“On that day mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the Titans and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls.”
The sole population of humanity lives a life of secure solitude in a middle ages like walled city. All due to our species greatest foe. The Titans. Massive humanoid ogres whose sole purpose is to devour and destroy all in their paths. As the entire population fights a desperate battle for survival, many youths and orphans, without many options, join the military. The main plot follows Eren Yeager, whose father disappeared, and mother was devoured by Titans after a wall breach. He has since vowed to destroy the Titans by any means necessary. He’s joined by his stoic adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their childhood friend, Armin Arlert. A few faceless soldiers against impossible odds and entangled in forces within their supposedly safe haven they cannot possibly imagine…
Attack On Titan began as a published Manga by author Hajime Isayama in 2012, slowly gaining a following until receiving international acclaim since last year. Adapted into Anime form, with a big budget live action adaptation in the works. The series becoming one of the most popular shows streamed on Netflix and further cementing audiences in the west. Several spin-offs and video games have been released in Japan that will no doubt get international release. Fox’s animated block ADHD did a parody cartoon specifically about the show. Attack On Titan even being featured in a Subaru commercial that went viral just a few weeks ago.
What is it about this series that has given it such a wide appeal? Boiled down, Attack On Titan can be pitched as Pacific Rim meets Game Of Thrones. Humanity must band together to fight against massive, monstrous foes, but our greatest enemy might be manmade corruption and hubris. For while the obvious enemies are outside the walls, a sinister element within the kingdom slowly begins to unfurl. And without spoilers, much like GOT, AOT is not afraid to kill characters off, adding a darker realism to a fantastical show.
The Titans themselves are horrendous sights to behold. Each one unique, like a giant man eating snowflake. The more plot-centric Titans receiving names describing their appearance, such as the gigantic and fleshless Colossal Titan or the nigh invulnerable Armored Titan. Almost all Titans rooted firmly in the uncanny valley. They’re humanoid in appearance and structure, but something about their faces in particular is so… off, it’s hard to look at them too hard. Especially while they messily gobble up masses of soldier fodder and civilians.
The giants are extremely tough, even the lesser Titans able to shrug off cannon fire. Their only known major weakness being a spot on the back of their necks, leading to humans creating an aerial parker like martial art and weapon called Vertical Maneuvering Equipment. Creating some truly gorgeous scenes of soldiers attempting to hook on and slay the beasts.
The wide and diverse cast of characters sets it above and beyond most giant monster stories. Though Eren is the main protagonist, we do get to see a lot of perspectives from within the military. Many young people with nowhere else to go. Such as the jaded Jean Kirstein, who comes to blows with Eren and only joined the military so he can climb rank into the notoriously corrupt police force. The cold and aloof Annie Leonhardt graduated with top honors and wants to use her abilities to help slay titans. The main arc with Eren is one of the driving forces of the story as he seeks revenge on the entire Titans species, putting his friends at risk. These being a few of the young soldiers enlisted, but each with a story to tell.
The horror aspect of the series is definitely one of the main factors for its success. The despair of facing a seemingly unstoppable enemy, driving the conflict to the extreme. The very inception of the series sprang from when the author worked at an internet cafe and was attacked by a customer who would not relent. Hajime realized one of the simplest and primal fears is the incomprehensible. Facing someone who cannot be understood nor can understand you. This is evident in the first episode alone as the Titans raid the city and decimate the army and populace. They cannot be reasoned with, in great numbers they cannot be fought, they have placed humanity a rung lower on the food chain. There is more than enough gore to be shown as humans are devoured or torn asunder by the monsters.
This is just scratching the surface of a series that is slowly growing into a titanic international franchise. The manga is available in stores and the anime is available to stream on Netflix and Crunchyroll.