Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Attack on Titan and overcoming the odds

“It doesn’t matter how terrifying the world is. Fight. It doesn’t matter how cruel the world is. Fight. Fight!” -Eren Jeager in the Battle of Trost

Years from now, the cosmos will look back on Attack on Titan as the show that made anime cool again. After the golden age of the 90’s (Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Berserk, Evangelion) came the crushing and unrelenting mediocrity of the 2000’s. Barring a few successes early in the decade, the landscape had become a wasteland of high school girl nonsense. 2D animation itself was dying.

I really believe that, properly done, traditional animation can bring a viewer to his knees in the realm of the imagination. Akira, for example, with its wide brush strokes of post-apocalyptic power, could never be harnessed in the tight confines of reality’s camera. The colors, as bright as Neo Tokyo in 2019, spill onto the canvas of the human eye.

If anime is to fade away, then Attack on Titan is its roaring epitaph. Mankind has been driven to the very brink of extinction by nightmarish giants (Titans) of an unknown origin. The remaining humans have endured by sealing themselves behind three massive walls. This strategy works for a hundred years, until the Titans break in.

For the first two episodes, literally the only thing that happens is that people get eaten... like, a lot of people. Three surviving children (Eren, Mikasa, and Armin) decide to fight for humanity’s future by joining the military. This is where the story kicks into high gear, as you get to see fantastic character development among their squad. For example, one cadet, Jean, starts out as a selfish jackass only to become the very model of a hero later on.

To spoil things, Eren gets devoured by a Titan in episode 5, and this obviously sets a particularly somber tone. One may be forgiven to think they’re watching The Walking Dead, with main characters just dying off for arbitrary reasons, until you see episode 8. There, it is revealed that Eren has survived, and not only that, but now has the mysterious ability to turn himself into a Titan of enormous strength.

With this newfound knowledge, humanity now pushed back to the last wall, launches a desperate counteroffensive, with Eren as their savior. Here, in episode 13, I think I just completely lost my proverbial shit. In the battle plans, Eren is to pick up a giant boulder to block the hole in the wall that the Titans are pouring through. It sounds great on paper, but maintaining one’s mental state in a Titan’s body is taxing, and Eren lashes out at Mikasa, his family.

All seems lost, until Eren remembers why he wanted to venture outside the walls in the first place… because he was born to the world, and he wanted to know it. He also remembers the death of his mother to the hands of the Titans, and in his rage, lifts the stone, and heaves it into the breach. At this point, it’s realized that for the first time, mankind has defeated the Titans.

The correlation to reality is this: Life sucks. A lot. But don’t give up! Persevere and fight the good fight! We humans are weak, it’s true, but together we can fly with the “Wings of Freedom.”