Attack on Titan

I've become convinced that the reason that the humans of 'Attack the Titan' (or Shingeki no Kyojin) keep losing is because they just won't shut up. Whenever there's a crisis, members of the Survey Corp. will invariably spend 20 minutes discussing how they feel about the situation, often with shiny quivering anime eyes, before taking any action. For some reason, the slack-faced Titans will patiently wait for said soldiers to finish their histrionic discussions and then promptly proceed to defeat the resulting plan and eat them.

This procedure usually takes up to several episodes. In fact, you could cut the series 25 episode run (so far?) down to maybe 8 or 9 and still end up with the same plot, just minus the sections where the characters are over-emoting.

If you can't tell, I was really disappointed with 'Attack on Titan'.

When I was watching the first episode, I already had an inkling about my feelings toward the show. I'd heard that it was awesome and I was maybe 20 minutes into the first episode. So far, it had been all talk; just boring exposition. Then it quickly picked up with a Titan invasion of the main character's hometown.

At that point, the series went from, "Jeez, is this ever going to end?" to "Holy shit! I think I'm going to puke from the awesomeness of this show!" in about a second flat.

But then I watched the second episode. It took all that build up from the first show and chucked it out the window, starting up with the long minutes of nothing-but-talk. And I was dismayed to find that a majority of the episodes throughout the series, even the one with action in them, are all talk. A scene that could have been filled with actual punches and kicks and walls coming down instead consists of slow pans over one of the characters faces as they quiver and do voice over narration about how horrendously they feel about the horrendous horrendosity of the horrendously horrendous mayhem they are at this moment witnessing. What should have happened in a few seconds instead takes several minutes.

There's one episode (ep no. 10, 'Response') where three main characters literally spend 9 minutes hiding in the smoke generated from something that happened in episode 9, talking about how they just escaped dying from canon fire, all while the army still has them surrounded, guns trained, artillery read to go again at a moment's notice. The soldiers and their commanding officer, of course, discuss what has just happened and wondering where the bodies are while they wait for the smoke to clear. For 9 minutes. Then when it does clear and the characters come out, they spend another 3 or 4 minutes listening to an overwrought speech from one of them about why they can't execute his companion.

That's an entire episode.

And there are so many episodes like that. You essentially watch a 30 minute show for 5 minutes of action and plot. And this is my problem with a lot of anime. I understand the reasons for it; cheaper price tags for production, less emphasis on the 'how' and 'why' in Japanese storytelling compared to the American view, but that leaves me with a show that has no sense of urgency at all. After the first few chapters, I will admit I skimmed through the entire thing, only stopping on any highlights (anytime one of the man-eating giants were on screen or when the humans were using their 3D Manuevering Gear). Let me tell you, I don't feel as if I missed out on anything.

But I may be getting ahead of myself. Like me, you may have no idea what 'Attack on Titan' is and only hear about it through vague references dropped by more culturally attuned Netizens on social media.

Never fear, here's the requisite review synopsis!

In a post-apocalyptic future, the remnants of humanity are locked up in city behind a series of 3 walls, 50 meters high. No one knows how they were built, but they do know that they where erected a hundred years ago to keep out the Titans, giants of various heights ranging from 3 to 15 meters tall, that do nothing but eat human beings. Then one day, a colossal 60 meter tall Titan appears and breaks a hole the outer wall, giving way to an invasion.

The first half of the series is centered around the human's fight to stem the invasion and keep the Titans out of the inner city. The latter half focuses on the fight outside the walls and their effort to learn more about the enemy. Along the way, it's discovered that the main character has a special ability that could prove to be the key to defeating the Titans.

While my tolerance for Japanese animation practices/writing isn't that high, I have to admit that 'Attack on Titan' is highly interesting from a story perspective. If it had been handled better, I probably would have liked it a lot. The designs, taken alone, are really great. No one does background matte paintings of nondescript European town like the Japanese animation industry. It's also a unique take on the giant robot armor genre.

I love the 3D Manuevering Gear that the humans use, and the animation of it in use is frankly amazing. I wish the Spider-Man cartoons that have come before this had had scenes like the ones in this show where the soldiers are swinging full-tilt down a city street. It maybe completely infeasible in real life (and I wonder how they'll depict it on screen for the live-action version), but damned if it doesn't look cool.

At first I was really unimpressed with the way the giants look, but overtime, the brain-dead, slack-jawed, non-expressions on their faces really comes off as disturbing. The disconnect between some of their baby-like mannerisms and their deformed appearance really doesn't sit well in the gut. That feeling of discomfort really adds a lot to the atmosphere of the show. I'm less impressed by the skinless version of the Titan. Why do they need to be skinless?

As I'm writing this, I'm on episode 25, and have just finished the series. After two dozen episodes and hours of useless blithering from the cast, you're left with no closure at all. None of the mysteries are solved and none of the motivations are clear. It feels rather like a, "fuck you," to the audience, "go and read the comic book!"

If it's anything like this series, I think I'll pass.

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