New series brings action, nuance of ‘Titanic’ proportions
In the age of Tumblr and torrents, international media reigns supreme. For nerds, this means getting hands on things that might have only been available on bootlegged video-cassettes in the 1990s. Exports from Japan have been particularly popular, with anime becoming more mainstream while it remained underground in previous decades. While Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming is partially to blame for this development, some stories manage to absorb an array of viewers on their own, and “Attack on Titan” is such a series.
“Attack on Titan,” like so much anime before it, does indeed toy with the versatile trope of youths saving the world from destruction. The first few episodes bear extreme similarity to “Neon Genesis Evangelion”: giant, antagonistic creatures with no discernible origin; the weight of salvation placed on several young adults; a sense of political, social and emotional anarchy; and finally, humanity confining itself within the walls of a futuristic fortress. But the series evolves into its own in later episodes, drawing interest through emotive explorations not seen in many characters of any saga.
Like most apocalyptic sci-fi, “Attack on Titan” features a number of plot points that prove to be disturbing on different levels. Among them is a complex connection between adoptive siblings Eren and Mikasa, who embark on a remotely incestuous relationship throughout the first season. Mikasa, a stoic soldier who played victim to human trafficking in a previous lifetime, has a dog-like loyalty and urge to protect her younger brother, to which Eren responds with a powerful, stubborn naivete. While it’s unlikely the writers will guide the characters into a blatant affair, the tension will undoubtedly make good material for devout Fanfiction.net contributors.
Perhaps what makes the series so unsettling is a concept that reads ludicrous on paper: giants devouring people. The fabled idea has been explored through a number of dark fairy tales, but “Attack on Titan” gives the concept new light. The Titans, a race of humanoids with disproportionate limbs and no sense of morality, are a questionable bunch that act as if eating screaming human beings is similar to a midday stroll. Their apparent passiveness – in addition to their creepy smiles – makes for a gut-wrenching reaction, but the creatures’ mysterious origins draw in viewers to explore more of the story.
One of few drawbacks about this particular saga is its pace. The original manga, as in most cases, is known for riding fast while also remaining on the comprehensive side. But the anime adaptation takes longer to go from the initial Titan attack to the present day, covered in three to five episodes while only spanning one volume of the manga. While most novels are condensed into a feature-length film, television adaptations require more time, which sometimes seems unnecessary and annoying to impatient fans.
But overall the series fully plays up to its international hype. “Attack on Titan” is currently the number-one franchise in Japan and has already brought a wealth of attention stateside. It’s very possible it will join the ranks of “Death Note” and “Bleach” as being the number-one bro-time show to watch on a drunk Saturday night. But there’s also leeway for more introspective fans who crave a good story, which results in versatile complexity that’s hard to find in any saga.