost as if once they went through they first major battle on screen, they got the immunity badge), but AOT is still lightyears from crap shows where in great decisive battle all enemies are wiped out and not a single person with a known name dies on “our side”.

    As to story, it is really promising so far (I’ve noticed just one big hole that is practically impossible to explain at this level and that’s a good result overall) and I’ve heard that it seems that mangaka actually knows where the story is supposed to go (which is more rare of the thing that I would suspect before I actually started watching anime). I also really liked that show doesn’t try to make too much of a mystery of things audience is already guessing. The way characters pick up the clues is also quite satisfactory.

    Sorry to write for so long… Maybe I should think seriously about that blog…

    • September 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks for the thoughtful post. You outlined a lot of the reasons why this is a good series. It does have cliches, that’s true, but many series do. The execution is really the most important part. If you liked Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist, you might want to check out Rurouni Kenshin (at least seasons one and two). It manages to avoid many shonen pitfalls, and turns in an incredible story.

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May 2014


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