Attack on Titan – What on Earth Did I Just Watch?

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I recently decided to watch more anime, and inspired by an Idea Channel episode, I chose Attack on Titan. It’s a show that probably deserves two reviews, so here we go…

It’s All About Style

Attack on Titan is the weirdest and most fascinating thing I’ve watched in years. Set in a fantasy landscape based on a Japanese perspective of 19th century Europe, it’s a story of survival. For a hundred years humanity has been contained within a vast walled city, threatened from the outside by the Titans, monstrous giants who eat people for fun. When the first of the city’s three rings of walls is breached, a group of young people are propelled into the armed forces fighting for humanity, and a slowly unravelling plot to find out what’s behind the Titans.

I love the imagination of this setting. The towering walls and lumbering giants give it a sense of the epic and the unreal. The soldiers use gas-fired grappling wires to hurtle through the air and attack the vulnerable necks of the Titans. The fundamentals of how this war is fought are like nothing else I’ve seen. Like most fantasy, they look nonsensical if you take a step back, but they’ve been thought through in detail and are so different that I was fascinated. They also allow for some immensely cool and unusual action sequences.

This bonkers style is what I love about Attack on Titan.

No, Wait, It’s All About Substance

Attack on Titan is the deepest, darkest exploration of the horrors of war I’ve ever seen in fantasy. Set in a civilisation on the brink of extinction, it sees a group of young people propelled into the armed forces, struggling to cope with the traumas of that life. They see friends eaten by monsters, civilians crushed beneath falling buildings, superiors turning to cowards or running out of control. They face their own rage, depression and even cowardice in the face of war. Their lives have no neat answers – sometimes friends die in battle without them ever learning why or how. In Attack on Titan, war really is hell.

What’s extraordinary is how compelling this is. The absurdity of the war they’re fighting – swinging on wires as they try to fight monsters – only makes the trauma more stunning and realistic by contrast. It makes the reactions and transformations of the characters into something that left me too stunned.

Dammit, Now I Have to Wait

I watched the whole of the first season of Attack on Titan on Netflix, then discovered that the next series won’t even be on TV until 2016. It’s going to be a long, impatient wait, because bizarre as this is, bewildering as some people will find it, I thought it was an extraordinary show, both in its style and its substance.

9 thoughts on “Attack on Titan – What on Earth Did I Just Watch?”

  1. Attack on Titan is one of favorite anime, so I am happy to see how much you enjoyed it. The storyline is absolutely fascinating and all of the characters are compelling. Plus the gore factor! I am also sad that the next season will not be out until next year. However, I believe there is a live action coming out later this year ( and there are a bunch of OVA’s. I am particularly fond of Levi and there is an OVA dedicated to his beginnings.

    1. I’m with you on the characters. I loved Jean’s transformation, and even the minor characters were nicely developed.

      I’ll be fascinated to see what they make of those fight scenes in live action. It felt like the animation, and in particular the way anime fights work, let them present stuff that might have been unconvincing in other formats.

  2. It’s certainly an interesting show. I started reading the manga, but unfortunately the artwork there isn’t up to the par of the show, so my attention trickled off when it didn’t seem to be improving. I’ll just wait for the show to come back. If you’re interested in some similarly brutal but deep stories, I always recommend Berserk and Fullmetal Alchemist, and I have come to recommend Claymore (though I’ve just read the manga, not seen the show).

    1. Thanks for the recommendations – Fullmetal Alchemist gets mentioned a lot, so I’ll give that a go next. I’ve also put Terror in Resonance on my Netflix to watch list, because the blurb sounded intriguing.

      1. Make sure to watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, not the original FMA — the original was animated before the manga series was finished, so made up an ending that isn’t at all where the series was going. Not that it’s bad — it’s just not as good as FMA:B.

    1. It is great animation. I particularly like the way they use still shots for atmospheric moments – I realise it’s also a way to animate more cheaply, but for this story it really works.

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