Shingeki no Kyojin Review: Humanity’s Fight for Survival
Well after two long, excruciating, stressful weeks, it seems I finally have an opportunity to write another blog post. For anyone who might’ve been looking forward to my next post (particularly because I did mention before some of the series I would write about next) I apologize, but at last I have a bit of time on my hands. I’m quite late in writing about this, 3 weeks late even, but better late than never I suppose. In any event, what I’m going to write about is what’s probably the most popular anime hit of the year. The breakout series, incredibly mainstream anime, and widely loved adaptation known as Shingeki no Kyojin, or Attack on Titan. Shingeki has gotten extreme attention during the past few months of its run, and it’s not too difficult to see why it has drawn so many dedicated supporters. As for my thoughts? Well, there’s a lot I can say about this one, so I’ll try to space my thoughts out a bit.
Shingeki no Kyojin is a story about humans who are desperately trying to avoid death in the hands of powerful beings known as Titans. These Titans are large, violent creatures that have massacred countless humans, even eating them for what seems to be no good reason. The remaining humans have enclosed themselves in a city protected by walls to keep the Titans out. Within these walls lie our main characters. Eren is a young hotheaded boy who wants to join the Survey Corps, which goes outside the walls to explore the realm of the Titans in order to find a way to get rid of them. We also have Mikasa, Eren’s foster sister who cares deeply for him, and Armin, Eren’s weak but intelligent friend. Life seems peaceful (at least when you consider that the city itself has been fine for about a century) until the fated day when the titans finally breach the wall, killing even more people, including Eren’s mother. Eren, shaken by this traumatizing experience, hates the Titans more than ever before and vows to exterminate them all by any means possible. Eren and his friends join the military and train to eliminate the menaces that have essentially destroyed their lives, and many secrets and twists are soon to follow.
Shingeki may not be the deepest of stories, but it’s at the very least an engaging watch. The anime has a pretty strong start and it’s interesting to follow the experiences of the characters and to see how everything unfolds. One thing that many note about Shingeki is how readily it kills characters. While most of the truly important characters last it out for the most part, death is an ever occurring reality in this series, and countless individuals fall (and very brutally, at that) to the cruel hands of the Titans. This truly sets the atmosphere for Shingeki and makes it an intense watch throughout, even if the story itself is sometimes lacking. Speaking of which, it must be mentioned that while an entertaining watch throughout, the plot in and of itself of Shingeki isn’t exactly one of the strongest aspects, at least as far as the anime goes. The events themselves are pretty straightforward, and while there are a few pretty intense plot twists that make things much more dramatic, the story is made more engaging by how things are presented than by the plot being particularly amazing. The premise is good no doubt, and Shingeki has its way of entertaining the viewers, but much of what takes place is fairly simple: the soldiers go to fight the Titans, an insane amount of casualties pile up, and either humanity is essentially trashed or it makes some sort of small progress. Repetitive may not be the word I’m looking for, but I can’t say Shingeki’s story is among the most innovative and while there are many interesting mysteries, the plot remains one of Shingeki’s weakest areas…….so far. As I am a fan of the manga, I can say that the anime just barely scratches the surface of the story, and in my opinion the series gets significantly better in the arcs ahead. Many more twists take place, and the mysteries continue to pop up, making the series that much more exciting. I can’t say it’s the anime’s fault that the story isn’t so strong, but rather that 25 episodes can only cover so much, and in that time frame I wouldn’t say that Shingeki’s best was covered by any means.
