Attack on Titan has easily become on of the most popular anime titles of all time. It became an overnight sensation when the anime started airing and rose to heights that only premiere titles like DBZ, One Piece, and Sword Art Online reside. I wasn’t born early enough to fully appreciate the hype of DBZ and One Piece was more of a gradual burst than such a quick burst. So, I can only compare it to Sword Art Online in that regard and I’ll make more comparisons as the review goes on. Let’s face it, you’ve probably seen the poster above this a million times by now. It’s a pretty incredible way to hype up the show. I did read the manga prior to watching the show so I knew what to expect and it definitely isn’t my cup of tea, but the series had so much potential that it’s scary. It’s a series that really had everything in its favor (Like Sword Art Online) and just messed up on some of the fundamentals, which held it back.
The Earth is not how you may have remembered it. Titans have conquered the planet and what’s left of humanity now hides behind a group of large walls that separates them into a few groups. There are the Survey Corps who try to regain some of the lost land and the Military Police who like to lounge around and just try to enjoy their lives. We also have the normal people who just have to endure this existence. It’s tough because their food supplies are diminishing and the area won’t be able to hold everyone forever. Unfortunately, the Titans are basically invincible since their only weak point is a spot at the back of their head and they can regenerate all other injuries pretty quickly. Turns out that a boy named Eren may be the last hope for humanity thanks to his….you ready for a possible spoiler depending on if you count it? His Titan ability may be their only chance! (I wouldn’t really call it a spoiler since that’s one of the big selling points)
Well, where to start right? I think that I’ll start with some of the big positives so you can see just how much the show had going for it. I’m not typically into voice acting since most voices are good enough for me to still enjoy the characters, but Attack on Titan has one of the best voice actors in the business for the main character. This is a great advantage since Eren’s personality revolves around his constant yelling and determination. He’s constantly talking back to someone or thinking up a plan. He’s a great main character in many respects while falling short in others. I’ll talk about him more in detail later, but the voices are very good for the show.
The animation is pretty great as well. I don’t consider it to be very legendary or awe inspiring, but you can still tell that this is a relatively new anime. The main reason why it is not used to its fullest extent is because the anime is very grounded. There are no energy attacks or cool designs to really be found here. That being said, we get glimpses of how the animation could have looked when Eren transforms or when you see a gleam in the Female Titan’s eye. The animation is pretty in depth and it’s another positive to throw in Attack on Titan’s corner.
We also can’t forget that Attack on Titan has one of the greatest soundtracks in anime history. There are very few shows that can even come close to attaining the array of songs that Titan possesses. Everything from the openings to the talking themes to the battle music is great here. There are naturally many themes that aren’t as good as the others, but I can name at least 5 very catchy themes and that’s a great amount. The main Titan theme is a classic, Mikasa’s theme when she tries to avenge Eren is awesome and Eren’s final awakening during the second last episode had a great theme as well. These themes really enhance the scenes and make everything a lot better. It’s hard for you to stop your heart from racing when the music starts to pick up.
Finally, the show also had a great director. I don’t know who directed the show, but he knew what he was doing. It’s basically the opposite of what I’ve come to expect from Naruto Shippuden. He can make just about any scene interesting. That’s something that many shows simply can’t pull off. Even if it’s just your average “Characters Introduction Montage” it will still be infinitely more interesting than if someone else had attempted to adapt that scene.
As you can see, Attack on Titan had some supremely overwhelming positives on that side. Stellar voice acting, An amazing soundtrack, great animation…..how could it not be the next big thing? Well, you can have these positives over and over, but you won’t get very far if the source material is no good. That’s the case with this series and it’s where things start to go downhill.
It’s different from what happened with Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online had all of the positives that I just mentioned for Attack on Titan and it was on pace to become one of my favorite shows of all time. Then arc 2 happened and the show went from being a possible 9 all the way down to a 5. It was just terrible and distasteful. Attack on Titan sets the tone from the very first episode and I knew that things were going to get dicey very quickly.
The big factor that really shreds Attack on Titan is the excessive violence. Toonami somehow managed to squeak a TV 14 for this show, but you can definitely tell tat it’s basically at a TV MA level. I think the only reason why the show gets away with it is because the Titans are like monsters and we know how lenient the rating system is with Godzilla. The show may tone down the manga at certain points, but it also increases the violence in others. Case in point, the final battle between the Rogue Titan and the Female Titan. Many parts of that fight were made up or extended to make the fight that much more drastic. It went way over the top in several scenes and you couldn’t root for either one of them. It’s hard to decide which episode was worse, the final one or the first one. Both of them are fighting for last place alongside one of the Hange episodes.
