Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Attack on Titan

Think this is from papermoon2.tumblr.com

After about 14 years of telling my niece what to watch, read or listen to (she is 17 now, and I've been trying to get her to like the stuff that I liked, mostly unsuccessfully, since she was three), I find myself on the receiving end. And it's a strange feeling.

It's this show called Attack on Titan - Shingeki No Kyojin. I started watching it out of a sense of duty as a result of my niece's nagging. I watched the first episode. It was OK. But it's an anime - and I never really liked anime. The last one I ever watched was Sabre Rider and the Star Sheriffs, back at the dawn of  Star TV.
So, back to Shingeki No Kyojin (SNK). The first episode was OK, but then, the second episode really kicked things up a notch.
The premise is straightforward. Sometime in the future (technically, the past), all humanity has been driven into an unnamed area the size of France, ringed by three huge concentric walls, hiding from man-eating giants called the titans. For about a hundred years, the titans have been content to snack on people outside the walls, but one day, a 60-meter colossal titan this guy shows up, and breaks a hole in the outermost wall, letting the smaller titans in. The titans kill and eat people - and they eat the hero's mom. The hero is a shouty 11-year old who escapes into the area within the second wall, along with his adopted sister (badass mary sue stoic action girl) and best buddy (nerdy weakling genius) and swears revenge. he decides to join the army to fight the titans.
But its not a "You killed my mother, prepare to die" kind of deal. There are loads and loads of characters - because people keep dying. You aren't really sure about which characters to like, because they have such a short shelf life.
The anime's first season has 25 episodes.
  1. Episodes 1-2: Set-up, main characters introduced, people die, first titan attack
  2. Episodes 3-4: More characters, training montage, character development
  3. Episode 5-8: Second titan attack, people die, WHAM episode 1
  4. Episode 9-13: People die, The first time the titans are defeated, and the introduction of the recon corps
  5. Episode 14-16: Interlude, more about the recon corps
  6. Episode 17-22: Introduction of the season's big bad, people die in droves
  7. Episode 23-25: Unmasking the big bad, defeating the big bad, WHAM episodes 2 & 3 (finale stinger)
It took me time to get to like the show. Did I mention that the hero is a shouty little shit? He is a shouty little shit. And his best friend is a snivelling little shit. the only person who seemed a decent character was his half sister, who kicked ass. but luckily, there's enough deft world building to take your attention away from the three primary characters, because they cant really carry the early part of story by themselves. for example, in the first couple of episodes, the titans breach the outermost wall, and pour in into human territory. Theres a massacre, and then there's a general exodus into the area within the second wall, which leads to a food crisis. In response, the powers-that-be get almost every able bodied adult immigrant and sends them out to retake the lands of the first wall. These guys are poorly trained and poorly armed and get eaten almost to the last man. The food crisis eases a bit after that.
The shouty little shit (though he does get slightly better) And this guy is the weepy little shit
All this is sketched out, quite deftly, in the first couple of episodes. The fact that the three kids, are left alone in a big city, without much hope, having to stand in long lines for a little bread, along with thousands of other kids, also goes some way to make the principals more likable. Armin (the weepy shit) is luckier than the other two, his grandfather makes it to the second wall refugee camp. The grandfather does what he can, but he gets pulled into the mission to take the first wall from the Titans and dies. The kids spend their next two years working in a landfill, before they become old enough to join a military training camp. And that's where things really start to pick up.
The next two episodes are there to flesh out some of the characters. Eren (shouty little shit), stays shouty, but becomes a little better. Mikasa, the badass, becomes even more badass, and progresses to her God-mode Suehood. And Armin, still remains - well - unlikable, though he shows hints of possibility.
One thing that you notice straightaway. The women in the show kick ass. I'm about as sexist and patriarchical as they come, but there is something to be said about a show where the most interesting people are the women. There's Mikasa, tough, stoic and badass - and flawed. There's Ymir, unreliable, mysterious and sardonic, with her own agenda. There's ditzy scientist Hange Zoe, who can fight with the best of them. There's Sasha Blouse, a backwoods hick who eats - and farts - a lot. There is quiet, cynical action girl Annie Leonhardt - who is probably my favourite character since Buffy.
Among the guys, there's Reiner Braun, a big blonde dude whose built up as a natural leader and mostly nice guy. There's Bertoldt Hoover, a gentle giant whose specialty seems to be sweating silently. There's Jean Kirchsten, who has the hots for Mikasa and hates Eren's guts because she only has eyes for him. There's Marco Bodt, genuinely sweet and innocent and Connie Springer, a not-so-bright loudmouth kid.
So after the character-establishing training-montage episodes, the colossal titan reappears and shit goes down. BIG TIME.
By the time you come to the end of the season, there are so many questions left unanswered.
  1. Who are the titans, where do they come from?
  2. Why do they only eat humans (they ignore animals) when they don't even have a fully formed digestive system?
  3. Why are some titans abnormal?
  4. Are there human habitations outside the walls? (its hinted there are)
  5. Why are books banned?
  6. Who is the mysterious king?
  7. Who are the armoured and colossal titans? Are they shifters too?
The animation is choppy - but not in a bad way, there are some scenes that flow beautifully, and some scenes that are barely animated, but it works. In the middle, we have stills - slides explaining strategy or providing background information.
And because i was left wanting for more at the end, I decided to read the manga.

More on that here and here

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