The American streaming giant Netflix is expanding its catalogue of Japanese animated series more and more with classics and mastodons of the genre such as Attack on titan anime, Naruto, Fairy Tail, Bleach, Hunter x Hunter or Samurai Champloo. Therefore, the platform has once again struck hard with the arrival of the first two seasons of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin in VO), the animated event by Yasuko Kobayashi taken from the eponymous manga series by Hajime Isayama on a post-apocalyptic world beset by horrible titans.
Warning: very slight spoilers, even if we say as little as possible to not spoil anything!
DIE, TITAN, DIE
Without revealing too much, Attack on Titan is set in an era oscillating between the future and the past. A population cornered and entrenched within three concentric walls form the last cradle of Humanity after the apparition—man-eating titans. Yet, while peace and security have reigned for nearly a century between these medieval-looking stones, a colossal titan sixty meters tall manages to breach one of the walls.
Other giants then rush to slaughter the people, which indelibly marks young Eren (voiced in VO by Yuuki Kaji), his adopted sister Mikasa (Yui Ishikawa), and their best friend Armin (Marina Inoue). Entering the army for military training, the boy promises to decimate one by one the creatures responsible for his captivity. Suppose Luffy wants to become the Pirate King.
In that case, Eren wants him to rid Humanity of its scourge in a punitive expedition. Just that.
The starting point, therefore, suggests a classic diagram of the shonen à la One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, or Bleach, with all the codes that revolve around, namely a young hero (orphan moreover), endowed with an unwavering will and extraordinary abilities that make him a character apart, with a more critical destiny than the others. After a few episodes, the storyline, therefore, seems predefined with a clearly stated objective that could have carried the whole series by giving it a unique direction from which it would never have deviated if it were not so surprising and powerful.
The narrative that stretches and hangs around the teenager in the form of long, introspective monologues about his moods would almost confirm this disappointing idea that everything will naturally revolve around this naive, thoughtless, and hateful kid in the first few episodes. In short, we could have accompanied him on his initiatory journey strewn with journeys and the corpses of titans knowing in advance his point of arrival, for an entertaining moment.
But not downright stunning or innovative.
But this wholly mapped-out itinerary shatters brilliantly as the episodes follow one another with the idea that Eren is, in fact, nothing of the absolute and unique Chosen One destined to change the face of the world on his own. Instead, it places itself as the instrument of a cause and a fight beyond it, making it less annoying and more endearing with more extensive writing. While respecting specific characteristics of the shonen, Attack on Titan is more like a chess game that began decades ago.
The fictitious camera that films it first lingered on one of the pawns in the center of the chessboard before taking the height and revealing the rest of the board, until the players can glimpse who move the different pieces, in other words, the real issues of the series that we discover with enthusiasm. Eren is at the service of the universe in which he lives. And he is only a part of History with a capital H in which he is inscribed.
The story is therefore not only that of a kid who wishes to take revenge on the monsters who ruined his childhood. But also and above all that of an occult world where captive Humanity does not manage to widen its field of vision (hence the fact that it seems blocked in the Middle Ages). This is why the series is always three moves ahead of its viewers. And proves to be much more complex and mature with more dense and primordial mythology than it seems.
QUESTIONS FOR A CHAMPION
We understand that Eren and the palette of deceptively stereotypical characters accompanying him are just a few drops that fall without making a wave in a vast ocean whose extent they cannot imagine. But more than Eren’s motivations. It is primarily the titans and what lies behind their existence that quickly establish themselves as the main plot and the nerve of the series.
These monsters come from who knows where and of which we do not know much (at least at the beginning), maintain exciting suspense by doing work. The imagination and deduction of the public, who like the protagonists, are often overwhelmed by events. The animated disseminates its clues episode after episode, sometimes even without the public noticing it. To give examples would be to ruin the pleasure of discovering that absolutely no detail is left to chance. Even what is took base for scriptwriting facilities or pirouettes. A first enigma to be solved plunges us and quickly involves us in the series.
Making us await the next episode with excitement and impatience.
