Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Anime review #1 - Shingeki no Kyojin (aka "Attack on Titan") - Season 1

Shingeki no Kyojin by Hajime Isayama - Season 1 (2013)

Chain of command? More like chain of fail!

Oh shonen anime, how you fail me again and again. Ever and anon, I dive into this kind of dreck trying to find the rose growing out of the dung heap. AoT is more Sakura (Haruno that is) than Saki, though...

The plot of AoT is quickly explained:

Don't worry, kids. It's ALMOST that simple.

But seriously: the remainder of humanity is mysteriously walled in in an area only some hundred square kilometers big after a race of titanic and fearsome human-looking beings sprang out of nowhere and declared war on them. The human race, on the brink of extinction, has no choice but to defend their sanctuary with very limited technological means. Teen titan Eren Jaeger - the protagonist of the series - after his mother is eaten alive by the titans, joins the military to avenge his mother and become Hokage. Ahem, I mean, kill all the titans. Yeah.

The problems with AoT are the generic shonen problems one faces almost every time.

1. No internal logic

Oh boy, this is a major one. Watching this series was painful in two ways. The first is that not much in this story makes any sense. When criticizing in-universe problems, one has to be careful, since later revelations CAN explain stuff that seemed crazy or off earlier in the story. I honestly think this is not the case in this case though.

The very first episode already featured a major stinker, when the returning Survey Corps officer, completely disillusioned, exclaimed that they "had not found out a single thing about the titans". This is a completely absurd statement that perfectly displays the intelligence the author put into this story.

The military in general pissed me off with their incompetence and lack of understanding of basic psychology. Very early in the story we see the basic training of Eren and his pokepals. Recruits are humiliated, threatened, given only low quality food etc. After going through all this painful stuff (and I mean painful for the viewer!) the titans arrive and what happens? The troop morale is at rock bottom. Well NO SHIT! The distinction between fanatical elites (think Waffen-SS) and regulars cowering in fear is made quite clear right from the start of the battles. But, fighting the titans - while of course elites make most of the actual kills - is a war of attrition for humankind. Maybe, just maybe, if you didn't treat your soldiers like worthless shit, they wouldn't run at the first sign of danger... but, then again, who am I to argue with geinuses (sic) like Levi who are so unreachable in their cognition of battle situations they don't reveal their intentions or even GIVE ORDERS TO THEIR TROOPS. Which in turn makes their subordinates question their decisions (and sanity) AT EVERY STEP. Not to forget at one point a recruit actually thought loudly about killing his superior and this very thing even occurring frequently! Seriously, I wanted humanity to be wiped out for mercy's sake while watching this shit, because it has grown retarded beyond even the reality of the 21th century.

To add to the absolutely negative depiction of the human race in AoT, corruption is on an all time high. Two out of three military branches are absolutely useless, peasants are so suppressed they don't even feature much in the storyline (which is a missed opportunity). To top it off, there's supposed to be a king in the centre of the circle (serving him is a "special honour" of course), which we NEVER SEE. Shouldn't he be at the centre of command too? Why is the survey corps (with our Mary Sue main characters riding right next to the commanding officers even though they are lowly recruits) never informed of the kings new world orders. So, maybe the king is, like, a kid, or a retard only put in office by this advisers who rule in his stead. But shouldn't there be at least a minister of war supervising the three branches, making sure the garrison stays in fighting condition, even after a hundred years of peace?!

Alas - like I said - maybe our hack, ahem, I mean hero, Hajime Isayama, planned all of this all along, and at the end of the story things will magically wrap itself up. So it's time now to face the REAL problems of Attack on Titan.

2. The focus & 3. The characters

The focus of this story is on Eren and the rest of the scoobies from his recruit class. Their organigram structure is just like the one in Naruto, only that in this one the Sakura is actually useful and Sasuke is a nerd instead of an emo.

Eren wishes to kill all the titans. That's all he cares and does. Plus he is, like all the elite characters in this story, a complete sucker for authority. Even when facing the man who beat him up savagely in front of a show trial he is made humble and never does even a single word of protest or revolt cross his lips. When Eren died, I thought that maybe THEN the story would take a turn and become more interesting, but no - he just comes back and acts like nothing had happened, only he's a titan now too. Eren is just the archetype of the featureless, overpowered, bland AS FUCK shonen protagonist.

His foster sister, Mikas-. Oh, no, let's call her Mishima Reika instead, cause that is who she reminded me of every time she was on the screen.

Long hair, scarf around neck, dress/skirt, blank expression all the time, not conversing with the main character in a meaningful way. The picture doesn't do their similiarity justice though, sadly. At least that strand of hair in the middle matches.

Mishima rivals her brother (and later love interest, I bet) in blandness, only that instead of always being angry she is emotionless to the point of being a fucking robot (and not in the GOOD way). Her shonen goal(tm) is to protect Eren forever. No real reason is given for this (he saved her when her family was murdered, but this still doesn't explain the creepy obsession); it is actually baffling how the author managed to have Mishima and Eren not having a single line of dialogue together that didn't involve the current situation of fighting the titans or him yelling about exterminating the aforementioned! Oh, and she's apparently a super soldier, despite growing up doing nothing but adoring her housewife foster mother and wearing a skirt. That is NOT the story heroes are born of.

