Thursday, August 21, 2014

'Attack on Titan' is the 'Game of Thrones' of Anime

First of all, for the record, I’m not really a fan of Game of Thrones.  Yet.  I know it’s one of the hottest shows in TV right, but I still don’t follow it.  I’m still postponing my jumping into its fandom, not only because I am already into a lot of TV series right now, but because I intend to read the books (which I haven’t get the chance yet) before really immersing myself into that show.  Also, honestly, its reputation for having so much gratuitous nudity and sex – almost borderline pornography – does turn me off a bit (really).  Nonetheless, I am aware of what makes Game of Throne, well, Game of Thrones: a fantasy of superior-quality, unapologetic violence, a complex plot, shocking game-changing twists that just come out of nowhere, and the penchant for killing well-developed characters that the audience had already grew fond of.  And all those elements are present in Attack on Titan, which I’ve just recently watched (at the present, it has one season with 25 episodes).    

Among all present ongoing anime series, AoT is the most stimulating to watch.  There’s a rich amount of emotion in its narrative, the drama and action are very engrossing, its management of its characters are extremely well done, and it incites a lot of insight.  In AoT, I’ve never found this kind of depth in an anime since Code Geass.  Really.  AoT is just that amazing.   

In the world of Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese (which means “advancing giants”), the remnants of humanity live in a country protected from Titans by three tiers of gargantuan and extensive walls – Wall Maria (outer wall), Wall Rose (middle wall), and Wall Sinna (the final and innermost wall).  For a century, the first wall, Maria, was able to hold back the Titans, ensuring humans to enjoy peace.  The status quo changed when a colossal 60-meter Titan broke through Maria’s wall, allowing the Titans to invade human land.

Titans are nude, genitalia-less giants of varying heights that have dumb, crazy looks on their faces – sometimes with filthy, nutty smiles – as if they are high, psychotic hobo-baby hybrids.  The description I made in that last sentence seems to make the Titans look weird and silly, but they are actually terrifying.  They are mindless but they have a zombie-like drive to go after humans.  Their sudden appearance in the world brought humanity to the brink of extinction.  However, they actually don’t hunt, kill, and eat humans for the sake of food – it seems they have no need to nourish themselves with food – since they just vomit out the corpses they have devoured; it’s just that murdering and eating humans are their innate impulse.  They are nigh invulnerable, for they have a quick healing factor and any body parts they lose will only regenerate.  The only way to kill them is to cut through their nape severely. 

To fight the Titans, humanity has their military, which is divided into three parts: the corrupt and useless Military Police; the Garrison Squad, who are in charge of guarding the walls; and the elite Recon/Survey Corps, who go beyond the walls to Titan-infested lands, hence, are the most competent soldiers to fight Titans (and in which group the main characters of AoT chose to join in). 

The military’s soldiers are armed with swords (for slashing Titan’s flesh, especially the nape) and 3D Maneuver Gears (or “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment”), which are like the stuff in Sky Commanders (a GI-Joe rip-off back in the days), only cooler.  The equipment enables the soldiers to swing around buildings and trees a la Spider-Man, giving them more mobility and better access in combating the Titans in high heights and slashing their napes. 

Attack on Titan tells the story of the struggles and lives of these soldiers – particularly, the trio of Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackermann, and Arminn Arlert; their batchmates from military boot camp; and the other members of the Survey Corps (wherein Eren and his batchmates decide to join after their graduation) – that have to face the hazards and carry the burden of going against murderous Titans in behalf of humanity’s protection and advancement.  Like Game of Thrones, the story of AoT is heavily character-driven.   It develops its characters very well, put plenty of personality and likability on them to get the audience invested in the characters as much as the story.  Thus, the audiences are really affected and even pained whenever these characters are killed in action.  It has established a feeling that no character is safe.  Everybody is fair game.  Everybody can get killed without moment’s notice. 

Heck, in an early episode, the main character, Eren, even got killed – he was eaten by a Titan.  Of course, a few episodes later, in a well-executed twist (for the record, all plot twists, though not all unexpected, have been well-executed), it was revealed that Eren was not really dead, that he actually has the ability to regenerate and transform into a Titan, and with his power manifesting for the first time, he burst out from the Titan that had eaten him.  The narrative was centrally being moved forward through Eren, but the whole thing was done in a way where you will never expect that he will actually come back.  At that point on, I really thought he was permanently dead, that he was a red herring and not the real main character.  It was awesome.  It was in Eren’s “death” where I actually went “Holy Tilda Swinton (go see Orphan Black to get the reference), this anime is so Game of Thrones-y!” since it was as if done in a Ned Stark manner.             

An interesting facet of AoT is how effectively it conveyed the cruelties and realities of war.  Yes, it has produced badass battle sequences.  But, again, because of the well-done character developments, deaths that rose from these battles have meaning and impact.  Us that are watching can easily empathize on the surviving characters that are scarred from the horrors they have gone through.  It also tackled the realistic principles in war, that death and sacrifice are necessary and should be willingly done for the sake of the greater good.  One memorable quote in the anime was, “Someone who can’t sacrifice anything can never change anything.”          

I appreciate AoT’s fast pacing; it seems a lot has happened already in its 25 episodes.  But, still, I just can’t get enough of it.  I do not know when the next season will be, and it needs to come fast.   AoT, for me, is best experienced in an anime format; therefore, I won’t read the manga as long as I can help it, so that I can enjoy any plot development in the anime without any foreknowledge of it due to reading the manga.  But if its new season doesn’t get here soon enough, then I’ll probably be led to check on the manga to get my needed AoT fix. 

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