A Mid-Season Look at Attack on Titan: Style and Substance

Anime_shingeki no kyojin_384769

Before I dissect this fan favourite a bit, there’s one thing I should point out: I love Attack on Titan.

I read through the entirety of the manga, buying volumes one to four of Kodansha’s release and loved every moment I spent with it. Isayama is a fantastic storyteller, he really is. Titan pays close attention to its worldbuilding and character development. These paired with Isayama’s tight mystery-driven narrative makes for one of the best stories in modern shounen.

What I wanna discuss regarding Titan, however, is Production I.G.’s take on Isayama’s story and the fandom this adaptation is garnering.

Eren's Titan form is given utmost attention when it comes to animation.

Eren’s Titan form is given utmost attention when it comes to animation.

Production I.G. is a studio known for their absolutely stunning animation. From Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex even to things that were hated such as Guilty Crown, no one can deny that this is a studio who doesn’t cut corners from a technical standpoint.

As such, Attack on Titan is a visual joy to watch. The series has received some criticism for its use of stills and exaggeration, but these can all be excused by taking a look at what the story attempts to do. Nothing about Titan is subtle; this is a larger-than-life story with larger-than-life stakes. It’s a series that, even in the manga, relies heavily on a JoJo-esque sense of melodrama, especially in its opening act.

The Titans are adapted faithfully: in short, they're terrifying.

The Titans are adapted faithfully: in short, they’re terrifying.

So putting aside still frames, when Titan moves, it moves fluidly. In true Production I.G. fashion, not a single motion is wasted. Seeing our heroes gliding through the air, maneuvering around the hulking Titans is exhilarating and does justice to Titan‘s sense of scale and spirit.

As I said, I love Attack on Titan. My problems start to come into play when we take a look at some of the weaker aspects of the series and the fandom’s reaction.

As the series progresses, the characters become the narrative's focal point.

As the series progresses, the characters become the narrative’s focal point.

To start off, I’m against the negative reception Eren receives as a protagonist. No doubt, he begins as another annoying shounen protagonist, but we’ve already started to see hints of change. When the series inevitably reaches the point the manga is at, we can see major character growth in Eren — though, it’s to his detriment. I don’t wanna spoil how he develops, but he easily has become one of the most fascinating protagonists in shounen history. All I’ll say is that the series goes from some pretty black-and-white subject matter to extremely well done moral ambiguity.

My main problems with the characters lie with two in particular: Mikasa and Sasha, the arguably most popular characters in the series.

Mikasa is beautiful, strong, skilled, and brave. Why isn't this a problem to most?

Mikasa is beautiful, strong, skilled, and brave. Why isn’t this a problem to most?

Mikasa is a badass. I’m not gonna deny it, but she’s also a complete Mary Sue. She’s perfect in every regard: she’s attractive, strong, brave, and essentially has no flaws. It’s nice to see a role reversal in any sort of anime, where the woman vows to protect the man, but the manner in which her character is presented easily makes her the most boring of the cast.

I’m confused when it comes to the fandom’s reaction to her: people adore her. Whereas a series like Medaka Box, whose titular character is a Mary Sue for purposes of satire, Mikasa is just poorly written. And the thing is, people hated Medaka, calling her out on her perfection. So why isn’t this a problem with Mikasa?

Is it the sad past? It can’t be. I’ve seen people criticize other characters with a sad pastI’d be willing to attribute this adoration to seeing her devotion to Eren as her tragic flaw, but I really don’t think that’s the case since this devotion, even in the manga, has never caused any problems for her. Could it be that she’s the sole Asian character? I wouldn’t doubt it when it comes to the weeb fans.

I’m sorry to say it, but Mikasa is not well-written. She’s cool, but that isn’t enough to get me invested in a character.

I chuckled when I first read this scene. It's not funny anymore.

I chuckled when I first read this scene. It’s not funny anymore.

And what of Sasha? She does fuck all. She’s a fan favourite because “ZOMG POTATO GIRL IZ SO FUNNIE LAWL.”

Look, guys. This was funny at first. Not as funny as people made it out to be, but still amusing nonetheless. It’s played out now. Her name isn’t “Potato Girl.” She shouldn’t be your favourite character. Stop. Just please stop.

It bothers me that of all the female characters, these are the favourites. Annie, as we will soon see, is really well-written, with layers of personality and emotional affliction. Ymir has gotten quite a bit of development in the manga as of late. Hanji, the mad scientist of the Survey Corps., is hilarious and has real personality. But I can guarantee none of these girls will reach the heights or surpass the popularity of Mikasa and — possibly — Sasha. That just goes to show the mediocrity the fandom at large is willing to settle for.

Levi is awesome. That is all.

Levi is awesome. That is all.

My own favourite character? Levi. He manages to have the badassery of Mikasa with the morally grey personality the series is coming to be known for. Not much else to it, he’s just better written than the fan favourites.

Get ready for more desperation.

Get ready for more desperation.

One thing I feel the need to point out is that I think the series will lose some fans as Titan gets picked up for more episodes. The series goes from the action-packed spectacle it is now to something more small-scale; a story about surviving and persevering. Most people, I can assume, love Titan now because it’s so action-packed. There’s much less of that later on. Or this could be another Fullmetal Alchemist, where people don’t mind action being put aside for something more intimate. It’s hard to say when the anime hasn’t shown the full potential of the narrative yet.

This is Attack on Titan at its core: the human will to survive in the face of demise.

This is Attack on Titan at its core: the human will to survive in the face of demise.

I won’t be blogging Attack on Titan weekly. I simply feel that because I know what’ll happen in the future, there would be no way I could provide narrative insight without avoiding spoilers. This is an anime that needs to be experienced on one’s own; I really don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable if one knew how these characters develop.

Regardless, this is shaping up to be a fantastic adaptation of a fantastic manga. It’s pretty much guaranteed for more seasons, so I’m gonna look forward to more weekly Titan.

Attack on Titan is available streaming on Crunchyroll and FUNimation.com. Attack on Titan is licensed by FUNimation Entertainment.

One thought on “A Mid-Season Look at Attack on Titan: Style and Substance

  1. Pingback: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin: Season 1 – 2013) | The Grand Shuckett

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