Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Review

Attack on Titan, the enormously popular series, which is becoming one of the defining series of this generation, and an absolute must-watch for anyone, even those who do not normally consider themselves fans of the animated medium. 
Attack on Titan, aka Shingeki no Kyojin, is set in an alternate future where the last remnants of humanity are being hunted down by giant humanoid creatures called Titans, whose sole purpose is to devour the human race. To survive, the several thousand that remain, construct massive walls to protect themselves from the Titans. After a colossal Titan breaks down the first wall of defense, Eren Yeager, and his friends Mikasa and Eren escape to the inner walls. Eren swears to destroy all Titans, and to so, he joins the Survey Corps, the front line defense against the Titan menace.

Due to Attack on Titan's ridiculous, albeit well earned, popularity, I have decided to note even my most inconsequential quibbles with the series. But rest assured, aside from one truly notable flaw, I bring up these minor issues because I like it so much. Most other series do not even deserve such effort, and examination. 

The Good: Flawless production values, Best action sequences ever animated, Solid character development, Best opening ever, Armin and Mikasa are standouts, Nonexistent plot armor, Strong voice cast on both sides, Mind-blowing animation, Incredible soundtrack, Titans are legitimately terrifying at times, Action with consequence, High death count, Suspenseful at times, Perfect direction, Understandable character motivations, No fanservice, Wide appeal, Near perfect opening episodes, Sense of desperation,

The Bad: Problematic pacing, A few nitpicking issues,

Plot: 9.7/10- Conceptually, Attack on Titan's plot is incredibly well realized. The world it creates is well crafted with plenty of world building, while also not having an overload of exposition. Tonally, the series is almost like a war series with sci-fi and fantasy elements featuring many of the same themes and issues discussed in the war genre.

One aspect that Attack on Titan does better than anything else is *Possible Spoiler* how it builds up the viewer's hopefulness and then completely crushes it in a shocking manor. *End Spoiler*
The series uses the multiple episode story arc format in its narrative, with main story arcs in this first season. This format is both a positive and negative because most episodes end with an incredibly painful cliffhanger. Watching the series on television at first, and then marathoning each half when the Blu-Ray was released. I got a taste of both sides of the viewing experience, and I can definitely say that marathoning the series in large portions mitigates most of the pacing issues. If you marathon it, you might not even notice the pacing problems.

Thematically, Attack on Titan is deceptively simple, yet incredibly universal. Ultimately, the Titans can represent any obstacle that a person must overcome in whatever situation he or she is in. Another thematic high point is how the series almost deconstructs the typical shounen themes of "friendship."

Despite the excellent concept, Attack on Titan does have a few minor issues. For one, the pacing is a tad off. One or two episodes almost feel as though they are buying time until the larger plot begins, while other episodes decide to contain mostly flashbacks during the middle of an important battle. That being said, the flashbacks do serve to develop certain characters.
Additionally, the series does have a few problems, which is more nitpicking than anything else. One mystery is setup in the series, and while intriguing at first, it was not particularly difficult for me to figure it out after two episodes of its introduction. Another minor quibble is that, throughout the series, there are moments when the characters either have inner monologues or conversations in slow motion in the middle of a battle. While typical in a shounen series, it is a trope that is not always necessary, at least not in the amount that it was used.

At an early point in the series, I think it could have gone in an even more inventive route than it ultimately took. Also, the series does not have a definitive conclusion. However, the lack conclusion is perfectly fine since the next season is set to air next year.

Characterization: 8.5/10- Attack on Titan has a large cast of likable characters with understandable motivations. What sets Attack on Titan apart from everything else is the death count. Almost anyone can die. It makes even the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones look almost peaceful. However, the series' strong point is how the audience creates an emotional attaches with even the minor characters, thus making the deaths more meaningful. Also, aside from Eren (and maybe Mikasa), few of the characters fall into archetypes.
Eren Yeager is the main protagonist of the series, and while his motivations are adeptly setup, he is a relatively stagnant character during the first half. Aside from the pacing, Eren is the only minor negative of the entire series itself. Compared to the majority of shounen protagonists, Eren is more skillfully realized, yet compared to the high caliber of the rest of the series, or top tier shounen; he is not quite on par.
Mikasa Ackerman is the stoic childhood friend of Eren, and resident bad*ss of the series. She is almost always cool, calm, and collected. Early in the series, Mikasa seemed to be a standout, and even though she did not develop as much as she could have later in the series, she is flawed enough to be believable. Also, her devotion to Eren is admirable.
Armin Arlert is a character that at first seems weak, but eventually grows into a well realized character. He is the brains behind the trio, who uses his quick wit to get them out of tough situations. However, unlike a lot of strategic characters, like Light Yagami or Lelouch Lamperouge, Armin is often timid and terrified (and rightfully so), rather than bombastic and confident, which is a welcome change to my favorite character type. Among the cast, Armin is probably my favorite for being the most humanized and likable of the cast.
While the main cast is mostly fine, it is the side characters like Levi, Sasha, Annie, Jean, and Petra that standout. Even though only Levi receives much development of the supporting cast, they are all surprisingly memorable and likable. Overall, my only nitpick is that with so many characters, the audience never have the chance to attach to individual cast members to the same degree as other iconic anime characters like Edward Elric, Spike Spiegel, or Vash the Stampede. Again, this is a minor nitpicking flaw.

