Reading Between Reviews: Attack on Titan Season 1!

Dude.  Attack on Titan, Season 2, drops in four days.  WHAT THE HECK.

That in mind, I’d like to take a look back at the season that kicked the series off, as one of the most popular mainstream anime in recent memory.  A thrill ride from start to finish, the hype for Attack on Titan was quite honestly unprecedented.  I haven’t been able to talk to so many people about an anime in my life, and EVERYONE had a positive thing to say about it.  So, honestly though, how good was season one?

1. Story: 8.7/10 (Great)

Titans

Humanity is trapped, and stagnant.  For the past 100 years, humans have lived within the three walls, Sheena, Rose, and Maria, unable to move outside for fear of being eaten by the monstrous creatures called Titans.  These Titans have driven humanity to the brink of extinction almost unopposed, and it’s all the residents of the Walls can do to keep themselves alive.

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It is in this bleak world, where we track the exploits of one Eren Yaeger, a hot headed individual who discovers a unique ability- somehow, transforming into a Titan.  Using this strength, he finds himself with several of his friends in the Survey Corps: an organization dedicated to pushing beyond the walls, and fighting back against the monstrosities that have wiped out humanity.  In this journey, Eren and his friends discover that there’s a far more insidious plot behind the history of the walls, and that taking the fight to the Titans isn’t as simple as it might seem.

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As far as the first season goes, one thing is made clear- that the Titans are a huge unknown, and that humanity doesn’t know anything about them, or their goals.  Despite the existence of numerous short-term goals, there is a huge air of mystery throughout season one, as to the motivations of the Titans and the unveiling of a larger conspiracy.  There is a consistency here that many other anime don’t have, so that, even while Eren, Mikasa, Levi, Armin, and the rest all work towards accomplishing a goal in the moment, the audience can still look back on that event, and wonder about what it has to do with the storyline as a whole.

That’s one of the things I enjoyed greatly about Attack on Titan’s story, but of course, I can’t forget about the exceptionally exciting conflicts it provided.  Plugging the hole in Wall Rose, capturing the Female Titan,  surviving the Battle of Trost, all of these conflicts are memorable, easy to follow, and above all, thrilling.  Despite the protagonists’ consistent plot armor, we are left with a sense that almost anyone can die, and that’s very, very refreshing.  Overall, Attack on Titan had a great story progression, and if I had to say anything bad about it, it’s that we didn’t get much fulfillment as to the deeper, more conspiracy-based parts of the plot.  However, if season 2 ends up being good, I think that argument will ultimately be null and void.

2. Characters: 7.9/10 (Good)

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The characters of Attack on Titan ultimately end up being the weakest part of the series, although, by no means is that a bad thing.  Loosely focusing on the adventures of the trio, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, we receive here a rather simple, balanced group, as far as anime protagonists go.  Eren is the determinator, the main protagonist, the one who wins the day with willpower and ideals, Mikasa is the female lead, obsessed with Eren, who’s a complete badass, and Armin is the tactician of the group.  They all have their moments in the limelight, and through brief memories, thoughts, and snippets of dialogue, they tend to gain a surprising amount of depth as characters.  Even Eren, who does have the weakest characterization of the three, has some good moments.

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Even the side characters of the series are pretty memorable in their own right.  From members of Eren’s original regiment, Sasha “potato girl” Blouse, and Jean Kirschtein, to hardened members of the Survey Corps, like Levi and Hange, they all have something unique to bring to the table.  Levi in particular has captured the attention of fans of the series, simply by being hardened, smooth, and the biggest badass the series has to offer.  Having received his own OVA episodes, detailing his backstory, Levi is just one example of the side characters of Attack on Titan being great in their own right; although to be fair, it’s pretty hard to compete with characters like him.

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That being said.  Although I’ve said nothing but good for these characters, they are not the focus of the series.  Their characterization never goes above and beyond the standard lessons of self-growth and pushing forward into the future, and it feels as if there is still a level of depth to be reached, if these characters are truly going to be something great.  They’re exactly what the series needed to be successful, but beyond that, they are not exactly what I would point people to the series for.

3. Art/Style: 9.6/10 (Exceptional)

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Without a doubt, the animation is consistently some of THE BEST I’ve ever seen in any anime.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating just a bit.  But I will be honest and say that Attack on Titan’s animation is ridiculously great in terms of quality.  One particular pet peeve of mine, when it comes to animation in general, is that sometimes, in order to flex their animating muscles, certain series show off exceptional animation at some points, but this animation differs from the general tone of the series.  Animating a bombastic action scene, but then not keeping that same fast-paced, cinematic style for the rest of the series feels a bit disconcerting to me, and is one of the faults I’ve found with some anime, such as Sword Art Online.

However, Attack on Titan is NOT one of those anime.

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Regardless of whether the protagonists are in a heated battle, or simply pausing for dramatic effect, the details of the animation perfectly complement what the story is doing at the moment.  Eren was able to plug Wall Rose, against all odds?  You don’t get a needlessly dramatic, animated shot, but rather, just a simple still of a gorgeous sunrise.  Mikasa’s fighting the Female Titan?  Well, you’re getting animation that’s ridiculously dynamic then.  In all factors, the animation is just GODLY, both in terms of actual quality, as well as when the creators choose to use it.

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This isn’t even getting started on the music of the show.  Dramatic choir, blaring brass notes that emphasize all the important points, and a mix of primal, low, low tones that really emphasize the tension of a situation, the music is something else.  When you think of the Attack on Titan, the soundtrack is something that instantly comes to mind, and that’s awesome.  What’s more awesome, is that the soundtrack, despite being great in its own right, actually contributes and adds a huge amount of feeling to the actual show as well.  It’s not just good on its own right- it works with the events of the actual show, creating something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

It’s not revolutionary, by any means, but the amount of legitimate quality that is on display here, between the animation and music, is, in my eyes, undeniable, and that’s not something I say often.

4. Personal Enjoyment: 8.8/10 (Great)

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Now, in my experience of the show, there were some moments that I didn’t like, I will be honest.  I didn’t like Eren’s flaming titan transformation near the end, nor did I enjoy some of the earlier portions of the show, that focused on Eren’s character.  However, the parts that I did like came so often, in such dramatic fashion, that I couldn’t help but acknowledge them.  The dramatic parts that cut for tension worked extremely well, and keeping up with the show, week to week, was something that I was motivated to do, because the cliffhangers were, for the most part, very well placed.

I really enjoyed the show, all in all.  It was a great experience, and all that’s left now, is to hope that season 2 lives up to all the hype!

Final Score: 8.75/10 (Great)

Recommended If:

  • You enjoy a thrilling anime.
  • You appreciate a well-done soundtrack/animation.
  • You can deal with a *relatively* stereotypical shonen protagonist.
  • You’re fine with sticking with it for the long haul. (because that plot’s only gonna get deeper in the long run)

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