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It’s a Twofer! Attack on Titan and Red Data Girl!

21 Apr

By: Stephanie Weirich

That’s right guys, today I have 2 rundowns for the price of 1 (which is no price, because all of this hot knowledge is free)!  Why is that, you might ask?  Because I spent my night last night playing a bit of catch up.  I watched two wildly different shows: Shingeki no Kyojin a.k.a Attack on Titan and Red Data Girl.  If you were wondering, let me assure you, it was as weird as you might imagine.

Anywho, I’m excited so let’s just get into it shall we?  First I’d like to start with Attack on Titan because man, this show is fucking cool.  Just absolutely everything about it so far is a testament to that singular coolness that anime is capable of.  From the opening onward, it just keeps amping it up.  The animation is stunning, characters are pretty consistently on model, the backgrounds and setting are fairly unique and the Titan designs are suitably grotesque.  Also, the fighting systems that you get to see in action briefly in the opening episode are pretty jaw droppingly, pants shittingly rad.  Let’s look at some pretty pictures, shall we?

Kyojin main

Eren serious

titan1p1

Cast running

You’re welcome.

So what’s it all about?  Basically, flesh thirsty giants called Titans have laid waste to humanity because they just can’t stop eating the tiny humans.  There is no explanation of why they crave human flesh, because the humans don’t know and thus neither does the audience.  I imagine the discovery of the answer to that question will be dealt with pretty heavily as the show continues though.  Due to all of this human eating, mankind has ended up living within three gigantic, concentric walls.  The outermost wall is Wall Maria, the second innermost wall is Wall Rose and the innermost wall that houses the human capital is Wall Sina.  Between Wall Maria and Wall Rose are cities that act as bait to keep the Titans from wandering too far around and potentially getting into areas that can’t be watched.  This structure has managed to keep the remains of humankind safe for a hundred years.  Because let me tell you, the military forces that go out and do recon on the giants, hoping to find a way to kill them, are not finding the greatest success.  And by that I mean they’ve had none.

But that doesn’t stop our protagonist, Eren, from wanting to join them when he’s all grown up.  Eren feels as though humanity has become nothing but complacent cattle within the confines of these walls, and this scenario can’t hold indefinitely.  And what do you know?  He’s totally right, because in the very first episode, we spy the BIGGEST FUCKING TITAN.  And he just kicks a hole right in Wall Maria like it ain’t no thang.  He’s also missing all of his skin.  Check out his muscles.

Lookin' pretty swoll bra!

Lookin’ pretty swoll bra!

Just like that, the idyllic, middle ages pastoral setting is turned to flames and screaming, tragedy and blood, all the while huge grinning humanoid monsters stomp around, just eating the Hell out of everyone.  This is how Eren and his adopted sister Mikasa lose their mother.  Unfortunately for them, she’s eaten right in front of their very eyes, forever scarring them for sure. Also, the Titan happens to make this face after doing it:

Your mom.  She's delicious.

Your mom. She’s delicious.

Eren and Mikasa, as well as their friend Armin manage to escape and become refugees, but not before another strange Titan breeches Wall Rose.  The second episode skips forward in time a few years so that we get to see these three kids as teenagers, enlisting in the military.

Now, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in this show, but there are two things I’m going to touch on in particular.  The first is how at odds with society Eren is.  He’s a fiercely independent and spirited kid, he has drive and ambition and a will to eke out his own future regardless of what anyone else wants for him.  This makes him a bit of an outcast as no one else seems willing to take into account that while idyllic for the time being, a situation like humanity has built for itself in this world cannot hold.  His outspoken and determined attitude is in direct opposition to the society that he lives in, a society who would rather be communal and complacent.  A society where the good of all takes precedence over the well-being and willpower of one.  Is this starting to sound familiar?

One could read into this as being a veiled statement about Japanese society and the intense pressure placed on all individuals to fall in line and sacrifice their individuality for the greater good of the country and society.  One could even read into it as being an indictment of that mentality, seeing as how Eren is correct in the end.  This is no doubt a very personal struggle for the creator of the original manga, Hajime Isayama.  You should understand that every time you read manga, or watch anime, or read a light novel, you are partaking in something that requires a great deal of cognitive dissonance within Japan.  I cannot stress how important the idea of all Japanese being the same is within Japanese culture and society.  It is most represented by the saying “Deru kui wa utareru” which is translated as “The stake that stands up gets hammered down”.  If you stand out, if you’re special, if you show yourself to be somehow not typically Japanese, you open yourself up to very intense criticism from all around you.  As much as Japan prides itself on its artistic output, it most definitely subjects those who show any inclination towards it to a trial by fire.  I cannot tell you how many talented students I had, kids who drew or painted, kids who were amazing singers or musicians, who were desperately trying to keep it a secret from their classmates or who didn’t want recognition at all for what they were doing because they didn’t want to stand out and open themselves up to bullying.  It is a very real, very difficult struggle, and one that will and does most definitely appear in multiple manga and anime series.  Don’t let all of the monsters full you—Attack on Titan is saying something about Japanese society.

