It’s finally time to take a look at Attack on Titan. It’s certainly a series that made it into the record books and shall never be forgotten. At this point you can make the case for it being in the top 10 most recognizable anime/manga of all time with how big it got. The series ended recently and while there is an 8 page extra coming to the volume format, we more or less know how things went. Unfortunately the original manga ending is the worst manga ending of all time. It’s unbelievably bad but for obvious spoiler reasons I can’t talk much about that just yet.
I would say we can divide the series into two main parts. Part 1 introduces us to a world where 80% of humanity has been wiped out by Titans. The few survivors live behind 3 walls where they have learned to live as a smaller part of the food chain. Among these people are the Survey Corps, a group of fighters who still resist the Titans. They scout the outside world and slay Titans when possible. After many years they have made almost no headway so most people don’t even want to join the team.
Fortunately the main character Eren Yeager is not afraid. He wants to be a Survey Corp member without a doubt. He doesn’t have a lot of physical skill but fortunately has the ability to turn into a Titan. Perhaps now humanity finally has a chance to survive? His best friends Armin and Mikasa are also here to help as needed. Armin’s the main strategist while Mikasa is the best fighter of the 3.
That’s a rather simplified version of Part 1 of course as a whole lot more happens. It does serve to at least cover the Pre Arc though. This is where we are introduced to all of the main characters or at least the ones for Part 1. There are a lot of characters running around so it takes time to get to all of their names.
Attack on Titan is a very serious manga so don’t expect everyone to survive. Part of what helped make it big is the sense of danger that the manga has. You always feel like someone could die at any moment. There may be some characters who feel really safe but a lot of the others certainly seem to be in danger when the Titans show up.
The art was quite rough when it first started but by the end it’s improved a great deal. Initially I would say the art was slightly below average compared to most other titles. It still had a lot of intense moments but felt rather rough around the edged. The artist clearly continued to improve his craft the whole time. If you see a comparison picture between the beginning of the series and the ending it is a world of difference. By Part 2 this was looking very clear and quite solid.
While the dark/grim tone of the manga may be part of what helped it get big, it’s also what limits the series. Even before the ending it’s not like this series was going to get a high score. It’s way over the top with the violence. Characters are eaten alive, dismembered, and even tortured. One of the worst scenes in the series was definitely when Levi and Hange tortured this one guy who wouldn’t talk. A big theme in the series is “relative morality” where you have to become a monster to defeat other monsters.
By the end of the series there aren’t any real heroes because everyone has compromised on their integrity at one point or another. It’s certainly a cynical view on the world but more on that later on in the review. The series is always going for as dark a vibe as possible though. Before dying the characters will beg for their lives or yell about how they don’t wanna die. All for that maximum emotional punch of course.
A lot of horses die in the battles as well since this takes place in a more old fashioned world. Whenever the titans show up you can expect that the horses aren’t going to make it which is unfortunate. All of these factors just kept on beating the series into the ground. I would also say with confidence that this has to be the most violent series I’ve read. It never really lets up.
As for Part 2 of the series. We finally see what lies beyond the walls. It turns out that the whole “80% of humanity being wiped out” was all a lie. The rest of the world is just fine and are having wars against each other as normal. Eren infiltrates these places and realizes that the whole world wants to destroy Paradis. He decides to destroy them first and gathers up his own faction. Back on the island Armin and the others can’t accept this outcome so they mobilize to stop him. Can they defeat Eren and ensure that Paradis is obliterated once and for all or will they be stopped, resulting in their island being saved?
Part 2 is definitely very ambitious to the point where it almost feels like a different series entirely. The idea of expanding the world like this is certainly good. It allows us to see the action from a different point of view to really see if you’re still rooting for Paradis or not. Eren’s big personality change is also intense since he is really acting like a different character. Whether you agree with him or not will definitely be a big deal.
So lets talk about Eren as a whole. I liked him a lot in both Part 1 and 2. In Part 1 he is your classic main character who is really determined, yells a lot, and wants to accomplish his goal. He wants to destroy all of the Titans since they destroyed his Mother and that will allow him to finally be free. The villains try for sympathy points a lot of the time but Eren never buys into it. The guy’s just a stellar main character through and through. If he doesn’t have a skill he makes sure to quickly develop it.
Then we have Part 2 Eren. For context, he finally gained the power of the Founding Titan and after making contact with Historia at the end of Part 1, he now has access to Paths, the Future, and the Past. Effectively he’s mind melded with every possible Titan owner from all timelines so like Dr. Strange he can see every eventuality. Eren decides that the only way to save his friends and to be free is to wipe out the rest of the world with the Rumbling.
