Tag Archives: Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan: Season 3 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3

 

Related: Attack on Titan: Season 1

Attack on Titan: Season 2

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Horror

Length: 22 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Finally some human drama
  • First half delivers good action
  • Less Eren

Negatives:

  • Stories from previous seasons don’t carry over well
  • CG titans
  • Baseball titan
  • Continued lack of thought to the details

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Here we go, back for another season of Attack on Titan. After the poor showing of Attack on Titan: Season 2, I was done with this series, but a reader requested I return for the third season, as it had improved – or so the claim went. I go into this willing to give it a chance.

Attack on Titan: Season 3 starts well with beautiful animation and a focus on human versus human conflict. The titans became an uninteresting part of the series since it turned out every character and their mum is secretly a titan. Eren as a titan is still the greatest mistake this series made. You don’t think the author would do the same again, would he? Would he? It has also become evident which characters have plot armour, removing much of the tension that Attack on Titan executed well in the first season. These problems persist in season 3.

However, this season does improve in several ways. As I mentioned, the human conflict is good between the scouts – largely composed of the lower class – and the ruling class at the heart of civilisation. There should have been more such conflicts from the beginning of the anime. The most captivating element in any monster story is how characters react to each other, not the monster. Attack on Titan in general lacks complexity. Look no further than the one note cast of characters, especially Mikasa. I thought she would find relevance by now.

Ironically, the best action comes not against the titans but between humans, all of it in the first half of the season. The animation is great, the settings are creative and lend themselves well to the web swinging, and it’s different from earlier seasons. As for the titan action, it’s okay overall. The fight with the crawler titan has good atmosphere. A massive battle against a few special titans eats up most of the latter half of the season, which does drag from lack of story and two glaring flaws. First is the Bigfoot Titan and his baseball puns while pelting boulders. Just why? Imagine if Gollum started going on about fidget spinners in The Lord of the Rings. The second is the decision to have the Colossal Titan made entirely in CG – it never looks good (the crawler has the advantage of being in the dark).

In fact, we see a significant drop in visual quality during the second half. Static pans with only mouth movements become more common, highflying action is rare (characters hanging from walls or on roofs is popular), and we have less key frames throughout. The first half looks great, much better than season 2, only for the second half to slash the budget. One has to wonder either if a different team did the work or if they realised that fans would watch regardless. Attack on Titan is popular enough to draw a crowd on a shoestring production.

The “Part 1” and “Part 2” structure of this season brings another problem to mind: the disconnect in story between seasons. Think back to seasons 1 and 2 and how little most of their events matter to season 3. Even with this season, the two halves aren’t all that connected. There is no sense of planning for the overarching story, as though the author thought of it one season at a time. The internal conflict within the human city of Part 1? Irrelevant to Part 2. What happened in season 2 again? I’d say 10% matters from season to season. This simultaneously makes each season feel like filler and relevant content.

Every good story employs resonance to build and build the narrative, incorporating past elements with the new to reinforce themes and events. Attack on Titan lacks resonance. When an earlier setup does receive an answer, I imagine the editor had to remind the author the night before.

Lastly, we come to the details. In my season 2 review, I talked of how the author hadn’t grasped the size of the human territory within the walls and the travel time required. It gets worse. We have characters travelling vast distances in a fraction of the time it should take. People come to the rescue at the last second (see plot armour earlier) despite being on the other side of the battlefield a minute ago. You can get away with this to some extent, but repeat offences wear thin. On a scale of one to Game of Thrones season 7, Attack on Titan is an eight for poor travel logistics.

Then we have simple stupidity. The ruling class wants to disband the scouts, the one group able to slay titans. How moronic are they? While evading the police, the scouts have the idea of hiding Eren in a crowd of 100 scouts by pulling their hoods up while flying around. Hoods wouldn’t stay up – bet you the writer has never worn one. Not a big deal, but it’s one of many instance where no thought went into the idea. No one instance is atrocious, yet they add up over time. Another that comes to mind is the torture scene. The mad scientist woman is the interrogator, but because she is comedic relief, the scene is laughable rather than frightening.

