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Review: Shingeki no Kyojin

(One last! Because this had been almost a year overdue now. So might as well. Just short.)

I finally get to write this!  Short but, anyway, at least I finally wrote something.

I learned of this anime last year, when six people from my different circles suggested, in a span of one week, that I watch this. The latest anime episode released then was Episode 4. The idea that these people told me of the same new anime means the plot is interesting and wide enough to appeal to people of different perspectives. Which sounds very promising.

When I watched the first episode, I was speechless. The amount of symbolism in that one episode blew my mind. How much that one episode spoke about humanity, society, revolution, people, dreams, beliefs, ideals, rules and norms was just mind-boggling. I only felt this much awestruck in two other anime/manga. One was Rurouni Kenshin (first episode) and the other was Fullmetal Alchemist (first chapter). And considering how much I respect and revere, no - how much I worship, these anime/manga, it sounds really, really promising.

There is indeed a common theme in RuroKen, FMA and Shingeki - revolution. Most people think of revolution as chaos. But revolution is not just changing of powers. Revolution is change. When we are presented with situations that forces us to examine ourselves and our world, something changes in us. Isn't that what Himura Kenshin did? A manslayer that does not kill. Isn't that what Edward and Alphonse Elric did? Humans whose aim is to get their (human) bodies back. They challenged something in us. That is what Eren is doing. A human who abandoned his humanity to overcome monsters (at least as far as the manga goes while I'm writing this, chapter 58, which is a few months ago but I haven't got to read the new releases, so).

The depth of RuroKen and FMA is no question. Both for their characters and their story plots. These manga and anime gave us so much more than swordfights and transmutations. They gave me lessons on history (for RuroKen), science (for FMA), society, humanity and humans. These shows made me think (I'm a nerd like that, I introspect a lot when I watch anime or read manga and books). These shows were not only entertaining, they were profound, philosophical and insightful. RuroKen and FMA are aware. That's why they are legends. That's why they are epic. And Shingeki no Kyojin is promising to be another legend, another epic.

It is, though. It is really good.

The story opens with a narration (both for the anime and the manga) as to what had happened from "our" time to the time of the story. Humanity is driven to extinction by the sudden appearance of Titans or shingeki. The humanity is driven to that small territory, protected only by series of walls. But unlike the species we are currently driving to extinction, humans are fighting back. There are "organizations" that equates to the military forces of states in our present time. There are the Scouts, who ventures out of the Walls to investigate about the Titans, much like the Navy, Marine and Air Force; and there are the Military Police, who keeps the order inside the Walls, much like, well, the Police. It's a small picture but it is still "our" society. The power structure of the present society is still there. The main character is Eren Jaeger but the story is not really just about him. It is the story of humanity. It is the story of society. It is even the story of the planet. It is a story of evolution and revolution.

Eren is not my favorite character but he is the character I could relate most. My favorite character is Armin. But Eren, Eren's attitude is me. Stubborn as stubborn can be. So passionate with things he believe in that he is often mindless about going for it when he gets to that. If those outbursts from my past posts are not any indication, then I don't know. Heh. His thoughts, his contradictions, his ironies. The bewilderment, quite unable to process everything yet but he just had to try so hard because it needs to make sense. Because it matters that it makes sense. Because he finally found something to fight for. I don't watch Shingeki in one sitting. It's too emotionally and mentally taxing for me. *wink*

The roster of characters in this anime is wide. I can't even begin properly. Hah!

Levi is of course love. The strongest soldier of humanity. Who is not at awe at how fast and furious he is battles, and how clean-freak he is? But Levi is really outstanding. His belief system is his own. I always like characters who can build their own belief system and act according to them. His battle prowess dwarfs everybody in the series. He is fearless in battles but he does have fears (see Chapter 58), which makes him less fearless and more brave.

