Monday, October 7, 2013

Things to learn from Attack on Titan (SPOILERS)

Every year I'll hear about an anime that is a "must see" and the best in years. I heard great things about Accel World, and was ultimately disappointed. Same with Code Geass, but it turned out to be one of the best animes ever. Next on the platter is Attack on Titan which has one of the most unique concepts and worlds I've ever seen. It's almost similar to Peter V Brett's The Demon Cycle series except with its own wrinkles. Now Accel World also had a pretty fun concept but failed in the simple rules of storytelling. This time around Attack on Titan fulfills its high expectations and delivers one of the best animes ever. Aside from a few stepbacks it's top notch in every aspect.

Note this isn't a review of the anime, rather a bulletin of points I'm selectively taking from this show to serve as tips (inspired by scriptshadow). And there WILL BE spoilers, although I'll do my best to minimize them. You have been warned.

1) CORNY DIALOGUE DURING FIGHT SCENES. This is what I HATE the most about mangas and animes. When two characters exchange a flurry of attacks, they stop, one smirks and says "You've gotten stronger." SHUT UP AND BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER! It's an extremely poor way of conveying backstory and exposition. Bleach and Naruto do this so much and it makes me want to pluck my eyes out. Thank goodness in Attack on Titan the enemies cannot speak at all. Makes me wish every single enemy in the history of anime and manga were incapable of speech, that way we won't have to suffer from childish infighting dialogue.

Now the action is often interrupted by interaction between the characters, but that is necessary as the characters are strategizing and telling each other what to do when approaching an enemy.

2) EXPOSITION. Fantasy novels are bad at this, but mangas and animes are worse culprits. All the information we need to know about the world is dumped in one boring lesson. Funny enough Attack on Titan literally does this as the fighters are put inside a classroom being lectured, however the difference is that this happens after we get a taste of a battle or two. We're left with questions burning in our minds that we want clarified and the lesson quenches our thirst for it. Like why risk close combat with the 3D Maneuver equipment with enemies that are as tall as buildings instead of resorting to long range weaponry? That is explained.

3) SHOW DON'T TELL - CHARACTERS. One of the more impressive scenes I've seen involves Captain Levi, and it's not when he's single handedly carving up the female titan (that was awesome too). I scoffed when I saw him; the typical emotionless badass that stands above the rest of his comrades in power and won't flinch even if he's bitten. It's a common archtype, although the wrinkle here is that he's the leader of a powerful squad of fighters. He's calculating and always makes the right decisions. How does the anime portray this?It's during a flashback when Eren accidentally turns into a titan. Thesquad all freaked out and thought Eren was going to kill them all, but who's the one that protects him? It's Levi. He's the only one that saw it was an accident, and he's trying to keep the peace while retaining his authoritative figure, and he does.

4) NO ONE IS SAFE. More than any anime I've ever seen Attack on Titan has me believing that no one is safe. It's on Game of Thrones level. A lot of manga authors have a sweet spot for their characters that they put them through unimaginable torture and pain, and have them live. And if they do die it's memorable and honorable in some way. The characters here die in gruesome ways and at any time. There's no build up towards it, no foreshadowing, they die. During the training sessions of the new recruits we're given a background check of each of the individuals and their strengths. It sounds like Naruto during the chuunin exams. And then when they're given their first real test during the invasion of Trost? After the anime has us believing that the new recruits are going to slowly develop and become strong fighters in their own right? They die. Thomas Wanger, who was one of the most promising new recruits in his class, gets frikkin eaten. In fact he's the first one to die. And after him several other characters that we thought would form their own identity in the show get eaten too. Because this happens, and it continues happening throughout the show, it makes our heart race wondering who's going to be dinner next.

5. FLASHBACKS. Here is my biggest criticism of the anime. It inserted flashbacks at the absolute worst times. During the middle of the Trost battle we're immersed into the events. Lots of people are dying and shit really hit the fan. We're wondering how humanity is going to prevail from this. And you know what happens? A frikkin flashback episode. There is no bigger boner kill than having to sit through a flashback when our adrenaline is pumping and we're itching for more action. It can happen after or before the Trost battle, just not dead in the middle of it.

6. SCREWING PLANS UP. Humanity has discovered themselves a neat little weapon they can use to take back Trost; Eren has the ability to become a Titan. They just need him to plug up the hole at the gates to stop the titans from entering into the city using a giant boulder. The problem is that he'll be defenseless while he's carrying the boulder, so they need to distract the titans away from him and they do this by luring them away to the other side of the town, which will lead to a ton of sacrifices. The plan commences, 1/5th of the forces have already been eaten by being bait, and Eren turns into a titan. And then he turns against his own friends! No one expects a setback so early. While the fighters are trying to figure out a way to turn the situation around, while not getting pounced by Eren as a titan, more titans are flooding into the city. The stakes keep on getting higher and higher, and we're left wondering more than ever how they're going to succeed. Want to create suspense? Screw your characters over, but not to the point they can't recover from it.

7. CONCEPT! This is VERY important. I roll my eyes when reading fantasy novels that were inspired by The Wheel of Time or mangas from Dragon Ball. I'll read them because for me they're likeromance novels to women, but they offer me little excitement. Attack on Titan has never been done before. We've seen grotesque insect like enemies and angelic beings as our antagonists before, but naked people that are as large as buildings? And the nice twist here is that, well aside from Eren, our characters don't possess the ability to blow up cities with a single attack or fire off a storm of energy balls. Aside from being able to defy physics and our characters are just normal human beings. How they fight off the titans? They use equipment that replicates the powers of Spiderman, slinging from building to building and giving them an agility advantage. It's very unique and people will be sucked into the anime off the premise alone. As typical and bland as Accel World's ability to tell a story was it still sucked me in because it was pretty unique and offered a different and fresh new angle for me to indulge in.
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