Contrary to my plethora of criticisms, I am more positive than negative towards Attack on Titan: Season 3, mostly because of the first half and its visual plus audio quality (great new OPs). It’s easy for the action to sweep you up.

Still, season 3 has not increased the likelihood that I will watch the conclusion. There are no mysteries left for me to care about. Season 3 revealed the origins of the titans to lacklustre results (would have been better with no explanation and no attention drawn to the idea of a backstory whatsoever). The studio has announced the fourth and final season is to release in 2020.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For Attack on Titan fans only. While an improvement over season 2, Attack on Titan: Season 3 isn’t worth it for those that already quit.

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Attack on Titan Season 2 – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2

 

Related: Attack on Titan Season 1

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • New Titan type.
  • Some solid art and audio.

Negatives:

  • Too much CG.
  • Atrocious twists.
  • No tension.
  • Characters are still flat.

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Get your hype pants on; we are here for season 2 of Attack on Titan! Feeling all nice and comfortable? Right, now take them off and prepare for boredom as you sink further and further into the couch, until all we can see of you is two dead eyes staring at the screen. Attack on Titan Season 2 is bad.

The first problem should become obvious after you finish episode one. Where are the main characters? Where’s the main story? Instead, we follow the B team as they search for a breach in the wall that let a dozens of Titans inside. The purpose of this point of view is to give us the backstories for a few characters, which is fine in concept, but it takes near half the season and isn’t engaging.

Not that the main characters are of any interest either. Eren is still your ever-angry teen, Mikasa still has no personality to speak of (the last episode gives a glimmer – yay…), and Armin is still useless. I have yet to comprehend how Armin is supposed to fill the role of the ‘smart’ character. If he is smart, it’s because everyone else is an idiot. In a fight against the Armoured Titan, do you attack the armour or go for the exposed muscles? Go for the armour of course! Just keep slashing at that impenetrable plate until every blade breaks. You’ll get through it eventually, I’m sure. And then – I kid you not – one character has this incredible epiphany, recalling full plate knights with no armour on the back of joints to allow movement and how the Titan must have the same weakness. Did you not see the exposed muscle everywhere until now? You. Idiots.

If this series doesn’t end with humanity wiped out, I will feel cheated.

Now I must talk about the twists. The midpoint twist is one of anime’s worst. It’s the sort of twist that was thought of at the last moment, the writer running to print room to stop the presses for his last second addition. Or he planned the twist but executed it this poorly. I’m not sure which reality is worse. The story tries to explain it by flashing back to the moments of foreshadowing, yet ignores all the aspects that break the twist. And the end twist, what else can it be but a deus ex machina to crown the cake in a red bollock trying to pass for a cherry?

Oh man, don’t forget the unbelievable overuse of the flashforward narrative structure. Almost every episode starts with the characters in a dire situation before it flashes back to the present for us to wonder how they get to that situation. I hate to break it to you, writer, but this is Attack on Titan – everyone is in a dire situation at all times. It isn’t shocking to show these scenes to us. More than that, it is lazy. Lazy, the perfect word to summarise the writing this season.

The laziness should have been obvious from season 1, seen no more clearly than in the author’s misunderstanding of how big an area a 480 km radius covers. This lack of basic research comes to a head in season 2 with the main goal of finding the hole in the wall. The scouts on horseback cover a vast distance in a day or two that should take weeks. The world of Attack on Titan feels the size of a city, not the size of the large country it purports to be.

Alright, the story is garbage. What of the action, the real reason everyone attends class?

