The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 11 – Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan

So far I have covered anime series which have been commercially available to buy on DVD in Blu-Ray in English for some time, either in this country or abroad. However, there are also plenty of anime being broadcast right now, that can be streamed legally, with English subtitles, from a number of websites. These include the American website Crunchyroll (also available as a service) and the Anglo-French service Anime on Demand.

This week I am covering an anime currently begin broadcast on Crunchyroll, and is at the mid-way point of its transmission. It has also been tipped as being the big anime of 2013 and has shown all signs of living up to that expectation. Attack on Titan is a horror series, which you could argue is a zombie-like series – if zombies could be 50 metres tall.

The series is set in a world where humans are preyed upon by a race of giants called “Titans”. These monsters eat humans for seemingly no reason. They do not need subsistence, but humans are the only thing they eat. They are also able to regenerate after taking huge damage, even from cannon-fire. The only way to kill them is to cut off the nape of the neck. This is done by soldiers using a form of device that uses gas-powered gapping hooks to attach themselves to walls, buildings and other Titans, to swing themselves around and slice the neck off.

What remains of humanity is now in a single city surrounded by three rows of 50 metre walls. However, one day a 50 metre Titan, taller than any other Titan before it and a second armoured-plated Titan breaks the outermost wall, causing chaos and causing what remains of humanity to retreat behind the middle wall. The survivors decide what action to take. One of them, Eren Jaeger, decides to kill every single Titan he can find as revenge, and joins the military to do so. He is also joined by his more talented adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and their friend Armin Arlert, who is not the best fighter but is the smartest of the three.

Following their training they are thrown into the battle, in what seems to be a pathetic attempt to try and reclaim land from the Titans and to stop them from progressing any further. It all seems hopeless, but then they discover something that might just overturn the course of the struggle…

In terms of the reasons why this is of interest, the main one is the setting and the ideas behind it. We have got pretty used to the idea of zombies in horror fiction. There is World War Z in the cinemas, and a new series of The Walking Dead currently being broadcast in Britain. While the Titans are not technically zombies, I would argue that the Titans are scarier. Yes, you can kill both in a similar way; destroying the head with zombies and cutting the back of the neck with Titans, but at least zombies are the same height as humans. A zombie can be killed by just blowing their head off with a gun. A Titan needs specialist equipment.

Some have argued that the plot has been rather slow. For example, the last nine episodes (Ep. 5-13) have all been set in the same battle, and critics have said that this is rather tedious. I would argue however that given the fact battles are pretty lengthy events, amount of airtime given is more realistic than just summing up the entire battle in one or two episodes.

For those worried about catching up on the entire series, all the episodes shown so far are available to steam, and also the next episode is a clip show so there is plenty of time to catch up.

The series is currently being stream on Crunchyroll. Membership to view all episodes of Attack on Titan plus many other anime titles is £4.99 per month, with optional upgrades costing £8.99 per month. New episodes are released every Sunday at midnight.