Attack on Titan: Season 1 Review

attack-on-titanAnime and I always take little breaks from one another. Not because I get sick of it but because when I’m watching it, I binge watch everything that’s right up my alley so I wind up having breaks until other things come along. My latest break has been pretty lengthy but not because there have been good animes lacking in the world but just because life didn’t afford me the time to sit and enjoy them, as it sometimes does.

Over and over again people talked about Attack on Titan. Over and over at conventions, I saw the number of people cosplaying as characters from the show rise and before I knew what Attack on Titan was, ventured to ask one cosplayer what anime her costume was from. She looked mildly offended, like I was missing out on something that I should obviously be watching and I knew that it was time to jump on board with it.

I got myself an account with Crunchyroll and set up the channel for it on my Roku and sat down to check out Attack on Titan to see what the fuss was all about. And for all the fuss, I had not a single clue what the show was actually about. I figured there were soldiers and such since that was what I always saw people cosplaying as but that was more or less it. I try to avoid trailers and synopsis’ for things these days since companies have long since lost the ability to subtly talk about their show to get people excited, but that’s a thing to gripe about another time.

While some shows give you glimpses into a characters past throughout the course of the series, Attack on Titan just starts from the beginning of our main characters lives and carries on from there. It’s not overdone and goes through the years quickly so as not to make it all seem like filler, occasionally traveling back in time to fill in the blanks. The result is wonderfully crafted backstories for our characters that emotionally attach them to us so well that you don’t even really know they’ve invaded and taken root. I will admit to getting seriously weepy on numerous occasions throughout the entirety of the first season, a feat that not a lot of things can claim.

Solid backstories also help really define each character and make them standout from one another. Each has their own distinct look and personality that you can identify with and my favourite thing that can be bestowed on a character: flaws. Flaws are what make us human and if a character is too perfect, it makes them unrelatable and sometimes just downright unlikeable, but Attack on Titan doesn’t have that problem in the series. The primary focus of the show is on characters as they make their way through life in a world where humanity is almost wiped out due to terrifying new predators known as Titans. It would be easy to only showcase the individual talents of the characters, but the writers made sure that they also showcase that they are vulnerable and susceptible to corruption, inflated egos, arrogance and they do make mistakes. It’s also made clear to us almost immediately in the series that no character is safe. They are living in a very dangerous world and in that kind of place and in a time of war, there are casualties. Loved ones die and sometimes right in front of you. This show, quite honestly, is a whole lot of consecutive sucker punches to the heart, but the fact that they can make you feel these things for their characters is part of the show’s incredible charm.

Most of you who are fans of the series probably know that it’s based off of the manga of the same name. In North America, 11 of these volumes have been published here and have been selling like gangbusters. Many people are comparing its success to The Walking Dead and pondering whether or not this will replace it on the charts as the 13th volume of the book sold over 1.4 million copies in Japan in its opening week alone. That’s MADNESS, but in a good way. I haven’t read the manga but after binge-watching 17 of the 25 episodes today, I am hella curious to check it out (and to find out what happens to my favourite characters). I bring up the manga because I’m also curious to find out how it differs from the show and which one tells a better version of the story, in my opinion. I’ve picked it up at the bookstore numerous times but have never committed to buying it before now. Something that I suspect will change shortly.

Going back to the anime though, one thing that really stands out about it to me is the way that they set up the battles and missions. Usually we get a really dumbed down briefing of what the characters are about to do and then we see it play out. In Attack on Titan, most of the time we see the forethought that goes into these plans, the pros and cons of it, the plan getting talked out by involved parties and sometimes there’s a little preview of what’s to come (a what if the plans go accordingly reel, I suppose). You see diagrams, charts and maps and the characters explain what’s about to happen like you’re in the briefing room with them and hearing what they’re hearing. I suppose technically you ARE, but that’s because they show you and don’t skip over that stuff like you sometimes get on other shows. Then as the battles and missions carry out, you can see how each characters works with the plan and what happens when you have to deviate from it when unforeseen variables come up, like in real life. There are no two characters that are alike and watching them work their way through each ordeal is fascinating.

The animation is top-notch as well. Some of the CG seems a bit meh occasionally but honestly, that’s an afterthought as I especially enjoy watching the battle scenes where the characters zoom around with their 3D Maneuver Gear and fight Titans. The battles, while animated, are choreographed beautifully and like each character’s personality, the fighting styles that they are bestowed are unique, like a thumbprint. A refreshing take on fighting. The unique fighting styles are something that plays heavily into the plot as the show carries on too.

The show is a giant emotional rollercoaster, as I mentioned before. You will want to cheer, cry, laugh and feel the pain along with the characters on screen. Some of the moments in Attack on Titan can be predictable but not overly so and even if you see something coming, it never takes away from the shock value when it actually happens and I found myself shouting or waving my arms around like a maniac on a few separate occasions.

VERDICT
Attack on Titan is completely worth all of the hubbabaloo that’s been going around. If for no other reason, it’s worth watching just to see how each character grows and changes and evolves with the times and with what is required. I’m so happy that I found the time to binge watch most of the series at once and my only regret is not being able to binge watch ALL of it at once.

The show clearly has so much more story to tell and I suppose I could find more of that story in the mangas should I choose to check them out, but part of me wants to hold out for more of the anime to be released. Unfortunately for me and the rest of the fanbase, there’s no telling when that might be as the studio responsible for making the show didn’t have any initial plans to do a follow-up. I think they didn’t realize what a knockout hit they would have on their hands. A good show takes a while to put together and as such, we probably won’t see new episodes until at least sometime in 2015, which makes the manga that much more alluring for someone like me who NEEDS to know what happens next.

The point being is that whether you’re a fan of the manga, the anime or both, Attack on Titan is a compelling series filled with characters worth meeting and a story worth telling and I not only recommend it to people who enjoy anime, but to anyone who enjoys quality entertainment.