Attack on Titan is centered around the residents of an increasingly desperate walled city in a world overrun by man-eating giants. It’s perhaps best summarized in two minutes and 15 seconds of animation:
The opening lyrics, music and images set the tone: bleak, brutal and relentless, with character death a terrifying constant. And yet the enduring message of determination in the face of hopeless struggle—combined with a dash of mystery and a clutch of legendary characters—has led to insane popularity, with the Attack on Titan manga ending One Piece’s five-year reign as the top-selling title in early 2014. This has led to a slew of tie-ins ranging from auto makers to convenience stores, with the series now infecting the real world in a number of creepy ways.
1. Attack on Titan Photo Fad
This little fad went as quickly as it came, but in early 2013 it provided some eerily gleeful images of people being crushed or eaten by forced-perspective “titans.”
2. Attack on Titan Subaru Ad
In January 2014, Subaru released a live-action ad using titans to show off the versatility of its Forester SUV. Directed by Shinji Higuchi—who is also at the helm of the live-action movies—the result is less likely to sell cars than to scare the hell out of any children watching.
3. Attack on Titan Exhibition
Running from November 2014 to January 2015, this one featured a massive Colossal Titan breaking through the floor of the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo.
The exhibition included an audio- and wind-based “approaching titan” immersion sequence and a 3-D theater simulator that allowed visitors to try the Survey Corps’ Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, as well as original artwork and information on series creator Hajime Isayama. The exhibit is scheduled to reappear in Isayama’s home prefecture of Oita from August 1-30, and Osaka from September 11 to October 18.
The creepiness of the Ueno run extended to local train stations, where billboard ads, instead of showing titans chowing down on people, “softened” the images by showing them eating chicken, hamburgers and pizza.
4. Attack on Titan Real Escape Game
In a Real Escape Game, people assemble in a large enclosed space to solve puzzles and find their way out before time runs out. So, basically, it’s Attack on Titan without the titans. It wasn’t long before that oversight was rectified.
Building off its 2007 origins in Kyoto, three AoT Real Escape Games—dubbed Escape from the Walled City—were held in stadiums in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in early 2015, as well as one in Singapore in December 2014. It’s essentially indoors orienteering, with the puzzles hidden all over the venue. Show the final solution to the gatekeepers, and you get out—though there’s typically a less than 20 percent success rate. And in the AoT version, if you don’t make it, it means you were eaten.
5. Attack on 7-Eleven
This is the one that makes the least sense. In the lead-up to the live-action movies, 7-Eleven is offering any customer who spends over ¥780 a chance to win life-sized figures of characters such as Levi Revaille and Eren Jaeger, which are somehow valued at ¥1,728,000 each.
And for ¥29,800, they’re also offering an Android tablet loaded with a navigation app that makes you an AoT character—and provides directions using the character’s voice—while placing a titan at the nearest 7-Eleven. You get more characters as you clear set “conditions,”which presumably means going to more 7-Elevens.
6. Attack on Titan Minecraft Mod
AoT has invaded the real world so completely that it’s been absorbed back into our most elaborate digital world. There’s a sense of documentary accuracy as player Lasercorn does nothing but repeatedly scream, flee, die and respawn over a 15-minute period.
7. Attack on Titan Live-Action Movies
This one isn’t so much real life, but it sure feels like it. The Attack on Titan live-action movies are coming to Japanese theaters in August and September, 2015. Judging from the trailer, it looks like they got that “hopeless struggle” thing about right.
The theme songs are to be sung by the band Sakai no Owari—which literally means, “The end of the world.” They’re like a bubblegum pop band managed by Donnie Darko.
8. Attack on Titan The Real
From January 23 to June 28, 2015, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka is bringing the world of Attack on Titan to life—promising “a realistic sense of fear and despair.” Yep, that’s the actual tagline.
Attack on Titan The Real includes walk-through attractions with eerily realistic life-sized character recreations—some of them having been gruesomely killed—while outside you can pose for photos in the hand of a titan as it opens its massive grinning maw to eat you. There are warnings of violence and creepy genderless titan nudity all over, so kids are not exactly welcome. Then you can buy an intentionally depressing meal.
Since titan dominance means humans only have a very limited ability to produce food, nobody in the series eats very well.