Armin is a loser/nerd childhood friend of the abovementioned who tags along, and that's basically all he ever is. Nothing to be said here.

The rest of the Wall Rose 11 are even blander than a typical Naruto minor character. One girl defied the drill sergeant by eating a potato (and getting punished for it, instead of being commended for spirit and fearlessness).

I like her, because she's different. Even though I don't actually know her name.

One background pony once argued with Eren and found Mishima's oriental hair pretty, hm... that's pretty much all I remember about those. Never mind names or faces, I couldn't be bothered to memorize those to save my life!

The rest of regulars is composed of the Survey Corps officers, who are supposed to be unprecedented geniuses (based on the event in episode 1 that pretty much proves the Survey Corps is completely useless at that point), but actually come across as colossal (PUN) assholes, the main one of which of course is Levi, who reminded me a lot of L of Death Note fame. Or maybe the insane science officer who is a regular Mengele when dealing with titans or any human who can transform.

To sum up, the characters are blander than a white crayon drawing of Bella Swan, and this fact is reinforced and made worse by the focus of the story, which is entirely on fighting the titans.

The titans attack (why isn't the western name of this show "Attack OF the Titans" instead of the nonsensical "Attack ON Titan"...?) - people die, titans are slain, humans retreat. Titans attack, people die, titans are slain, humans retreat. etc etc. That is all you ever see in this show. This is literally the most single-minded anime there could ever be. There is no second layer like e.g. advisors of the king arguing, or the depiction of the life of the commoners, the aftermath of a titan battle on noncombatants, anything. I believe that actually a great point of attraction lies herein for people who actually like this show, getting sucked in in a straightforward war with clearly distinguished sides. Of course, anybody who has the capacity to dissect shonen cliches and structures will rather reject something so pitifully simple in concept and execution. Oh I forgot, one time the humans advance, get killed, some titans get killed too, humans retreat... oh fuck it.

4. The tone

All that is left to talk about is the tone. The tone of Atrocity on Turnips is heavily militaristic and authority-heavy. Common people seem to have very limited freedom and basically quite shitty lives. A lot get just sent to their deaths after the outer wall falls. Soldiers' lives are equally cut (PUN) short mainly by the abovementioned questionable leadership methods and the idiotic sole battle tactic of engaging colossal creatures well versed in grappling and swallowing whole in MELEE (and airborne!) combat. Of course, we all know that the fact humanity couldn't just invent a sniper gun to pierce the titan's necks is because the 3D animation of soldiers jumping and swinging around like Spiderman after one or two glasses of whiskey too many looks FLASHY. To cut a long story short, the incompetence of the entire leadership (both political and military) is never questioned, and that makes this story look quite pro-fascist. The ugly, brute, retard-like titans of course only add to that observation.

"If only all slackers and cowards would subjugate to authority, we could wipe these foreign creatures who are not like us out, cause we're all in this together!"

In the end, there is a slight plot twist, namely that the titans have had supporters among humankind all along! (I can see why... but I doubt much changing the tone of the story will come from that.) One girl, who was apparently a recruit along with Eren et alii, is a human/titan hybrid as well and gets captured via the execution of an idiotically convoluted plot, but turns into a stasis form and therefore eludes questioning and dissection. So if this story does one thing right (and that is basically the truth, it does only exactly ONE thing right!), it keeps you wondering what will happen next. As much as I was cursing at the screen (mentally, at least) while watching the supposed elite of mankind being mistreated by their idiotic commanding officers and for Mishima to finally SAY something to Eren that you would to somebody you have spent almost your whole fucking life with together as siblings, I am still looking forward to the next season (or might read the manga so I don't have to wait for that).

5. Predictions for S2

-) somebody will be tortured for being believed to be in league with the titans or a titan himself
-) Armin makes an unsuccessful move on Mishima and gets REKT
-) Mishima doesn't say anything casual to Eren in the entire season AGAIN
-) the king or other top brass is revealed to have created the entire titan threat as a distraction and threat so the leading class isn't overthrown by a huge revolution (this might happen in a later season, though, if applicable)
-) season 2 will piss me off

6. Conclusion

All in all, the Hitlerjugend would gladly have watched this in their weekly education class. So, if you can ignore the faults of the plot, the tediousness of character design and the glaring political undertones, you might as well be blown away by this show! I for one hope you CAN'T do that...


  1. Thank you! I was wondering if anyone else noiced all those plot holes. Although, to be fair, Isayama-sensei kinda made it up in his head on the fly, so, I bet we couldn't do that. Not to mention all the weeaboos...though I'm an Otaku.

  2. thanks for commenting. yeah, the story seems to be made up on the go. though the manga didn't annoy me quite as much, I got a little farther into the storyline there, but I got tired of that eventually too. if I may ask: how did you stumble across my blog?