Just to warn the kiddies, there’ll be some pretty violent pictures in this review, and there will be SPOILERS. Also, it’s an in-depth review (it’s over 1500 words long).
Recently I’ve become a little bit of an anime nerd, and so I’ve been watching more than I ever had before, including this and One Piece (by the way, this is Reuben, not Cam, who is a bonafide anime nerd). Freedom, by Katsuhiro Otomo, was the first random anime I bought, and unfortunately for me, unlike Akira, it sorta sucks. Nevertheless, I also went and bought the Attack On Titan Season 1 Blu-rays, and realised that the anime is not always beneath the manga when it comes to quality.
What’s striking about the Attack On Titan anime is how high quality the animation is. What’s even more striking, though, is the intro. My experiences with anime intros so far haven’t been great, but the Attack On Titan one is fantastic — it really is. It’s got an unexpectedly catchy song and it is just really cool. Then there’s the second intro half-way through the series, and that’s just as good.
Now, although the only other animes I can compare it to are 10 year old One Piece episodes and the weird 3D Freedom, it is clearly very good — or at least it is in the action sequences. In fact, it’s amazing. When the human race goes to war with the titans everything is just as (if not more) dynamic as it needs to be, as well as just as bloody, smooth and quick-paced as it should be. In fact it really makes me excited whenever a titan comes up because I know I’m gonna see something super cool, and when ol’ Mikasa or Levi come up to deal with them everything is, well, let me think about it… SO. DAMN. AWESOME.
I just had a bit of a braingasm. But I think that’s apt, because that’s what it makes you do. When the Survey Corps come in from every angle with their ODM gear and slice titans all over the place, I squirm inside.
Now, as you know what I think of the action, I guess I’ll have to talk about everything else. This is my first time reviewing a 20 episode plus series, so hopefully I don’t trail off when explaining all the shizzle. First up’s the concept. That’s also great, I’ve gotta say. It’s a pretty convoluted concept though, and I can’t really be arsed to explain it in detail. Basically, the titans are massive weird human-like monsters without reproductive organs who, as far as the human race has gathered, only need to eat humans to live, have no interest in other life, don’t reproduce, and can only be killed in the nip of their neck. They’re also really damn weird, and vary in size from 5 to around 20 meters, and there are abnormal titans as well, which are basically even more weird, and can do stuff like jump like a frog or run. Then there’s the colossal titan and the armoured titan, and female titan and Eren Jaeger’s titan form. The last four I mentioned are all know what they’re doing.
Although the concept of the three gigantic walls being miraculously made amidst a huge titan outbreak which caused what was almost the human race’s extinction is ridiculous, it does work well for the plot structure, in that the further in the plot gets, ultimately the human race is pushed back further and further into the walls. The plot itself is good. The complex overall concept and ideas invested into Attack On Titan are fantastic also, and they and the plot work in harmony as the series follows the journey of a select group of Cadets, including Eren, Mikasa and Armin, who were all in the first episodes of the invasion of Wall Maria – the outermost wall; and they are the protagonists. Funnily enough, they as the main protagonists get by far the most attention out of any of the cast of characters. Although it’s common practice, with this series it is an issue.
Okay, the story following Eren, Mikasa and Armin is good. They are all very well developed and by about the 5th episode I felt worried for them. Jean also gets into the main protagonist cast towards the end, and he’s also good. However, pretty much every other character is nowhere near as well developed, with Annie and Marco as the prime examples. Marco, firstly, turns up a few times until the invasion of Trost (the entrance city of the centre wall, Rose), and isn’t really a notable character,above anyone else. Even so, Spoilers when he dies at the end of Trost, you’re expected to care. I didn’t care. To me, it was just another guy passing; to the characters, it was a massive tragedy. It just doesn’t have the effect it wanted to. What’s really sad about the whole Marco thing is that it keeps on being mentioned as the show progresses, and I’m just sitting there thinking, “k”. That’s all it amounts to.
Annie suffers from a similar problem. Although her place in the plot is huge, she is very much a random side character until she (*gasp* Shock horror! (Also Spoilers)) turns out to be the female titan. When Eren was completely shocked and unwilling to fight her, I was sat there thinking, “k”. AGAIN. I know what they were trying to do; they’re deliberately making the human-titans random characters to draw attention to the fact that the titans could be anyone from within. But it simply doesn’t have a very strong effect. When the big reveal came about that Annie was indeed the female titan, I was a little surprised, but for the wrong reasons. I was surprised it was her because I knew it was a mistake, because she was a character I cared little for. I mean, if she had just had more attention beforehand, it would have been so much more effective.
