Attack on Titan is the latest craze in the world of anime and its success could be contributed to its similarities to Game of Thrones. Both take place in a fantasy world that still contains many recognizable elements and revolves around a theme of nihilism. Perhaps most importantly both are shows based on written works where no character is ever safe, no matter how central to the plot. Neither the Attack on Titan manga (Japanese style long form comic books) nor the Song of Ice and Fire book series are complete yet, with the Attack on Titan anime being just behind the plot progression of the manga.
The popular anime takes place in a world where humanity was nearly wiped out by a race of seemingly mindless humanoid giants who eat people. These giants are the Titans. Approximately one hundred years after the sudden appearance of the Titans humanity has retreated behind a series of three concentric circular walls that many believe to be a divine gift. Some citizens within the walls even worship the structures themselves. The main character is young Eren Yeager, an idealistic boy who wishes to see the world outside of the walls despite his elders’ admonishment. Eren hopes to one day join the Scout Regiment and venture beyond the walls to slay Titans and allow humanity to occupy the Earth once again. One day tragedy strikes and an especially large and seemingly intelligent Titan appears and destroys the outermost gate. After losing everything Eren and his friends join the army, with Eren planning to seek revenge through the Scout Regiment.
Even from the first episode Attack on Titan is full of tragic and hopeless situations giving it a tone that invites the notion that the series is the Game of Thrones of anime. The two do not share any similar plot points beyond political corruption and many standard tropes of fantasy realms, but the two shows often evoke the same feelings from viewers. Both shows are adept at placing tense cliffhangers at the end of each episode, continually making fans unsure if their favorite characters will make it another whole episode. Author Hajime Isayama eliminates characters violently at an even faster pace than Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin creating a sense of rapidly advancing doom. Isayama claims that after creating a one shot version of Attack on Titan in 2006 he immediately dreamed up several plot twists and the ever-expanding plot of the anime and manga seems to support his statement.
Despite the often hopeless tone, Attack on Titan is massively popular, garnering so much more attention than expected that its production company was not prepared to produce a second season as quickly as it was demanded. The next season will not debut until at least 2015, a wait Game of Thrones fans are familiar with. The final episodes of Attack on Titan‘s debut season answered many mysteries introduced in the middle of the season, but also left many mysteries that have plagued fans since the beginning of the series. Viewers can pick up recent installations of the manga that have advanced past where the anime leaves off, but like Game of Thrones many prefer to wait and be surprised by the show. Attack on Titan may have the title of the Game of Thrones of anime, but beyond the enticing comparisons it is its own beast.
By Matt Isaacs