A few scenes are exciting with that same quality animation, the most interesting of which introduces the new yeti-looking Titan with intelligence above the rest. However, the action Attack on Titan is known for – Spidermaning with swords versus giants – is scarcer this time around. I don’t know if it was time or budget, but action scenes seem designed to require as little of the webslinging as possible. On the other hand, I have praised many action series that didn’t have half the spectacle of Attack on Titan. But those series used the action to develop characters, since they knew that they couldn’t rely on flashiness to engage the audience.

Attack on Titan does not do this with its characters, main or otherwise. Action development is a pacifist having to make the decision to kill someone to save another he cares about. In Attack on Titan, we know how everyone will act and how they will fight, so there’s no excitement. Mute the action and you miss nothing.

All these problems combined manage to kill Attack on Titan’s other strength – atmosphere. The increasing plot armour for important characters coupled with having a Titan on the heroes’ side means the tension is low. Yep, humanity is on the brink of extinction and the tension is still low. Just great. That oppressive feeling, the sense of impending doom, the idea that it could all end today is gone.

Art – High

Season 2 has few of the amazing action sequences from before, with more static shots and ‘left to right’ animations taking their place. There is CG everywhere now. CG horses running across CG ground, the Colossal Titan in full CG, and more CG horses stand out like ink blots on paper. The art is still good overall, but doesn’t have the impressiveness of season 1.

Sound – Medium

Take all the music of Attack on Titan and lower the hype. You now have this soundtrack. The script hasn’t much to say.

Story – Low

Scouts investigate a breach in the wall that allowed a swarm of Titans inside human territory. An overuse of the flashforward story structure, flat characters, and twists conjured out of thin air saps all engagement for the story.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For diehard Attack on Titan fans only. If you are a fan, you’ve already seen season 2, so my recommendation doesn’t matter. But for those unsure after the first season, this isn’t worth your time. Attack on Titan Season 2 has almost none of the qualities that made the first engaging.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Deus Ex MachinaNo Development

Attack on Titan – Live Action Movie – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin – live action movie

Related: Attack on Titan (anime)

 

Positives:

  • Shounen padding tropes are gone.
  • Japanese lore localisation is well done.
  • Brutality.

Negatives:

  • Characters are still flat.
  • Action blue screen is glaringly obvious.
  • Mediocre acting.
  • Too little 3DMG action.

When the Attack on Titan Movie trailer released, many were quick to point out the wholly Japanese cast and non-European setting, a ruination of the source material. Ironically enough, the Japanese lore localisation is one of the few positives about this film.

Finding a full European cast fluent in Japanese, recreating a medieval city, and hoping everyone can act in Japanese are unrealistic desires without a colossal budget. The production had no choice but to go Japanese and film locally. With those two limitations in mind, they did a great job in adapting Attack on Titan’s setting. Rather than a medieval locale, we have an industrial era Japan with a post-WW2-apocalyptic vibe – all is changed to match. The boundary wall to keep Titans out looks made from ship hulls, sheet metal, and stone salvaged from derelict dams, vehicles replace horses, and grease and oil mar the populace. Considering what they had to work with, they could not have done much better in this regard. Keeping the European names is the only strange remnant from the source. Recognisability, I assume.

That’s where my praise ends. The acting from younger actors is rather poor – some even try to pull exaggerated anime faces, which look spastic – while it’s clear the veterans have nothing to work with in the soulless script. It is hard to pinpoint where the character development is supposed to be. Or did they forget to include it in the story? Honestly, if you haven’t seen the series, I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing what personalities they’re meant to have. The characters weren’t great in the anime, but still better than here.

On the positive side, this flat script also squashes out the many annoyances from the series, most notably the shounen trash that plagued the narrative. No longer do we have to endure inner monologues stating the obvious at the most inopportune moments. We don’t waste an hour of our lives on a training arc void of tension and conflict. And we aren’t inundated with character introductions only to kill them next episode. The film’s length limitations highlighted the utter uselessness of these elements in the series.