Other characters like Connie and Krista kind of disappear into nothingness as the show progresses, but are replaced by Erwin Smith and Captain Levi. Now, they are both pretty badass, I’ll be honest. Levi along with Mikasa excels when it comes to the action scenes, and really does make me smile when he spins around at high speed whilst impaling titans in the coolest way possible. Erwin Smith carries along the more sinister side of the plot which occurs towards the end of the Season, in which the trust between the humans is questioned. He excels when things get dramatic. In fact, the whole thing excels when things get dramatic – the animation, the soundtrack, the character, the plot. When titans come in, basically, the show gets amazing — BUT! This may sound like a bit of a null criticism, but the soundtrack is too darn inconsistent. While sometimes it helps create a fantastic atmosphere, other times it ruins it. It varies from atmospheric and loud opera to rocky J-pop. It got on my nerves a little, I’ve gotta say. Seriously, when there’s something cool or dramatic happening, the music needs to be on point. The frustrating thing is — most of the time it is. It’s just sometimes there’s a crap song in the background.
Another thing that is inconsistent in Attack On Titan is its pacing. Sometimes everything is too slow, sometimes they talk too much and the plot’s progression is halted, sometimes everything is a bit too frantic… There’s no medium pace here. In the action-driven episodes a frantic feel is good, but otherwise the pacing needs more consistency. The only time there is a medium pace is in the first 2-4 episodes, and then after that the pacing goes all over the place. It’s strange that from around episode 10 to 15 everything is dragged on, whilst the episodes’ run time is only around 20 minutes. There were two episodes in particular where the pace and the quality took a huge dip, around the 13th episode point. There was the one where Eren and the Elite Squad were literally walking around some castle doing chores, and then there was the one where the annoying science lady (Zoe Hange, the one with the red hair and goggle-glasses) talks about some boring experiments. Eren is bored. I was bored. What an episode. The court room stage wasn’t very fun either, it wasn’t until about an episode through the “57th Survey Corps Mission” that it got great again. The woods were brilliant, in particular. Man, the female titan is amazing. Seriously, she brings the show to a new level in her sections. The animation, concept, atmosphere, action and soundtrack all come exploding to life, particularly within the woods. And then when she fights Eren’s titan in the woods and in Wall Sina the show hits a new level of awesomeness – not to mention violence.
I’ve been intending to get back to the characters for a little while now. I’ve also realised this review is pretty dang long. Oh well. Now, Eren is a good protagonist as they go. He’s pretty straight, determined – a driving, powerful force. Sometimes he can get a bit too hot tempered, but what they hey. He works. Then there’s Mikasa. She’s what drives the inhuman veil across all of Attack On Titan, expressionless for the most part, but also subtly emotional — her nonchalant character siting the effects of a world consumed by fear. Armin is the one who keeps on trying to tell you that there is some humanity left, and that knowledge still exists in a world such as the one represented in the series. Jean, if you count him as one of the main protagonists, furthers Eren’s feeling of anger. Each of these characters work in harmony with eachother as they aptly symbolise the three feelings that the human-race feel in these titan surrounded walls: anger, fear and desperateness. Well done, really. Even the lack of development for the rest of the cast of characters could symbolise the thought that in a world such as that the lack of humanity would remove care for others, and only themselves as they fight to survive. There is also a very deliberate lack of expression shown, bar the occasional desperate outbreak, which also sites the lack of humanity. This is all part of the concept, and it really is a clever one. What I’m thinking is, “What the hell is a titan!?” And that’s a good thing. This show has actually got me thinking.
There’s one more problem, though. Armin talks tooooooooooooooooooooooo much. It just gets annoying. Although it works in small amounts, Armin’s rambling does a lot more than just carry the narrative. It also just turns into rambling. Eren does it a lot, too. Oh well, good thing the English dub is actually very good. And it does stay true to the manga.
However, if there is something I can say about how it compares to the manga it’s that it doesn’t feel as sinister. The manga feels like a horror — though a very exciting, very violent one. The anime feels like sinister action — if that is a thing. What the anime doesn’t get quite right is that sinister side of things. The titan’s scare factor isn’t utilised enough, and at points when it is the soundtrack does indeed ruin it a little. The anime feels more like something about the action and human nature in the situation with the twinge of horror, whereas the manga feels a lot more like a very sinister take on a zombie comic series. I think if the anime used that horror-like feel more it would have been more gripping, but as it is it just hasn’t got the balance right. Sure, it’s massively violent and bloody, it still isn’t as shockingly violent as the manga, at points oddly feeling slightly censored. Although it’s still pretty sinister, and it’s also very violent.
Nonetheless, overall, Attack On Titan’s first Season is a good watch. Although it has issues with pacing, characters and soundtrack, it mostly redeems itself with its awe-inspiring action and animation, as well as its brilliant concept.
Other stuff and that like this: Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Tokyo Ghoul
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