Image courtesy of Kodansha Comics USA
I’m not the biggest fan of zombie/cannibal stories. In fact, I actually have a phobia when it comes to zombies. But a recent anime out of Japan with overtones of that horror genre has captivated my interest nonetheless.
Attack On Titan (the literal translation of the Japanese title, Shingeki no Kyojin, should be closer to "Attack of the Titans"), based off the manga of the same name by Hajime Isayama, is currently airing in Japan and is quickly becoming one of the hottest series out now.
There have been four episodes so far that have aired on CrunchyRoll.com, the online streaming repository for all things anime. It is amazing to me that with a few clicks (and, if you don’t want ads, a couple bucks per month to have your own personal all-anime equivalent of Netflix) you can have your fill of subtitled fresh-from-Japan goodness. I remember in the 90s when anime was starting to have a surge of popularity in the U.S. that the only access you had to even older anime series (forget the most current) was through fansubs ordered off eBay and other more obscure, dark recesses of the World Wide Web.
But here we are, getting to watch humans get eaten to our heart’s content, and I could not be happier. The premise is you have a medieval-esque town that has lived in peace for about 100 years inside three 164-foot walls (named Maria, Rose, and Sina) to protect them from the Titans - giants that are semi-human in appearance whose only goal in life seems to be consuming humans. Anything other than that, thus far, is off the menu. The interesting part is that the majority of them seem to be fairly mild-mannered; and worst of all, it appears they don’t actually need to eat humans to survive, and appears to be a side effect of not having anything else worthwhile to do. (Social commentary, anyone?) What’s left of humanity, which resides in a country similar to Holland with rolling green hills, Tudor-style homes, and windmills, goes along generally contented behind their strongholds. It is clear the idyllic nature of the town is not all it appears to be, as there are several troops of brave souls that head out as “survey groups” to try to find out more about the Titans (thereby destroying the typical Western plot point of “it’s different and dangerous, therefore we should just kill it instead of learning anything") and sadly, end up just losing more people in their efforts.
Check out the killer opening!
Check out the killer opening!
Here's a pretty epic piano cover of it as well. Great stuff.
But the walls are keeping them back, so hey, why worry? Right? You can see what’s coming. All hell breaks loose when a different Titan appears and peeks his skinless face up over the outermost wall, Maria, to say hello before proceeding to knock the first stronghold down with relative ease. Our main character, Eren, and his sister Mikasa, have the unfortunate experience of watching their mother get eaten by one of the more timid-looking creatures.It's like Where the Wild Things Are gone terribly, terribly wrong. DEFINITELY NOT a series for the little ones.
So the townspeople (whoever’s left that is) suit up to try to do what they can to learn about and fight the Titans. Here’s what makes the series totally intriguing to me – I really want to know what the Titans ARE; they look downright disturbing and yet, I can't look away. Some are appropriately scary monster-fierce-looking, their skinless forms reminding one of an Iron Man suit in the flesh. Others resemble schlubby humans with semi-amiable expressions (aside from giant, grinning jaws that is). Which brings me to the great art style - I enjoy that the characters (human and Titan alike) have distinctive individual looks, and don't fall prey to the problem of other anime series, where everyone looks basically the same aside from varying eye color and spiky hair styles. The people look realistic and the world they inhabit is as gritty as the plot.