Attack on Titan: Early Thoughts

Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep’ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon.
— Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18) canto 1, st. 39

 Facing off at last.

I'm only on episode 6. Please no spoilers! Similarly, if you haven't watched the first few episodes, skip this blog until you do! 

After watching the first episode of Attack on Titan, I was greeted with two polarizing emotions. In one instant, I was instantly smitten with the whole thing, especially considering my affinity for giant, fantasy walls.

(Not even joking. Just look at my obsession with The Old Kingdom series and A Song of Ice and Fire. I guess I really like walls)

So, in the shocking first few seconds of the series, a massive, steaming hand grasps the top of humanity's last wall of defense, and a horrifying face glares down on all of mankind. It's one of the finest openings of an anime I've seen in a while, and I was taken with it at once.

But then... in a scene later in the episode, we see scouts/soldiers returning from an expedition into Titan territory. Their unit is completely decimated, and wounded men glare broodingly at the ground, bloodied and beaten. An old woman shoulders through the crowd asking for her son Moses. The commander hands her a shroud, with Moses' arm inside. And then the yelling starts, complete with traditional anime speed lines, as I call them. 

I almost laughed. 

Despite the gravity of the situation, the radical approach to this scene left me baffled. The woman's pained sobs would have been more than enough to convey the tragedy, but the commander loses his sh*t and freaks out, screaming on and on. The emotional escalation here is simply too sudden to feel at all plausible, and I immediately questioned if I could take the rest of the show seriously. 

But, for better or worse, I soon realized that Attack on Titan is almost comically serious. In fact, certain scenes tease the characters for having such emotional reactions, like Eren's gaunt facial expressions when he's surprised or disappointed by something. Attack on Titan embraces this abundance of emotion and overreaction. And it even plays it up as a gag when the mood's right. Once you get past this, the series is much more enjoyable. 

 Eren, being a badass.

And there's actually a lot to enjoy. Like a great deal of anime out there, the quality of the animation is terribly inconsistent. Some scenes have a skeletal level of detail, with stiff character animations and precious few frames of motion. And yet, I suspect this is to clear the way for the combat scenes, which go far beyond the limits of action.

All hail the 3D Maneuver Gear! When our heroes careen through trees and over rooftops, the world a wash of color around them, Attack on Titan truly shines. Rarely does an anime capture that sense of speed and urgency better than what you see in this show. I almost suck in my breath as Eren and his fellow members of the Survey Corps whip up and around the Titans with swords glinting.

Mikasa, an amazing character.

But I'd like to make a special note about one of the best characters in the series: Mikasa Ackerman.  What a fine example of a female character in Japanese animation. Not only is she graceful, courageous, and beautiful, but she also manages to be strong -- without sacrificing her femininity. More importantly, she wears the same clothing as the male characters, and doesn't show extra skin by default! How refreshing.

I also appreciate her relationship with Eren. She vows to protect him, not the other way around. She keeps him grounded. She loves him completely, and that fuels her drive to fight. Assuming her character doesn't change radically in the episodes I've yet to watch, she seems like the kind of hero that women could look up to. At the very least, I look up to her very much.

Lastly, the plot twist. I, unfortunately, spoiled Eren's upcoming changes for myself while browsing the internet. I haven't actually seen this happen yet in the series, but I know it's coming. And it remains my biggest concern with the show as a whole. I fear that Attack on Titan could have been so much more if it kept that element out of the plot. The action is more thrilling when the heroes are so dwarfed by the Titans. They're vulnerable. And I loathe that this intentional imbalance is about to change in their favor.

But I still need to see it first. Perhaps it's handled in a great way. Only time, and a few hours of viewing, will tell! 

Until then, I'll leave you with one of the greatest parody videos ever created.