Anime, like comic books and video games, has often found itself on the absolute fringe of nerd culture. When someone isn’t into anime, it’s almost impossible to get them to give it a try with an open mind—and that’s really too bad, because they’re depriving themselves of some really spectacular stuff, like Attack on Titan.
This series centers around a future society/alternate universe in which the last vestiges of humanity live inside a series of walled-off communities in fear of the titular Titans, giant humanoid creatures that exist with the sole purpose of eating humans alive. Inside the walls of Sina, Rose and Maria, though, an elite force is being trained in hopes of combating the Titans, while beneath the surface, secret experiments hope to supplant them once and for all, allowing humanity to retake their rightful place at the top of the food chain.
The idea of the food chain, and humanity being moved down a link on it, is just one of the unique ideas in Attack on Titan that challenges the way we view ourselves. Another is the horrifying nature of the Titans themselves. The fact that they are such a simple and familiar adversary is undoubtedly what makes them so terrifying and disturbing. Their naked doll-like features (they have no genitals), their gentle and playful smiles, their child-like emotions, the vacant look in their eyes—each serves as a reminder of our own kind, even as they gruesomely dominate and consume humans.
It’s a troubling duplicity to be sure, and it makes the central conflict of the story as constantly disheartening as it is enthralling.
As viewers, we witness this ongoing battle primarily through the eyes of the three central protagonists, each an orphaned survivor of a devastating Titan attack. Eren appears as the central character, a hot-headed and vengeful boy who seeks to soak himself in Titan blood. Mikasa is his adopted sister, an amazingly effective fighter who only wishes to keep Eren alive, and joins the conflict with this particular purpose in mind. And lastly, Armin, their close friend and fellow survivor, who has a brilliant mind juxtaposed by his gentle heart.
Together these three form the central arc of the series. Furthermore, they serve as a symbolic unit for the conflict, with Eren as the tempestuous heart, Armin as the undeniable mind, and Mikasa as the deadly body.
They are joined by a wide array of intricate and well-realized characters, many of whom are picked off with little regard for their place in the story. Indeed, within the first few episodes alone, the stakes are quickly drawn, measured and then leveled. By episodes 5-10, the conflict has been completely rewritten, and from there it only subverts the viewers expectations even further.
With gorgeous animation, an explosive soundtrack, an original setting, and a plotline that redefines the term “epic”, Attack on Titan is the most shockingly original and amazingly effective animated series to emerge in at least a decade.
Attack on Titan is currently on Netflix in it’s entirety. Whether you love anime or you despise it, you owe it to yourself to check out this series.