Mixing the excessive violence with the dreary tone of Attack on Titan is definitely a devastating combo for the series. It’s actually day time in just about every episode, which is why I can’t really think of it as a horror series, but they do make sure to show you that the humans are doomed just about every episode. The series is way too dramatic for its own goods and the heroes are constantly talking about how corrupt everyone is. There will also be a background character in just about every episode who panics and gets the crowd going. A lot of characters express how they don’t want to die just before doing so. These things are here to provide us with more emotional or shock value, but it gets old after it happens over and over again.
Because of this, I found that most of my favorite episodes in the series were the ones without any actual fighting. I’d compare it to Fate/Zero as the characters are very interesting and the world building is solid. I think the show could have scored at around a 7 if it had just been about their strategy discussions and then we skipped the actual fights. Of course, there are exceptions. The Hange episodes didn’t typically have any fighting, but they were pretty bad. On the other hand, the first battle between the Rogue and Female Titans was pretty good for the most part. So, I can only say that the majority of the action scenes were what drove it down.
Some episodes seemed to handle the fight scenes better than others. One episode may have someone destroying a Titan and it appears to be very violent while another may take down a Titan without that much blood. It really varied on who was animating the episode or how much emphasis they had to make. I was pretty disappointed with the final fight in the series because they definitely wanted it to have an extreme ending. The animation itself may have hurt it there as well since they make sure that the Female Titan looks very ugly and deranged by the end. Of course, Attack on Titan would not be very popular without the action so it’s certainly a double edged sword.
Eren is a pretty intriguing character. He doesn’t really like to eat as you would expect from the typical main character and he’s actually decently intelligent. He does have a lot of determination and he’s quick to get into a fight, but he’s definitely not your average main character. He’s a good character to an extent, but it can still be a little hard to root for him since he’s forced to bend to the show’s rules. He hesitates before attacking one of the villains and you can make a lot of guesses as to why. Does he simply not want to destroy her? Can he still not believe that she is an enemy? Or is he just afraid that he will lose? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because he just enters into a rage moment and attacks without mercy. There are many times like this where he just gives into the rage and forgets what is going on. He certainly yells more than most main characters, but the voice actor assures that this is done flawlessly.
He is pretty brave and he’ll definitely put his life on the line to help his friends without hesitation. He wants to save the world and his goals are just. It’s just too bad that he lets the government push him around so much. It’s also hard for him to control the titan form for a while and you would think that it wouldn’t take so much effort with his determination. After some twists that are shown at the end of the season, it really makes you think about it. I don’t think that there is a really good reason for Eren to have that kind of trouble. He overestimates his abilities, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. As a kid, Eren manages to take on two adults, which is impressive.
Eren does face one big decision towards the end of the series where it’s tough to know what to do. To avoid spoilers, I’ll offer up a hypothetical of a similar scenario with the same options. You are the only human who can turn into a titan and then your squad is attacked by a Mega Titan. You are with the world’s strongest human and a group of elites. The strong guy is the leader and he tells you to stand down as you guys will just continue to run away. The Titan is gaining ground and you can choose to turn around and fight (At which point the leader and the elites will enter the fray to back you up) or you can trust in the leader and keep on going. Eren makes one choice and I made the other one. I’ll give you a hint…sometimes the leader’s judgment has been clouded from experience. Either way, I suppose that I can’t…..fine, I do blame Eren for making the wrong choice. It cost a lot of lives and I didn’t think that it was a close decision It was a no brainer for me and that didn’t help Eren’s case. Also, one of the series’ ongoing messages is about how you have to forsake yourself and become a beast to defeat one. Eren is constantly told to let go of his humanity and to truly join the ranks of mindless monsters/evil. He basically starts to listen by the end and most of the other heroes are already corrupt through and through. I certainly wouldn’t call Eren a bad main character, but he definitely could have been a lot better and I could see him going downhill from here. We’ve already seen that he is starting to crack and let’s just say that his hatred for the titans continues to grow as time goes by.
Mikasa is the main heroine and she is one of the toughest fighters. From the start we see that Eren is the loud main character who is determined to win while Mikasa is the silent, but deadly assassin. She destroys more titans than just about any other character in the series. Levi is probably the only one who possibly matches her in that regard. The show makes it clear that Levi is still the more skilled fighter, but considering that Mikasa didn’t have any real combat training at the beginning, she did really well. Her rage moment where she attacks a group of titans to avenge Eren is great and she also takes on the Female Titan, a great feat for a human. She’s easily the best character in the show.
Levi is the fan favorite character and you’re reminded why he’s supposed to be an awesome character with just about every line. He is able to fight the Female Titan and hold his own with relative ease and he’s supposed to be the strongest human in existence. His speed is completely superhuman and you can’t doubt his abilities. That being said, I can’t say that he’s a very likable character. He went way over the top when beating down Eren and it was hard to find him likable after that. It may have helped Eren out in the long run, but there were surely other ways that they could have accomplished that. I also don’t think Eren should have lived through such a beating, at least the way that it was animated. Levi is one of the characters who goes downhill from here so brace yourself as season 2 approaches.
