What’s it about ?
Eren, our kid protagonist. He really wants to join the Recon Corps and explore the world beyond the gigantic walls humanity is confined in, but most people think this is a very stupid dream. (Well, Daddy, who’s somebody Important, acknowledges that’s it’s pointless to try and dissuade him.)
Coincidentally, the Recon Corps have just come back from their latest expedition, and they’re far fewer than when they left, those who did come back are in a sorry state, and their commander openly recognizes that they’ve accomplished nothing of value, ever. No wonder most people think they’re a stupid idea.
Mikasa, Eren’s childhood friend. She too thinks that joining the Recon corps is a stupid idea, and I get the impression she’s sabotaging his efforts for his own sake. She’s always looking out for him when he gets in trouble ; bullies run away when they see her, and considering she can lift and carry Eren without breaking a sweat, I can see their point.
Armin, their friend. He holds the not-very-popular opinion that humanity pretty much has to go outside the walls anyway, and that people are just kidding themselves when they think they’ll be protected forever.
He’s instantly proved right when the wall is breached by what everyone’s so afraid of : the Titans, gigantic humanoid monsters that prey on humanity. For a hundred years the 50-meter-high walls have been enough to keep them out so that everyone can live in “peace”, but now there’s one that’s taller than the outer wall. Crap. The city near the wall immediately falls.
Hanneth, a city guard, who was liking it better when he was a glorified wall repairer and drunk “parasite on society” ; but fuck it, this is his job, so he’s going to attack the nearest Titan. Then he realizes that he’s facing alone a 5-meter-tall monstruosity, reconsiders, and starts enacting Eren’s mother’s dying wish : get him and Mikasa the hell away from the slaughter.
Holy shit, budget ! The soldiers in this setting use grappling hooks to scour the cities and the forests like they’re Spider-Men, and boy do the few snippets we get of this kind of action look impressive. This is a show with gorgeous animation and attention to detail… except in those few jarring scenes where they’ve ran out of money and it’s just still images.
Was someone asking for non-generic, non-terrible heroic-fantasy ? Well, the jury’s still out on whether this is actually good, but at least it builds a distinctive atmosphere and avoids most of the old tired clichés. And it does pull off the visuals needed to back its ambitions, as the Titans are depicted with a sense of scale and weight that sells them as a monstrous, unstoppable threat, despite just being tall dudes who advance slowly.
Now, if there’s one thing I’m a bit wary about, it’s that this is a dead-serious show whose high-strung melodrama sometimes devolves into bathos ; most of the time the atmosphere works, but there are times when it gets a bit too overdone and silly. Hopefully it’s going to find the right balance soon ; probably once humanity start striking back.
This is clearly one of the few shows with ambition this season, and I’m looking forward to see where it goes from this kick-in-the-gut start.