The characters, while pretty likable for the most part, are also lacking in some areas and development isn’t particularly fantastic. Eren isn’t exactly a revolutionary character, and while he does have his moments and is largely a sympathetic character, he very much has a one-track mind and this often hurts him. Even in the later stages of the manga, Eren’s idealism and naive outlook can be irritating since he can come off as idiotic at times. Eren does have a few great moments, but his character doesn’t develop greatly. Mikasa is quite popular among the fanbase for being the badass female who can fight off the Titans with ease in comparison to many of the other characters, and her backstory adds a lot to her cool but otherwise pretty simple personality. Armin isn’t exactly a standout character, but his mind does keep him from being incompetent and he is actually quite useful in spite of his weaknesses in terms of combat. One character that must be mentioned is Levi, my personal favorite of the cast and one of the most loved (if not THE most loved) in the fanbase. Levi is a Lance Corporal in the Survey Corps, known as the strongest soldier (one of the few who surpasses even Mikasa) and quite an interesting character. While Levi comes off as cold at first, he truly does value his fellow soldiers and cares deeply for those around him. Another character I feel is worthy of mention is Jean Kirschstein, who I feel is one of the best developed in the series. Jean is initially an individual who dismisses the Survey Corps as suicidal fools and wants to enter the ranks of the Military Police strictly to avoid any encounter with the Titans, though he grows significantly as the anime progresses and his experiences heavily influence the decisions he makes later on. There are quite a few characters and it’d be too much to talk about them all, but I will say there’s variety in the cast. There are a number of personalities, some more memorable than others, but regardless there are quite a few standout individuals, and even ones that might not stand out now become crucial in the later arcs of the manga. That said however, there isn’t a whole lot of development with a majority of the characters, and aside from people realizing the world is a cruel place and such (all the more so as worse and worse things happen), the characters remain largely the same throughout.
There’s a lot about Shingeki I can talk about, both good and bad, and I figure I might as well start with the bad: I can’t say I agree with the masses who deem Shingeki to be a masterpiece, or even, say, greatest anime of 2013 for example. While I most certainly enjoyed Shingeki and it did a lot of things well, there were a number of areas that were a bit lacking, especially as far as depth and development go, and so I must be a bit skeptical when I see someone praise Shingeki as one of the best series of all time. Shingeki knows what it’s doing and excels in the areas it’s best at, but I wouldn’t deem it revolutionary and I most definitely can’t say Shingeki’s anime is something I’d place in my favorites anytime soon. However, it must be said that Shingeki is still a very, very strong adaptation. I have to admit that as far as Shingeki’s flaws go, it’s not because the anime did anything particularly wrong, but rather because the material it adapted could only go so far. In these stages of the manga’s story, Shingeki is far from being anywhere near completely developed, and the scope of Shingeki’s world was quite limited up to this point. That said, Shingeki as an anime did a fantastic job of portraying the manga’s story in its medium. The visuals are much more captivating than the rough drawing style of the manga (particularly early in the manga), and the fights are animated very well. The music perfectly captures the atmosphere as well, adding that much more to the thrilling fight scenes and the emotional tragedy scenes. Even the anime-only scenes from the anime were used to great effect, and while I admit it’s been too long since I read the manga and thus do not remember completely how some of those scenes were originally, I had absolutely no problem with the extra bits the anime added and those were certainly welcome additions. As an adaptation, Shingeki is quite brilliant and a worthy portrayal of the manga, but as an anime in and of itself, it’s far from perfect and requires more time to truly shine.
I may have my issues with Shingeki, but at the end of the day it’s still a worthwhile watch and a perfectly viable option for anybody who wants to give the series a go. Not everything about it is perfect, but Shingeki knows how to hit the right notes when it has to, and the intensity is most definitely there. Shingeki’s classified as a Shounen, and while it does share some elements with other Shounens (in part because Eren’s, well, Eren), it still manages to stand out in a good way and offers a story that is more akin to darker tales around the Seinen range. That’s not to say that Shingeki is a Seinen or should actually be considered one, but Shingeki is no lightweight and it doesn’t rely on “the power of friendship” and love to carry its heroes through victory by any means. Upon finishing, I gave Shingeki no Kyojin an 8/10, though to be honest it was anchored there for a majority of my watch. I understand some might feel this isn’t a particularly high score, but know this: in the event that Shingeki gets a season 2 (and knowing its popularity, I have little doubt it will once the manga has been given more content), I am almost certain that Shingeki will be a 9/10 from me. Considering the manga is a 9/10 in my eyes and the anime knows how to do an amazing job of adapting the material, I can definitely say that fans will be in for an amazing ride once the anime continues.