Attack on Titan… Underrated? (Manga Spoilers!)

Attack on Titan has achieved astronomical success since it 2013 anime adaptation, so the claim that it is somehow underrated would seem dismissible but, I believe Attack on Titan is not given the recognition for its best elements. Attack on Titan is at its core a mystery series, disguised as a flesh-mech action, political thriller. The mystery elements and the nuance in its execution and the thoroughness of the authors attention to detail isn’t discussed as prevalently as it should be. Hajime Isayama has laid this story out phenomenally, I am constantly caught off guard by the call backs and intricate details that I only notice as a hardcore fan. The real strengths of the show go unrecognised and the not so great parts are overblown and overrate the show, because people are hyped up idiots.

 

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Attack on Titan is widely praised for elements like frequent deaths and heart-stopping action, but what it truly excels at is its set-up, mystery, call-backs and subversion of reveals. For instance: that random girl that Mikasa saves in episode 6 that was animated in 2013 and written even further back than that was reintroduced into the story last month (September 2018). That’s insane and the pay-off for me, someone who pays this series my absolute attention, was enormous, I was rewarded for my nearly obsessive interest in the series and shows that Isayama cares about his audience’s intelligence. There are countless other examples of definitive background characters that are reintroduced and given incredibly important roles. Historia is the most obvious example, a character that was virtually non-existent in Season 1 but is now a focal main character in Season 3. That random girl that Sasha saves from Connie fathers titan (another idiosyncratic recently revealed piece of information) is now a fully-fledge important character contemporarily in the manga. This coordination requires insane forethought and careful planning on Isayama’s part.

 

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Isayama’s ability to reference his most early material and reward his audience’s attention is only personified further with the handling of the reveals. Attack on Titan has no dramatic reveals, intentionally. Instead of bombastic expositional dumps, Isayama (usually) subtly drip-feeds information to his audience and allows them to slowly put it together. By the time Annie is revealed as the Female Titan, the audience likely has already connected the dots, the same for the Armoured and Colossal Titan. The subtle reveal that they were indeed the shifters was communicated through the background, its simple juxtaposition but also fits the thematic elements of Isayama’s leading strategies. Even the reveal in the basement was assumed by most fans before the big reveal; the Beast Titan was making references to baseball calls and Reiner and Berthold had to come from some other community, but these reveals are always satisfying. Isayama isn’t insulting his audience so the ‘grand’ reveals feel like natural extension of the story he’s crafted.

 

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These lesser praised aspects of Attack on Titan are what’s underrated by the wider community, while the less impressive elements are overpraised because people are stupid and don’t delve past the window dressing. Ultimately, I hope to see wider discussion about the truly impressive elements of Isayama’s mystery writing and call-back rather than the anime’s action. That’s why Attack on Titan is underrated.

 

 

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Puck Became a Joke and That’s Fine

Puck never lost his importance to the story of Berserk. Everyone is mad at Miura because he supposedly ruined Puck by giving him the comedic relief hat to wear following Conviction. This viewpoint is flawed for two reasons; Puck was always comedic relief and is still important to the plot, he just isn’t being focused upon or developed contemporarily. I’m sure Miura will develop Puck more in the future. His role has become increasingly comically related as of late, but he still has serious moments and observations from time to time. He was focused upon plenty in the Black Swordsmen and Conviction arcs because he was Guts’ only travelling companion, but in the arcs since them Miura has spent establishing the 30+ other characters that were important to the story. From Farnese to Mule and from Zodd to Silat. Puck became a joke and that’s fine because it’s funny and it’s temporary.

 

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Puck in the Black Swordsmen arc served as our guide to this brand new and equally confusing and dark world. Puck was a newcomer to Guts and the world of Berserk just like us, he was a great parallel to the viewer and served as prime juxtaposition to Guts while he was at his worst. Puck served a seminal narrative reason in those early Berserk chapters and his sympathy for Vargas and disdain for Guts’ unruly behaviour endeared him to us. In the Lost Children chapters Puck further was endeared to the audience and eventually after he and Guts acknowledged each other as mutual, worthy travelling companions, and embraced others like Farnese, Serpico, Isidro and Schierke, those characters took the spotlight. Puck was just along for the ride. So, Miura, to keep Puck around as a relevant character, created the “Chestnut Puck” persona.