Mikasa is a pillar. The girl's mental strength is Eren's pillar of support. Mikasa is one of the strongest of the human soldiers as well but I admire her mental strength more than that. There are so many strong, mentally and physically strong, characters in this anime. But even among them Mikasa stands out. Mikasa is young, less battle-seasoned and slightly naïve. And yet her mind is steady and strong, already comparable, not to the same level but comparable, to more battle-seasoned characters like Levi and Erwin.

Erwin is really something else. Erwin is that strong, especially character-wise, that he earned Levi's respect and instigated him to follow orders. Levi used to be somebody who will follow no one's orders. People who have their code of beliefs are usually like that. But Erwin changed that. I read somewhere that to understand the strength of a leader is to see what kind of people his followers are. Makes sense right? My respect for Erwin just soared to Milky Way by how he conducted himself in that Capture the Female Titan operation. He was so calm and collected, decisive and very intelligent. How he conducted himself in front of the Governor after that was just superb. So superb. So much composure. Watching him in that episode (Episode 25) made me understood why Levi followed him.

Armin is my favorite character, for the same reason Shikamaru Nara and Hyuuga Neji are my favorites -  because he is smart. Armin is meek but he is full of courage. He is determined and purposeful. He is brave, sometimes he only don't think so. Then again, fear is a major component of being brave. I love his calculating and analytical mind. And I love most how he is brave at battles then revert back to being meek after. He is a fascinating character for that.

The structure of the remaining hub of humanity is a miniature version of our society. But sh*t is it as annoying. Where the people are just watching, throwing comments and calling things disasters while they and their mouths wait for the Titans to attack, then they will scream and cry and beg for their lives. That's why I was Eren in that first episode. When the Survey Corps came in, I was Eren. People frustrates me like they frustrate Eren. That urge to punch people in the face for being &*^%#@@%$ is so unbearable that I usually have to be alone. Also, isn't it revolting how the pampered asses are in the core and inner-most wall? Leaders are people like Erwin, who leads his people, who are with his people. I have long understood that there are people who are meant to be leaders and there are who are to be followers. For instance, I am a better follower than a leader. But the Governor and his cronies, they aren't leaders. They should not even be handing out judgements. The idea of the political system and political hierarchies annoy me sh*t. Blind belief to anything, authority or religion is deadly. I'm not an atheist nor an agnostic but I never thought one should stay in a corner and pray and expect the world to be all rainbows and butterflies. Mikasa said the world is cruel but the world is us isn't it? Did that ever make you think? Our society, our world, is the reflection of our collective consciousness. That mindless complacency and passiveness is what makes the world cruel.

There's a story by Kahlil Gibran about a brilliant doctor and a group of patients. The doctor was treating the patients and was telling them how they can overcome their illness. What the patients did in return was to choke the doctor until he died. Then they raved on how good a doctor he was and how he knew how their diseases can be cured. The patients are the people, the society. The doctor are the people who the society condemned, ridiculed and sometimes killed, for their ideas, beliefs and actions then on their deaths (perhaps decades later) they and their ideas will be commemorated, quoted and admired.

The soundtrack of the anime are good as well. Befitting to the adrenaline and drama of the series. Seiyuu-wise. Hmmmm, I'm not very familiar of most of the seiyuu(s) in the series to be honest. Then again, I don't know a very wide range of voice actors. But they're good nevertheless. Notable names are (and I did a GoogleSearch for this), for Eren (Yuuki Kaji), Mikasa (Yui Ishikawa), Armin (Marina Inoue), Levi (Kamiya, Hiroshi) and Erwin (Ono, Daisuke). As a matter of fact, I only know Ono-san, who voiced Midorima in Kuroku no Basuke. I saw Sugita Tomokazu's name somewhere in the list but his character escaped me. Maybe one of the many soldiers. Anyhow...

I wonder, can, and when, will humanity understand what have kept them captive, and what is keeping them captive? If you'd think about it for real, the Titans aren't really imaginary…


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