|01, 02, 03, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 13.5, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23
Depicting a world in which the remaining human population seals itself into giant walls to protect against the giant Titans, Attack on Titan focuses on the exploits of young hero Eren Yaeger desiring to destroy the giants to avenge the slaughter of his parents by them. Early episodes of the series are solid in setting up the show's premise as they explore the pasts of Eren and Mikasa and elements to the world of the series such as the importance of the Walls and the harsh training and physical conditioning that those in the Recon Corp armies go through in order to fight the Titans. Also in many instances throughout the first half, the series was effective in setting up tension and suspense from humans whenever the thought of their survival or a Titan encounter had them fearing for their lives. Titan's first half set up some engaging plot twists, such as a shocking development with Eren, that would have you believe that this would be an epic of a series.
Sadly as the show shifted into its second half, things start to go downhill with the plotting quality of the series and much of this has to do with the fact that the manga source material of this series is still ongoing. Much of the second half of the series focuses on matters concerning the Female Titan and the series started getting into the bad habit of slowing things to a halt with its pacing. The effective use of mood conveyed from earlier episodes in the series becomes greatly exaggerated here as humans scared witless of the Titans or a certain major character angsting over internal conflict over a revelation with the Female Titan became irksome at many points for my enjoyment of the series and seemed to only be implanted to drag the series out. Worst of all, the series left plenty of questions unanswered concerning the motives of certain characters and factions, as well as elements to the world of the series that Titan alluded to yet never bothered answering. This, again, comes from the manga source material of Attack on Titan still being incomplete. Also while Eren and Mikasa get decently fleshed out, much of the cast to Titan are sadly underdeveloped in background and personality beyond whatever eccentric or stale personalities they are shown to have throughout the TV anime's run.
For visuals, Titan was pleasing for the most part. Scenery shots sported vivid color and plenty of detail, with human character designs given similar treatment. The designs of the Titans are perhaps the visual highlight of the series being grotesque and well-detailed in their massive designs. The animation features nicely animated battle scenes involving the Recon Corps use of their Maneuver Gear as they move through closed-in areas like forests and towns while battling Titans, with the occasional clashes between Titans tossed in as well. Such scsnes serve as the animated highlight for this series as 3D animation and camera movement is used to depict the fluid movement of Titans and human soldiers moving about using their Maneuver Gear. This nice animation does come at a price as moments outside of these animated sequences feature still shots, speed stripes, characters moving while background movement is still and other animation shortcuts to conserve on budget for the more visually intense moments of the series.
Overall, I must admit that Titan is perhaps my biggest disappointment of a series thus far this year. While having a nice start in setting up its premise and having many nicely animated sequences with Titans and soldiers moving via their Maneuver Gear, the series suffers greatly in its second half with dragged out developments and unanswered questions over the bigger picture of things over how and why things were taking place in the world of the series. Had this been animated close to or well after this title's manga source material was complete, then Attack on Titan could have been better in its quality and not leave you hanging over what was going on.
Last updated Saturday, September 28 2013. Created Saturday, September 28 2013.
(All episodes watched):
ShinKyo was without doubt the most exciting anime and the one which I most looked forward to during the Spring/Summer 2013 season. The only problem: it never really went anywhere. I felt shortchanged at the end, when in return for all the attention, all the concentration, and all the loyalty I had devoted to it, it ended so inconclusively.
Episode one did what an episode one is supposed to do, which is leave me intrigued. Early on, this show seemed like it would be all about wild action but with little substance otherwise; the premise seemed kind of bizarre and hard to take seriously, too. But ShinKyo did a good job of shaping up afterwards. We are introduced to a number of likeable and believable characters, which suggested that a sophisticated plot lay ahead. This show is rich with detail whereas many shows don't tell us anything more than the absolute minimum we need to know in order to follow the plot. Man-eating giants make perfect sense when this much care is taken. Everything these people had taken for granted comes crashing down when the Titans breach the city walls, which they had been taught were invulnerable by the will of God himself. A genuinely chilling scene, something that is all too rare in 'action' shows, ends the opening episode. Where will things go from here? I wanted to know.
This show really knows how to 'play' it's viewers—that is, how to manipulate our emotions in order to get the desired effect. There is something both repulsive and fascinating about creatures who apparently have no goal in life but to devour humans (even though they don't have to in order to survive). What sort of death could be more demeaning than to be swallowed like an anchovy by a creature with a stupid grin on it's face? The Titans are human enough to hate for being evil, but not human enough to get much of a sense of victory if you manage to kill one, which only makes them even more invulnerable. The humans use compressed gas powered mobility suits to give them a chance of striking the Titans' Achilles heel (the back of the neck, for some reason) with a chance of success and survival. Given that the remainder of human technology consists of a mix of swords and primitive muzzle-loading cannons and muskets, this doesn't make complete sense, but this is most certainly the way action is supposed to be done—agile, well animated, and most important of all, a matter of real people who we have gotten to know putting their lives on the line, not nameless nobodies who we couldn't care less about.
