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Attack on Titan

Entry updated 28 August 2023. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2013-current). Original title Shingeki no Kyojin. Based on the Manga by Hajime Isayama. Wit Studio, MAPPA. Directed by Tetsurō Araki, Yūichirō Hayashi, Masashi Koizuka and Jun Shishido. Written by Yasuko Kobayashi and Hiroshi Seko. Voice cast includes Marina Inoue, Yui Ishikawa, Yuuki Kaji and Romi Park. 75 24-minute episodes (and 8 OVAs). Colour.

Within three concentric walls – each 50 metres high, the outermost with a radius of 480km – is, so the inhabitants believe, the last redoubt or Keep of humanity. The walls defend them from the Titans, giant naked humanoids who appeared a century ago. The Titans' origins are unknown; displaying no intelligence (nor genitals), their sole drive is to devour humans. For nearly a century the population has been safe, until a huge red Titan tears a gap in the outer wall. Eren Yeager (Kaji) sees his mother eaten and vows to kill all Titans: he and his childhood friend, Mikasa Ackerman (Ishikawa), join the army. Though society is mostly at a pre-industrial revolution level, the military has personal steam-powered Technology that fires pitons attached to wires, making users extremely mobile (in effect, doing what webs do for Spider-Man) and able to kill Titans.

Five years later, during another Titan attack, Kaji is swallowed. Shortly after Mikasa sees a Titan killing other Titans: when it dies Kaji is found alive, embedded in the back of its neck. Kaji suspects a connection to an injection his father gave him after his mother died. He and Ishikawa transfer to the Survey Corps, who undertake high risk journeys into Titan occupied territories: they discover the Titans are orchestrated by other humans who, like Kaji, can transform into intelligent Titans. The Corps, caught up in internal politics, arrange a coup d'état that replaces a false King with a true heir. Eren and Mikasa learn that the royal family pass on ancestral memories (see Identity Transfer) by turning into a Titan (significantly, by injection) then devouring their predecessor, becoming a gestalt consciousness, though the first King's ideology (a common enemy keeps humanity peaceful) seems to dominate. The royal family can wipe memories en masse (see Memory Edit), and did so a hundred years ago.

When the Corps move to retake the lands between the second and third walls they find Kaji's father's books, which reveal they live on Paradis Island. On an adjacent continent their ancestors, the Empire of Eldia, used Titans to conquer another state, Marley. The Marleyans eventually overthrew the Eldians, most of whom fled with their King to Paradis: those who remained were oppressed. Marley uses Paradis as a penal colony (see Prisons), turning prisoners into Titans and releasing them. Marleyan and Eldian histories each paint themselves as righteous: but we know the former undertakes ethnic cleansing and other atrocities, whilst the latter's empire was colonialist. Marley, eyeing Paradis's natural resources, is behind the Titan attacks: season four's mid-season finale has their invasion forces arriving. Meanwhile, Paradis – now able to mass-produce Titans – are considering using the threat of "The Rumbling" as a deterrent: a wall of marching Titans that can destroy all non-island peoples.

This is an exciting slice of Horror in SF, whose enjoyment comes not just from the action and violence but also the worldbuilding and the gradual reveal of the back-story. There is a large cast (many of whom get eaten) with reasonable characterization: memorable are Armin Arlert (Inoue), Kaji and Mikasa's intelligent friend, and eccentric Scientist Hange Zoë (Park), whose gender is deliberately ambiguous (though there is an animation slip-up). The military are idealized, any negative aspects generally being associated with proximity to the civil government, which is corrupt. There has been controversy over the portrayal of the Eldians and Marleyans – the former seem to be an allegory of the Jewish people and the latter of the Nazis, so having the Eldians able to turn into Monsters and originally be the persecutors of the Marleyans is troubling: however, as the show's heroes are of Eldian descent and Marley's society is portrayed as repulsive, this seems to be clumsiness rather than ill intent.

Both the manga and Anime are enormously successful, both critically and commercially (the manga having sold c.100 million volumes). There have been four compilation films: Attack on Titan, Part 1: Crimson Bow and Arrow (2014; original title Shingeki no kyojin Zenpen: Guren no yumiya) and Attack on Titan, Part 2: Wings of Freedom (2015; original title Shingeki no Kyojin Kôhen: Jiyû no tsubasa); The Roar of Awakening (2018; original title Shingeki no Kyojin: Kakusei no hôkô) and Chronicle (2020; original title Shingeki no Kyojin: Chronicle). Aside from manga and Light Novel spin-offs, there have been Videogames; a two-part live-action film, Attack on Titan (2015; original title Shingeki no Kyojin) and an online live-action series, Attack on Titan: Counter Rockets (2015; original title Shingeki no Kyojin – Hangeki no Noroshi). The Television animated series Attack on Titan: Junior High (2015; original title Shingeki! Kyojin Chūgakkō) is a Parody, based on a manga by Saki Nakagawa. [SP]


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