Genre: Action, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Creator: Hajime Isayama
Studio: Production I.G. and Wit Studio
Length: 25 episodes
Highlights: Action, dark but not too dark
That is, until one day when a colossal titan appears and smashes a hole in the outer wall. Titans flood in, eating thousands of people and causing the retreat from a huge portion of humanity’s remaining territory. Enter our protagonists, three survivors from that fateful day: the hot-headed Eren Yeager, his quiet, adoptive sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their best friend, the bookish Armin Arlert. They decide to join the military in order to learn how to strike back at the titans which took so much from them. However, not all is as it seems, and as the story progresses, our heroes discover shocking revelations about themselves, the titans, and the very nature of the world around them.
Every once in a while, an anime series comes around which, for whatever reason, reaches a large number of older viewers (and by older I mean in the teenage demographic) who have never been exposed to anime before. In this way, it becomes a gateway series for a new group of anime fans. Attack on Titan is one such series: it has become amazingly popular, especially with a significant group of viewers for whom this is their first adult anime series.
So why has it become so popular, you ask? First and foremost, it has a ton of action. Attack on Titan is an action series first and foremost, and the action is very well done. It is fast-paced, exciting, and bloody. It is essentially the anime equivalent to a block-buster action movie. It has bad-ass characters fighting horrible monsters that we can easily root for and cheer on. Basically, it’s fun.
In addition to being chock-full of action, the series is also dark and gritty. As I touched on in the introductory article, there is a perception among Americans that all animated works are silly and childish, just by the nature of them being animated. Early anime series that many of us were exposed to as children (Pokemon, Yugioh, Dragon Ball Z) don’t do much to alter that perception. It is often a surprise to new anime viewers that some series can be so dark, and Attack on Titan is certainly dark. It isn’t at all afraid to kill off main characters, and it frequently does, often in gruesome and horrible ways. Further, the heroes don’t always win, and an important aspect of the series is on failure and sacrifice that often turns out to be futile.
But all of that being said, at its core Attack on Titan is still a pretty standard shōnen series. It has the standard character tropes, a relative disinterest in relationships and character development, and a focus on action above all else. The show still follows standard conventions of storytelling and still adheres to most anime tropes. The show is darker and grittier than most shōnen series, which makes it interesting to an older demographic. However, it never crosses the point at which it would become so dark or complicated that it loses mainstream appeal. Essentially, Attack on Titan is the perfect mix of what is familiar with what is new, of gruesome deaths with an easy-to-follow plot, and grittiness with familiarity. In short, the perfect gateway series for an older audience of anime fans.
So if you have little to no experience with anime as a medium, this is the perfect series for you. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s full of action, and it’s a great way to expose yourself to the medium before diving into the really complicated stuff. This is the Guide to AnimeLand after all, and at the very least, this is a series that all anime fans should be familiar with, because this is one you will hear about all the time.