 

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But the criticism for Chestnut Puck further doesn’t make sense because Chestnut Puck is (objectively): best Puck. He’s hilarious, his chemistry with Isidro and Ivalera are off the charts and watching them interact gives me the finest of joys in my terrible existence. Additionally, his gimmick of believing the story revolves around him, along with the scenario of him and Magnifico trying to overthrow the Elfhelm system was also hilarious. So, don’t shit talk Chestnut Puck, he’s fucking great and in the future Miura will give him serious moments and make you the happiest boys in all the land. Puck’s a funny boy, leave him alone…

 

 

 

The Black Swordsmen Arc is Critical to the Overall Structure of Early Berserk

The first eight chapters of Berserk featured in Volumes 1-3 have become known as the Black Swordsman arc. This opening arc of the series has come to be undervalued largely by the wider Berserk community. It has largely been ignored by all anime studios in their adaptations and its importance to the structure of Berserk is also commonly undervalued. This is massive mistake on all anime adaptations of Berserk. The Black Swordsman arc is seminal to the overall structure of early Berserk (Black Swordsman and Golden Age) and the arc is designed to be shown entirely and then be followed up by the Golden Age, which should be presented as a prologue.

 

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The Black Swordsman arc is an introduction to the world of Berserk, therein introducing the tone, characters, themes and imagery present in the main timeline of Berserk. This is necessary because it is seminal in that the Golden Age is presented as the tonal outlier of the series. The movies entirely present the Golden Age without the necessary juxtaposition which undermines the intention of the original manga. Everything from the characters to the tone to the overall world is juxtaposed between the Black Swordsman period and the Golden Age. Pippin, Judeau and Corkus have virtually nothing in common with Vargas, Theresia, Puck and The Count, those unfamiliar with Berserk may even initially believe they are from different stories entirely. The worlds are completely contradictory, one has monstrous demonic evils seemingly around every corner and the other is one of traditional medieval fiction, with Kings, Knights and Princesses and no magic or monsters anywhere. This instils in the viewer an unwavering intrigue making them wonder how we go from a normal medieval setting to one of dark fantasy, something terrible must happen?

 

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Thematically there is also an essential justification for the series to be structured with the Black Swordsman arc preceding the flashback to the Golden Age, because a central theme of Berserk surrounds fate. Whether it’s called fate or causality that is what Guts is truly fighting against, this is visually represented from the beginning with the brand on his neck and how he struggles against the will of fate. Additionally, the entire cast of the Golden Age arc is fighting against fate, the audience is positioned in the same way they are. We know that due to the absence of Judeau, Pippin, Corkus and the other members of the Band of the Hawk, that they will likely die before the flashback concludes, but still the audience wills against fate, we don’t want these characters to die but secretly we know it is unavoidable. Technically the audience somewhat wins their fight against fate through the unlikely survival of Casca and Rickert, many likely assumed they would also perish. This highlights Berserk’s most important thematic element hope. Casca and Rickert struggle to survive and in their survival the audience is rewarded with maintaining them in the story. There is hope in the world of Berserk.

 

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Ultimately, the Black Swordsman arc is necessary in any adaptation or read-through of Berserk to truly get the clearest picture. Muira wasn’t dicking around when he wrote these opening eight chapters and it grates on me that they are continuously overlooked and downplayed by would-be adapters and some in the Berserk fandom.

Naruto’s Fascinating Hierarchical Structure

Everything in Naruto works on a fascinating hierarchical structure of squads; one sensei and three pupils; two boys and a girl. These squads or teams are always made of three predominant personalities; a hyperactive male ninja (Naruto, Kiba, Kakuro, Jiraiya, Obito etc.), a driven strictly business male ninja (Sasuke, Shino, Gaara, Orochimaru, Kakashi etc.) and a usually useless, annoying female character (Sakura, Ino, Tsunade, Rin etc.). This is the core of Naruto’s structure and its fascinating how many different characters are created through this strategy. Additionally, this allows for a narrative through line between all generations of ninja in the Naruto universe. You can fascinatingly follow the learning tree up the ladder from teacher to pupil to teacher’s son to pupil’s son.

 

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In my opinion the most fascinating aspect of Naruto is whenever a flashback is enabled by Kishimoto. Naruto would be so much more interesting if Naruto was irrelevant and we focused on literally any other era in the history of Naruto’s lore. Naruto and Sasuke suck in comparison to Orochimaru and Jiraiya or Kakashi and Obito. But the fascinating core to every is the linage and how certain squads functioned and interacted with these other established personalities. How did Orochimaru interact with Jiraiya before the split, how did Minato interact with Orochimaru, how did Itachi interact with Jiraiya before the both left the village. All these interesting characters would have all lived in the Hidden Leaf Village before the start of Naruto and it’s so much more interesting than whatever-the-fuck is going on in the contemporaneous Naruto plot. Naruto’s fascinating Hierarchical structure with the squad system is genius and makes Naruto’s kayfabe past so much more interesting and easy to understand.

