Otaku Thursday – Attack on Titan

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THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THEY KICK YOUR ASS

It’s never immediately clear if a new manga will make it or not. So many never get their breakthrough and even when they do it’s not always easy to point at one thing that caused it. Of course there’s always a few like Attack on Titan, where popularity snowballs so quickly and it gains such wide international reach that you can barely surf the web for more than 5 minutes without running into an Attack on Titan meme.

Why, though? While it has an intriguing story, Attack on Titan is hardly the first manga/anime with this formula. Let’s take a look, shall we?

For those of you who don’t know what Attack on Titan is, welcome to the internet! This is a dark and scary place full of really weird people, but we’re mostly harmless. Mostly.

…Ok, fine, we’ll get back on track. Attack on Titan started life as a manga written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama and was later adapted into an anime. Currently there’s even a live-action movie in the works, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

In the year 743 a group of titans, giant creatures that are 3 to 15 meters tall and look strikingly similar to human beings, appeared out of nowhere and drove humanity almost into extinction. The surviving men built three sets of tall, solid walls surrounding their capital to keep the titans out. A hundred and two years of peace followed, until suddenly a 60-meter titan began attacking the outermost wall. When the wall was broken, other titans entered the city to kill and eat civilians living in that area.

Omnomnomnom

Omnomnomnom

Ten-year-old Eren Jaeger, who witnessed his own mother being consumed by a titan, vowed revenge against the titans and desired to wipe out their existence on earth. He joined the Training Corps that trained people to become soldiers to fight against the titans, and five years later, his first battle with the titans began.

Now, we aren’t totally up-to-date on Attack of Titan. There’s a few chapters of the manga we have yet to read, but as we’re analysing the series as a whole rather than the plot by itself, we feel this won’t cause a problem. Still, be wary of spoilers if you’ve only just started watching or reading.

To understand the series, we must start at the basics. To that end, we looked at what genre of manga/anime AoT actually belongs to. To our surprise, this was shounen. Considering the copious amounts of blood, gore and grisly deaths, we actually figured it would be classified as seinen.

Shounen material is generally aimed at young boys, whereas seinen is aimed at a more mature audience. It can be a bit hard to tell normally as anyone who is at all familiar with anime can tell you that western animation for children features far less violence and blood than its Japanese counterpart. However, there generally are clear differences.

For example, shounen stories are generally not very complicated and feature a young boy on some kind of hero’s journey. Lessons about friendship and working together are often recurring themes. Most important for this discussion, though, is that it’s uncommon for characters to die and stay dead. Seinen series on the other hand often rack up quite the death toll and feature somewhat more complicated plots, where things are far less black and white than in most shounen series.

Why is AoT classified as shounen, then? People die by the dozens any time the Titans attack and generally not in very pleasant ways either. Yes the main character is a teenaged boy, but it still seems odd. Is it the fact that seinen series generally have a fair bit of nudity and sexuality and AoT doesn’t? The titans might be nude, but they also don’t really have genitals.

A likely explanation is that, in the end, shounen and seinen define the intended target audience rather than the contents of the series. You can question if it’s really wise to advertise a show like this to younger kids, but its massive popularity speaks for itself there.

Another obvious reason could of course be the characters. The main trio of childhood friends of Eren, Mikasa and Armin have great chemistry and so far the series has managed to stay away from falling back on standard gender roles. It’s actually fairly rare to see a shounen series in which the male main character is so clearly outclassed by a female character. On that note, there’s almost no fan service either and that’s really rare.

Mikasa is the series’ obvious badass and her loyalty and devotion to Eren are fairly relatable. However, we personally don’t care for Mikasa much. The quiet badass appears so often in anime and manga that it’s become a little annoying and Mikasa does little to stand out from other characters like her.

Compare her to someone like Levi, who gets some of the best action scenes in the series and also has a more interesting personality and you start to wonder why Mikasa gets as much attention as she does. Either way, this isn’t a show where you should get too attached to the characters though. It might not technically be seinen, but it’s certainly got the death toll for it.

Levi, defender of mankind!

Levi, defender of mankind!

Speaking of the action, that’s undoubtedly one of the reasons for the popularity too. The 3d gear the characters use to fight the titans is a really interesting concept and allows for great angles, while still keeping the action up close and personal.

The quality of the story wavers a bit at times, but there’s a lot to like too. Eren is sympathetic enough as a protagonist and we’re fairly certain that nobody was expecting him to be able to turn into a titan himself. The mystery surrounding this ability, his father and the origin of the titans in general will probably make you want to keep reading, even if you don’t particularly like the characters.

Of course, being the type of anime/manga that it is, AoT can also get a bit exhausting. Your favourite characters will be almost constantly in danger and while that is what makes the series engaging, it also wears on you after a while. Attack on Titan is really best read or watched in short bursts.

The series has worked hard not to give away too much just yet and is still intriguing, but that does not mean it’s without problems. The reveal of some of Eren’s friends being the titans that broke the wall is made rather confusing by how ham-handedly is handled and what should be shocking just comes off as nonsensical.

Still, there are enough positive things here to agree that Attack on Titan’s rise was certainly not undeserved. Is it going to surpass some of the most enduring shows in anime like Naruto and One Piece? Probably not, or at least not yet, but it is getting something a little special. A live action movie that, unlike most live action anime movies, actually looks pretty good so far.

We’ll include the teaser trailer below, so be sure to watch it. Not all that much is revealed yet, but we do get a bit of a glimpse of a titan and it looks appropriately horrifying, so we hope they’re on the right track. The movie is currently supposed to come out this year on the 1st of August.

What did you think of the trailer? Is there a character in AoT you never want to die? Let us know in the comments below!

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