The line for this Saturday’s 4:00pm Attack on Titan panel snaked its way around almost half of the Hyatt’s motor lobby level, and reached the room’s capacity a half hour before the start of the panel. The unsuspecting Courtland room was in no way prepared for the siege of Attack on Titan fans that gathered in the motor lobby Saturday afternoon. The panel itself consisted of fans Patricia Whisnant, Joanna Whisnant, and Alex Lopez, explaining the premise and popularity of the series with heavy participation from the audience. The popularity of the panel matches the astonishing popularity of the series itself.
In April 2014, the manga series had sold over 30 million copies. Patricia reported, “Volume one of the series has been on the New York Times Manga Best Seller list for 61 weeks straight.” The anime series won the third Newtype Anime Awards in several categories including best director, best script, best soundtrack, top female character, and title of the year. The anime also won the best TV animation award at the 2013 Animation Kobe Awards. A range of factors within the series have generated this instant success, according to Patricia.
In Attack on Titan, almost the entirety of humanity has been annihilated by titans, giants that devour humans on sight. The only remaining humans live in an area roughly the size of Texas, which is protected by three rings of 50 meter tall walls. Humanity defends itself through its three military branches, which use weapons called “3D maneuver gear” to combat the giant titans. Unlike many series in the genre, Attack on Titan has ethnic differences, different body types, strong female characters, LGBTQ representation, and above all, believable responses to situations.
Many anime series put their characters in thrilling, dangerous battles. However, the whole panel agreed that the characters in these series tend to take their terrifying surroundings for granted, and rarely show any signs of fear or stress. The characters in Attack on Titan live with the eminent possibility of horrific death. The death tolls in this show can only be matched by Game of Thrones. Patricia described how the characters grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder, the loss of friends, and fear for their own lives. The show combines moving emotion with unsettling violence and stunning animation to reach phenomenal acclaim among anime fans.
Attack on Titan fandom has taken on a titan-sized life of its own. Besides several official spin-off series and two live action movies in production, the series has already seen countless fan spin-offs and dubs. The audience noted that many of these series, like Attack on Space, represent amazing production quality and effort for groups of unpaid fans. Besides the whole series spin-offs, Patricia said the opening theme has been adapted to everything from Batman to Thomas the Tank Engine. Perhaps most astounding of all are the cross-over commercials shown by the panel that have used the franchise. Commercials have featured titans chasing cars, titans eating pizza, and the protagonists fighting titans with giant shaving razors. For such a dark, grim series, Attack on Titan has generated an unbelievably light-hearted and free-spirited fan base.