Annie’s role will seem to be that of the overshadowed side character for a while. She’s a part of the squad along with a few other guys from the intro montage, but then she disappears for a while. She’s pretty mellow compared to the other recruits and while she acknowledges that the world is corrupt…she doesn’t do anything about it. Really, there’s not much that you can do in such a system so I guess I don’t really blame her. Sasha is a pretty minor figure as well, but she values the importance of a good meal amidst the battles so that’s always a good thing. She’s pretty likable right from the start.
Hange is easily the worst character in the show and she does a good job of bringing the show down a even further. There is no way that you can call her a hero by any stretch of the imagination so it’s very difficult to see the main characters working alongside her. Do they not comprehend just how awful she is? She delights in the pain of others and she’s just a very warped individual. The situation has likely caused her to become insane, but the heroes shouldn’t give her such free reign. Of course, they’re not really “heroes” themselves, which makes things dicey.
The Female Titan is the final boss of the series and she’s definitely very skilled. Her hand to hand techniques are enough to give The Rogue Titan a good match, but her best advantage is easily her ability to harden a part of herself. She can use this ability to offensively attack someone or to block an attack. That’s why it’s no exaggeration to say that she may be the strongest fighter in the series. A battle between her and the Colossal Titan would certainly be interesting to say the least.
The Colossal Titan is a figure that just about everyone should know from the posters. He’s a pretty iconic titan and fans were probably disappointed when he only got a few minutes of screentime in the series. He’s definitely the kind of villain that you want to see more of. He’s more interesting than the other villains at the moment and he did have a pretty great cliffhanger during one of his appearances. Well, we can be sure that he will appear more in the next season.
Armin is one of the main characters and at times he feels more like the lead than Eren. He’s the calm and collected character who tries to set the mood for the audience. He is always going on about how we need to lose our humanity and become monsters to fight the Titans. Forsaking our morals and doing what’s “necessary” is the only way to win this war according to him. At least he’s not pretending that he’s a hero, but this starts to grate on you very quickly. He’s also not much of a fighter and he cracks one or two times. His big moments didn’t help me gain any respect for him.
Jean starts off as the classic bully and develops into the capable leader. He’s a pretty decent character by the end as he decides to fight for justice. He also doesn’t have any qualms about insulting the squad leaders as he moves up the ranks. He’s sort of like a kid version of Erwin so he hasn’t been fully corrupted yet. He could end up being one of the best characters in the series if he plays his cards right.
Erwin is Levi’s mentor so you can probably tell that he’s not going to be one of the most friendly members. He talks about strategy a lot and he’s totally willing to break a few dozen eggs in in order to make his omelet. The ends totally justify the means for him. He is dealing with a corrupt government so it’s tricky for him either way, but I couldn’t call him a hero either. It should be noted that things will likely go downhill for him in season 2 so this is really his best season.
So, time for some final comparisons to Sword Art Online. They both have a lot of similar aspects and both of them had disappointing finishes, but there can be only one winner.
Best Main Character-Sword Art Online
Best Soundtrack- Attack on Titan
Best Opening- Sword Art Online
Best Fight- Sword Art Online
Best Animation-Sword Art Online
Best Plot-Sword Art Online
Best First Half- Sword Art Online
Best Climax-Attack on Titan
Better show-Sword Art Online
I suppose that this answers the question. From the two shows that completely shattered social media and our minds as a result, Sword Art Online wins. It had an amazing beginning and I could see why it will always be remembered as a legendary anime. Attack on Titan was certainly revoloutionary in its own right and since it was Japan’s answer to the Walking Dead, you can see why it had such a large audience over in the states. The problem is that it appeals to a completely different crowd than me. I reeeeeeeally do not like the Walking Dead (I don’t like Zombies at all) and I don’t care for the concept of Titans as the main villains. It’s why I didn’t care for the concept of Attack on Titan in the first place and why all of its great features could not save the franchise.
Overall, Attack on Titan is the kind of show that you really want to like, but are unable too. The negatives manage to outweigh the positives and you’re left wishing that it could have won the battle. A video game has the potential to be pretty honest with a “Spiderman” sort of gameplay as you try to slay the titans. The franchise still has potential, but most of it has squandered and there probably isn’t a whole lot of hope left for it. The only piece of the franchise that I liked a lot was the Junior High spinoff. The Levi prequel was surprisingly good for the most part as well. If you don’t mind a whole lot of violence, then I actually would recommend this title since that is mostly what deters me from it. The other aspects are mostly pretty solid. That being said, for a similar experience of top notch quality, check out the first arc of Sword Art Online.