Gore and Cuteness have always been at odds in the Anime Community at large. Recently there have been examples of a trend of splitting off gore and cute into separate shows, such as Attack on Titian and Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. Shows like Death Note (2006-2007) showed a trend away from a balance of cute and gory, replacing cuteness a mystery aspect. But, Death Note still had the cute female character Misa Amane, as well as maintaining humor with creepy-cute male character L that kept the show from getting way too depressing. Follow in the footsteps of Death Note, came shows like Code Geass, Future Diary, Guilty Crown (to a lesser extent for gore than the others though still violent) and more recently Btooom! and Dangan Ronpa (which uses pink for blood, earning mixed reactions among fans).
All those shows had increasing strategic/psychological aspect, increasing levels of violence and less arbitrarily cute things surrounding the characters, though the female characters remained adorable as ever. This all brings me to Attack on Titian, where nothing is cute. I mean it. Nothing is cute at all in this show. I’ve tired really hard to look for anything cute. Settings? NOPE. Animal sidekick? NOPE. Pretty, well-drawn foods like cakes? NOPE. Cute outfits for the girls? A billion times NOPE. It sticks with realistic hair colors (contrary to the trends set in Code Geass, Future Diary, Guilty Crown and Dangan Ronpa) going back to the standards set in Death Note for a more realistic feel (which Btooom! also did). And in Attack on Titian, since all the characters are in the military they wear the same uniform with the same uniform coat, and PANTS (unlike in Code Geass which also has military aspects but the girls all have skimpier outfits, even outside of the school uniform).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What IS this show, Attack on Titian? Well, Attack on Titian is set in a post-apocalyptic world where all of humanity is confined within the layered walls of a huge settlement, cowering in fear of the huge humanoid monsters (called Titians) that wish to violently devour humans. Gore is an everyday reality for the forces of the Survey Corps, a branch of the military meant to gather intelligence reports on the Titans. Honestly, I didn’t watch it the first few times I heard about it. The Titians just looked so darn UGLY, and the characters all looked like plain regular human beings (by anime standards), so I couldn’t find anything cute to draw my initial attention. I now understand from watching Attack on Titian that things don’t have to be cute, or even beautiful, to be aesthetically pleasing, something that I had apparently forgotten upon joining the fandom of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, which is populated mostly by colorful ponies. Regardless, the art of Attack on Titian is tight while still feeling very raw. I have come to appreciate from it that not all things need cuteness, which might very well have been by design of the artists.
What about that other show, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, that was mentioned earlier? Ah yes, that. It is commonly referred to as Free. It revolves around a group of male friends who are in a High School Swim Club, mostly focusing on their friendships, social issues, and swimming races. The stories hinge on social drama or swim races, which is just fine since the guys take off their shirts to swim quite often. Finally, an entirely cute-but-not-pink-and-tageted-for-children anime to fill the void left by a market overly saturated with bloodshed! The typical accent-color-to-personality stereotypes persist in a standard anime fashion, Rin (red) being the fiery passionateone, Haru (blue) being the cool collected one, Makoto (green) as ‘that third main-main character’, then the more easily molded ones- yellow and purple, Nagisa (yellow) as the naive one and Rei (purple) as the wise or glasses character. The animation style is beautiful and the abundant amount of water in the show is all animated wonderfully. But, mainly, when watched along side violent shows (mainly Attack on Titian since they share a hugely overlapping fanbase) it provides a great break from gore and violence.
Generally, there is a swing towards a gore/violence/suspense/mystery genre, but Free proves that other anime genres are still alive and kicking… lol.