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The Art of the Reversal.

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This is my first journey through the “100 Days of Anime” Challenge, an ambitious project that I’ll be taking. For the full list of prompts, click here.

Most epic or shocking anime scene ever?

With the new year simmering down and winter season animes just warming up, lets revisit a show that does the word “hype” justice. Attack on Titan remains one of the most recognizable animes despite being almost five years old. It’s a show that even my parents have seen, with anime and non-anime watchers alike sporting an iconic “Wings of Freedom” patch or key chain. But what makes the show stand out from the usual shounen fantasy romp? A show that even the mainstream audience can enjoy? Is it a subversion of those very tropes? The presentation of a darker, grim reality? The gore? Akira does all of this well while still remaining in relative obscurity. What Attack on Titan does right is not the action itself, but the build up.

The moment before the moment.

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Recently, I’ve been completely enamored with reading craft fiction, particularly “Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction” by Benjamin Percy. Boring, I know. So for your sake, I’ll skip the details, but Percy does touch on one subject that is essential to the Attack on Titan formula: the reversal. It’s a simple idea that’s pulled off masterfully throughout the show. What does Eren want? To absolutely destroy all titans and avenge his mother-a motive Eren makes known repeatedly throughout the series (maybe too often).

So we build off that motive. Give Eren the tools he needs to fight. The story doesn’t make it easy to achieve that first step (with his ODM malfunctioning during training), but it does give us a moment of tension in what is essentially a training montage as well as something to cheer for. Being five episodes in with zero Titan-killing action, we’re ready for the action to finally pick up. Eren and the squad are ready. Titan’s are streaming into the Trost district. A beautiful sound track kicks off the action. And then we’re sucker-punched by the show’s harsh reality; a titanic obstacle that looms above our heroes, dwarfing Eren’s massive ego and willpower.

And we loved it.

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Wit Studio in just five episodes presents Hajime Isayama’s grim world, places a beacon of hope in the center, and then shuts the lights out on us. Instead of shounen heroics, we’re left with broken bodies, gore, terror and a feeling of helplessness. It’s a reality that the first five episodes didn’t prepare us for, and that only serves to amp up the tension as the show continues. It was a roller-coaster, a moment that left me dazed by its sheer speed before dropping me off a plateau.

Exhilarating and absolutely terrifying.