That’s basically an ability where he will have Titans flatten the rest of the planet. This is directly going to murder every living being on the planet aside from his island. Right from the start you may think he has to be stopped but keep in mind that the rest of the planet aims to nuke Paradis off the face of the planet. This is due to a long tragic past history where the world believes they are all demons.
Attack on Titan shows many times that peace is quite impossible. I’d say the reason why you would likely go with Eren is because the heroes have no other plan. More than once characters explain to the heroes why this can’t work any other way. For starters, Eren gave them around 6 months and the heroes did nothing with that time. Later on when someone asks what alternative there is if they stop Eren, Hange says she has no clue.
So it’s a bit of a contrived situation you could say but it’s written in a way where Eren’s Rumbling really is the only option. Okay, here are the other two options presented in the story. You have Zeke’s idea which is to force every Eldian to not be able to have kids. This means their race will die out so Paradis will die eventually but perhaps peacefully since the other countries won’t have to murder them anymore. I think that’s an easy alternative to explain why it’s a horrible idea. The other countries will blow up Paradis anyway and they would be going down in a really awful way.
Alternative 2 is to just blow up a small part of humanity and call for a truce. I doubt humanity would really listen to that. Another idea brought up by Hange is to just ask for peace from the get go. Considering that the other countries have been attacking Paradis for years and destroying innocent people the whole time…that wouldn’t work either. If the heroes had an actual idea about how this would go down then it’d be easier to root against Eren but every time he would ask them for a plan they would just dodge the question or run off like Hange.
All right, time to talk about the ending so skip these next two paragraphs until you have finished the series. Spoilers start. In the final chapter I think the author realized too many people were on Eren’s side so it was time to assassinate his character. For starters, we find out that Eren murdered his mother. Yes that’s right….he controlled the Titan to eat her. This would start the cycle of him hating the titans and becoming the current him. The logic is that there was no other way for him to start on this path so using his mastery over time he made the events happen. You can see how awful that is right? If you can see and control events across the past, present, and future then you could surely do something else right? Ah man that was bad.
Next, at least we all knew Eren had a concrete plan for destroying all of humanity right? He wanted to be free and to save his friends. He had a ton of dialogue to support this including inner monologue. Well, no he admits to Armin he has no idea why he did this and only destroyed 80% of humanity. Armin’s happy about this at least since not everyone was wiped out. The chapter ends with Mikasa hinting that they’re all going to get slaughtered anyway but it depends on your interpretation. The final 8 pages haven’t come out officially yet but based on those it looks like it was confirmed that Paradis was obliterated so I like that my head canon was validated there at least. It also underscores why Eren’s plan was the only one that could work. I could talk about the ending for a very long time but let me quickly wrap this up. Eren gets reincarnated as a bird so he is now free but can’t enjoy it. Historia ended up marrying a random farmer which really came out of nowhere. Reiner looks pathetic and is trying to go after a woman who’s already married. Mikasa may have married Jean out of pity but still clearly loves Eren so Jean knows he was just the rebound. Oh yes and Eren cries because he doesn’t want Mikasa to like anybody else. Yes…this ending was baaaad.
Spoilers end Attack on Titan was certainly a grand journey. While it had a ton of faults I can at least say this for the series, it did have a lot of good world building. The fact that there is so much to discuss definitely speaks to that. It lasted for quite a while as well and had a lot of high moments. When it wasn’t focusing on being as gritty as possible we got some really iconic scenes and panels. Eren fighting the Armored Titan/Female Titan or when he got ambushed by the Jaw Titan were all great moments.
The series delivered on having a lot of action as well. It could transition pretty well between high action arcs and other stories which were more about mind games and taking things slow. I did get invested in seeing how things would go at least. The series had a long slump during the political arc but the final arc got pretty intense. If we really are getting a sequel series I’ll be interested in how that goes. Just massively tone down the violence and it could be quite good.
Now lets look at the characters. I’ve already spoken at length about the best character in the series known as Eren so we can skip him. Armin’s another big character. He certainly has a lot of moments to shine with his plans but he isn’t nearly as likable. Armin’s the kind of character you could see going over the edge way sooner than Eren and causing a lot of trouble. Armin always tries to claim the moral high ground as well even though I would say he’s never earned it. The guy annoys me the more I think about it actually.
Mikasa was a great character though. She’s an expert fighter who is quite loyal to protecting Eren. Aside from Levi she is likely the most talented human fighter in the series. By the end of Titan she can fight one on one against shifters thanks to the electro spears. Outside of the main 3 I suppose Levi would probably be the biggest character. The guy definitely gets a lot of hype and has the skills to back it up. The way he fights you would think the guy is not human at all. Technically as an Ackerman he is superhuman so that does explain a lot of things. I’ll never agree with him beating up Eren or assisting in torture though which does hurt the guy quite a bit.
