Review: Attack on Titan

Does Attack on Titan really need an introduction? Pretty much everyone in the universe knows about the show at this point.

There are things I like a lot about Attack on Titan, the first one being it’s setting.

The world is creative, the concept of humans finally having to deal with a natural predator makes for a really nice atmosphere, and basically everything to do with the core setting is really neat. It’s a pretty good example of how to do a dark fantasy.

I also like the soundtrack, though not nearly as much as most people who go head over heels for it. A lot of the vocal tracks are a bit too punk-rockish for my tastes, but most of the orchestral tracks are quite nice.

But other than those positives, the show really isn’t that exceptional.

The biggest problem that even people who like the show tend to agree with is that the pacing is pretty atrocious. Weekly shows that follow a very linear plot do not need a recap at the start of each episode, yet Attack on Titan had one for almost every single episode. Some of them were even three minutes long. Five if you count the opening song and video.

It’s not just the recapping, either. Episodes in general start getting really goddamn slow about around when Eren gets eaten the first time. Some people actually were saying they thought the show got really slow as soon as the training arc, but I thought it was still fine around that time. I actually would have been fine with multiple episodes of training, since it would have hammered home the atmosphere of how hard they have to train because of how threatening the titans are, just for most of them to not even get a chance to use any of their training before getting eaten.

Anyways, I think the biggest offender as far as pacing goes was episode twelve, the one that starts with Eren having transformed into a titan and not having control over himself, and ends with him reaffirming something he’s been spouting since the very first episode. I actually wouldn’t have had a problem with the pacing if it had character development for Eren, as in he comes to terms with something that he’s been blind to or willfully ignorant towards, but as I said, Eren’s held his hardened “the entire world belongs to us” philosophy since the first episode. We heard him give a short speech about it and everything. So it was basically an entire episode spent doing… nothing, really. I think some people got eaten, but that happens all the goddamn time, so it’s hard to care anymore after a certain point.

Though speaking of getting eaten, that brings me to another issue I had with the show: after the first few episodes, the titans don’t look very intimidating. I keep wanting to consider this a minor issue, but seeing as how these are humanity’s natural predator and it’s a dark fantasy, they’re supposed to be at least a bit intimidating. I’m not entirely sure who thought giant, kawaii, uguu~ eyes; or …that thing looked intimidating, but they really don’t. It’s just kind of hard to take any scenes with the titans seriously when I’m laughing my ass off at how ridiculous they look.

As for the main characters… yeah. They’re just bland, and they don’t really develop at all over the course of the show. Eren still wants to kill all the titans and break free of the walls and avenge his mother, Mikasa is still disturbingly protective of Eren, and Armin is just sort of… there. To be fair, they do try to develop Armin by making him some sort of smart strategist person, but most of the things he comes up with either aren’t that big of a deal, or are already blatantly obvious. For example, he’s the one that theorizes that Annie is the female titan, however it’s already blatantly obvious that it’s her at the time that Armin realizes it, almost to the point where it seems like the show made it purposefully obvious.

If anything Armin just comes to serve as Eren’s brain, seeing as he needs to keep reminding him why he’s fighting in order for Eren to get anything done.

All of the main characters also have plot armor the size of a black hole, which Eren is especially guilty of. It gets more and more annoying to put him in these “deathly” situations, yet the show keeps trying to use it for suspense.

At least the side characters fare better! …Well, not really. Most of them have very little airtime before either being eaten or just fading into the background. The biggest example of that being Sasha. Everyone treated her like the character of the year during her potato scene (for whatever reason), but then she just sort of disappeared for a while and when she came back, she was scared to hell of titans, was generally incompetent, and 90% of her dialogue was screaming.

Annie was another unfortunate victim to this. She had a nice half-episode to herself in one of the last few ones which gave us a bit of insight into her character and philosophy, but then they decide “fuck it” and just make her laugh like a complete loon at the end. I know there was the whole thing in the last episode about “make the world your enemy”, but it would have been better if we had known about that flashback beforehand. That way when the scene happened, we would have understood why she was doing it to some degree at that point in time, and therefore would have felt some uncertainty about whether she was really a bad person or not.

There are some standout side characters, though. I appreciate what they tried to do with Jean, but because he’s a side character, the show is kind of off and on about whether it gives a shit about him. I feel like if he were a main character, it would have helped the show tremendously, because he’s one of the few characters that actually went through some kind of genuine struggle and growth as a character.

I also like Hange, for no real reason other than that she’s incredibly wacky and fun. I like characters that are insanely passionate in some zany way and not afraid to show it.

