Friday, July 12, 2013

My Thoughts on: Attack on Titan

In recent years, I've been longing for the Kaiju Giants to make the return to the big screen, such as Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, etc... We've haven't seen a Japanese Kaiju film since 'Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy,' or as it's know , a worthy 43rd anniversary ofUltraman series back in 2009. Before that Cloverfleid in 2008. We could argue that films like Monsters and Troll Hunter apart of the 'Kaiju genre' but nothing has really scratch that ich, and with Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim just around the corner, and a new 'Godzilla' in the works, my slightly niche needs are finally being met.

With that said my needs have been catered for in Manga and Anime for a while now, and I've been sitting here literary kicking myself for not coming up with the premise for 'Attack on Titan,' otherwise known as 'Shingeki no Kyojin' (). A heavily stylized show where humanoid creatures called Titans have forced humanity to retreat into a system of concentric Walls, and cower in there 'cage' while Titans 'rule' the Earth.

You have no idea how much that appeals to me as a writer. Its a script which has elements of humanity at it's lowest, pointing out there flaws and kaiju elements. Genius!

But with that said does 'Shingeki no Kyojin' live up to it's premise?

Just as side-note this should really be called "My 'Early' Thoughts on: Attack on Titan." As at the time of writing there are only twelve episodes of the Anime and ten volumes of the Manga available. I'm currently on episode ten of the Anime and haven't started reading the Manga yet, so this won't be a full 'review'.

"The Story Starts Off With The Potential To Be A Thought Provoking Piece On The Down Fall Of Civilization, But Quickly Show Its True Colours "

We follow Eren Jaeger, an idealistic and impulsive young man, who after the Titans breach the outmost wall and lay waste to the town witness his mother meet her end at the hands of a Titan. From that moment onwards Eren vows to "erase their existence from this world." Eren soon enlists into the military along with his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman, and close friend Armin Arlert.

While goofy at times, the show is genuinely unsettling. Everything from the design of the Titans to the way they move is slightly disturbing. There design encapsulates the fear and threat of the Titans, perfectly. And there something symbolic about the biggest threat the human race is facing is a race of humanoid creatures. Something along the lines of "I think it's man's nature to go to war and fight."

The story starts off with the potential to be a thought provoking piece on the down fall of civilization, but quickly show its true colours as a revenge story featuring giant monsters which in its self is fine. Around episode nine the show slowly becomes a text book 'Battle-Manga' where the main character finds that he has a special gift to fight the Titans with. At least before this revelation it was an unconventional 'Battle-Manga' along the lines of Neon Genesis Evangelion. I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed but the show never pretends to be thought provoking piece, but I would also be lying if I said I wasn't pumped full of excitement at the set pieces featuring the Titans.

These set pieces are where Shingeki no Kyojin's Kaiju roots come alive, as the slow methodical Titans make their way through the city wreaking havoc and leaving only death in the wake. The cinematography during these moments is fantastic, giving a good sense of scale and context to the larger creatures and depicting the insignificant of the human characters. Along with the amazing score by Hiroyuki Sawano ( ), also known for his work on Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (UC(), define these set pieces with adrenaline pumping pace.

The main theme "Guren no Yumiya" ( ) by Linked Horizon also gets a special mention for being so, for the lack of a better word, epic.

Sadly there isn't much to say on the sound design other than its serviceable, the sounds of the 'Titans' and the '3-D Maneuver Gear' are as you would aspect. But the sound never encapsulates the sense of destruction and confusion of an attack and relies on the Sawano's music a little too much.

Going back to "a revenge story featuring giant monsters" this is where the biggest flaw with the show becomes apparent. None of the main characters, apart from Mikasa, are that interesting. That's not to say there not interesting at all, it just that the entire main cast can fit into the generic cardboard 'Anime' archetypes. Mikasa is the only main character to barely escape her archetype by have some interesting redeemable qualities, otherwise she would fall into the quiet, mysterious archetype with the dark past. There are a few side-characters that have some remember-able quirks but beyond that the star of the show ends up going to the Colossal 'skinless' Titan. Who sends most of the series menacingly standing at the edge of the wall overlooking the destruction.

The animation quality seems 'fragmented' at times. For the most part the animation is defined, and bold. You can feel the weight, or the lack of weight, within a scene. As Titans rip through stone walls and take a cannon ball to the shoulder. It's engaging. While at other times it's static, but this is a common practice within the genre, it's still immersion breaking.

Ultimately, 'Shingeki no Kyojin' left me a little conflicted. As I said, I'm currently on episode ten of twelve and the series is ongoing so I can't defiantly say whether this is worth your time or not. For the most apart, I had a good time with 'Shingeki no Kyojin' I found it weirdly engaging but it wasn't without its flaws. None of the main characters stuck with me, other than the Titans. The Sound design is lacking and mentionable at best. The animation is at times defined and full of character while at other times it seems static. I can't recommend this to everyone, but if you're interested in Kaiju films, or unconventional 'Battle-Mangas' such as Evangelion it's worth a watch.
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