(Available on Hulu, subtitled)
Spoiler Alert – This review covers the first twelve episodes of the twenty-five available on Hulu. If I say something that is countered in episodes thirteen or higher, keep it to yourself. Also, as I summarize or talk about the highs and lows of this series I might let slip important details that would ruin some people’s enjoyment of the series. If you are one of those, skip down to the part titled “Final Verdict”. By doing this you will avoid me clueing you into the fact that this anime is actually a media tie-in to the movie “Remember the Titans” as well as “Clash of the Titans”. So far, the football team has made Perseus be the waterboy, and Denzel Washington is keeps reciting bible verses and looking cool in his sunglasses. I’m sure it will all make sense in the end. Anime always does.
Summary – Attack on Titan is set on an earth-like world ( it might be Earth) where large carnivorous creatures called Titans have caused what is left of the human race to live behind a series of walls. The Titans are huge dumb naked humanoids without digestive systems or genitalia who seem to exist solely to eat people. This peace, humans in there concentric circles of safety and Titans on the outside, held for one-hundred years. Then a huge Titan appeared and breached the wall and the smaller Titans poured in like senior citizens at an Old Country Buffet. The story follows three survivors of the attack as they join the military and seek to beat back the Titans.
The Good – The story and setting concepts are pretty interesting. I’m not saying it all holds together (this is Anime afterall), but the idea of humans besieged by something they don’t understand has a lot of potential. The ecology of the Titans, how they live, what do they do outside of eating people… clearly does not make any sense and is setting us up for a big reveal of some time. I like that. There seems to be a world and a history at least sketched out, if not fleshed out.
The animation is good, to a point. They use good shading and color on the backgrounds to give the world an ok lived in look. The characters all have some type of distinguishing feature (a scar, a scarf, glasses, realistic hair…) to help you keep them straight. The action scenes are a bit weak, using the still images with lots of crosshatching rather than actual movement at times, but not so much that it detracts.
The primary mode of combat is a harness that shoots out lines then retracts quickly to propel the warrior through the air. It’s a bit like a steam-punk Spiderman set up. It is pretty interesting to watch and makes for good action sequences when they utilize it well, despite its utter implausibility.
The Bad – The humans that lived through the initial onslaught of Titans must be the dumb ones. With a little thinking they could have built much better defenses and created much more effective ways of killing the Titans than they have. Simply living underground would have saved them many of the problems they are having.
The creators of this show have an obsession with showing people’s reaction to horrible events. The camera lingers on their blank faces and open mouths as the character’s eyes,the eyeball not the whole eye, shakes up and down. This is useful once or twice, but when we are treated to every blasted character doing this over and over it gets a bit tiresome.
This show has a character problem. Actually, it has character problems, and we are privy to all of them. The viewer gets to ride along with the character’s innermost thoughts, hopes and fears. This would be good if it were just a few characters or if anybody could be concise. Neither is the case. An endless string of characters gets to inner monolog about how they are not worthy, how they are scared, or how they will overcome their fears and push on for duty. This is tiring. It is not interesting after the five of six times. It brings the story to a dead stop each time it happens. It is the perfect time to take a bathroom break and maybe get a snack.
This show started off with a good pace, moving through episodes one through six with a lot of story and character development. Then came “Attack on Trost” and this thing just stopped moving. It is not to Naruto/One Piece levels of tedium, but it is close. At episode twelve there is promise of story advancement, but I am tentative.
The Other – There is no fan service, but there is quite a bit of gore or other gross images. We get to see our hero in the stomach of a Titan, surrounded by blood and the pieces of other humans. There are a lot of battle carnage images and people getting eaten images. Yeah, no shortage of blood splatter. In a final image to be forgotten, we see that the Titans, since they don’t have digestive systems, puke up wads of people when they get too full. Pleasant.
Final Verdict – The best way to judge a work is whether or not you would watch/read another work by it’s creator. Since this review covers the first half of the series, this should be altered to “will I watch the rest of the series?” I am giving this a qualified yes. I have enough interest to watch more episodes, but if they keep just endlessly blathering on about their exaggerated feelings of inadequacy, I will bail on this series and just go read a wiki to figure out where the Titans came from. They have been warned.