But with each step that Attack on Titan takes, with each answer given and with each mystery “solved,” arise more significant questions. Never leaving our interest in marble in the face of the incomprehension and secrecy surrounding this. Blind world in an inferno, with a troubled past. More than simple plot twists intended to rekindle attention. The unexpected revelations made along the way completely change the meaning and ambitions of the series, which is constantly renewing itself.
We thus juggle between pure action, manipulation and political plots, science fiction with mystical overtones, or even the identity problems of the characters, all crossed from end to end by a philosophical line on our relationship to truth and our Humanity. We are, therefore, far from the initial postulate with Eren, who butcher the titan to get over his nerves.
Despite this richness, the rhythm is uneven and does not always manage to combine its different facets. The result is not always fluid. Especially when the narration gets lost in long parentheses obscuring the rest of the story. The series also loses in energy and relevance when it refocuses too long on the feelings of its hero instead of completing the puzzle.
Of which he is a central piece.
While they each have a typical character, the different characters generally embody a dimension or reality beyond them. For example, Armin represents Humanity’s forgotten memory and a forbidden thirst for knowledge. Mikasa is a holdover from a once larger world and stifled tragedy. While Eren crystallizes the struggle between humans and titans and that others are redefining the notion of good and evil by breaking the line between good guys and bad guys.
Even if the viewer follows Eren, who turns out to be necessary, and the story generally follows his aspirations. He is not necessarily more attractive than other protagonists who were initially thought to be there to tick all the boxes in the notebook. Charges. The secondary characters are carefully written, and practically all benefit from a real story or even a narrative arc to give them absolute consistency. Not making them incidental to the story and thus emancipating them from the main hero and his motivations.
ADVANCE IN BLOOD AND TEARS
To talk about Attack on Titan without mentioning the constant tension that weighs on its characters and fans would be unthinkable. On the model of Game of Thrones or Lost, the disappeared, all the fatalism and insecurity of the universe fall on the protagonists. Sacrificed in the chain without being prepared, leaving no respite to alert the public constantly. Each encounter with one or more titans usually ends in drama. Making some scenes very anxiety-provoking and desperate.
This almost crippling fear of young recruits and their elders contrasts with the three-dimensional gear that allows them to move at high speed and height. Delivering epic and technically mind-boggling aerobatic sequences, like drawing and animating an In General. Failing to pour into easy haemoglobin, titans sweat a cold with their scary design, deformed faces, indecisive gait, ominous smiles. And passivity when munching frightened humans.
The series plays with dimensions and perspectives. In combat, the characters rarely walk on dry land. Instead, they hover between buildings and titans. Energising the action and giving a better idea of the height of the giants, which varies from individual to individual. This feeling of speed never renders the action unreadable. Instead, it maintains a fluidity that flatters the eye and makes it easy to navigate in space, to understand.
What is happening in front of our eyes, unlike soldiers.
So that the viewer does not drown in a constant stream of questions or approximations that would hinder their understanding. Illustrations are made available to them in each episode. Among other things, they explain the architecture of the walls and land use planning. They detail the use of special equipment to kill the titans or reveal further practical details.
These details allow us to better focus on the why and how men are trapped behind these walls. When no one seems to remember the circumstances, or even their past. Of which the history books are a truncated testimony. And if Attack on Titan is a narrative and visual slap in the face. The catchy soundtrack, which ranges from an epic rock on Linked Horizon to more melancholy melodies on the piano. Goes a long way in elevating the fantasy series to the rank of the staple in the world. Animation in front of which we cannot remain passive or insensitive.
The third season of Attack on Titan has already been revealed between 2018 and 2019. Still, no date has yet been announced for its arrival on Netflix. However, the series should conclude by this fall with the fourth season and is therefore not yet finished talking about it.
Attack on Titan surprises episode after episode. Increasing our interest and curiosity as much as our attachment to the gallery of characters as interesting as each other. The plot never stands still and knows how to effectively renew itself to forge a unique identity. All magnified by a sharp and aesthetic animation.Tags: Anime, Anime culture, Anime movies, Anime series, Anime world