Humanity is kept safe by fifty foot tall walls, until the day when a titan larger than the walls themselves shows itself over the top of the walls. But before that, we skip to earlier, while the survey corps are attacking a smaller titan. Cut even earlier, to a fractured dream the main character, Eren, is having. Him and his friend, Mikasa, head back to the city from gathering firewood. While on the way back they notice the guards are drinking. Eren gets mad at one of the guards, Hannes, for not being prepared to defend the city. The guards say that no titan has breached the wall in a hundred years.
Eren and Mikasa go to see the survey corps return, but few of them made it back. An old woman tries to see her son, but all they were able to recover of him was his hand. The captain of the corp breaks down, saying that they haven’t learned anything about the titans. They have no idea where they came from.
The children return home, where Mikasa tells Eren’s parents of his intention to join the survey corps. Eren’s mother forbids him, and his father tells him that they will talk about it when he returns from a trip inland.
Mikasa and Eren save their friend Armin, who is being bullied for saying he intends to leave the city at some point. They talk about how strange it is that nobody is allowed to leave, and that just because the walls haven’t been breached in a hundred years doesn’t mean that they never will be. There is an explosion, and the massive titan appears at the wall. It breaks a hole into the wall and all the smaller titans break into the city.
People start fleeing, Eren and Mikasa run back to Eren’s house, where his mother has been trapped by rubble. They try to free her, but she tells them that her legs have been crushed and even if they do free her she could not run. Hannes shows up, intending to fight the titan coming towards them, but stops short when he comes face to face with the titan. He takes the children and runs. Eren’s mother is picked out of the rubble and eaten by the titan.
Guys…I don’t think this is going to be a very happy anime.
In an attempt to be a little bit more relevant with my anime reviews, I’ve decided to skim the new releases this season and pick out some shows to review. Well, I decided on only one, Attack on Titan. The idea is that if I pick up one new series this season, then once I catch up on all those other series I mean to review then I’ll be good to pick up a lot more come the Summer season. Of course, since I do have a lot I review, or try to review, there’s no guarantee I’ll be continuing this series beyond the first episode. Let’s see if I drop it or keep it shall we?
Well, first off, as I’m sure you could tell, this is a very grim series. Just one episode is enough to tell me that. And while I’m not a fan of series that get to dark or too grim, I can appreciate Attack on Titan for what it does well. Namely, it knows how to use silence. The score gets bombastic when it needs to, but the most effective moments of the episode are those moments when the sheer scale of the titans and their horrific faces are used to convey exactly how horrifying the situation is. No need for massive flairs from the score when the titan looms over the wall. We can see how big those walls are, we can see how big the titan is, we don’t need the score to tell us this is bad news. So the episode lets us absorb the horror without distracting us.
The episode was a slow burn until that final climax. And it worked well, foreshadowing the upcoming tragedy by showing exactly how unprepared the humans are for any kind of attack. Though, I have to wonder, if they are as defenseless agains the titans as they are shown then how in the heck did they manage to build that massive wall without the titans eating them all? I’ve played enough RTS’ to know that building defenses is impossible when you are being attacked by a much more powerful enemy. Or, perhaps their ancestors of a hundred years ago were much bigger badasses than they and could somehow build that wall and fight off the titans.
While the most effective scenes in the episode are the quiet moments, where the sense of dread kept building towards the climax, a few of the performances were a bit too much. Characters constantly yelling at each other, or Eren constantly yelling at everyone else, was a bit much. He feels like a shonen hero trapped in constantly hopeless situation. Which, to an certain extent, he is, so it’s either an interesting take on the shonen hero, or a clumsy attempt at interpersonal conflict where the atmosphere is enough to carry the proper mood for the episode. I think that’s where my disconnect is. The atmosphere works so well for me as a subtle conflict, that any attempts at interpersonal conflict don’t work quite so well.
Since I can’t speak Japanese I’m not the best to comment on the performances of the actors, but Eren and his mother are easily my biggest complaint for this episode. It’s like their seiyuu have only two settings, normal and loud—with no range in between. The reactions are all warranted by the events, but something about the performances just bugged me, like they didn’t belong in this world. Sure, I’d be screaming too if giants were eating my family, but the difference between the characters and the mood of the episode made it difficult not to find this a bit annoying.
I like the overall setting, the design of the houses and clothes is more European than I’m used to with most anime, and since my preferred aesthetic for fantasy is medieval European I quite like this. Though there is that difference in technology levels that a lot of anime fantasy likes to bring in. I assume this is a post apocalyptic setting with humanity regressing from modern times, but it’s so weird to see everyone dressing in clothes and living in houses that look like they came from the fifteenth century, and at the same time having super advanced spiderman cable systems.
I’m not sure if I can continue this series. It has a lot going for it, but the entire point is how horrifying it is to be eaten by giants. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty sure if you made a few changes to the scenario it would qualify as a fetish for someone somewhere. But, that aside, I’m not too keen on dark material. Sure I chose this series because I know a thing or two about it, but I wasn’t entirely sure exactly how dark it would, or could, get. I like the setting, and the idea that this is essentially a zombie series, but with giants, but eventually the excessive tragedy and darkness would distract me from everything I do like. I can definitely see that a lot of people would enjoy this series. But I just don’t think it’s for me. I feel that I at least owe it to the series to watch the second episode, but after that no guarantee.