Paul Browne on the bombastic opener for the fan-favourite anime
Based on Hajime Isayama’s manga series, Attack On Titan has inspired TV adverts, a live action adaptation and, more recently, a crossover with Marvel comics that will see the titans battling the likes of Spider-Man and The Avengers on the streets of New York.
Shingeki no Kyojin (Advancing Giants) to give it its proper Japanese title, is a series that manages to weave together traditional shonen tropes with a decidedly creepy enemy. Humanity are barricaded within a massive walled city, built as a deterrent against an ancient foe. The return of these titans, essentially large mindless humanoids, sparks panic and sets in motion a chain of events that revolve around protagonist Eren Yeager, a member of the city’s Survey Corps who has a personal axe to grind against the titan hordes.
The music of the series has also added to the appeal, particularly in the form of the dramatic opening theme penned by Linked Horizon. It’s a pulse-quickening, thrilling piece, which seems to draw on a tradition of military-themed bombastic tunes. In fact Attack On Titan’s military themes have recently courted controversy.
The history of Linked Horizon revolves around its enigmatic founder Revo, a musician whose roots lie in the amateur music scene. Revo adopted the title Sound Horizon in the 1990s for what would become a loose collective of artists and musicians.
In 2001 Sound Horizon participated in Japan’s popular Comiket fanzine event with the release of Chronicle, a story CD that combined sparse dialogue with an instrumental soundtrack. The release was popular enough but wanting to introduce more of a lyrical content, Revo brought on singers for the next album, Thanatos. This included the talents of singer Aramary, whose amazing soprano voice gave Sound Horizon a much larger world of sound to work in.
In 2004, Sound Horizon stepped up a gear with their first major label release Elysion ~Rakuen e no Zens?kyoku~. Unfortunately, Elysion marked Aramary’s last work with Sound Horizon at the time, resulting in the outfit opting for a range of guest vocals on future outings. This included the talents of TM Network’s Takashi Utsunomiya who came onboard for the 2008 release Moira.
Moira expanded on Revo’s wish to lend a grander sweep to his compositions with a release that often pulls in operatic elements into the mix. The narrative stage of Moira was also on a bigger scale than previous releases, taking in a tale set in Greece and weaving in Greek mythology. Moria managed an impressive No. 3 in the Oricon charts and sold over 45,000 copies in its first week alone.
Keeping his eye on the ball, Revo also pulled in both Marty Friedman (Megadeath) and Hatsune Miku for the 2010 release ‘Ido e Itaru Mori e Itaru Ido’. This served as a prologue of sorts for Sound Horizon’s 7th story CD titled Märchen, a narrative revolving around medieval Germany and fairy tales which features vocal turns from Revo, Miku and a variety of support vocalists.
Finally, Linked Horizon became the successor to Sound Horizon in 2012 and Revo’s first work under the new moniker was scoring the Nintendo 3DS title Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. This project demonstrated Revo’s increasing skills in penning dramatic soundtracks, which put him in good stead for his next major project.
Although by this point Revo had firmly established himself on the domestic musical scene, the collaboration with Attack On Titan would give the composer and musician much wider recognition. ‘Guren No Yumiya’ provides the initial opening theme of the series with its sweeping percussive rhythms, blistering guitar solos and choral elements. This initial theme song was later replaced by ‘Jiyuu No Tsubasa’, which continued the sweeping scale of its forerunner, but augmented it with more military bluster and, arguably, a more accessible melodic touch to the composition.
‘Guren No Yumiya’ was released digitally in the early part of 2013 and both songs were later featured on Linked Horizon’s 2013 single release Jiy? e no Shingeki. The single peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon Weekly Single Charts and shifted over 129,000 copies in its first week (marking only the second time that a theme song had achieved such a feat). ‘Guren no Yumiya’ itself debuted at No.1 in the Billboard Japan Hot 100 charts while the single also managed No. 1 on the Japan hot Singles Sales chart.
Despite the success of Attack On Titan, Revo has kept himself busy since. A further Sound Horizon release titled Vanishing Starlight came out in 2014. Revo also teamed up with Marty Friedman on Momoiro Clover Z’s theme song for Sailor Moon Crystal in the shape of the euphoric ‘Moon Pride’.
With a further series of Attack On Titan due to arrive in 2016 – and likely more releases by Revo under his many collaborative guises, it seems there’s plenty to look forward to.
Attack on Titan, featuring the opening theme by Linked Horizon, is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.
Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by enclosing themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of giants. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a giant in over 100 years. Teenage boy Eren and his foster sister Mikasa witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a super giant that appears out of thin air. As the smaller giants flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single giant and take revenge for all of mankind.
This is the burning question for Attack on Titan fans, and it’s certainly not answered in the second volume of the anime series. Rather, Volume 2 shows a world which is still in the process of expanding, bringing on a great many vivid new characters – and arguably the most vivid of all isn’t even a human, but a sexy woman Titan who stomps all over the series.
There's little to be proud of in this perfunctory light-novel spin off
If anyone needed further proof that Attack on Titan is a cultural juggernaut, they'd only have to take a glance at the bookshelves. While Hajime Isayama's original manga most notably spawned the breakthrough anime series, there are also numerous spin-off and prequel manga, artbooks, and light novels by a host of other creators, all drafted in to craft as much material set in and around the world as possible.
Arthur Rankin Jr, who died last Thursday, was not often thought of in connection with Japanese animation, though he played a major part in its history. In America, he’s best known as the co-founder of Rankin/Bass Productions. A stateside brand, the Rankin/Bass name is linked with handmade family cartoons as fondly as Oliver Postgate or Aardman are in Britain. But while the studio’s cartoons – especially the stop-motion Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – are evergreens, few people know their animation was Japanese.
The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.
Is the One Piece movie a subtle dig at Studio Ghibli...?
"In the period just after Hosoda left Howl, it must have been devastatingly disappointing, to a man in an industry where artistic achievement counts for more than pay cheques. And so the story has risen: that Omatsuri is Hosoda’s venting of his demons, that Luffy’s howls of despair are Hosoda’s own."
Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.
Fans of K-On! The Movie’s lovely and realistic vision of London may not be aware that in between that film and Steamboy’s loving depiction of a steampunk-era Manchester and London rests a show that is as accurate as either, and yet is also arguably the most English anime show ever made. Yet it still cannot be bought on DVD in the UK itself.
It’s notable that, despite what you might think looking at the franchise now, Yu-Gi-Oh! was not conceived as a card game tie-in, any more than Totoro was made to sell soft toys (though both benefitted hugely from the spin-offs). When it began, the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was rather different from the anime which most people know.