That day, humanity received a grim reminder that their favourite anime had ended…
|Gatcha~! Oh wait, wrong show. I need to stop doing that. Despite that slip of the tongue, I’ll have you know I’m in full Attack on Titan mode. The booming popularity has spread far and wide to attract many otaku to the despair-laden, action-packed, giant red manbaby-filled show that is Attack on Titan. I’m hoping that popularity means this is “see you next time” instead of a permanent goodbye. But just in case, I wanna kick off this finale right by having Min join me.|
|Many thanks to OC for letting me crash her series of posts for the finale (once again). Attack on Titan has certainly been nothing if not memorable with its unique setting of humans struggling for survival against the mysterious titans. It could have been the jumping off point for a fun story in a fascinating world, but major issues in its world building left it as a largely nonsensical but occasionally pretty and exhilerating action show.|
Overcooled // The bombastic nature of Attack on Titan really makes it a satisfying piece of entertainment that never fails to get you internally (or even externally) screaming in excitement and anticipation. It’s just so much fun to watch soliders fly around on wires like they weigh as much as a loaf of bread. The final battle was no exception, and I found myself getting all riled up as Eren somehow went berserk while already in berserk mode. The added surprise of his level 2 crazy mode and the inexplicable, molten lava aura surrounding him as he beat down Annie was wonderful. After all the careful planning and pussyfooting to try and weed out Annie, we got a completely barbaric head to head match. There were no tactics involved, just a lot of heavy blows and raw fury. I can’t think of a better way for a show like this to end than an entire episode filled with grunting, animalistic screams, and lots of punching.
The payback was great, but it began to fizzle out towards the end. All of that “YEAH, BEAT HER UP, MAN!” energy quickly transitioned to something more bitter once we started getting some flashbacks of Annie’s past. While I don’t fully sympathize with her, it was still rather humanizing to see where she was coming from. She didn’t ask for any of this, it was simply thrust upon her. Furthermore, after all of her effort she dies at the hands of her old friends. It makes it harder to hate her, but it doesn’t tread the line of trying to hard to wrestle you into completely forgiving her. There’s no doubt that in my mind that Annie did the wrong thing, but seeing her cry was enough to make the victory not quite so sweet.
In fact, the whole “plan” Erwin set up went a bit sour. After all of this time was spent trying to capture the Female Titan…it’s finally happened, and yet I can’t feel good about it. There’s a kind of masochistic pleasure in witnessing how Attack on Titan refuses to let any character be happy ever. Every victory is laced with so much defeat that the Titans remain as nearly invinicble – even 25 episodes into the series after seeing so many of them slain. The situation is still drab for humanity, despite all their triumphs. At least, that’s how it’s framed. Killing Annie is actually a huge step to weeding out the rest of the Titans and getting a particularly troublesome foe out of their hair.
The fact that she’s still in a crystal means she’s just a horrific accident waiting to happen, but hey, the sacrifice it took to freeze her for a bit might have been worth it. The show ends on that note – stating the lows and highs of their current situation and setting us up for more Titan-killing shenanigans. It’s a poor ending if a season 2 doesn’t follow, but a decent lead-in if we do get more of the series. I’m blindly hoping for more, so I’ll make do with the sudden cut off.
There are plenty of depressing worlds in the fantasy genre, and Attack on Titan introduced us to one of the darkest ones yet, in which humanity was facing extinction from a mysterious and nigh invulnerable force. In stories like this, humans usually also get a magical boost as a counter, but in this one, they were limited basically to 18th century technology with some modern concessions thrown in to let everyone swing around like Spider Man. But such hopelessness leaves a vacuum for heroes to fill, a grand opportunity to show humans at their best facing impossible odds. Those are my favorite kinds of stories. Unfortunately, Attack on Titan wasn’t that.
I’m not even going to go into how uninteresting the characters were, most of all the hero Eren, or how the story went pretty much nowhere over the course of 25 episodes. No, the problem was more basic, in the very setting itself. Instead of using the despair as a launching point for an exciting story, the writers decided to run with it, to the extent that it made Forrest Gump‘s run look like a casual jog.
The most significant problem that pervaded the work from start to finish was the complete shutdown of mental faculties that happened any time a soldier encountered a titan. A titan is a truly horrific beast, of course. It’s a monster that the average human isn’t psychologically equipped to handle. The military should be well aware of this fact, and yet they couldn’t be arsed to include desensitization in their training to prepare their soldiers to fight them. Militaries in the real world consider this an essential part of basic training for grunts; this is the only way they can get humans to consistently do such unnatural things as put their lives in grave danger for their allies. And they’re only facing down other humans, not heartless man-eating giants.
Remember that legendary first opening sequence (well, it was more famous for its parodies, but still)? The one that featured the badass shots of soldiers leaping in the air, with lyrics about facing their oppressors and fighting for freedom? Here, go remind yourself again if you forgot. What happened to that? 95% of encounters resulted in soldiers specifically trained to fight titans locking up in fear and probably getting eaten. Or just fleeing with their tails between their legs and probably getting eaten.
