Every now and again, a new show will come out of Japan that breaks from stereotypes and gets a huge following. Shingeki no Kyokin – Attack on Titan – is the newest hit anime from Japan. And it’s not for kids.
The anime is set in a pre-industrial age Germanic Europe, with the typical Japanese love of Western-sounding character names they find difficult to pronounce – Reiner, Eren, Armin… if it has an ‘R’ in it, they’re fans of how exotic it sounds.
The scenario is that the vast majority of the human race has been wiped out by the Titans of the title – a race of aggressive giants, shrouded in mystery. Mostly about the size of a house, they stalk the hills and abandoned cities of the entire planet. They don’t need to eat to survive. They don’t reproduce. They leave other animals alone. But they take great pleasure in devouring humans. In many ways, they are like giant zombies. They are all naked, but with no reproductive organs, and they have the dead curious eyes of a sleepy child. The effect is at first humorous, then eerie and unsettling… Until you see them bite a human in half, when it becomes full-on scary. They’ve hunted mankind almost to extinction – the last known bastion of humanity cowers behind three ginormous circular walls called Wall Sina, Wall Maria and Wall Rose.
The show follows three friends, Eren, Armin and Mikasa, as they train as soldiers to join the Recon Corps, a company of brave or foolhardy humans who want to fight against the Titans and reclaim their lost land.
The art style is impressive, capturing the disgusting nature of what at first appear to be bumbling creatures but quickly transform into horrific monsters. Much of the animation of the human faces is haunting too, with many a gaunt, traumatized face and the huge eyes of people nearly driven mad by all the blood and death. And as to the blood and death – it’s skillfully done to be dark and bloody without entrails and guts… But you will see dismembered limbs and characters stomped to death.
But what is most impressive about the show is the plot. Unlike more childish shows, where the heroes are put through minor challenges, each time winning before facing a slightly bigger threat, Attack on Titan portrays the horror of war from a side that regularly loses. Even more so, the show has no qualms with killing off characters at a moment’s notice – characters you have grown to love and respect. The end of episode cliffhangers and plot twists leave me messaging my friends to find out if they’ve seen it too, so we can be shocked together – a sure sign of a gripping show.
So, a show with a distinctive art style, grisly special effects, shocking plot twists, and a storyline that leaves you guessing – it’s no wonder that Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) has become the most popular new show from Japan.