Attack on Titan is more than just the best anime of the year; it's the best TV show of the year, period.
Attack on Titan is more than just the best anime of the year; it's the best TV show of the year, period.
Looking at IMDB's top-rated TV episodes of all time (with at least 1,000 ratings), it might be surprising to find the number one spot is held by an anime series. After all, while anime has certainly become much more mainstream over the past few years, few franchises outside of Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z appreciate similar name recognition as Game of Thrones, let alone anywhere near the same level of critical analysis. But sure enough, Attack on Titan Season 3, Episode 17: "Hero" is currently sitting at #1 with a 9.9 rating, right above Game of Thrones' Season 6 finale. Moreover, Attack on Titan has another episode in the top ten and three more in the top 50, which is interspersed with acclaimed shows like Breaking Bad and The West Wing.
None of this is to say that IMDB's TV show rankings are some sort of universal truth–for instance, the algorithm doesn't seem to weigh differences in the actual number of votes (GOT's #2 spot has 123,000 votes while "Hero" only has 13,000). Even so, any show that can inspire viewers to turn out in such numbers is at least worthy of a closer look, and in this particular case the fans are absolutely right. Attack on Titan is a masterpiece, and if you enjoy dark fantasy or even just great fiction, you owe it to yourself to watch.
Attack on Titan Manga Volume 1©Hajime Isayama/KODANSHA LTD
Currently in its third season, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin in Japanese) premiered in 2014, taking the anime community by storm before going on a three year hiatus until 2017. Adapted from Hajime Isayama's manga of the same name, the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the only surviving humans live within the confines of a walled city. Outside the walls, horrific creatures called Titans–giant humanoid monsters that consume humans without reason–roam free. The story follows three friends–Eren, Mikasa, and Armin–whose town and families get destroyed by two seemingly intelligent Titans, the "Colossal Titan" and the "Armored Titan," who breach the walls. This tragedy leads them to join the Scout Regiment, an army of elite human soldiers dead set on taking the world back from the Titans.
Narratively, Attack on Titan differs from many other shonen series (anime/manga aimed at a young male audience) in that it doesn't revolve around characters getting stronger or achieving a lofty dream through battle and friendship. Rather, Attack on Titan revolves around the brutal realities of war, rife with themes of death, loss, duty, and perseverance. The show's first season establishes the dystopian world and the core mysteries surrounding the origin of the Titans. The second season expands upon these mysteries as humanity mounts their first major foray into Titan-controlled territory.
But while the first two seasons of Attack on Titan are incredibly compelling, Season 3 transcends all expectations, taking the show in unexpected new directions without ever losing sight of its thematic core: humanity's capacity to push onwards, even against unbeatable odds.
***SPOILERS THROUGH AOT SEASON 3, EPISODE 17: "HERO" AND GAME OF THRONES AHEAD***
Armin Arlert©Hajime Isayama/KODANSHA LTD
One of the most impressive elements of Attack on Titan is how it doesn't shy away from the nearly insurmountable odds set up against its protagonists. Unlike similarly "dangerous" fantasy series–say, Game of Thrones, which conceived a brutal world at the onset (famously executing Ned Stark at the end of Season 1) but then decked out all its main characters in loads of plot armor–AOT's heroes perform every action in a constant state of risk. Main characters can and do die, sometimes unceremoniously.
The latter half of Season 3 revolves around humanity's greatest all-out advancement against the Titans. By this point in the show, we've discovered that the mystery surrounding Titans is much deeper than we possibly could have imagined. Certain people have the capacity to turn into special, intelligent Titans, amongst them Eren and three of the Scout's former allies who turned out to be spies.
The Scouts' mission revolves around leading their army to Shiganshina District–Eren, Mikasa, and Armin's home town which was destroyed and overrun by Titans during their childhood–in order to reach Eren's basement, which potentially houses the secret behind Titans. Upon arrival, they find the town void of Titans and realize they've been set up for an ambush by their former allies. Nearly the entirety of their forces is destroyed, and the survivors stand against truly insane odds in a seemingly inescapable death trap.
Inside the town, Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and their tiny squad stand as the only survivors against the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan. Even with his Titan powers, Eren is barely a match for the Armored Titan, let alone the Colossal Titan. Outside the wall, the Scouts' top brass–Commander Erwin and Captain Levi–are the only experienced soldiers left, trapped behind a row of buildings with a terrified platoon of new recruits as the last line of protection for all the horses necessary to their escape. Meanwhile, the Beast Titan–an intelligent Titan with the ability to control other Titans–is systematically leveling their cover. Both groups seem to have two options: wait and die, or try to do something and die.
Beast Titan©Hajime Isayama/KODANSHA LTD
It's the kind of overly bleak scenario that seems ripe for a deus ex machina. Game of Thrones did exactly that with the Battle of Winterfell, a scenario that seemed similar on the surface with the heroes fighting against the seemingly invincible, undead forces of the Night King. It's incredibly hard to come up with a believable way for heroes to win against impossible odds, especially without killing any main characters, so Game of Thrones took the easy way out and had a character essentially teleport. It made no sense, and it essentially ruined what could have been the greatest victory of the series, but good battle tactics are very difficult to write.
This is where Attack on Titan outshines every other show ever, in all of television history. Captain Erwin and Armin, both tacticians in their own rights, realize the gravitas of their situations. They devise plans that are believable because they account for great casualties, including their own. They understand their actions very likely mean death, and they grapple with the fact that their deaths mean that their goals and desires can never be fulfilled. And then they carry out their plans based on information that was there all along. There is no deus ex machina, no ass-pull victory. Their plans succeed with massive casualties, and main characters whom we care deeply about lose their lives. As in war, victory comes at immeasurable cost.Attack on Titan manages to blend intense action and suspenseful mystery with believable character growth. It tells a deeply thematic story with some of the most emotional gut punches ever seen on screen. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, cheering one moment and sobbing the next. Attack on Titan proves that anime can not only be just as good as any other form of media; it can be much, much better. So even if you don't watch anime, give Attack on Titan a shot. It's more than just the best show of 2019, more than just better than Game of Thrones. Attack on Titan is a masterpiece, and if you enjoy great fiction you owe it to yourself to watch.
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A cultural misunderstanding may be responsible for Shein's swastika necklace scandal...but it's still an awful company
Popular fast-fashion retailer Shein came under fire this week for selling a swastika necklace on their website.
A Chinese company, Shein has become well-known for their inexpensive clothing and accessories, often featured in so-called "haul" videos on YouTube. Shein has since removed the necklace from their site and issued an apology. But screenshots of the faux-gold necklace—listed for between $2.50 and $4.00 as "Metal Swastika Pendant Necklace"— quickly spread on social media, with users expressing their disgust at the apparent insensitivity to what that symbol represents.
To everyone we’ve offended, we’re really sorry... https://t.co/rm6TCgx99K— SHEIN (@SHEIN)1594381498.0
Earlier this month Shein was called out for cultural insensitivity after listing Muslim prayer rugs—some featuring an image of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca—as "Fringe Trim Carpets" for decorative use and for selling traditional Southeast Asian dresses modeled by white women and renamed to remove cultural signifiers.
Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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