First Impressions: Attack on Titan


A bloody good time.

Attack on Titan has the best opening theme of the season. 

There, I said it.

Linked Horizon's Guren no Yumiya is a quick moving, almost mesmerizing theme that sets the pace for the rest of the first episode. The visuals hit hard and fast, with the song's lyrics flashing across the screen at key moments. It's a visual and aural delight that immediately sucks the viewer into the show, something that too many openings fail to do properly. Granted, none of this would mean anything if the first episode ended up a disappointment.

Fortunately, Attack on Titan hits the ground running with a spectacular premiere. 

Mankind has been pushed to the brink of annihilation by giant humanoid creatures referred to as Titans. Nobody knows where these beasts came from or why they're here. Their existence is shrouded in mystery, and as humanity's numbers continue to dwindle, the truth seems to grow more and more distant. For hundreds of years, mankind has lived behind towering walls built to protect them from the threat of the Titans. It's been a century since the walls were last breached, and the citizens have grown complacent. The city guard drinks while they're on duty, and few people seem concerned with trying to venture out into the world.

Young Eren isn't content with the way things are going. He wants to become part of the Survey Corps; the soldiers who explore the outside world in an effort to defeat the Titans once and for all. His sister, Mikasa, thinks he's crazy for wanting to leave behind the safety of the walls just to get himself killed. Even Eren's best friend, a weak boy named Armin, knows that even though it's just a matter of time before humanity is annihilated, it's too dangerous to leave the city. Sadly, it looks like mankind's final days are closer than anybody could have expected; an enormous Titan appears and makes a hole in the wall.

With smaller monsters pouring into the city unchecked, the citizens are thrown in a state of panic. A series of explosions send debris flying into homes across the area, and Eren rushes home, fearing the worst. He finds his mother trapped under the wreckage of their house, her legs crushed underneath the wood. Mikasa and Eren try to pull their mother free but to no avail; a Titan notices them. Hannes, one of the city guard, arrives to save the day, but is so overcome by his fear of the monsters that he turns back and grabs both of the children. Eren's mother, in her last moments, begs Hannes to save her children. He complies, leaving her to a grisly fate. Mikasa and Eren watch from afar as their mother is crushed and eaten by a Titan.

Adapted from Hajime Isayama's manga of the same name, Attack on Titan comes out of the gate and hits hard. The opening scene, a sequence in which the Survey Corps prepare to engage a Titan in combat, is exciting and stylish. The seemingly harmless beast slowly walks toward them, leading one to believe that there's no way the heroes won't come out on top. The camera swings from soldier to soldier as they demonstrate their acrobatic moves, rain constantly falling across the screen. CG animation is used to better allow the camera to move through space. The whole lasts about a minute, but stands as an exciting promise of things to come. Wit Studio, with support from Production I.G, has already set the bar extremely high. 

The rest of Attack on Titan's opening episode serves as a set up, introducing us to humanity's last stronghold, and the people who live there. Characters are drawn with dark, thick lines that do an admirable job of adapting the original manga's look, while cleaning up some of the messier artwork from Isayama's early chapters. With Death Note's Tetsuro Araki on directorial duty, a lot of care is taken to make sure even scenes of dialogue are shot with energy and gusto. The reaction shots are plentiful here, but feel appropriate given the subject matter. The cinematography and visual aesthetic reminded me a lot of Toho's Showa-era special effects films. The Titans have a fantastic sense of scale and the art design is dripping with atmosphere. A lot of the background art is beautiful; the gorgeous hillsides of the first half of the episode contrast nicely to the inner city of the second half.

Hiroyuki Sawano (Gundam Unicorn) is on music duty, and rather than populate the first episode with bombastic themes, he plays with more ominous tunes that create a sense of dread. His work on Gundam Unicorn has been spectacular so far, and if this first episode is any indication, we're in for a treat. 

I came into Attack on Titan with cautious optimism. Wit Studio is a fairly unproven force, and Production I.G has been hit or miss as of late. There's still plenty of time for it to collapse on itself, but in the very least, Attack on Titan's first episode shows tremendous promise. If Wit Studio can manage its budget properly, we could be looking at the best action series of the season.

[You can catch Attack on Titan over at Crunchyroll]

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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures



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