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Attack on Titans Fight Scenes; Realistic?

Updated on September 17, 2017
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives, and has a martial arts background.

After just watching the first season, I became an official Attack on Titans fan. Yes, I jumped into the bandwagon a bit too late. The anime was released more than four years ago, and it’s only now that I fully appreciate its past paced action and brutality. If Dragonball Z is about fun, Naruto about seclusion and Rurouni Kenshin about redemption, Attack on Titans is more on survival (at least that’s how I see it). And rare among Shounen types are the accurate display of human emotion. The big-eyed design of animes did its job well of showing fear, trauma and shock, and not just the usual anger and grief. The anime has it flaws though, but Attack on Titans excelled on something that most TV animations ignored.

The fights look real.

I know that tethering yourself on a gas powered grappling hook and charging with only swords is not the best way to tackle a giant. We will have more of that later on. But what really impressed me is how they staged the hand to hand Titan duel. There are few high flying and rapid exchanges here, and the fights will make an MMA fan and fighters alike smile.

Anime fights are meant to impress

One reason why I love animes because the fights are over the top, so much so that they are outrageous at some point. Well, it is made to impress after all and that’s exactly what Goku and Frieza delivered in DBZ. Their duel blew my mind when they traded punches and kicks (and ki energy), even though they showed very little martial technique.I began to realize that as I grow older and learn martial arts myself. What the two did is to trade rapid kicks and punches most of the time.

One of my favorite anime moments.
One of my favorite anime moments.

Yet over the years some anime series produced some impressively real combat series that rely little on exaggerated moves. A good example is Hajime no Ippo, a sports themed boxing anime.

An example of fine clinching in Hajime no Ippo.
An example of fine clinching in Hajime no Ippo.

Then I came across this anime Attack on Titans.

Okay, their method of giant killing may not be the wisest. And that gas powered gear could potentially kill the user. Do you know that the extreme G-force of cornering while going in high speeds has ill effects on the human body? But we are not here to talk about their 3D maneuvering gear. The creator of Attack on Titans Hajime Isayama is an MMA fan, and he basically turned the Titan combats into animated cage match.

Special Mention; The characters are based from Mixed Martial Artist

We know how the Attack on Titans characters lack the gimmicky design of other anime boys and girls. Missing are the colourful and spiky hair, coloured eyes and funky costumes. They are pure and simple animations without the loud add-ons. And the Titans here are based on actual living fighters. Take for example Eren Yeager’s transformed form. The Rogue Titan’s light and muscular physique was borrowed from the Japanese MMA fighter Yushin Okami.

Yushin Okami, a real life Titan!
Yushin Okami, a real life Titan!

And notice the hulking Armoured Titan’s heavy neck and shoulders? That one came from WWE/UFC champion Brock Lesnar.

The Armoured Titan, and the Beast.
The Armoured Titan, and the Beast.

The fighting stance

Again nothing gimmicky on the character’s fighting stance. No fancy Kung-fu postures or animal forms. Attack on Titans presents the simplest, yet one of the street practical guards in the anime world. Before Attack on Titans, Hajime no Ippo took the throne for the best fighting stance for me. Now it shares the spot with Attack on Titans MMA inspired guard.

The Rogue Titan preparing to brawl.
The Rogue Titan preparing to brawl.

Now the hand positions used by Eren’s Rogue Titan are consistent with what most MMA fighter uses, more like a Boxing/Kickoxing traditional guard. And Annie Leonhart became my favourite female antagonist after she pulled out a traditional Muay Thai stance. You heard it right; we have an anime character here showing the world what a traditional Muay Thai guard looks like.

Annie's stance compared to Shogun's guard.
Annie's stance compared to Shogun's guard.

Kicks and hand attacks

I observe how fights here rarely throw high kicks. High flying kick is a staple of action anime if you want to impress. Attack on Titan broke the tradition and omitted fancy kicks completely. We see kicks here, particularly on Annie’s Female Titan, but again it is rare and plain. This reflects how a fight is played in an MMA bout where fighters timed their kicks to avoid take-downs. As for bare handed attacks, punches are not the only ones used here. When the Titans are locked in a ground and pound, they will exchange hammer fists. We are also seeing some devastating elbow strikes.

And let’s go back to punches.

Eren throwing a nice straight.
Eren throwing a nice straight.

In my opinion it won’t beat Hajime no Ippo when it comes to showcasing punching techniques. I love the Titan’s forms though when they throw punches. And did I mention that Eren’s Rogue Titan has a great hay-maker? And the Titans break their hands when using excessive force, something that could happen in real life. Take it from me who damaged the knuckles after doing prolong bag works.

Grappling and ground works

Annie’s disarming leg sweep sticks to my mind after she did that to Eren. The knife attack is a bit unrealistic but I love the holds and take-downs. And come to think of it, advanced take-downs and grappling are rarely seen in other anime. Again impressing the audience matter and animating a brawl is easier than drawing a complex wrestling scenes frame by frame. Hats-off to the creator of Attack on Titans for giving us the best wrestling scene in the animated world; this is MMA grade grappling we are seeing.

Now that's an arm-bar
Now that's an arm-bar

The take-downs are based from actual cage fights. My favourite is when Eren’s Rogue Titan grapples with the Armoured Titan. The notion that fights end in the ground became clear here. The Titans become entangled in a furious ground fight as the Rogue Titan executes an arm-bar.

Overall assessment

The stances, blows and grapples might be legit, but fights are not completely realistic. After all it is a giant vs. giant duel and they are capable of pulling off some superhuman feats. When Titans collide, we see heads flying, arms getting thorn off, and bodies being tossed. Again it’s not a bad thing as impressing the audience matter, yet the addition of MMA grade fight tactics is the icing on the cake.

Is that a ground and pound?
Is that a ground and pound?

One got to see how they combine blows and grapple here. Exaggerated moves will always be a part of anime, particularly if it’s about an alternate universe. Attack in Titan simply made things a bit real here.


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