I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the new anime Shingeki No Kyojin because after only five episodes, the main protagonist may have already met his demise. No seriously – he lost a leg, an arm, and he was eaten. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.
Shingeki no Kyojin – often translated as Attack on Titan and sometimes The Eotena Onslaught – started last April and is only one month old. I thought it was a good opportunity to scout for promising new anime, and from the wallpapers and screenshots I’ve been seeing of Shingeki, it seemed like an art and animation style that can draw me in and keep my attention (admittedly, this was a mistake on some occasions which had nearly caused me to ignore titles like One Piece and Lupin III). Furthermore, the plot of survival presented numerous opportunities for the series to delve deep into human suffering, hope, loss, courage, and triumph.
In a nutshell, the events of the series take place in a point of history in which the most technological advancements were muskets and cannons. Literally out of nowhere, giant, humanoid creatures ranging in size from double a normal human to nearly 50 meters tall started to mindlessly prey on mankind. The remnants of the devastated race retreated within a walled country where three 50 meter tall walls segregate the residential areas to protect them against the Titans or Eotenas. After a hundred years of peaceful existence within the walls, two mysterious giants appear – a 60 meter tall giant seemingly capable of intelligence and an armored giant that can rush and break through the walls. Upon their first sudden appearance, Eren and his adopted sister Mikasa lose their mother as the giants successfully destroy the outer walls and the outermost residential area. Eren swears vengeance, enlisting with the army to become trained in the only weapon they have against the giants: mobility suits that help them shoot grappling wires and swing to greater heights, and two swords meant to cut through the nape of the neck of the giants, their only known weakness.
Underlying the simplicity of this plot is a tragedy of devastating loss: driven to the brink of extinction, humans are all but condemned to the ultimate fate of being horrendously devoured by these grotesque creatures. They simply can’t win, and after being lulled into a false sense of peaceful living, their hopes are dashed again. This series uses parallelisms, symbols, and a dash of good old anime stereotypes to build your hopes up and break it down again. The horrific physical appearances of the giants depict the terror they strike into the human heart. Their ravenous hunger, inexplicable and constant, is a maddening mystery that doesn’t even give justice to human slaughter by giving any sort of reason. The violent killing, maiming, and consumption of the living and dead are ruthlessly macabre blows to any sort of hope for deliverance. Eren exemplifies the urge to break free and take the fight to the giants. His eagerness to see the outside world and regain mankind’s rightful place is fueled by the anguish of seeing his own mother eaten.
So when I saw the protagonist Eren Jaeger devoured by one of these loathsome creatures wearing a halfwit smile, I was perplexed. Eren was portrayed to be the burning hope of mankind inspiring his fellow soldiers to not only gather the courage to face the enemy, but slaughter them in turn. I’m either missing an entire plot point here and am currently caught in a fiendish cliffhanger, or the mangaka of this series is a sadist at the level of George R. R. Martin. After reading a few more synopses about the series and finding out what I think will happen, however, I’m just waiting for the perfectly justifiable plot twist that rectifies the chaotically hopeless situation. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to what else this series can deliver.
The ruthless portrayal of the human struggle against the unknown in this anime unfolds like a knife slitting a throat. It’s not even as graphic as, say Gantz or Claymore, but you feel its intensity and the lunacy of the scenario magnifies the effect. Will the series delve deeper into this madness or will it explore other avenues of the human struggle? So far the typical anime facets are working well for the series, adding touches of humor and levity in an overall glum existence. How else can the series leverage common Shounen influences to further its plot? And the mystery behind these giants and the very mystery I’m waiting to see answered tomorrow – will a sufficiently satisfying explanation come to light, or will I be disappointed (like the way I was with the manga Eden no Ori)?
So far, I can attest to the visceral and merciless experience that Shingeki no Kyojin delivers. It’s not shockingly explicit but it gets under your skin. I sincerely hope this anime can offer more. [by G Dino]