The other issue is the invasion of Foreigners.

When foreigners invade, this is inevitably what it looks like.

When foreigners invade, this is inevitably what it looks like.

This applies to both the Titans (though it’s less obvious in that context) and when the kids become refugees whose toll on the town they’ve ended up in becomes a great and rather terrifying concern.  Japan has an intense tradition of xenophobia, which is a natural outgrowth of being such a homogenous culture.  A few events really drove it to a fever pitch though, one of those being the dropping of A bombs on their country and the continual occupation by those who did the dropping.  You can be certain anytime you watch a series that involves the invasion of Japan or a  Japan-like country by a group of strange looking foreign enemies, that it is typically coming from the long standing issues that have arisen from that situation.  It’s not obviously problematic in the context of Attack on Titan, but I will inevitably cover this topic again when I review some older series that deal with this ideology in a much more blatant fashion.

All in all, this show is, for me, a treat.  It hits all of my sweet spots which include, but are not limited to: spirited main character, pastoral settings, wanton destruction and gore, beautiful and distinct animation and character designs, ingenious fighting techniques and GIANT FUCKING MONSTERS.  Needless to say, I’m going to be sticking with this one for the foreseeable future.

RGD-Red-Data-Girl

Now onto Red Data Girl.  I don’t honestly know what to make of this series.  I understand that it’s based on a series of fantasy novels, which makes sense.  But seriously, that opening makes me feel like I’ve stumbled into some serious reverse harem territory.  This is not to say that I dislike reverse harem shows outright, it’s just that they have to set the right tone.  Meaning that they have to either be willing to take the piss out of themselves a la Ouran High School Host Club, or they have to come at me with a willfully fantastic conceit that defies all worldly logic and possibilities.  Red Data Girl is definitely going for the latter.

Essentially, you have a very sheltered girl, Izumiko Suzuhara (that’s a damn Kakkoii name if there ever was one) who has grown up at a shrine in a small village raised by her grandparents.  Her parents are always gone, her father seemingly being an IT genius, and her mother being what I can only imagine is a supernatural spy/conspiracy theorist.  Throw a mountain monk and his angst-o-matic son into it and you’ve got the beginnings of a very alternative family structure.

Can you feel the angst?

Can you feel the angst?

It turns out that Izumiko destroys all technology she comes into contact with and she’s just cut her own hair and that has freaked everybody’s shit out.  In the second episode, you find out that she’s essentially a vessel for a goddess and that angst-o-matic son of a mountain monk is meant to be her manservant.  And no, I still don’t know why her cutting her bangs was such a big deal.  But it is super seriously a HUGE DEAL.

Her bangs.  She cut them.

Her bangs. She cut them.

The tone here so far is serious, and there is some cool stuff that happens in regards to Izumiko’s relationship with and manipulation of technology.  There’s one scene in particular in the first episode with her, a computer, and her father that’s really intriguing.  I also happen to be a sucker for Japanese mythology, particularly as it pertains to Shintoism and Yokai, both of which I believe will end up being represented herein.  The show is also very Japanese.  I mean, really, really Japanese.  Much of the conceit in the beginning is focused on the tension between the burgeoning modernity of Japan’s pursuit of technology, and the past ties to nature’s inherent spirituality.  Izumiko seems to directly represent this tension and downright ambivalence towards technology in the face of the past spirituality that so heavily informed the foundation of the country.

This is fascinating stuff for me.  While living in Japan I was always shocked by how schizophrenic it could be, how you could have these huge buildings and advanced technology such as vending machines that talked to you right next to World Heritage Sites.  I think the best example of how at odds the past and present are in Japan is how every year you take your car to a Shrine to have it purified and blessed to prevent you from having any car accidents for the next year.  This, to me, seems to perfectly represent how they try very hard to reconcile their largely spiritual and naturally based past with their very spiritually devoid and modern present.  Red Data Girl could be addressing this issue in very interesting ways, but it remains to be seen.  I’m going to stick with this one for the next couple of episodes before deciding whether it’s worth watching to the end or not.

Next up I plan on watching Karneval, Suisei  no Gargantia and Valvrave the Liberator.  Is there anything I’m missing that you think I should check out/that you want to hear my take on?  Let me know in my inbox and I’ll get down to it.  Until next time folks, keep doing what you’re doing like you’re doing it for TV.

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