BrightGirlWrites Contributor Dan Tomasik talks his new favorite show, “Attack On Titan”.
This is the show most likely to make me give up on Game of Thrones. Why? Because everything one watches GoT for is in here, but better.
2000 years in the future, mankind is attacked by “titans”. Thousands of 10ft-30ft tall, doll-like, cannibalistic monsters that quickly push humanity to the brink of extinction. The survivors establish the last human society on Earth, a civilization protected from the titans by 180ft walls.
The only ones allowed to leave the walls are the Scout Regiment, who explore the remnants of the world for information about the titans in the hope of finding a way to take back the Earth.
For 100 years, mankind lives in safety from the titans. Until one day a Colossal Titan appears and peeks over the wall. On that day, mankind was reminded of the terror of being at their mercy.
Much like GoT, the world of AoT is a bleak one. Every episode serves to emphasize this theme of despair and helplessness. From the time we start watching, everything begins to get worse. Every positive advancement or development is shadowed by enormous losses and failures. What this show captures so well is the feeling of fighting a losing war. Feeling the loss and the encroaching death that gets closer with every action taken to fight back. If it continues, all will be lost.
And yet, what separates AoT from GoT is the feeling of hope. Breakthroughs and developments that give us (the viewers) hope that things can change. We can make a stand. We can halt this encroaching death. But every time a new hope appears, the losses are staggering. Humanity was barely hanging on when the series began, and while great achievements have been accomplished that can alter the course of the war, there’s this constant feeling in the pit of one’s gut that it’s come too late. That mankind has already lost the ability to utilize these new developments. The war has been lost.
That atmosphere is the main draw of the series. This world filled with people pushed to the brink of madness by the constant fear of the titans. Furthermore, this fear is entirely justified. Titans are somewhat akin to the zombies of The Walking Dead or other similar stories. They are slow and lumbering, but carry strength in their vast numbers and ability to end you the moment they catch you. The difference is that titans are 3x-5x the size of humans, infinitely stronger, faster, and harder to kill. Imagine Zombies that can destroy buildings. Zombies you can’t fight because they’re too big. Zombies that can only be killed if you carve up the nape on the back of their necks. It’s an entirely different level of fear.
What’s worst is the ambiguity behind the titans’ motives. Almost nothing is known about them. Where they come from, why they came here, why they attack humans but nothing else, why they eat humans even if they don’t need food to survive, why they evaporate into steam after they’re killed to prevent further study, why they only seem to be male, why they survive with no means of reproduction, why they regenerate from any wound except precise cuts into the nape of their necks, etc. If possible, these unanswered questions are scarier than the titans themselves. Their doll-like bodies, lack of intelligence, and often comical faces only add to their terror. It’s like a cruel, sick joke on humanity. It all feels so premeditated, so intentionally cruel to instill maximum fear into victims before death, but who would do something like this? It’s no wonder so many characters are always on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Another strength of this series is it’s willingness to kill characters without mercy or grace. Early on we are instilled with a grave truth; even for the Scout Regiment who are trained for years to combat titans, every single one of them has a strong likelihood of dying each time they face a titan, no matter how skilled or experienced they are. The only two characters that can take on a single titan with a 100% chance of survival every time are Mikasa and Levi, the two biggest badasses in the series. Everyone else could very well die, unceremoniously, at the hands of any ordinary titan. There is no safety for anyone. Every battle is fought under the worst possible circumstances, and feels like it could be the loss that finally seals humanity’s fate.
Also notable is the execution of everything. Attack on Titan blasts away the standards and conventions of action/horror series, they do not apply in this world. Guts do not make you immune to any titan that crosses your path. There are no mystical energies or magic weapons. No special named techniques mastered by characters to chop up titans with ease. No bankai, no inner demonic entity, no alchemy, no death note, no special powers to unlock. Ingenuity, intelligence, instinct, intuition, and sheer dumb luck, those are what keeps one alive in this series. Except when they don’t. The execution for just the first episode is enough to hook most. The exposition, character introduction, setting of the tone, and then the trigger event that changed everything. The indescribable sensation when the Colossal Titan peeks over the wall. Every revelation and new piece of information is delivered in a way that leaves the audiences hanging onto every word said (or rather, subtitle read). By episode 5, you’ll be either be screaming or shocked into silence. Nothing is sacred in this world and no one is safe.
What really sets AoT apart from GoT is how sleek and focused it is. It gets straight to the point of each episode and how it fits into the overall storyline. Game of Thrones likes to take its time and meander all over. Little bit of this, little bit of that, some scolding here, some arguing there, filthy people doing filthy things, some sex, some mythology, some backstory, some exposition, a squabble or two, and some monologuing. Where is it all going, who knows?
Don’t believe me? Give Attack on Titan a try. The first 25 episodes are available on Netflix Instant. I dare you to watch 5 episodes and stop. Seriously, try it.