I remember an early episode in which one soldier modified his 3D gear to blast a metal rod through his brain. Really? What kind of training regimen results in soldiers who would rather commit suicide than die fighting? There’s the excuse that most of these soldiers were just there for the perks, but this barely let up into the 2nd half with the recon team, which was supposed to be made up of people crazy enough to go out to fight titans. There was Armin freezing up when approached by Annie, something which ironically ended up saving his life. Then there was the retreat sequence when some soldiers risked the entire squad in a futile effort to bring back a friend’s body. Do you think soldiers on June 6, 1944 were going back into machine gun fire on the beaches of France to save the lifeless corpses of their fallen comrades? They’re bodies, something soldiers are very accustomed to seeing and acknowledging as the non-humans they are. I don’t know if the sight of a teary-eyed soldier reluctantly following Levi’s orders to let loose corpses from their carts was supposed to be comedic, but it was surely one of the funniest moments in the season.
Then there was just plain idiocy, best exemplified in episode 10 when our trio of protagonists Eren, Mikasa, and Armin had to survive a stand off against a squad of troops. Considering every titan up to this point had shown no signs of intelligence (except perhaps the colossal one and the armored one) and no indication of transforming to or from humans, it made no sense to suspect Eren of being in league with titans. Furthermore, everyone had seen Eren as a titan, only attacking other titans, which was consistent with Eren’s own statements that he was a human who hated titans. And all this was going on after their wall had been breached and titans were inside the city wreaking havoc. Yes, they decided to waste valuable manpower and weapons for a pointless stand off against humans they had no reason to suspect as threats.
Actually, it was even worse. As demonstrated in the following episode, Eren wasn’t just a non-threat – he was a uniquely valuable asset that had already proven himself by killing a bunch of regular titans in plain view of others. The trial made a bit more sense since they at least wanted to use his body for research, but considering he secured the only ever victory of humans over titans and was the main reason that humanity didn’t have to retreat even further behind the walls, the vitriol against him stretched my suspension of disbelief. The flashback in episode 19 showing members of the recon squad questioning Eren’s allegiance when they already knew him and were aware of his abilities was just stupid.
There are good, believable ways to use despair as a major theme in a setting. Elfen Lied did it, Gunslinger Girl did it, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann did it, Magical Girl Madoka Magica did it. Attack on Titan didn’t. It was a half-assed world that wasn’t confident enough in the terror of its basic premise. As I mentioned above, humans were already facing impossible odds in a situation far more bleak than most fantasy settings. Even if they were all courageous and extremely smart, they would have had plenty of difficulties to face. But the writers had to go in the opposite direction, making the majority of the characters unrealistically cowardly, incompetent, and idiotic, just to drum up artificial and unneeded drama that ultimately only stretched out an already thin story.
Talk about a wasted opportunity. At least some of the action scenes were good.
We’ve come a long way since that first episode where we saw the very first Titan peeking over the wall. That first episode was such an excellent beginning to introducing the horrors of Titans and the inadequacy of mankind. From there, the same message has basically been pounded into us again and again – yet the delivery is always different enough to keep you invested. It’s basically a cycle of Titans attacking, a ton of people dying and going nuts, and then a skin-of-the-teeth victory followed by copious amount of sulking. The message here is that Titans are absolutely horrifying and they will always find new ways to screw you over. The way they always change their level of intelligence and strategy makes them unpredictable. Oh, and the way they run is still as unnerving as hell. No matter how small or stupid the Titan seems, I’m still wary. It’s not just because the Titans have maintained the reputation as being powerhouses, but because characters can and will die without warning.
I really liked how there was no hesitation to just off entire units of soldiers in the carnage. Attack on Titan always had to try and outdo itself with more dazzling twists and more sudden deaths in a constant attempt to either get you excited or just pull you into despair. It’s a constant cycle of building you up with satisfying action scenes and then slamming you down with outrageous death counts. This show was not shy in pulling out all the stops to be as entertaining as possible. Did it make perfect sense all the time? About as much as a rambling schizophrenic discussing how the government is controlling their brain, I’d say. In other words, it really just kind of went with the flow and did whatever it thought was cool. But boy…was it ever cool.
“Hot Titan on Titan action!” “Calm down, Hanji…”
The high points were the jaw-dropping fights, but I was rather impressed by a few episodes that didn’t revolve around slashing Titans. In particular, the episode about Hanji’s experiments with the Titans was one of my favourites. Hanji was one of the best characters in the show, as she displayed such a strong personality and views that contrasted starkly with just about everyone on the entire planet (which isn’t a lot of people at this point, but whatever). Her systematic yet crude experiments on Sawney and Bean gave us a voyeuristic look at something else other than just the Titans. After all this time we know hardly anything about the Titans. Only people like Hanji are actually trying to find out more and study them. The Titans could be so much more interesting if their physical and mental properties were studied and revealed more to us, the viewer.
I also enjoyed the flashback episode that focused on Eren saving Mikasa, because it showed how humanity had declined into crime and utter selfishness. It was a reminder that humans can be the worst enemy to living a happy life. I really wish we got more moments like these, because I have to agree with lvlln that the world is sorely underdeveloped. Not only does it feel bleak and featureless, but I can’t say I like any of the characters I’ve seen other than Hanji…and sometimes Levi or Armin. They’re more like people who happen to do cool things than actual people I can attach a personality too. There are some moments of development, but a lot of it is done through long-winded dialogues that go over the same point multiple times. Technically, this show kinda flops around and just ignores all the major bases in favour of doing stuff that’s fun. But that’s part of what makes Attack on Titan so riveting. It doesn’t waste time on the little things – it just provides you with non-stop action and insanity. That doesn’t always work out, but for me, this show was an absolute blast and I had a lot of fun blogging it – even if all I said some weeks were “gosh, that episode was purdy.”
In return for watching, this guy will watch you back o_o