Humanity's Last Hope: A Beginner's Guide to Attack on Titan


Since its debut in 2013, the "Attack on Titan" took the world of anime by storm, skyrocketing to the top of fans' Must Watch lists alongside other series like "One Piece," "Naruto," and "Bleach." After the Season one finale, there was no question that a second season couldn't be far behind. It was always a matter of if, not when.

Finally, after three and a half long years (and several delays), the series will make its triumphant return when its second season makes its long-awaited debut in April 2017. The trailer, which was released on Christmas Eve, was quite the holiday gift for fans eager to catch a glimpse at what to expect from the returning show.

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"Attack on Titan" has certainly seen its share of headline moments. Its darker tone, high animation quality and intriguing cast of characters have made it one of the more interesting anime series to gain a massive following and surge of mainstream popularity outside of Japan. However, those who are unfamiliar with "Attack on Titan" are bound to be thrown off by the images of what look like towering, naked, smiling giant humans running across the countryside, tearing down massive walls and tearing apart people. Fortunately, we're here to give a basic rundown for those curious about the series and just what it entails.


Attack on Titan is Based on a Manga Series

As is often the case with anime series, "Attack on Titan" is based on a manga. Serialized by Kodansha in 2009, Hajime Isayama's series had been around for four years before it received an anime adaptation. The success of the first season boosted the manga's popularity and contributed greatly to the large fan base it enjoys today. It is one of the most popular series when it comes to manga sales, consistently ranking in the top five at the end of the year.

Unlike most mainstream manga series, "Attack on Titan" is published on a monthly basis. As a result, while fans only get their fix once a month, the chapters are roughly twice as long as weekly manga series. On average, a standard monthly chapter of "Attack on Titan" consists of 45 pages compared to the standard 18-20 pages for weekly series.


Where does the story take place?

"Attack on Titan" is set in a post-apocalyptic world akin to that of early Europe. In this world, gargantuan creatures known as Titans roam the land. Ranging anywhere from three to fifteen meters tall, these human-like creatures display a mysterious penchant for one thing: human flesh. As a result, humanity is on the brink of extinction. To save themselves, the remaining humans have confined themselves within cities behind three large, concentric walls. These walls are known as Maria, Rose and Sina, with Maria being the outermost wall and Sina being the innermost. Humans have lived in this fashion for 100 years, which has kept them safe from Titan invasions and brought them time to figure out how to defeat them.

During this time period, they established a military consisting of the Survey Corps, the Garrison Regiment and the Military Police, each of which has different duties. It is the job of the Survey Corps to venture outside the walls into Titan territory, to retake lost land and discover the Titans' origins. The Garrison Regiment is tasked with protecting regular civilians, and the Military Police is tasked with protecting the upper-class citizens, such as nobles and the royal family.

Through the use of special equipment known as Three-Dimensional Maneuver Gear, humans within the military are able to grapple and swing from nearby objects to combat Titans by slicing the nape on their necks, which is the only way guaranteed to kill them. But despite their best efforts, the Titans have proven to be too large in number to eradicate by normal means, and any attempts to find their origins or secrets by the Survey Corps have thus far proven futile.

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Who does the story follow?

The series focuses on Eren Jaeger and his friends Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert. Living peacefully in the Shiganshina district within Wall Maria, their world receives a rude awakening when a mysterious new Titan known as the Colossal Titan, who is around 200 feet tall, suddenly appears. This mysterious Titan creates a breach in the wall, letting in a swarm of Titans who rampage through the district. In the chaos, Eren's mother is killed, as the district falls into hands of the Titans.

As Eren and his friends barely escape Shiganshina with their lives, he angrily and tearfully pledges to eliminate the Titans once and for all. To do so, he, Mikasa and Armin enlists in the milary with the intent to join Survey Corps, who venture outside the walls to fight the Titans directly and have the most direct contact with them. To that end, Eren trains to become a cadet for the Survey Corps while preparing himself for the long, bleak road ahead. As he completes his training, however, Eren soon learns that the road to eradicating the Titans once and for all is paved with more loss, destruction and bloodshed. Along the way, he and his friends become central in finally making ground in humanity's fight for survival, and they soon learn there are more threats looming over them than the Titans outside the walls.


What Makes This Series so Popular?

"Attack on Titan" has garnered its massive following thanks to its darker atmosphere and intricate story. The amount of mystery within the show itself has created an engaging plot to get viewers hooked, as theories as to the Titans' origins abound. While some might be quick to compare this series to other post-apocalyptic shows involving zombies (i.e., "The Walking Dead"),"Attack on Titan" does a stellar job of constantly instilling a sense of hope in the face of the seemingly hopeless situation humanity has found itself in. From the outset, it demonstrates that no character is safe from the Titan threat, and one wrong move is all it takes for them to reach an abrupt end -- but you have to keep fighting.

In addition to the high stakes that come with each and every Titan encounter, the combat system utilized by the characters is unlike any other. Through the use of Three-Dimensional Maneuver Gear, every military soldier is swinging through forests and cities like Spider-Man. The use of this special equipment makes for spectacular action sequences, as characters zoom about at high speeds, using their blades to slice through Titan flesh while avoiding being eaten themselves. Thanks to the stellar animation from Wit Studio, "Attack on Titan" is a post-apocalyptic marvel that stands above your average zombie apocalypse series.

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Why has there been such a gap between Seasons 1 & 2?

Season 1 of "Attack on Titan" debuted in April 2013 and aired its 25th episode in September 2013. By this point, the anime had nearly caught up with the manga, leaving animators little material to adapt for another full season. Because of this, the animation studio was forced to play the waiting game, hoping for enough fan support for a second season, which was greenlit as soon as the studio realized demand was there.

Outside of financial elements such as manga and DVD sales, there has to be enough material in the original story for the studio to adapt into a full season. Given that "Attack on Titan" is a monthly manga, and one episode alone usually contains elements of several chapters, it takes a decent amount of story progression to compile into an anime season. Take elements such as studio delays and the animation process into account, and fans found themselves left with an almost four-year wait. But if the story and quality of the series are maintained, then the long, soon-to-be-over wait will prove worthwhile.

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