Attack on Titan’s Misleading Reputation with Character Deaths: (Manga Spoilers)

Sasha recently died in the Attack on Titan manga, and had a moment of reflection… No one ever dies in Attack on Titan! The internet narrative and reputation surrounding this series is that death is a series constant. Attack on Titan is commonly compared to Game of Thrones (Spoilers for Game of Thrones) in terms of quantity of deaths. Let’s run through the major character deaths in Game of Thrones, Ned Stark, Rob Stark, Catlin Stark, Tywin Lannister, Joffrey Lannister, Robert Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Magarey Tyrell among others. All these held significant value to the plot and died shockingly and seemingly out of nowhere. Attack on Titan’s major character deaths include, Sasha Blouse, Erwin Smith, Berthold Hoover, Kenny Ackerman, Hannes and Ymir; that’s it. Every other character death is of a nameless background character or is someone the audience never really cared about and had little impact on the plot. Marco’s death has relevance to the characters in the story, but the audience didn’t remember Marco when Jean found him. (Don’t lie)

 

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This reputation Attack on Titan has is misleading, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Attack on Titan isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a meaningful character death when necessary and Isayama doesn’t go over-board with his itchy trigger-figure. Every character death feels earned and occurs tastefully, unless you’re a useless background character, in that case you brutally chomped on by a hideous titan. The purpose of this write-up is to share my absolute frustration whenever I hear this talking point online. No Attack on Titan doesn’t kill characters like Game of Thrones, stop being an idiot.

Griffith Only Did One Thing Wrong…

Griffith’s actions in the Eclipse to a point, were completely forgivable and justifiable. In this instance the ends Griffith went to did justify the means all until the rape. RAPE IS BAD PEOPLE. It’s literally the worst thing that can be done to a human being, worse than murder, worse than theft, worse than anything. Sacrificing the Band of the Hawk is justified by the narrative itself, we spent multiple chapters wherein Ubik explains to Griffith that his life will be horribly mediocre if he refuses the sacrifice and everyone that ever followed him will have died in vain, that’s thousands of people that will forever be on Griffith’s conscious will he wastes away for the rest of his life. Characters that have mercilessly killed other characters the audience cared about have been forgiven in media before; Vegeta was responsible for killing nearly all of the Z Warriors and then just joins them, Magneto is always doing crazy shit and ends up teaming with the X-Men against an eviller and threatening being. Griffith could have been forgiven in a similar way… until he mindlessly raped Casca.

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But the rape of Casca was pointless and gratuitous. Griffith had nothing to gain from raping Casca, he did it simply to torment Guts. For chapters and chapters before the Eclipse, panel after panel conveyed his unhappiness and jealousy of the relationship he can see has developed between Guts and Casca since his capture. Maybe he believes they’d forgotten about him and that’s why it took them a year to come and rescue him, who knows and who cares; Griffith must die. For the crime of sacrificing everyone Guts cared about, for tormenting him by cuck-raping his wife Griffith has earned a death sentence. Griffith did only one thing wrong, rape Casca and for that one thing he must die…

Attack on Titan Manga Chapter 109 Proves Attack on Titan’s Superiority

Attack on Titan’s immaculate attention to detail perplexes me, even contemporarily, but it shouldn’t. Isayama has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t forget any details, no matter how inconsequential they may seem initially, everything in the story is relevant and he doesn’t forget anything. Chapter 109 demonstrates this attention to detail better than any other single chapter in recent memory. The dumb kid with one line of dialogue from Episode 6 of Season 1 is now a legitimate call-back character, that’s insane! And it shows appreciation for those of us that pay attention to the intricacies of the manga, perhaps more than we should. Another example is the child that Sasha saved in Season 2 is now a real character, with motivations and a personality, it’s unbelievable and Isayama should be properly praised for this outstanding achievement.

But even further than that is how seemingly impossibly perfect coordination between the anime production and Isayama is. Zackery has been a prevalent force in the recent episodes of the anime and therefore Isayama reintroduces this refamiliarized character into the manga storyline. This isn’t the first instance of this, Nile was reintroduced last month when his influence of the anime was increased, and his character was being highlighted. Season 2 was no different, right after the Beast Titan initially appeared in the anime, Isayama finally explained how the whole incident occurred by explaining that the Zeke could control and create certain mindless Titans, in that month manga realise. But the most effective example of this strategy and coordination was with the reveal of Ymir’s backstory. The anime reintroduced us to Ymir and reexplained why we originally cared about her and then in the accompanying manga realise that month we got an explanation of Ymir’s backstory through a note she had passed from Reiner to Historia. If the anime hadn’t refamiliarized the audience with Ymir I doubt the emotional resonance of that scene would have been as effective.

 

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The preplanning and coordination that goes into Attack on Titan is outstanding and whatever critics may say about Isayama’s illustrations and the anime bombastic presentation, credit must be given to the hustle of these fine boys and their dedication to the series. Isayama has given us a reason to comb over all past, present and future seemingly insignificant details for clues about upcoming events and characters. I have the greatest respect for Isayama and his rewarding narrative style and am glad I’m along for the ride.