As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hi there, It’s Mokugyo, a MANGA.TOKYO otaku writer who loves manga and anime. We already near the end of the Winter 2017 season, and I’m looking forward to watching many new anime in 2017. One of the anime for which I’m really excited for is the second season of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), which will start airing this April. Since I’ve been reading the original manga since the very first chapter, I care very much about this second season
For newcomers to the series, I recommend watching its first season beforehand. The story flows continuously from its very beginning and there are secrets which have been embedded in the narrative since Season One. If you want to enjoy the series even more, I suggest you read the manga as well!
In this article, I’m going to geek a bit about the series and explore 6 reasons why Attack on Titan is such a fascinating anime!
Attack on Titan is a dark fantasy manga about a brutal war between mankind and huge creatures called titans. The manga became hugely popular and is still serialized in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine as of February 2017.
The story takes place in a world in which massive titans exist. It unfolds in a town that’s surrounded by a very tall wall. Although Eren, who was born in the walled town, always wanted to escape its confines, no human could survive on the outside because of the man-eating giants that wander beyond it. A superficial illusion of peace is shattered when a colossal titan destroys the wall. The town becomes flooded by titans and people are brutally slaughtered. Eren and his family are also attacked by the titans. Surviving the incident, Eren vows to himself that he would kill every last of them.
Attack on Titan had sold 60 million volumes of manga by December 2016, which is an outrageous number for the publishing industry these days. It was adapted into an anime, two live-action movies, and many games, and its theater play will show from July 2017. It is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and well-known anime in Japan .
Attack on Titan is serialised in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, a monthly manga magazine for boys that was established in 2009 as a spin-off of Weekly Shonen Magazine.
Weekly Shonen Magazine has been publishing since 1959 and has serialised many popular manga, such as Ashita no Joe, a boxing manga masterpiece which captivated fans between the 60s and 70s; Kindaichi Case Files, a popular detective story manga in the 90s which was adapted into a TV drama series; and Great Teacher Onizuka, a story of an unconventional teacher in the 90s. Recently, it has been serialising popular fantasy manga Fairy Tail. It is regarded as a rival to Shonen Jump, the home of Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto. However, Weekly Shonen Magazine is just as major and part of the elite four shonen magazines that publish weekly in Japan: Jump, Magazine, Sunday, and Champion.
Bessatsu Shonen Magazine was published to reach out to genres which Weekly Shonen Magazine had censored from its pages. Therefore, it serializes dark fantasy manga and risqué manga, including Sankarea, a story about life living with zombie girl, and Aku no Hana, a manga that depicts the complex and oppressive feelings particular to adolescence. The story of a strange death game in Kamisama no Iutoori also had started its serialization on Bessatsu and later moved to Weekly Shonen Magazine for its sequel.
Attack on Titan started its serialization in the very first issue of Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Talk about good luck, since the explosive popularity of the title helped the magazine become known by the masses. Since the Bessatsu Shonen Magazine was minor and didn’t have a long history compared to Weekly Shonen Magazine and Weekly Shonen Jump, it was possible to try out extreme and grotesque depictions which some people may find disturbing, like the scenes of titans eating humans alive.
That’s a very peculiar thing to say, but one of the strong points of Attack on Titan is the lack of drawing skill that was found at the beginning of its serialization. In theory, manga with skillful and beautiful pictures are more likely to become popular, especially when it comes to action fantasy manga. Attack on Titan, however, had pictures that weren’t stabilized and sometimes it was difficult to distinguish the characters. I know it sounds contradictory, but the author’s drawing skills made the titans much creepier and the readers were fascinated at the unnerving world he created. Titans have the same body shape as humans, but also have an eerie strangeness. Their uncanny nature is apparently distinct in his early pictures. Hajime Isayama, the creator of the original manga, has superb expressive skills, and his pictures made it possible to depict the title’s unique sensation of tension and heat.
The quality of its anime adaptation is excellent from the start. If you haven’t read its original manga, you might be surprised at the difference between them.
The best thing about Attack on Titan is definitely its story. Readers can’t take their eyes off its unpredictable and thrilling narrative. I can’t tell you every detail here, as I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t watched the first season. Bear this in mind, however: something disastrous happens to Eren within the first few episodes of the first season, and then grave secrets are gradually revealed. In its second season, another dreadful secret will be exposed. Fans of the original manga have been excitedly waiting how this development will be depicted in the anime series. The well-thought-out plot proves Sasayama’s statement that he plans far ahead when he creates a storyline. The mystery about the real identity of the titan, why they devour humans, and the secret behind the protagonist, Eren – such mysteries create the aire of mystery and fascination around Attack on Titan.
The action scenes utilizing the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment are breathtaking. By wearing the equipment, humans are allowed to battle the massive titans in 3D space by firing grappling hooks with wire, then reeling themselves up in the air. The machine reminds a little of Spiderman and the way he glides around New York, but the way the soldiers in Attack of Titan use the equipment in unison with their blades to kill the titans is extraordinary, unique to the anime, and utterly exhilarating to watch.
Attack on Titan has been repeatedly producing spin-off manga and novels. These side stories are possible because of its uncompromising plot and setting, as well as its colorful and attractive characters. For example, Eren, the protagonist, is called a ‘suicidal idiot’ for his impulsive and fearless nature when in battle with titans. Heroine Mikasa, is a highly skillful soldier, who keeps her cool and who is always worrying about Eren. Armin, a childhood friend of the pair, is not physically strong but good at planning tactics. The story revolves around these three main characters. The most popular character to many is Levi, the world’s strongest soldier. His character is quite impressive: he has a sharp tongue and an obsessive tendency toward cleanliness. The popularity of each unique character contributes to the appeal of Attack on Titan.
The Japanese economy has been struggling in recent decades and its people are feeling a sense of stagnation. Not many Japanese are ambitious enough to go abroad to establish themselves. We live as if confining ourselves in a wall, just like the humans of Attack on Titan. Japan, as you may already know, is an island country situated between China, a massive economic giant, and the USA, the most powerful country in the world. Some people theorize that the titans are a metaphor for these big countries.
When the northeast of Japan was violently shaken and suffered from a tsunami in 2011, the theory of Attack on Titan as a metaphor of disaster prevailed. The tsunami destroyed the walls of breakwaters which had been protecting people for many decades; many people perished. People who watched the surging tsunami wave in horror identified it with the titans. It’s no exaggeration to say that understanding Attack on Titan can give you a glance into modern Japan.
Attack on Titan is a manga/anime that represents Japan today. In other words, the situation of contemporary Japan has created such a narrative. I’d like more fans of anime and manga overseas to know about Attack on Titan.