That said, alongside these elements, so too has the action waned. Yes, the gore is still present – Titans tear people limb from limb, chomping down on juicy humans – and the Titans are creepy; however, the one thing everyone remembers from Attack on Titan is the Spiderman-esque action, and the movie has so little of it outside the finale. Worse yet, the visual effects when swinging around the Titans are rather awful. It looks obvious they didn’t swing the actors 1:1 in a blue room to mirror the movements on film. If I had to guess, the actors hung suspended by a fan with a camera simulating movement – if this isn’t the case, I would be amazed. The CG as a whole is alright, but this is a travesty.

In the end, I must commend the team for the great work in adapting the setting, which couldn’t have been easy in the face of Attack on Titan purists, but the remainder of the film is a letdown. This movie is by no means bad – it’s no Fantastic Four – just average. The team said they were going for a Godzilla feel and succeeded.

Recommendation: If you didn’t like the anime, the Attack on Titan Movie won’t help. If you are a fan of the anime, it’s worth watching out of curiosity, if nothing else, for how they tackled this titanic project.

Attack on Titan – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shingeki no Kyojin

 

Related: Attack on Titan Season 2

Attack on Titan OVA (side story)

Similar: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Knights of Sidonia

Tokyo Ghoul

Claymore

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Fantasy Action Drama

Length: 25 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The sense of fear.
  • The world and atmosphere.
  • Interesting Titan lore and variety.
  • Incredible action rendered in gorgeous animation.
  • The music is great, from the opening to the tension theme.

Negatives:

  • Battle shounen tropes that slow the pace at inopportune moments.
  • Bland as raw potato protagonist.
  • Poor build-up to twists.
  • Several elements introduced and focused on long before relevance.
  • Poor job of conveying the city’s scope and distance between walls. (Creator doesn’t truly comprehend how big a 480 km radius covers.)

Attack on Titan is a story of fear. Humans live in a constant state of fear, fear of being consumed by Titans, giants that bang on the walls of humanity’s last bastion. One day, a new Colossal Titan appears and smashes through the wall, realising that fear. What an incredible premise – Pacific Rim gone medieval. With such an engaging hook, how can anyone avoid this for long?

And I must say, I am…disappointed.

AoT starts strong with the breach of the outer wall, throwing us straight into the gravity of humanity’s situation. However, after that first tense episode, the pace slows to a crawl as we watch Eren, his foster sister Mikasa, and friend Armin train to become Titan hunters. Wait, so what about the response to the breach? Eh, who cares? It’s more important that we meet a swarm of new characters that have no significance – reminiscent of Pacific Rim’s Chinese Jaeger. This would have been alright if the training weren’t so clichéd. To qualify for combat, recruits must learn to use the ‘Three-Dimensional Manoeuvrability Gear,’ a pneumatic system of firing cables to swing like Spiderman between buildings. The gear is cool. The training for it, not so much. Eren can’t balance properly and faces expulsion from the program. He trains his hardest, yet still fails, but guess what saves him in the end? His belt was faulty… Really? That’s it? The hard-arse drill instructor, a veteran, didn’t consider the fault on day one? And do you want to know why they did this? To show his skill because he maintained balance for some moments despite the fault. That’s right, in Naruto, kids face death to become true ninjas; in Full Metal Alchemist, kids risk their limbs to learn alchemy; in AoT, you have to balance on a bloody swing. Please…stop…the tension…it’s too much…oh no…

How did no one see these episodes and say, “This has no tension; we can do better.” Why not have a Titan, a small one, attack during training and Eren shows unconventional skill? And you want to know the irony of it all? Eren’s gear use is the least important of any character in the series.