The best side character – though he sort of makes the transition towards being a main character the more the show went on – was Levi. And no, I don’t like him for the reason a lot of people seem to, which is the same reason they like Mikasa: they’re badasses. No, I like Levi because he has an actual personality. Which is being a snarky asshole, just like me! Yeah, I’m definitely not biased.

However my biggest problem with the show was easily the story. I was fine with it up until Eren transformed into a titan, then everything just started sliding downhill.

In fact that seems to be a recurring theme of the show: whenever they need to mix things up, they turn something new into a titan. First Eren is titan; then Annie is titan; now Wall is titan; hell, fucking Cat is probably titan.

Though speaking of Annie being a titan and all, that part had a glaring issue for me. So Annie as a titan has the ability to coat random parts of her body in some weird ice-crystal substance that can’t be broken at all by the swords that people wield. So why doesn’t she constantly walk around with that turned on? I’m sure it makes her heavier, but if she just covers the one patch on the back of her neck, she’s basically invincible, especially since she can just recover her body if that gets cut up and also coat those in ice. Because we have no information about the downsides to that ability, such as a time limit, the show can just have her win continuously until it decides it’s time for her to lose. Which is exactly what happened. It makes the battles less tactical, and more “I wonder what whims the author will have this battle”.

Anyways, when I was thinking to myself about what show most closely resembles Attack on Titan, I actually came to a startling breakthrough: it’s Dragon Ball Z.

Now, wait, here me out before you all start throwing things at me!

They both have really creative – practically innovative – settings, they both have really slow pacing, and they have their entire casts rely on one character that can go Super Saiyan to make any progress at all. I mean, “ha ha, witty joke” aside, that’s my main problem with the show: they completely rely on Eren to get anything done. Sure, it makes sense given their desperate situation, but it just makes it feel like any other shounen series where the main character with the special ability is the only one who can get stuff done.

You know what I would have preferred to see? When Eren became the titan, Humanity, in its fear, exiles him. Their one hope of being able to defeat their predators is, ironically, lost to them due to their own fear and mistrust. It wouldn’t be the titans that caused their demise, it’d be themselves. Then Eren could live outside the walls in hiding from both humans and titans, yet his unshakeable faith and loyalty to humanity has him occasionally helping from the sidelines before retreating away again. Maybe Mikasa and Armin are aware that he’s doing it, but nobody else is. Personally, I think that’d be a much more intriguing setup, just because it would show how far lost humanity is.

Or maybe I just really like Batman.

But still, as I said, I do like the general setting for the show and the dark fantasy tone it has. I was just comparing it to Dragon Ball Z, so I think a similar opinion on the two shows is only fair. If I went into Dragon Ball Z with a critiquing mindset, I’d probably end up ripping it to pieces, but you know what? It’s just a fun, entertaining show. Sure, it fails on a critical level, but if you turn your brain off, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the core content that it has.

So with that being said, that would also be my assessment of Attack on Titan. It’s a very entertaining show, and I’m sure I’ll watch the inevitable sequel whenever that starts airing and enjoy that too. I can appreciate the series for what it is. There’s no reason you can’t greatly enjoy it if you turn your brain off.

Just don’t pretend that it’s a smart show.


3 Comments on “Review: Attack on Titan”

  1. I was able to watch Attack on Titan for nine episodes. The atrocious blandness of the characters made me averse to watching more episodes. I like your comparison of the show to Dragon Ball Z. The first show that came to my mind was Claymore, but with the giant cast of characters, the ability to transform, and utter reliance on Eren (which comes after the episodes I’ve watched) do give it a rather DBZ flavor.

  2. Rocco B says:

    I think they *lightly* touched upon the subject at least twice. The first time was when Eren turned back in to a human after his initial titan transformation. He said to make a run for it to Mikasa and Armin. The second time was when he was in court. People weren’t sure as to what they should do with him. Kill him or use him. Oh and by the way….there are more titans. As to *WHO* they are…ain’t saying.

  3. Evergreen says:

    This just got me thinking: why is it always the crappy shows that people are drawn to? They make this story sound complicated when it’s really not. It’s just “Arrgh big scary titan come and eeeet human flesh, now u run and fight me if u dare.” I mean seriously? People think this is the greatest thing ever, literally. Everything is just shoved down our throats but they still support it O_o
    And it’s soooo obvious that Eren’s dad has to do something with this. And I won’t be surprised if what I suspected about the Titans was right :/
    However, I do agree that Levi and Hange are good characters. They’ve got some quirks and…quality to them.

    But STILL. There were more original shows that deserved attention than this pretentious piece of turd-like Haibane Renmei, Serial Experiment Lain, and even Book of Bantorra were more intriguing than this!!!

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