By Jared Cyhowski / May 14th, 2013
Hey fellow anime fans, we have some great news! oprainfall will be covering both Attack on Titan and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet from this Spring’s anime season. With the season about five episodes in we will be starting with an introductory recap and then follow each episode weekly. We’ll be following the same format that was used for Sword Art Online and we invite you to follow along in the weekly discussion. Let’s do this.
Ep. 1: To You, 2,000 Years in the Future – Fall of Zhiganshina (1)
Ep. 2: That Day – The Fall of Zhiganshina (2)
Ep. 3: A Dim Light in the Darkness of Despair – Humanity Rises Again (1)
Ep. 4: Night of the Graduation Ceremony – Humanity Rises Again (2)
Ep. 5: First Battle – Battle of Trost (1)
Attack on Titan is one of the biggest, most anticipated titles of the Spring 2013 season. It boasts superb animation, an interesting cast, and a gruesome story that sometimes has the veracity to not turn the camera away. Each episode tends to feel like a high-budgeted work that leaves more to be desire – something some anime series struggle with from the very start. Though with high popularity comes a high demand for quality installments, and even the production team seems to have a hard time catching up with the firestorm that is Attack on Titan. If this series can maintain the steam it’s already set amidst, then I think it has the potential to be one of the best anime in a long time.
The first episode starts with a bang of sorts and truly sets the tone for what to expect throughout the series. We are introduced to Eren Jaeger, a young boy who lives with his mother and father, and also his adopted sister Mikasa. Karla, Eren’s mother, is a standard placeholder for the caring maternal character who worries about her son. His father, Gurisha, is a doctor who once saved the city from a plague and is currently shrouded in some form of mystery. Eren and Mikasa share a timid friend named Armin, someone who lacks confidence and comes off as being weak.
They live in a setting that I find to be both intriguing and horrifying. It seems as if humanity has been stricken to a small number in population, confined to cities within massive walls. The walls act as a barrier to the many titans who try to get inside. Their mission, their main reason for existence, seems to be that of eating human beings. They haven’t breached the walls in at least 100 years and everything seems to be peaceful, until the day a gigantic titan spawns from nowhere and kicks a gaping hole into the wall. The smaller titans enter through this hole and begin to alter the lives of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin through a dark spiral of grief and vengeance.
This is simply a great first episode. Most of the time it’s difficult to judge an anime series, and usually not fair to, after just one episode. Yet with Attack on Titan I already had the feeling that this was something to keep an eye on. It does a great job introducing everyone who’s important and it establishes the relationship between the three main characters. I’m a fan of Eren’s outspoken character and Mikasa’s silent companionship, though Armin seems fairly weak in my eyes. Gurisha is a unique mystery who has something hiding in his basement and I would love to know what that is… as it’s only alluded to in a promise of words right before he leaves on a trip.
I was not expecting Eren’s mother to change her mind after having Hannes take him and Mikasa away from the destruction. The fact that she said “don’t go” after telling them to get away showed a piece of truthfulness that really stood out to me emotionally. It wasn’t a scene of standard sacrifice, rather, it was a scene of realistic emergency that guaranteed Eren’s need to kill every last titan from this moment forth.
The second episode directly follows the first, but then speeds up near the end to cover a larger span of time. A few key things are established here. Wall Maria is breached because of a stronger and faster titan who rams a hole through the gate that connected the Zhiganshina outlet. Eren, Mikasa, and Armin survive the initial attack, but roughly 250,000 people are eventually sent to their death in trying to recover the outermost wall. This is a devastating impact to the population at which the series’ narrator estimates to be 20% brought to death. And lastly, we witness a dream that Eren has that depicts his father injecting him with a syringe and something about the key and getting “there”. I would assume we don’t know exactly what this means, but Eren does yell out how after Karla died that his father began to change. This is strange because Gurisha is nowhere to be found and he’s not really referenced again anytime soon.
