Anime Spotlight: Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is an anime series based on a manga written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. The anime is produced by Wit Studio and Production I.G and is directed by Tetsuro Araki. The series aired on Japanese television from April 6-September 28, 2013.

As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American license for Attack on Titan.

The series is set in an alternative middle-ages world that has been attacked by giant humanoid creatures called Titans. The remains of civilization are protected by three concentric walls that are about 50 meters tall. After building these walls, humanity has remained safe for 100 years and has basically become complacent. While there are people who want to go outside of the walls and explore the outside world, many are discouraged from doing so.

The main character of the series is Eren Yeager. He is one who wants to explore the outside world, but his parents and his adopted sister Mikasa are very much against this idea. His father is a doctor, and during the first episode, he leaves to treat patients located elsewhere.

After he leaves, the unthinkable happens. Unusual Titans break through the wall: one is 60 meters tall, while the other has a hardened shell. The city is plunged into chaos, and Eren discovers that his mother is trapped in the rubble of their house. Eren tries to save his mother, but she insists that he run to safety and to leave her behind. A guard named Hannes grabs both Eren and Mikasa and carries them off in safety as Eren’s mother is eaten by one of the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa, and their friend Armin enlist in the military, and they graduate from training five years later. Eren vows that he’ll kill every one of the Titans, but something happens to him early on that reveals a secret that he was unaware of. Much of the series focuses on the ramifications of this discovered secret, as well as the politics taking place in the higher levels of the military and the government.

By the time I finished watching the first episode, the tone of the storytelling changed from establishing the series to an intense viewing experience once the Titans broke through the wall. I liked how the first episode ultimately is told in a circle: the major plot point of the Titans is shown at the beginning, and then the rest of the episode establishes what’s going on and returns to what was shown at the beginning of the episode. Even with using this storytelling device, the viewer is so riveted by the end of the first episode that they want to see the next episode to see what will happen to Eren and to find out what happens next in the story. Admittedly, the story does kind of slow down after the first episode, but it becomes interesting again once Mikasa’s backstory appears. After that point, Attack on Titan has an engaging story that leaves the viewer wanting to see more.

As the series progresses, there’s also some fantastic character story arcs. Obviously, Eren’s character arc is the main one that’s focused on. However, Jean also goes through major changes in his character, especially after he experiences a certain event. Even characters like Mikasa, Armin, and Levi, who don’t get as major of character arcs, are still engaging characters that the viewer comes to care for.

I thought the animation for Attack on Titan looked incredible. While this series utilizes both 2D animation and computer graphics, the 2D animation was designed and drawn in such a way that it blends in more convincingly with the computer graphics than many other anime series that I have seen that have tried to combine the two styles. Also, the backgrounds are lush and really complement the rest of the animation. But there are times, especially in the first half, where some animation cheats take place (primarily using still images instead of animating some of the action).

Even though Attack on Titan takes a little bit to get going, it’s worth the wait. By the end of these 25 episodes, the story is very riveting and focuses on characters that the viewer cares for. There are also surprises that show up during these episodes. However, it should be noted that Attack on Titan can be on the gory side at times, especially when the Titans are shown eating people.

But gore aside, I’m still looking forward to when the second season of Attack on Titan is released. It’s going to be a “must see” title for me when it’s made available as a simulcast.

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