This season, I’ve found myself in the fun position of having two of my favourite manga series adapted into anime. We already know how things went with Flowers of Evil, but there’s still the case of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) to consider. Produced at Wit Studio and directed by Tetsurō Araki (of Death Note and Kurozuka, amongst others,) it’s the adaptation I was hoping for back in 2011. So, is it any good? Going by this first episode: hell yes.
After you’ve seen a couple of Araki’s anime, you’ll know what you’re going to get: a bombastic emphasis on action and a sweeping, melodramatic sense of theatre. In other words, he’s great at directing the external, adrenaline-fuelled stuff. I just hope he doesn’t lay it on too thick. In The Lord of the Rings films, director Peter Jackson would often emphasize the horror facing his heroes by slowly panning over the crying faces of children and old ladies, which is very much a blatant “this is some serious shit, guys” trick to pull. It feels too obviously manipulative, and there were signs of that here, too: when the scouting legion returns from a failed mission, there’s a lot of very loud crying. You could always put this down to me being English and all stiff-upper-lip about things. I just find these public displays of emotion to be quite distasteful.
That complaint aside, though, this is pretty much exactly how I wanted the anime for Attack on Titan to turn out. The first few glimpses we get of the 3D maneuver gear are exhilarating and pretty much alone justify its existence: we get to see the scouting legion in action, running through a forest on their horses and coming across a lumbering Titan. The sheer fluidity of their movement as they move from branch to branch, using their gear to swing and pounce, is so beautifully done. You will realise then, at that exact moment, that this series is going to be a keeper.
There’s so much more to Attack on Titan than just action, though, even if it’s as beautiful drawn as that. I’ve already written so much about the manga that I’m at risk of repeating myself here, but at its core this is a story of overcoming life’s greatest obstacles. Put another way, I have this question. By kicking a hole in the wall, are the Titans destroying, or liberating, mankind? Indeed, theirs is a world full of grotesque horror. You couldn’t blame anyone for just wanting to stay safe, but would you be happy living like that? With nothing new to see or do? In its own, clever way, Attack on Titan is set-up as social commentary. A comment by Celeste on a previous post seems particularly apt in this regard: Japan is an island surrounded by walls of water, struggling with high rates of unemployment and suicide.
The city in Attack on Titan may well be a comment on Japan, but it can be applied to any modern, peaceful place where people are able to live such sheltered, uneventful lives. At what point, if ever, do you decide to leave your old ways behind to discover something new? Eren doesn’t have to join the Scouting Legion, but he wants to see the world beyond the walls. There’s a great risk involved in doing that, but unless you try, what’s the point in living?
As an interesting aside, both Flowers of Evil and Attack on Titan are serialised within the same magazine, Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine, and the ending card for this first episode of Attack on Titan is an image of (the extremely cool) Mikasa drawn by Flowers of Evil mangaka Shūzō Oshimi. It boggles the brain to think how cool that little fact is, a bit like when I found out Hideaki Anno and Kunihiko Ikuhara hang out together and talk shit about anime fans. Yes, I’m a nerd.