In the 80's, Mobile Suit Gundam catapulted anime in Japan.
In the 90s, Dragon Ball Z broke the mainstream walls while Neon Genesis Evangelion opened the doors to the now indispensable late-night anime slots in Japan.
In the 2000s, Fullmetal Alchemist marked the peak of manga-to-anime adaptations while Code Geass & Death Note headed the class of those who introduced the new anti-hero genre.
And now, in 2013, Attack on Titan has shaken the industry once again.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 5 months, you should at least know what the story is about, and for the sake of staying spoiler free, I'm not going into details on the plot.
Before I wrote this review, I wrote a different piece moments after watching the first episode stating that Attack on Titan had all the potential to become a landmark anime, knowing very little of how true that statement would turn out to be.
I have watched anime ever since I can remember. I have seen the very best and the worst that this industry has to offer. And I, like most of you, am very familiar with the relationship of manga-anime adaptation, which is the case of Attack on Titan. It is because of such experience and knowledge that I am able to say with so much confidence that Attack on Titan is the best anime series ever produced from any standpoint, at least, in the last decade.
Attack on Titan is such a well-done product that it has all the key strong points we all dream every series could have. By this I mean the story, characters, animation, OST, opening/ending sequences, art, directing, narrative, character development, and, most importantly, the "it" factor. These are all present with "A grade" production values.
First of all, I want to start with the OST. Simply put, Attack on Titan's soundtrack rivals that of Rurouni Kenshin and Evangelion. Period. Don't misunderstand, they are not similar by any means, they are simply equally as masterful. Check on the internet the impressions left by fans about the first soundtrack. And if you still don't believe me, tweet Hideo Kojima (creator of Metal Gear series) and ask his take on it.
The OST is extremely important in this show because it allows you to feel the many epic moments that dwell in this 25 episode marvel. This is where the directing and narrative play a big role. For those of you who have seen Death Note (same director), you will feel an extra feeling of similarity with Attack on Titan, as the show relies heavily on its intense emotional scenes which you most certainly will feel the first 2 minutes of episode #1.
It is in these scenes where the golden cast of characters shine. I cannot stress enough how unique the characters are. You could say they are the cream of the many accolades that Attack on Titan has. I'm still amazed by the quality of voice actors that just seem to just pop out in this show. The voices of so many main characters from hit series come together in Attack on Titan to help provide that epic feeling you start to get once episode #1 ends. Note I emphasize the voice acting because it's part of the anime but, obviously, not of the manga.
Another key strong point is the work and effort put on the OP/ED sequences. If you've come this far in my review then you most likely understand when I say that Openings and Ending sequences are crucial. They provide that extra excitement to the show. It's definitely something not all anime series take seriously. Fortunately, Wit Studio took them seriously, and then came "Guren no Yumiya". The second opening, "Jiyuu no Tsubasa" is outstanding and marvelous in its own way and the second ending, "great escape", fuels that adrenaline rush of excitement you will get after those killing cliffhangers. Having said that, the first OP, "Guren no Yumiya", is simply epic. If there was ever something to describe as epic, it would be this OP. I am certain that as of today, it is the greatest anime opening ever. I'm amazed by the amount of attention it got on the internet and the hundreds of parodies derived from it. It was simply a treat to our eyes. The song. The animation in the opening. The sync between the two. Epic.
You won't be skipping that opening.
In addition, an animation production is never as close to perfection without the animation and art being top class. Now, Attack on Titan has astonishing art, to the point where you are amazed of how far animation has come. The scenes where there is sunlight will leave you speechless. The animation, unlike the other aspects, is where some disagree. The only thing I have to say is I was extremely impressed throughout the whole show until I saw a certain scene in episode #11 where the 3D maneuver gear was used, and I was stunned. I was simply stunned. Then, of course, later episodes also take it to a whole new level, but you're probably gonna be used to that quality of greatness by then.
That's how ridiculously good Attack on Titan is.
Now, like the characters, the story is mostly work of the manga's author. This includes character development, which I believe is the key to the success and extreme popularity of the characters. Also, the story maybe the most original aspect of this series. Nothing you have seen before is in this show. Nothing. Much like EVA, Attack on Titan gives you a world of "dystopia", on-edge, and uncertainty, so full of potential that just when you think you have it figured it out, it turns around and leaves you speechless.
Oh, that will happen to you for the first time in episode #5. Guaranteed.
Finally, even IF all these characteristics of an anime series are top notch, it won't amount to its potential if it doesn't have that "IT" factor. Some series have the "IT" factor without having all of these production values. They tend have 3 or 4 at most. Those become popular because they give out that feeling of "amazing". Gintama, the greatest gag series ever, comes to mind. Its anime doesn't have overwhelming OST, or eye popping animation; it does have A class characters and A class story (among others), but that "IT" factor takes it to another level. Now, imagine having practically everything an anime series has to offer in A class value while also having that "IT" factor. Extremely rare. Eva rare. FMA rare. Attack on Titan is part of that elite group. This is why its popularity rose to highs only few series reach.
This is the first time I have ever written a detailed review of an anime series. I did it because this one deserves it. It's The anime series of my adult era. I can now relate to those anime fans who watched Evangelion almost 20 years ago. They knew they had something special, just like we do now with Attack on Titan.
In conclusion, Attack on Titan is, of course, like MS Gundam, DBZ, EVA, FMA, Geass, and Death Note, not perfect. Like any other piece of greatness it does have its negatives. Having said that, when you add up the good and the bad, you end up with a landmark anime series that is currently shaking the industry with its mesmerizing, sensational, emotional, intense, and inspiring first season. Just imagine the wait and the hype for season 2.
What kind of effect will Attack on Titan have on the anime/manga industry we love? Only time will tell...
In the meantime, this is simply the best anime series in the last 15 years. Enjoy.
Exquisite beyond words.