This level of poor writing isn’t constant, interestingly enough. No, after the worthless training, once the action kicks in, it’s back to episode one’s quality. Tension, conflict, gruesome violence, creepy as hell manbaby Titans, deaths every few minutes, that animation as they fly around the Titans, all of it, it’s excellent. Then, of course, the drunken writer of the team wakes up to do his part again, and gives us the worst yet, episode ten. In the middle of one tense moment, we have to stop and endure a character’s inner monologue about the obviousness of the trouble they are in – for an entire episode. In a better show, this would take a couple of minutes, or better yet, the resolution would have clever back and forth with the cornered hero.

Once that episode buggers off, it’s great again. That is until the drunkard wakes up again! AoT is a violent anime set in a bleak world where children have no childhood, where the wealthy stomp on the poor even with humanity on the verge of extinction, and where courage is hard to find. Yet, despite this mature look at the world, the writers saw fit to inject trashy battle shounen tropes into the narrative. Take for example, Eren, a character who spends most of his screen time yelling about how much he wants to kill Titans; the rest of the time, he has an inner monologue stating the obvious. When a commander gives a rousing speech to rally the troops, Eren spends several minutes telling us how the commander gave a rousing speech and how determined the troops look. Thanks, Eren, we can already see that on their faces. This happens every few episodes.

There is a moment where a character is in a Titan’s mouth, holding it open, and rather than stab upwards to possibly escape, he must give some heroic speech before dinner. We expect these moments in battle anime – that’s the standard – but here, when they’re trying to convince us of the narrative’s seriousness, it doesn’t match the tone. Did they hire Toriyama or some other rubbish for a few scenes? This coupled with Eren’s stating the obvious gives the impression that the writers think the viewers are idiots – that five-year-old watching Dragon Ball Z who doesn’t know grass is green. Even when writing for a five-year-old one shouldn’t talk down to the audience.

Twists have the same error. Rather than trust the audience and give hints early to bring it all together in that ‘no way!’ moment, we watch several episodes with no clear goal. Then we have the twist, the initiation of the twist thread, and the explanation all at once. Imagine if in The Sixth Sense we’re never told that the kid sees ghosts, and at the end, the kid suddenly says, “I see ghosts and you’re a ghost. Twist!” Sure, it’s a surprising twist, but without something to start with, the red herrings, the diversions, there’s nothing to build on, leaving no impact in the twist.

Now, even with negatives taking up the majority of this review, I found AoT to be a good anime. The Shadow of the Colossus sense of scale, the spectacle, the production value, and the overall atmosphere are well worth your time. I focus on these negatives because they aren’t isolated; I can’t say that block is bad, as in Death Note; I can’t say Monster is slow to start, but once rolling, the issues are minor. No, here, the problems, these obvious problems are peppered throughout. The obviousness is what surprises me the most. A novice editor with a single look at the script would have spotted them.

These problems would likely go unmentioned in a lesser show, overshadowed by bigger issues; however, there is nothing impressive about an Olympian placing first in a high school race. Attack on Titan has such a strong premise and it nails the positives so well that the slightest flaws becoming glaring issues.

Art – Very High

The art and scope is probably what drew most people to Attack on Titan. Animation during action sequences is phenomenal and has raised the bar for future action series. However, a few scenes are panning stills, but these last mere seconds. Excellent atmospheric lighting.

Sound – High

Attack on Titan features some of the most hype-inducing music in anime, especially that first opening (don’t know why they bothered with a second). Operatic and orchestral for the most part. Great acting in both languages; the actors convey trauma and despair particularly well, though Eren is one-note in this aspect. Needed a better script to reach a higher tier of quality.

Story – Medium

The action, world, atmosphere, all great, but such a weak script, poor structuring, flat protagonist (several other dullards besides), and kiddy tropes prevent Attack on Titan from having the engagement it could have had.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Recommended – yes, even with its flaws – because of what it does right – fear and action. Future seasons could elevate Attack on Titan to an all-time great, but as it is, a superior clone has the window to snatch the crown before coronation.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid AnimationGreat MusicGreat OP or ED SequenceHoly S***Riveting ActionStunning Art Quality

Negative:

DissapointingWeak End