One factor that allows ShinKyo to play with our emotions is that the plot takes a decidedly unpredictable course. Things which you would think were impossible take place, and the storyline is weird enough that that in this alternate world such things might just happen. I swear, watching episode eight made me feel that this show was better than every other show this season combined. Events took a totally bizarre turn, which had no scientific explanation whatsoever, but it is done in such an awesomely cool manner that I was eating it up. The terror is palpable, there's a roller coaster ride of action and danger, and the end result is cathartic. This show really knows how to shake your faith in the established norms of anime storytelling, but doesn't quite go too far, and become seriously disturbing. Other than the preview of episode nine, I really had no idea where the story would go next, in a good way. This was an all-too-rare anime episode in which I prayed wouldn't end. ShinKyo at this point seemed far and away the best series of the season. In most shows there would neither be any need nor would I have any inclination to try to figure out exactly what's going on, since that would be so shallow and simplistic. But this is a neat show which kept us guessing, and guessing is fun.
Perhaps the first sign of trouble with ShinKyo was that the claims which were being made about the capabilities of the Titans were getting hard to believe. For example, they may even be able to vanish into thin air? That's going to be hard to explain. I could only hope that some sort of semi-plausible explanation for the amazing abilities would be forthcoming at some point, because it would be a massive cop-out if it wasn't. The show was sort of making a deal with us: 'Get excited now, and we'll provide an explanation that justifies your excitement later'. But it never did; instead of us gradually making sense of the mystery of the Titans, and presumably getting closer to some secret that would enable humans to defeat them, we seemed to be falling farther and farther behind. More and more unanswered questions were piling up. The show was racking up a tremendous debt which it apparently had no intention of repaying.
In the first half or so, the bizarre twists which came about intrigued me and left me wanting to know more; with time, however, they became increasingly frustrating, partly because I was losing my confidence that this stuff would ever make sense, and partly because it didn't look like the cast cared why the strange things had happened or was making much of an effort to find out why. It got to the point where characters were casually drawing irrational, even absurd conclusions; and while I was previously prepared to suspend belief and accept whatever bizarre laws of physics and biology seemed to be in effect in this alternate world, I had reached a point where my credulousness was strained to the breaking point. I couldn't help feeling that the plot had overstepped itself and didn't really care whether it made sense anymore. But this show was still so cool that it could apparently do even that without losing much popularity!
Episodes 20-21 will probably mark the point at which I lost track altogether of whatever logic was behind the plot of this show. It almost seemed as if everything which has happened in the series up until this point has been cast away and an even more bizarre (if that is possible) plotline had replaced the original one. The Titans go from mindless beings that just like to gobble up whatever humans they can get their hands on into clever, scheming people who might just be able to outsmart the humans--especially since the growth of their intelligence seems concurrent with a drop in that of the humans. Could this be the all too familiar point at which an anime overtakes a manga, and since there's no longer any pre-established plot to adapt, the anime is authorized to invent one of its own? I was getting angry at the way ShinKyo 'played' its viewers; it infuriates and bewilders us, but has gotten us so addicted that we wouldn't think of quitting watching. And apparently it knows this, and is now patronizing us. It throws us a crumb now and then, when the humans manage to kill some minor Titans, or injure a major one. But the humans keep failing, and failing, and failing. It makes our blood boil and we want revenge, but that seems less and less likely to ever happen. Maybe it's all a clever move to build things up for an incredibly cathartic conclusion; or maybe somebody doesn't realize that there are limits to the patience of even an ShinKyo viewer. Even a show as smooth as this one can't do this forever. I can't help feeling that the message which the writer(s) are sending us at this point is 'The Titans can do anything; go f--- yourself'!
The whole 57th Expedition Beyond the Walls arc pretty much ends not with a bang but a whimper. Little if anything was accomplished; apparently no major realizations have been made which would make sense of the inexplicable abilities of the Titans. No, things have only gotten more inexplicable, since another crop of counter-intuitive Titan capabilities have been discovered. We are left farther from the truth, not closer to it. If it isn't obvious, my assumption had been that this series would take a two-pronged approach, mixing exciting action and a gradual unraveling of the secrets behind the Titans. But while there has been plenty of the former, little or no progress has been made towards the latter. At the end it feels like we have been thrown a cheap thrill instead of any of the real answers which I had assumed would be forthcoming some day. Not only has almost every question that arose during the series gone unanswered, now we're handed yet another one, about a supposed conspiracy within the walls? You would think that someone would have figured out by now that we are not in the mood for more of that. It's hard to believe that a show which began so well could end in such an unsatisfying, patronizing manner. I can only guess that the manga was so popular that somebody felt an anime had to be rushed out ASAP, even if no good ending point had yet come about. Surely there will be additional seasons, and surely I will watch them, but my expectations will never again be as high as they once were.
Last updated Sunday, October 27 2013. Created Friday, April 19 2013.
|Official Japanese Series Web Site