Episode 3 takes Eren and gives him the personal challenge of overcoming the three-dimensional maneuver gear. This gear is simply one of the most kickass tools I’ve seen in a long time: it allows for human beings to fly through the air and move at incredible speeds. It’s a kind of mechanical belt, somehow powered by a form of steam, that allows for humanity to reach the neck of a titan and slay them. Eren, Mikasa, and Armin all join the military to train along with many others. Everyone has a different goal. Eren is riding out his tale of vengeance while Mikasa is there to protect him. Some of them are there to join the military police, or to protect the royalty of the safer inner walls.
At first the training is portrayed as being brutal, a form of boot camp. They are there to be pushed to their limits and to eventually be prepared to tackle a titan as to save fellow humans. Eren struggles with his three-dimensional maneuver gear because his belt is defective, which was likely caused by one of the other trainees. We’re also introduced to Sasha Blause, a girl with a ravenous appetite who seems to love potatoes. She’s about the only comedic element we have in Attack on Titan.
In the fourth episode two years have passed and only those strong enough to continue remain. A few hundred eventually make it, but the top ten are distinguished as the best of the best. It seems as if a total of five years has passed since the day that Eren’s mother died, and the pacing of the episodes really did a great job distinguishing this overall time jump. The main cast is now a team of young adults who pride themselves on different qualities and skills, with Mikasa leading the group with overall perfection.
There is a scene in this episode after the trainees’ graduation where some of the rejoicing question whether or not they can really make an impact against the titans. Eren gives a speech designating his passion once again to killing every last titan, and that giving up now would be a waste of the thousands of people who had already died. This speech is overheard by many, and it sways the top candidates to join the Survey Corps. By choosing this direction you give up any hope of living in the inside walls, and you potentially risk your life every day because of the duty to protect the cities. Eren stands out as a young leader but he’s not a hero, at least it doesn’t seem that way. This is one of the things that makes Attack on Titan stand out from other series. In most narratives Eren would easily rise to be the best titan slayer, but here he is marred by hateful vengeance and emotional distraction.
Hence his oversight in episode 5 where he loses both an arm and a leg. I think the fifth episode paints a two-sided picture that truly shows the power of storytelling behind Attack on Titan. First the episode starts where we left off at the end of the previous episode, with Eren facing the colossal titan. He shows leadership and strength in going all out against the strongest titan of them all. A brief interlude separates Mikasa and Eren, sister and brother, so that Mikasa can’t be there to protect him. And then, after one of his comrades is brutally swallowed by a titan, Eren launches himself with the 3D maneuver gear propelled by a fit of rage. Such frantic steadfastness results in careless awareness of surroundings, and a titan easily snacks on his leg.
We started with a powerful Eren who maintains his strength and passion to defeat a titan, and then we ended with Eren saving Armin but is then swallowed whole. I was left truly shocked by this and my jaw dropped for at least a few minutes. I couldn’t believe that this was the narrative direction for Attack on Titan. We were just beginning to learn about the top ten trainees, we just heard some of them speak some of their first lines. Then suddenly they are taken away in an instant, so fast that it’s almost unbelievable. And what of the fate of Eren? It seems impossible for a main character to die so early, so he must come back in some fashion, even if he has indeed lost an arm and a leg. And what of Armin, the scared boy who lost his grandfather in the efforts to take back Wall Maria and worked his way up to the top-performing trainees? He just witnessed his best friend being devoured by mankind’s largest enemy, and for that will he finally fight back?
The episode leaves on such a climactic, jaw-dropping cliffhanger that only some anime series have the ability to pull off, thus making Attack on Titan one of the best series out there right now. There is wanting to know what happens next, and there’s wanting to know how Eren will persevere and survive the predicament that he’s currently dealing with… One can only wonder what it’s like being inside the stomach of a titan. Comedy aside, this is a series that seems to be taking a few risks with pushing out quality episodes every time. There is no filler to be had here, a very good thing in an era of anime where recap episodes and filler are all too common. It stands out for not just being violent and dark, but also constructed with a narrative that doesn’t play around and gets to the point. The painted picture has shown us a glimpse of what to expect, but I’d say the background has barely been revealed.
animeAttack on TitanCrunchyrollFunimation