Sunday, September 6, 2015

Attack on Titan Season One Anime Review

Attack on Titan Season One
Shingeki no Kyojin
Funimation
Complete Collection - 8 discs
625 minutes - 25 episodes +
$49.98 (2014) Parts 1-2/ea. DVD/Blu-Ray
$89.98 (2014) Parts 1-2/ea. DVD Blu-Ray Limited Edition
ISBN 704400072611
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Tetsuro Araki
Studio - Wit Studio/Production I.G

Synopsis: The Titans appeared and humanity was almost wiped out.  Giant, human-like creatures with little intelligence they scoured the world and devoured humans wherever they could find them.  They were utterly relentless and nearly indestructible, pushing humans to the brink of extinction.  Only the construction of a city guarded behind a series of enormous walls could keep the Titans out.  The last remnants of humanity reside behind the safety of their walls as the Titans roam freely through the world.  It has been 100 years since the last time a Titan has been within the walls.
A massive Titan appears outside of Wall Maria, Shinganshina district
The three walls are called Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina.  Those who live in the innermost walls are more wealthy and safer from the Titans.  The army trains and defends against the Titans, but those stationed within the walls act more as police.  Only the Scout Regiment goes outside of the walls and face the Titans to secure supplies from open land.  They typically sustain heavy casualties and can be both revered and hated depending on the success of their missions.  Eren Yaeger and Mikasa Ackermann, his adopted sister, are both watching as the Scout Regiment returns from outside of Wall Maria when a massive Titan appears outside of the wall.
From left: Mikasa, Eren, and Armin
The Titan is skinless and even taller than the massive walls (while most Titans are much smaller than the walls).  It is a terrifying, abnormal Titan and manages to kick open an outer gate allowing the smaller Titans to get inside Wall Maria.  The humans are frozen in fear as they watch the Titans begin devouring people.  It is a massacre as the Titans wreak havoc within the wall and people desperately flee to the inner Wall Rose.  Eren, Mikasa, and their friend Armin somehow manage to survive, but not without witnessing the true horror of the Titans.  Both vow revenge and sign up for the army when they come of age.
The omni-directional gear gives humans the enhanced agility necessary
to battle the Titans
Now the friends are army trainees learning to use special equipment for avoiding the Titans.  These include the omni-directional mobility gear which is a special harness utilizing metal cables, grappling hooks, motors, and compressed air.  It allows soldiers to swing through cities or dense forests quickly to avoid capture by the slower Titans.  The harnesses are difficult to operate and the trainees have their work cut out for them.
Eren joins the army to get revenge on the Titans for eating his mother.  His
singular drive makes him an adept soldier
It is revealed that Titans are vulnerable in the napes of their necks.  Specially designed blades with increased hardness/sharpness are used which can pierce the Titans' thick skin.  The trainees learn to maneuver and operate the harnesses while developing pin-point accuracy with their slashes.  It's incredibly grueling training and a few star trainees rise to the top.  Eren's fervor and enthusiasm for getting revenge on the Titans drives him harder than most recruits.  Mikasa's unnatural skill and calmness make her stand out from the others.  Their greatest opponents will be the abnormal Titans who are different from the more predictable and slow regular Titans.  The Colossal Titan is an abnormal type, but many others exist with less significant differences.  They are the most deadly Titans.
Facing the Titans is truly horrific and many soldiers lose their nerve
The recruits believe themselves to be ready to fight the Titans and are assigned to various groups within the military.  Some selfish recruits want to join the military police behind the safety of the innermost walls.  Other, braver recruits like Eren choose the Scout Regiment at the front lines of this war for humanity's survival.  Will they truly be ready to confront the unbridled horror of the Titans?  How can they possibly stand up to these unnatural, unique Titans like the one that breached Wall Maria years ago?  They will be eaten alive if they fail.
Eren finally gets to confront the Colossal Titan that breached Wall Maria
five years ago, but can he defeat such an abnormal beast?