Action: 10/10- Unquestionably, Attack on Titan has the best action of any series ever produced. Only Black Lagoon and a select few even compare to the epic scale and high energy action sequences throughout the series. The characters' 3D-Maneuver-Gear is possibly the coolest device in all of anime, and it is the focal point of the series flawless action sequences. In addition to the insane action, the action is more strategic at times, which is one of my favorite aspects of action. 
TetsurĊ Araki, director of Death Note, Highschool of the Dead, and Black Lagoon, brilliantly crafts the action sequences to not only be visually exciting, but also to serve a purpose in the narrative (most of the time). If I had to nitpick, the series decides to ignore physics at times, yet how exactly is that a negative?

Acting: 9.7/10- In short, both the sub and dub are top notch. For a quick comparison, Eren in Japanese is better than the dub, Armin is better in dub, and Mikasa is roughly the same in both. Funimation spares no expense in casting top notch dub actors even in minor roles. Of course, the Japanese is just as good, albeit harder to critique. Either way you go, there is no wrong choice.

Art Style: 10/10- Wit Studio and Production I.G's animation is mind-blowing. The use of hard black outlines gives the series a unique visual style, as well as accentuating the characters from the background. Most of the character models, at least for the main cast, are virtually flawless with a blend of semi-realism and stylistic design. Even the 3D animation is not a negative at any point, which is rare. Also, there is absolutely zero fanservice.

To nitpick, the series does occasionally use still frames as well as overdoing the fast moving lines on the screen to make things more epic. Another common criticism is that a few of the Titans' faces are more humorous than terrifying, which is often true (Kawaii Titan is hilarious!).

Soundtrack: 10/10- Hiroyuki Sawano's score is virtually flawless. From the perfectly placed insert songs to the epic orchestral themes, the score is always fitting, even if Sawano would continue to use the same rhythmic structure in all future scores. But hey, if it’s not broke, don't fix it.

Humor: N/A- While not void of humor per se, Attack on Titan is a very serious series with occasional moments of well placed humor in between the larger story arcs.

Opening and Ending: 10/10- Attack on Titan's first opening, "Guren No Yumiya" by Linked Horizon, is the best opening of all-time as far I am concerned. The visuals are epic, and the song itself is 100% perfect for building up the viewer's excitement for each episode. Unfortunately, the first opening is replaced at the halfway mark, and while the second one is excellent, it is not on the same level as the first one. Both endings are very fitting the series, with the second being my favorite.
Non-Otaku Appeal: Attack on Titan has already shown a lot of crossover appeal with many who do not normally watch anime, and with the English dub being recently released, the series is even more accessible. It is a must-watch for anyone, providing you can handle the violence.

Entertainment Value: 9.8/10- With the exception of a few episodes, Attack on Titan often has me glued to the screen with the sheer amount of nail-biting suspense and epic action.

Overall: 9.6/10- With near flawless production values, and only a few minor flaws, Attack on Titan’s first season actually lives up to the Titan sized hype, for the most part at least. If you have not seen it, do so as soon as you can, because season two is on its way.

Closing comments: As with anything popular, Attack on Titan is bound to have its fair share of haters. However, compared to a lot of other popular anime, like Sword Art Online (which I enjoyed) or most shounen, Attack on Titan at least has some incredibly strong merits while avoiding most tropes, and if you genuinely did not enjoy the series, that is fine too.

Recommended for: Anyone, Action fans, Fantasy fans, Sci-fi fans, Anime fans, Animation fans,

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Attack on Titan Review by Arvin Saints
Attack on Titan Review by Shena Tokala

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