Then we have Zeke. I just never liked the guy and there are a lot of reasons for it. I couldn’t sympathize with his backstory. He’s meant to be a rather aloof guy who says crazy stuff for kicks but it was never all that amusing. His plan was also complete nonsense so all of these things added up and I could never like the guy. It doesn’t help that he is absolutely traumatized by Levi and gets nervous whenever he appears.
I didn’t care for Reiner with how he keeps trying to guilt trip everyone and not take responsibility for what he did. The whole dual personalities thing wasn’t going to save him. He tends to beg and whine a lot and Eren shut down all of his arguments real quick. He was a very intimidating villain initially but by the end of the series he’s really a pushover.
Annie was a fun villain though. As the Female Titan she was able to use her hand to hand skills rather well to even give Eren a run for his money. Annie was also quite a sadistic villain so stopping her wasn’t easy. She didn’t really get to have a true character arc by the end but since she had her own arc I think fans should be satisfied.
Bertolt doesn’t get to do a whole lot next to the other shifters but I wouldn’t say there’s much to know about him anyway. He’s always acting rather nervous and definitely doesn’t have the confidence of the other members. Without them he would be absolutely and completely lost the whole time. So much for having the Colossal Titan right? It definitely would not be enough to help him.
Gabi is one of the new characters introduced in Part 2. I actually liked her from the start. She reminded me of Part 1 Eren although she was without powers so she could never be as useful in a fight. Gabi doesn’t have any honor in a fight so she’ll try any kind of cheap shot to win but that’s just the way the characters were brought up on her side. Meanwhile Falco also gets a big role in Part 2 although he isn’t nearly as good since he isn’t decisive the way she is.
Back to the main group we also had Connie although he never really stood out. The guy complains quite a bit and doesn’t do a ton in the action scenes so he is always doomed to be a side character. Then there’s Sasha who is the main comic relief character. The series is usually quite serious but she tries to add in a bit of levity here and there.
Commander Erwin was a big character for a while. As one of the acting captains in charge he would come up with a lot of plans. He kept the Survey Corps going for as long as they did. It would not have been possible without his plans. In fact, Armin never quite caught up to the guy.
Hange is easily the worst character in the series. She acts completely evil with her titan experiments and just about every scene with her is nutty. It’s wild that she tries to act like a hero with absolute morals by the end of it. Cmon, you just can’t buy it at that point because of how much she had done. She refused to even think of a plan which is why Eren had to go.
As for Historia, I liked her in Part 1. She’s an example of a character who did get ruined in part 2 though. She doesn’t really do anything throughout the whole series and really just gets manipulated. Not a great way to go considering her whole character arc of becoming brave and defying fate in Part 1. Her friend Ymir also got wiped from the story rather quickly. I liked that she would talk tough even if she was on the wrong side of the debate with Eren and Reiner.
Then we have a second character called Ymir and to this day I wonder why we got two characters with the same exact name. They could have changed it up a little bit right? Well, this Ymir’s pretty awful. She has a lot to do in the Paths dimension but the more you learn about her the worse it gets. Just wait until you read that final chapter.
So I wouldn’t call the character cast great but at least there are some very memorable characters. Eren really helps to carry the series a lot all by himself. Throughout Part 2 you are always waiting for him to appear so we can see more from his perspective. That’s where all of the hype comes from after all. If anything it would have been nice to have seen him talk/think a bit more in the final arc.
As a final note I’ll say the best scene in Part 2 was definitely the betrayal on the rooftop when the opposing army decided to try and capture Eren. Using the Jaw Titan teaming up with a bunch of others was a smart play. In Part 1 the best scene had to be Eren going up against the Armored Titan in what would be their decisive battle. Seeing Eren finally put his martial arts into play for the first time was a moment worth remembering.
Overall, Attack on Titan is definitely a pretty bad series which wrapped up with a terrible ending so I suppose that was fitting. The final 8 pages if the leaks are true still sound bad but in an extremely minor way do help the ending a bit since it would confirm one of my theories. At least we got a lot of great memes out of it though and even a fan character. The violence is too extreme and it consistently tries to be as gritty as possible. Get out of here with the heroes literally torturing people. It does force you to think about some rather high concept arguments though like a character resorting to committing genocide on 99% of the planet to save his friends. Is it worth it or is he just insane? You can have a lot of discussions on that which is good. If you like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones for their elaborate universes and constant sense of danger then you will like this series. If you want something with a really expansive story but toning down the violence then I would recommend checking out Tower of God.