In 2012, there was Sword Art Online. Today, we’re looking at the hottest anime of 2013: Attack on Titan.
Because this series is technically still going, I’m only going to look at the anime. No manga. Of course, there will be spoilers.
The Story: It’s a dark time for humanity. 100 years ago, enormous humanoids called Titans appeared, devouring humanity to the brink of extinction. In desperation, the survivors erected and retreated behind three concentric walls, each 50 meters high, tall enough to keep out even the tallest titan. And for the first time in 100 years, humanity has lived a life on uneasy peace. Until one day…..
The story centers around a boy named Eren Jaegar who’s life is ripped apart when the wall he lives behind is unexpectedly breached.
This kind of story is nothing new, the idea of humans being trapped, at the mercy of something stronger than them. Fortunately, Attack on Titan takes that premise and runs with it. It doesn’t do anything new; it instead adds more layers of story. In other words, Attack on Titan, as the series goes on, starts to become more and more complex, which tends to be the mark of a good anime.
I’m going to divide the show into two parts. The first spans from episode 1 to about 14.
Part one: This follows Eren as his home is destroyed and he joins the military to fight against the titans. This is the deeper of the two halves, focusing heavily on the costs and psychological effects of war. More action scenes are placed here, but alongside that are long internal monologues, scenes where you get to hear character’s thoughts on the world. However, more often than not, I’d be watching one of these moments and be more interested in what would happen in the story next. As a result, there are times where the show barely inches along and moments where things are flying at you.
Part Two: This part spans for the rest of the show, following Eren and the rest of the cast as they join the Survey Corps, one of the three branches of the military. Most of the action sequences are discarded in favor of expositions and meetings, and there’s no telling when something will happen. That’s not to say that there aren’t any action sequences in this part. The ones that exist are incredible, arguably more epic than the ones in part one. This part sets up a lot for a probable second season, so many concepts and plot devices it establishes never come into play. Theoretically, there’s more going on in this part of the story; we just don’t get to see it.
The Characters: Attack on Titan’s biggest claim to fame, in my opinion, is its characters. The main cast of characters, for the most part, is incredible. Some of the secondary characters are even better developed than the main characters. Considering that in this show, dozens of people die every episode, that kind of complexity and character development is remarkable. However, I’m going to be looking at mainly the three main characters.
Eren Jaegar: Eren is the main character, a hot-headed boy who has sworn vengeance against the titans. He reminds me a lot of Naruto. He’s not talented and compensates with through hard work, yet he still doesn’t seem to be a competent soldier. He is a decent character, but the show doesn’t do him justice; it’s almost like he’s a supporting character when the show revolves around him. Yeah, he’s important to the story, but, for a main character, he’s grossly underused and honestly neglected. In the second half, he hardly does anything. Heck, in the first half, he spent much of his screen time screwing up. Simply put, Eren hardly does anything in his own show, and that really hurts him as a character.
Mikasa Ackerman: People love Mikasa really for one reason: she’s a total badass. If there’s any character who’s going to be alive at the end of this show, it’ll be her. Sadly, her appeal stops there. In a show with very complex characters, Mikasa is easily the most linear. She’s more linear than the guy who’s made it his life’s goal to kill titans. Her entire life and contribution to the plot is her complete devotion to Eren, and that sucks away much of her complexity and appeal. Honestly, I feel sorry for her. She could’ve been her own character, rather than Eren’s foil, and it’s sad that she missed that chance. I challenge you in part two to find out how many times she says “Eren”.
Armin Arlert: Armin is the weakling genius. Where he fails in physical strength, he makes up for it with superior intellect. He’s the most interesting character of the three because he gets the most development, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a good character. Armin lacks the appeal that Eren and Mikasa both have, maybe because you don’t see him do much. Sure, he creates the genius plan and cracks the code, but that isn’t always appealing, whereas killing titans usually is. I know that sounds contradictory when compared to my view on Mikasa, but it’s all about balance, and Armin lacks the balance between appeal and complexity.
Final Verdict: looking at the anime alone, Attack on Titan is not a great show. It’s unfinished and doesn’t treat its characters as well as it could. But when you put it in context with the manga, and a potential second season, it becomes much better, and the plot devices and characters start to make more sense. If nothing else, watch this show just to make your own opinion on it. I enjoyed Attack on Titan, but I do not believe that it deserves all of the hype it gets.