Summer is long behind us, and now the Multiversity Summer TV Binge is coming to a close! Although I’ve never been what you would call an anime person, I’m a huge fan of Attack on Titan. I first fell in love with the subtitled version of the show, so I thought it would be fun to revisit the dubbed version. Watch along with me, but be warned, here be spoilers!
1. What happens
The structure of a good finale is very simple, and this is a great finale. First, you have to resolve the mysteries ahead of time, to establish the stakes. In this case, the question was who the titan traitor was, the answer was Annie, and the stakes are now whether or not she will get away with it. Then, the resolution can play out simply, emotionally, and bluntly, which is exactly what happens here. Eren and Annie fight, it’s super metal, Annie knows all the titan tricks, and Eren can barely stay on his two titan feet. It’s the Kaiju fight we’ve always wanted to see, full of crumbling buildings, and tragic collateral damage. Finally, a good finale will end with one final twist, that re-contextualizes what you think you know. We’ll get to that in a minute.
The fight ends with Eren somehow immolating himself with titan lava, and mutilating Annie. While this happens, Erwin is quietly arrested; he doesn’t resist. Annie starts to climb the wall, tearing chunks of it away as Eren tries to rip her feet off. Ultimately, it’s Mikasa who brings her down, and the Female Titan tumbles back down to Earth.
2. My emotions!
Attack On Titan is a very emotional show. More than that, it’s a show about emotions, and the different ways people cope with them. Just look at Eren, who can only fight with passion, not skill. Contrast that with Erwin, who’s all cold calculation. This whole season has been about the ways people deal with grief, and fear, and the love of their comrades. It’s been about revenge and loyalty. It’s been about the differences between those with messy hair and hooded eyes, and those who stay clean cut with one-thousand yard stares.
Obviously, the most resonant works of media have characters that are easy to connect with. It’s why certain works endure, even when they are about people fighting giant monsters with no buttholes. Attack On Titan makes the emotional journey the central feature of the story, and thus becomes deeply resonant. The story isn’t accidentally about cool characters; it’s deliberately about the ways any of us deal with our feelings.
3. A treatise on fascism
From what I’ve been led to understand, Hajime Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan, has controversial political views. Many people believe that he would honestly like to see a return to something resembling Imperial Japanese Fascism. As such, fascist themes are all over the place. Dot Pixis is evidently modeled after Imperial General Yoshifuru Akiyama, and Erwin’s pragmatic, faith-based views could be taken from any speech given by Mussolini. Armin is the Objectivist heart of the story, laying down borderline nihilistic speeches that would earn him a high-five from Ayn Rand herself.
But… the show never quite makes fascism look appealing. This titan besieged society looks like a horrible place to live. Armin and Erwin appear heroic, but their friends and the morality of the show itself, constantly questions their tactics. Instead of being a straight-up fascist text, Attack on Titan is more like the Starship Troopers movie- it has an element of self parody, that criticizes the politics of the work it is adapting. That lens makes the message of the show more powerful than it would have been if it was simply a fascist critique. The characters are three-dimensional, and their views are with merit, but we also see the dark consequences of what happens when you put your faith into the state.
4. The stylish dub
Let us also take a moment to look at the fine voice work that went into this season. As I’ve continued to insist, I’m not much of an anime person. This dub sort of reinforces why. A lot of voice acting acts as a cultural shorthand, and the Americanized version brought a lot of new meaning to the story for me. Levi’s cowboy drawl instantly projects his personality. Armin sounds like a sniveling middle schooler reading college textbooks. Eren has the voice of that kid who looks gentle, but listens to 3 Inches of Blood with his Skullcandies on the bus. Jean doesn’t sound like a teen at all; he sounds like a cranky grandpa.
For an American audience, having both experiences brings something really cool to the table. Each English voice actor revealed a new facet of their character to me. I can’t wait to compare future seasons.
5. How it all ends
Finally in the end, Annie becomes a fabulous crystal. She’s in a coma and she can’t be reached, but they take her captive. Eren almost loses control and eats her, but Levi saves him from himself, “killing” his titan body, and dragging him to safety. Erwin goes to a hearing, and the Scouts are exonerated. He claims that this whole venture taught them all something useful- that there are titans lurking among us, and they need to be brought down. He wants to “attack the titans within our walls.” It’s a decent setup for where season two can go, and the credits roll.
Show’s over right? Wrong. When Erwin mentioned the titans within our walls, I don’t think he meant that literally, but there it is a literal titan inside of the wall!! Gasp!
And thus ends Attack on Titan season one. I had a great time reviewing it, and I hope you had a great time watching it with me. This show can be cruel, but it also can be very beautiful.