Thursday, January 12, 2023

Anime Roundup: Attack On Titan Edition

Okay, normally I wait until I've seen all or most of five or six different anime shows before I write one of these roundup posts. But this time, I had to make an exception and talk about this one while it was still fresh in my mind. And which one is that, you ask?

Well, as the title of this post suggests, it's Attack on Titan.
Believe it or not, I actually tried watching this show years ago, even before I had signed up for Netflix and my anime fandom really took off. As I said in the very first Anime Roundup post back on May 31, 2018, "I managed to get through about ten episodes before the momentum just kind of petered out." At the time, the whole thing just seemed pretty bleak and basic: creepy zombie giant eats a kid's mom, kid swears revenge and signs up for a quasi-military group that kills said zombie giants, training montage ensues in which kid seems mostly incompetent. I mean, where could this possibly go, right? Kid will probably get better with the help of friends, then will kill the giant in some huge climactic battle thus saving the whole town, yay everybody's happy the end.

As you know, though, if you've been reading these posts, after a while I learned that sometimes you just have to stick with a show, give it some time, and your patience will eventually be rewarded. I found this out with stuff like Kill la Kill and Gurren Lagaan, both of which became huge favorites of mine after I had initially given up on them. And so, a few years after my initial foray, I gave AoT another shot, and boy was I pleasantly surprised. As I said in this Anime Roundup post from February 25, 2021, "like a Titan eating humans, I consumed the whole 25-episode first season (which is all that's available on Netflix) in a matter of days. I now see why it's so popular, and I may have to sign up for Hulu just so I can watch the rest of it, dangit." It was much more layered and nuanced than I had originally thought, with several moments where I literally said "what the heck??" out loud to my TV (except I didn't actually say "heck," I used a different word that cannot be printed in a family blog).

So then after that, the months went by, during which time I actually did sign up for Hulu, but being distracted by other shiny shows (My Hero Academia, Spy x Family, and non-anime offerings like Letterkenny and Solar Opposites), I somehow forgot about my plan to hop back aboard the Titan-attacking train. Then one day a few weeks ago, Hulu recommended for me, as it does, something called Attack on Titan: Junior High.
Listed as "comedy," I was instantly intrigued, given how the original show is so NOT comedy. So I checked it out, and sure enough, it was a hilarious spoof on the original, with chibi (small and cute) versions of the characters attending a "real" junior high school in modern Japan (in case you don't know, the original is set in a fictional world) facing problems that have less to do with Titans (although they're still there) and more with mundane, everyday situations (instead of eating his mom, a Titan eats the main character's bento lunch). Even better, the same voice actors from the original show voice their chibi equivalents, and the show retains the solemn next-episode preview narration style to great ironic effect.

Anyway, after I breezed through Junior High, I was like, "oh, wait - didn't I want to watch the rest of the original show, which is supposed to be on Hulu?" So I checked and, sure enough, it was - at least, until the end of Season 4 ("the final season"), Part 2 (at the time I had been watching Season 1, I was aware that the show was still ongoing, but I thought it had already ended since then). And thus, I picked up where I left off, at the start of Season 2. At first, it was enjoyable enough, despite my having to read a Wikipedia article to catch myself up on exactly what was going on, but then something strange started to happen: I couldn't stop watching.

As you may know if you've been reading these posts, I do most of my TV-watching during my morning and afternoon exercise sessions - one hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon, enough time for three episodes of your standard anime. Normally, I fill those slots with one or two shows in the morning (not always with anime, sometimes - a lot of times, in fact - with hour-long stuff) and a different one in the afternoon, and I'll rotate each day. So for example, on Wednesday morning I'll watch the new episode of Willow, and then Romantic Killer in the afternoon, and then on Thursday morning it'll be the Japanese sports dramedy Sumo Do, Sumo Don't, followed by Uncle From Another World in the afternoon. Well, at first AoT got placed in the afternoon slot, but then it quickly spread like wildfire to the other slots, eventually becoming All Titan, morning and afternoon, every single day. It even consumed my non-exercise free time, like the day after Christmas when I spent three hours binging twelve episodes in a row (something I almost never do).

I can't quite explain why it's so compelling. I mean, I guess the layers and the nuances and the "what the heck??" moments (which included numerous instances of rewinding and rewatching periods of expository dialogue) start to pile up so much that you just can't help but press the "play next episode" button in an effort to find out what's really happening, only to get even more questions than answers. Seriously, not to give anything away, but it goes way, way beyond the simple revenge tale that it starts out being (I remember late one night, long before I started watching the second season, when, after being woken up by cats, I stumbled upon a Season 4 episode on Adult Swim and thought it was a completely different show).

Does all this mean that Attack on Titan is now my new ichiban (#1) favorite anime of all time? I mean, I don't think I binged twelve episodes in a row of My Hero Academia or Food Wars or K-On! (although I did watch K-On! all the way through more than twice, so there is that). Hard to say. Check back later.

And so anyway, I cannot wait for Part 3 of Season 4, which is supposed to be The End and is scheduled to come out some time this year. In the meantime - manga readers, don't tell me what happens!

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