Steve Thompson is a man of acquired taste and a taste for the curious. In the latest of his cinema obscura findings, he delves into the world of Manga…
Attack on Titan is an animated television series adapted from a popular Japanese comic. It’s a thoroughly unhealthy mash-up of Game of Thrones, Full Metal Jacket, Night of the Living Dead, Spiderman and Jack and the Beanstalk. It has a terrifying disregard for the lives of its characters. It features unexpected twists, death, destruction and dizzyingly choreographed action sequences. And it has one of the catchiest, most bombastic, title sequences you’ll ever see.
In a land of castles and feudalism, all citizens live within a heavily walled city. The thick wall keeps out the ‘Titans’: 15 metre high, naked, sexless, gormless freaks who live to chase and eat humans. The majority of the titans have a European/American appearance. It’s not hard to see Attack on Titan as a metaphor for “bland” Western culture invading Japan.
One sunny day, a new Titan appears. At 100 metres, he stands higher than the wall. When he rudely breaches it, the city finds its streets overrun with these mindless giants, scooping up and devouring the population.
The military’s response to the apocalypse is to rally an army of swordsmen equipped with “3D Maneuvre Gear”. They have the ability to fire cables which spear nearby buildings, allowing them to swing up high enough to deliver a killing blow to the Titan’s neck. It sounds fun, looks impressive, but felling a Titan is difficult. Many soldiers die in the process, every fight infused with grim urgency.
Twists and revelations soon pile-up, changing the war entirely. Despite an eventful story and crazy ideas, viewers will find their pleasure curtailed by pacing issues. While some of the story zips along, on a dime it will turn a corner into lengthy internal monologue, killing the tension. The animation veers between highly detailed energy and simple static images. These mark the points that the production team found their time and budget stretched. But, at its best, the imagination on display is frightening and beautiful.
Character design is strong, with Eren Yaeger, Mikasa Ackerman and Levi particularly worth looking out for. In fact Eren and Mikasa (the main characters) have a back-story so complex and compelling, there’s enough material for several spin-offs. It’s their recruitment into the corps which initially drives the story, but a large supporting cast features several brilliant personalities who zing off the screen.
Attack on Titan is a surprising, nail-biting and only occasionally frustrating show. It skews the well-trodden zombie format into something on a far grander scale. It ratchets up the melodrama to equally dizzying heights and represents a high point for serial television animation.
Attack on Titan is available on DVD from all good retailers.