Pros: Intense story with a lot of twists and turns, Eren is a great protagonist with an indomitable will (even when he's getting chewed on by a Titan), lots of interesting characters among the army troops, Mikasa is a badass, the Titans are simultaneously ridiculous and horrifying, doesn't pull any punches with graphic and violent deaths, omni-directional gear makes for dynamic action sequences, same director as Death Note, can't wait for Season Two!
Another abnormal Titan appears which seems to be attacking the other Titans
Cons: A lot of questions left unanswered at the end of the series, art style can be a little rough (dark black outlines of shapes and feels really sketchy), the omni-directional gear is total impossible in real life, only two expensive Blu-Ray/DVD combo sets are currently available (Funimation's got to milk it), long multi-episode story arcs without much happening, can't wait for Season Two!
The army manages to capture two small Titans for study.  Don't get too close!
Mike Tells It Straight: This series was highly recommended by several friends and it lived up to the hype.  I think Attack on Titan (AoT) is the most popular manga and anime series of this decade.  The anime is based on the ongoing manga series by Hajime Isayama and this first season of the anime covers almost through the eighth volume.  Isayama's art is rough and highly stylized showing his relative inexperience as a professional manga artist (an AoT one-shot was his first official work in 2006).  He's been criticized pretty heavily for having poor artwork (although it's gotten better as the series has progressed), but there's something to be said about how creepy he can draw Titans.
Mikasa ends up being one of the most skilled soldiers against the Titans
The animation style is modeled after the manga with heavy line work, especially around the silhouettes of the figures.  It looks pretty unique among other series and gives a rougher edge to the show.  The creepy Titan faces are replicated splendidly and most of them look ridiculous while perpetrating horrific acts on the hapless humans they catch.  Some may not like the animation style due to the 'rough outlines', but it didn't bother me at all.  Let's get this straight - the omni-directional gear is pure fiction and could never function in real life.  It requires some major suspension of disbelief, but gives us interesting action sequences and some plot elements (like when the group is running low on pressurized air canisters).
The Scout Regiment finds an abnormal female Titan
It's an intense series and the end of the first episode really sets the tone.  Eren watching his mother being eaten by a Titan was utterly monstrous.  We immediately know the stakes are real and losing to the Titans means getting eaten alive.  We're introduced to a cast of characters as Eren, Mikasa, and Armin go through anti-Titan training with the omni-directional gear.  When the series hits the first major story arc (The Struggle for Trost) the stakes are high and the death toll is higher.  Talk about suspense and plot twists!  Probably the best thirteen episodes of an anime series I have seen in a long, long time (coming in second is the first season of Knights of Sidonia).
Many of the Scout Regiments' missions end up like this due to the sheer
power of the Titans and weakness of the omni-directional gear in open land

There are two opening and ending theme songs in this first season and I found the ending themes to be more enjoyable.  The opening themes tried too hard to be 'marching' or 'military' themes, but just weren't very catchy.  Knights of Sidonia does the exact same thing with infinitely better results (thanks to a great artist like Angela and a nice bass line).  The ending themes were both catchy and appropriate.  Hopefully the success of this first series will allow the producers to find better songs for the second season themes!
Eren and Mikasa meet Captain Levi, rumored to be the best anti-Titan soldier
I can't recommend this series enough to friends and anime viewers in general.  It's the anime equivalent to a page-turner novel and keeps the viewers attention throughout.  The plot twists are really good and the stakes are high - any character can die at any time it seems.  The Titans are absurd while completely deadly at the same time.  Sure, the second half of the first season is not as good as the first half, but the story still has lots of gas left to run its course.  I don't recommend this show to younger viewers due to graphic content (I'd say it's okay for teenage viewers at the earliest).  I'm really looking forward to the second season when it comes out.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and thanks for reading my review!

Two abnormal Titans fight each other!

TO BUY and Recommendations: