Attack on Titan is one of the most overhyped anime ever that’s biggest complaint, for me, is that people can’t shut the hell up about it. Anywhere you go that’s even vaguely anime related you’re bound to find something going on related to Attack on Titan because it’s an easily accessible show that many people will feel edgy for watching; when, in the end, they’re watching a shounen with some splotches of blood and rampant murder to make you feel like you’re watching something more adult.
The plot of Attack on Titan is very basic for a fantasy. Big, lumbering giants are attacking the fortified walls of the last bastion of humanity. Branches of military battle Paul Bunyan in an attempt to exterminate them before they exterminate humanity. When they break through one of the walls and kill countless people, Eren Jaegar, our hero, watches his mother get eaten and decides along with his adopted sister to join up with the military and fight the bastards who took away his life.
Why is this basic, you ask? Because as far as fantasy goes this is a very unrealized world. It’s essentially one city and a bunch of monsters. It works because of its simplicity and pulls people in because it’s easy enough for everyone to understand. Wall, bad monsters, good military, fighting!
That’s not to say the plot is particularly bad in anyway. It’s just very slow moving and shounen-esque. The series starts off rather strongly and goes at a decent clip but the further you go in, the more plodding it gets. Ten minute action sequences get drawn out to ridiculous lengths because of brooding characters and constant flashbacks to things that don’t matter. Episode twenty-three’s ending sets up an awesome fight that gets you pumped up. But then episode twenty-four comes on and spends half the episode brooding and flashing back to more brooding. I understand the characters are all depressed and have all seen things but I don’t want to sit through their constant coming to terms with the fact that things are fucked up.
That’s how the action sequences mostly go. So much time is spent talking about what they will do or brooding over all the things that have happened that any excitement to be had is lost and the scenes fall flat. Watching a bunch of sword wielding Spider-Men swing around a giant nude anatomy lab model should be exciting and fun. But most of the time, there’s too much going on on the sidelines and this is where you can see that this is truly a shounen.
Another major problem I had with the plot was how needlessly dark and depressing it is. Okay guys, I understand that people die in war. I also understand that titans kill a lot of people. But I don’t need to see every death onscreen. It doesn’t add anything. Watching hundreds of faceless people die gives the show a feeling of childish masochism and ruins any emotion the audience can get from a main character dying. “How do we make this hardcore? Like, so hardcore people will think they’re watching something more than an above average shounen?”
I know! Add so much death and destruction that just watching it and leaving with a smile on your face is a mark of your depravity. I feel like the deaths were there constantly to try to remind us that we’re watching something more than what AoT actually is and because of that, the constant death and murder becomes pointlessly uninteresting. If a character like Eren or Mikasa were to die, it wouldn’t really feel sad. Instead you’d say “Yup, that’s pretty clearly what’s going to happen.” Death works and makes you have feels when you are attached to the character or feel bad for the circumstances of the character’s death. And that rarely ever happens in Attack on Titan. About the only death you can feel really bad for is Petra, and that’s only because of the vague hint that she might have been married off to Levi. I appreciate the non-overtness of this, but at the same time, its effect on Levi is uninteresting. Levi seems a little different, but his character really doesn’t change much. So why should I care about Petra’s death and why put emphasis on it?
That’s Attack on Titan’s biggest problem: it’s trying to be something it isn’t.
Look at the character’s to see why so many people get drawn into the series. Eren Jaegar is a typical shounen main character who is idealistic and screams a lot and also has a monster inside of him. Armin is the nerdy little guy. Mikasa is an interestingly strong female lead and I can see a lot of female fans watching the show just for the sheer number of badass women.
And that’s the accessibility. Accessible story, accessible characters, and an accessible world.
There are some minor issues. Bad writing, some head scratching areas of the plot (I understand Eren wants to save humanity and kill the titans but he sure murders thousands of innocent civilians in the final fight), long uninteresting stretches of nothing happening. The Linkin Park-esque music that punctuates dramatic scenes really fucks with the tone of the scene and makes it laughable sometimes. But for all that, there is some good
Great animation with fluid fight scenes. One of the best opening numbers of any anime ever. Some genuinely badass moments. Some genuinely badass characters. There are so many good things going on but there are also so many bad things that the series doesn’t excel beyond the realms of above-average. I enjoyed the hell out of Attack on Titan even through all its problems and I can’t wait to hear confirmation of a second season. While it doesn’t have all the aspects that make an anime great, it has every aspect of a fun and entertaining anime. Some parts do drag, the tone is not the best, the characters aren’t that exciting, the action is too slow, the attitude is juvenile, and the plot is weak; but damn is it fun to watch a titan punch another titan’s head off and send it into a clock tower.
People who go into this expecting anything more than typical shounen fair with constant attempts to be edgy (edgy Linking Park music, edgy violence, edgy cuss words!) will be sorely disappointed. This is not the new Berserk by any means. It’s a dumb shounen that’s entertaining because of how dumb it is without being overbearingly dumb.