After watching the new anime “Attack on Titan”, I have been suffering from mild insomnia, having sudden flashback attacks, and lapsing into waking dreams where I’m replaying scenes from the show over and over again in my mind. I feel like I’m suffering a mild form of PTSD. Here’s why.
The premise of the story is pretty simple to start with. Humanity was attacked by creatures known as Titans, basically giant humanoid monsters that eat humans. Driven to near extinction, humans build a massive wall complex that secures a huge section of land safe from the Titans, and they lived for a hundred years peacefully. Of course, that peace doesn’t last, and the Titans break through, and that’s where the story begins.
Pretty simple, common concept, right? Well, like with many ideas, it’s all in the execution.
First of all, there are scary monsters and there are scary monsters. The Titans are SUPER creepy. Not only are they large deformed humans, which is creepy in and of itself, but most have this lumbering walk of a toddler, somewhat like massive zombies. When they find you, they are so happy to see you and have this ridiculous smile plastered on their face, like they just found their favorite toy to rip apart. And some of them have no lips, their smiles peeled back to the tops of their gums like someone who was poisoned with Joker gas.
Next, the way Titans eat humans is creepy on a whole different level than zombies who pretty much just come up to you and start taking bites (which is scary enough). Imagine the last time you picked up a chicken wing, how you pulled the folded limbs apart, maybe ripped it at the joints to make it easier to get at the flesh. Now, imagine that was a human being instead. The size difference between the Titans and humans really puts you in the place of that chicken wing, and another thing, it makes Titans soooooooo hard to kill. They are bigger, stronger, and they regenerate. Good lord. I considered going vegetarian for a moment there.
To really hit the terror home, the level of gore is there. They somehow find that right balance where they totally take you there, showing the blood, the horror, the leftover limbs that didn’t get devoured, but blocking out just enough so that you don’t completely turn off the TV. I swear, it’s like an art form being able to do that.
The complexity of the storyline helps boost this show’s staying power, too. The Titans are not the only evil ones, as they show the dark sides of humans as well. Plus, there is the struggle between those who prefer safety over freedom with those who prefer freedom over safety. It really hits a chord with all the anti-terrorist NSA spying hype going on today. How far do we go to stay safe? What are we willing to give up? How high and thick do we want to build these walls around ourselves?
An extra awesome plus is the actual specialized martial arts training and weapons created to combat the Titans. They have a sort of steam punk gas-powered multi-directional grappling hook system that allow them to have what they call 3-D maneuvering. Each individual soldier has this 3-D Maneuver Gear. Imagine Batman’s grappling hook gun, but two (maybe more) at a time, that gives the soldier fighting a Titan the ability to fly up into the air and shoot in whatever direction needed, and do this amazing spin-slice technique to get at the Titan’s only weakness. Basically, Batman moving like Spiderman.
Oh, and to spin-slice, they have a blade in each hand, kind of like giant box-cutters, so that they can break it into different sizes and attach, re-attach, and extend when needed. It’s quite versatile, and they all have extra blades.
Everything is done in a sort of retro-anime art, but with some gorgeous 3-D animation for the 3-D maneuver battles. Specifically, it brings to mind Escaflowne and Evangelion as well as some of Myazaki‘s work. It’s nostalgic and modern at the same time. The movie and soundtrack follows suite. Although, sometimes they go to still images and panning, probably to save money for the fight scenes, which makes me laugh, but whatever, the fight scenes are more important.
Finally, the crowning jewel of the story are the characters. In the face of tragedy and trauma, while staring down the throat of a Titan that just bit a comrade’s leg off or tore a mother in half with those massive molars or swallowed a good friend whole, you really see the psychology of each character peeled down to the basics. Everyone practically has no choice but to show their true colors, and in the end, it’s do or die.
Overall, there’s this sense of utter hopelessness in the fight against the Titans, that no matter how hard humans fight, the Titans cannot be stopped, but there is this tiny seed of hope for humanity to win, and it’s not a pretty one.
Watch only when prepared to be consumed.