Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan): Episode 1 Review
I don't want to say I have a love-hate relationship with anime. After all, in addition to liking things that are actually, you know, decent, I'm a connoisseur of all things awful, so even the absolute worst in anime is sure to delight me in one way or another. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I enjoy anime, either -- I'm slowly working my way through Dragonball Kai, I still hold both Guyver anime series to be the height of what I am looking for when it comes to anime, and I'm pretty sure I've seen more episodes of Sailor Moon that most men -- so one couldn't even say that I hated it in that particular fashion. It might be better, in fact, to say that I have a love-meh relationship with anime.
The last anime series that I purchased with my hard-earned money was the Guyver tv series from 2005. Prior to that, the last anime series I had really gotten in to was s-CRY-ed and that was in 2004. Prior to that, it was Soultaker. And prior to that? Well, I really couldn't tell you. It might have been Gundam Wing, back when I was in high school. So, yeah, we're talking a span of around six years where I didn't watch much anime at all. At some point after I graduated college, I picked up a complete set of Evangelion on DVD, but that wasn't anything new for me; the VHS tapes were sitting on a shelf in my mother's house at the time and I wanted a replacement, plus I had a ridiculous coupon at some online site so I got it for dirt-cheap.
The point is, I may latch onto an anime series now and then, but after I have my fill, I'm good for a long time. At the same time, in order to become one of those anime series that I do latch on to, you have to be good. And for me to search out a show that hasn't even been translated for US release yet? You have to be very, very good.
Without beating around the bush, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) seems to be very good.
It's hard to tell if this will pan out, of course. As of this writing, I've watched only two episodes. But I liked those two episodes a lot (spoilers for my opinions in both this review, and the next one, I guess). So much so that I'll certainly continue watching, because the two episodes I watched were just setting the stage for what I have heard is some truly crazy stuff down the road.
Episode 1: To You, 2,000 Years in the Future: The Fall of Shiganshina (1)
Oh, you gotta love anime and their ridiculous episode titles.
In the year 845, humanity is the weaker species. A series of beings named Titans, huge creatures ranging from around 9 to 30 feet tall, seem to exist for no other reason than to hunt humanity and eat them. To protect themselves, the remaining million humans left have built 160 foot tall walls to protect themselves and, for a hundred years, the Titans have been kept at bay.
The series starts up by introducing us to Eren and his adoptive sister, Mikasa. Their relationship is not spelled out in the first or seconds episodes, but I can't imagine this is much of a spoiler; Mikasa lives with Eren and his parents in the district of Ziganshina. Eren's father is a doctor whom the townsfolk seem to respect for reasons not yet explored and as the series begins, he is taking a boat elsewhere (also for reasons unexplored). We also meet Hannes, a member of the guard who watches the walls, a task that seems to be little more than an excuse for people to sit around doing nothing. The belief that Titans are no threat because a breach of the walls is impossible is the prevailing attitude. Being the first episode of an anime series (and the fact that the opening credits show battles with Titans occurring in town), it's pretty obvious that this complacency will be a problem for our main characters.
Eren dreams of joining the Survey Corps, a group of soldiers who venture outside the walls to try to find a way to defeat the Titans. Eren is intent on joining the Corp even when they return to the city utterly decimated. While life inside the walls is a peaceful one, venturing outside the walls to do battle with the Titans is pretty much a suicide mission and, the Corps is well aware that they are dying for no reason. The captain of the Corps admits as much to the mother of a fallen soldier when he tells her that they never find anything of worth on their quest.
Upon returning home, Mikasa tattles on Eren to their mother that he wants to join the Corps. As one can expect, she's not too keen on her son signing up to go off and die and she forbids him from doing so. The two get into an argument and Eren flees his home, Mikasa taking off after him.
It's at this point that everything goes to hell, as one might expect. Something falls from the sky and lands outside the wall. It turns out to be a 200-foot tall Titan, one that kicks a hole in the wall and lets all the regular sized beasts into the city to wreak havoc. A piece of the wall lands on Eren's home and his mother is crippled by a concrete block. Eren and Mikasa try to save her but they're just children. The arrival of Hannes gives them hope that they can save her, but within seconds a Titan shows up and, although he initially plans to fight the Titan and save them, Hannes chickens out, grabbing the children and running off. As the episode ends, Eren witnesses a Titan snapping his mother's body like a rag doll and eating her in a fountain of blood.
I'm intrigued, I'll say that much. Much of the back-story is left unexplained at this initial juncture and I find myself curious about pretty much everything, which is certainly a good way to hook a viewer in. The animation, for the most part, is nice and fluid, although occasionally scenes are rendered as off-color static images in a move that is really distracting and obviously there because TV shows have to have budgets. The character designs for the humans and the Corps are good. I'm less sure how I feel about the Titans. With the exception of the Colossal Titan who doesn't seem to have an epidermis, the Titans look basically the same: gigantic naked humans lacking genitalia. Some of them, like the ones with sharp teeth and Glasgow Smiles, are pretty terrifying. A lot of them, however, look...well...they look like people with Down's Syndrome. It's off-putting but not in the right way. It's kind of hard to take them seriously, even when they are eating people.
Despite a few stumbling points, I enjoyed my time with Attack on Titan and I'll be sure to share my thoughts on future episodes. If you'd like to watch along, the show is streamed on both Funimation and on Crunchyroll, linked below.