Wow. This series doesn’t pull any punches does it? Beginning with the everlasting message that humanity is merely a helpless and directionless speck caught in the ever moving current known as the universe, our spirits are swiftly crushed yet again. For even in a harsh reality, personal tragedy may still accrue. However, once we’re sufficiently devoid of joy, Attack on Titan reveals yet another truth of existence: As long as there is a glimmer of hope, good may triumph. All you require are those willing to take a stand…and also yell a lot. Seriously, if there’s one thing you can take away from this experience, it’s that humanity’s bark is as loud as it’s bite.
When we first meet our heroes, they are nought but children who are forced to live within the confines of a wall. Though all that stands between humanity and imminent extinction, these walls serve as ever present reminders that mankind is not free. If you haven’t guessed by now, Attack on Titan doesn’t exactly convey the world as a joyous place to be. In fact nearly all moments of happiness are brutally torn from our grasp without hesitation or mercy. Whilst this obviously paints a rather brutal picture of the series as a whole, it is by no means a negative. Rather, the harshness of the reality presented forces you to be drawn into the lives of each character. For better or worse, we bear witness to the moments that define these characters, as they become more than archetypes that simply drive a story forward. The unabashed reality that arises from this world separates the series from others that look unto violence with rose coloured glasses. Characters do not feel honoured to fight, nor do they accept their duty with a simple shrug. Fear permeates through each and every one of their actions, forcing upon us the realisation that in the turmoil of war there is rarely ever right and wrong…merely better or worse.
Not surprisingly, the first aspect of this series that you’re attention will be drawn to is the visuals. Rightfully so might I add. In order to truly emphasise the terror that the story demands, the Titans were designed after one of the most dangerous creatures we know: humans. Now this isn’t some covert environmental message trying to badmouth mankind, but if you’ve already seen glimpses of the series you wouldn’t have thought that anyway because you understand where I’m coming from. Titans are terrifying. There’s just something about their oddly proportioned humanoid forms that elicit a sense of uneasiness, a visceral reaction that immediately denotes them as the enemy. If anything, I would say that the Colossal Titan is the least disturbing foe from a visual standpoint. Sure he’s intimidating and all, but the lack of skin serves as a separation from the pseudo-humanity it’s Titanic brethren possess.
As size is the domain of the Titans, humanity’s greatest weapon, apart from inconceivably sharp blades, is speed. The Omni-Directional Mobility Gear, in addition to being a brilliant addition to the plot, serves as the basis for some of the most epic animated sequences I’ve seen in…ever. The series animation does a tremendous job of capturing the raw speed and peerless finesse that would be required to operate such equipment. As characters propel into battle, the visuals opt to trail their intricate movements whilst the scenery rushes by in a blur, as opposed to simply presenting a still shot where somebody shoots through. The sense of freedom brought by this choice actually provides a sense of freedom that, as we all know, is sorely lacking behind the walls, subtly showcasing how this gear is one of humanity’s greatest hope for change.
As much as story and visuals define a series, audio plays an indelible role in characterisation. In this vein, the English dub of Titan performs remarkably. More than just suiting the character’s aesthetic, the voice actor really give their all in each and every scene. Which is truly commendable given the sporadic shift between quiet drama and explosive emotion to which the series frequently employs. This vocal effort is most notable during the sequence which depict characters screaming with all their might. It may sound strange, and slightly sadistic, but there’s a certain sense of elation that washes over you when you hear somebody’s voice crack amidst the throes of pain and fury. Such a realistic aspect removes any lingering notion that these are merely recorded lines, instead immersing you completely within the world given life before you. The dark, depressing world…Though the same can also be said of the more sombre moments that populate the series. Listening to characters on the verge of tears, or struggling to suppress their anger, also serves to deepen each player in this macabre tale. Of course these emotions are all powerfully contrasted by the inhuman roars of the Titans. Though not heard too frequently, their echo will remind you just how terrifying these foes of humanity are. You know, just in case you forgot…
Jumping briefly into the meta realm for an info dump, and much needed lightening of the mood, the release of Attack on titan itself is a rather hefty one. With two episodes of commentary and a sneaky little behind the scenes, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse into the people who brought this survival epic into the Western world. There are also thirteen brief chibi adventures that show a much, much lighter side of the series and convey the marvellous misadventures that occurred during the cadets training days. Who say’s the 104th can’t have fun? Apart from the series proper…Anywho, the Limited Edition release also sweetens this packet of extras by throwing in a handy dandy book full of character info, so you can learn even more about the characters you know and love…and hate…and will miss regardless when they are so violently ended. Though, if you truly wish to represent your favourite branch of the Military, why not don one of the crest pins that comes with the bundle or the Paring Blade necklace? Or, if your feeling a little more protagonistic, hang the mysterious Cellar Key around your neck and wonder just what lies beneath Shiganshina. I know I am. Seriously Eren, what is your father hiding?
In the end, despite all my talk of the twisted, soul shattering, heart wrenching world that is Attack on Titan, the series somehow manages to convey a sense of hope. Amidst the undeniable darkness we are forced to bear witness to, all the fear we struggle through, there is one fact that remains true: Humanity has not given up. The desire for a better future and the willingness to sacrifice anything for that goal, expresses the harsh beauty of the human condition. For every moment of weakness, there is another of strength. Though brutality may outweigh happiness, the fact that positivity exists makes it something worth striving for. Though we here in real life are (thankfully) not forced to carry such a burden every day, the message Attack on Titan carries is no less relevant. Do not simply rest on your laurel’s and be content, strive onwards. Seek the world beyond yourself, lest you fall prey to hesitation and reside forever within walls of your own creation…
Attack on Titan Collection 1 can be found in all its colossal glory at Madman.