Reader be warned, you’re on the edge of the map marked “here there be spoilers.”
Attack on Titan is the ludicrously popular anime that follows a young boy, Eren Jaeger, in a post-apocalypse/alternate universe where humanity is on the brink of extinction. They all live in one city that has three large walls surrounding it to keep out things called Titans; huge humanoid creatures whose soul aim in life is to eat humans. It’s a really cool premise, in my opinion, and the first episode really set the tone for the series which, after 100 years of peace behind these huge walls, the Titans break in and start destroying everyone and the humans are presented as not having a snowball’s chance in hell against them.
It prompts Eren Jaeger to join the army to help defend against the Titans. He has big dreams of one day destroying all the Titans and putting humanity back at the top of the food chain. There’s a lot of build up and suspense in episode 2-5 where Eren and his two friends, Mikasa and Armin, are trained to fight against the Titans and are gradually tested. Then, the day the get out of training, the Titans attack and they are to be truly tried. Then Eren dies.
It’s the series’ Red Wedding moment. In fact, the series creator actually stated that he wanted to create something like Game of Thrones in that no main character, no matter how seemingly important to the plot they are, is safe from suddenly being killed off. In fact, I’d argue it’s even more gruesome than the Red Wedding because of how liberally the series uses blood and viscera and how the Titans, I find, are presented in such a terrifying way. In the first 6 episodes you don’t see a single Titan die. It makes it seem that Eren, who is obviously labelled as the protagonist, is the only one who has the drive to do anything which makes his untimely demise all the more soul-crushing for the viewer. I genuinely felt like it was one of the best pieces of directing and storytelling even to hold sway over our TV screens, and thought that something that could be labelled as the most popular anime of the year or the decade deserved the title.
I thought it was going to be a coup de grace, where Armin, the weady, boring and slightly unlikable character, takes over and steps up, taking up Eren’s mantle to fight the Titans. That would have been really good, even if it was difficult to handle/stomach at the start. Unfortunately, money got in the way of this, from what I can understand because, two episodes later, Eren comes back to life. The anime was so popular that, instead of keeping it to one series LIKE IT WAS PLANNED, one which wouldn’t have the exact same story as the manga, the director abandons his idea of creating something like Game of Thrones and just makes something mediocre.
Even if this was planned, it turns one of the finest examples of good storytelling into something that should be shamed for betraying a basic rule of creative writing. Even JK Rowling knows it, having said “you can use coincidence to get your characters into a situation, but you can’t use coincidence to get them out.” The rules of the universe need to be defined, at least vaguely, before you pull this kind of shit. Some fans will lap it up because they want any excuse to see their favourite character again but, after Eren comes back to life, the tone of the anime completely shifts and it completely ruins any nuance the anime had.
I watched the anime to the end to see if it got any better but, if anything, it got worse. Massive fights between these “special titans” big reveals that some characters are titan spies in disguise, which implies that these mindless husks that eat humans and drag themselves towards wherever the nearest humans are, have some kind of command structure, and somehow the world feels less rich because, to me, if felt like things could change for the humans at any moment, but any impact that change had could be ironed out by Eren the wonderboy.
Attack on Titan, series 2, will be the same as SAO2; none of the promise of the first series, none of the charm or ability, just something farted out by a studio to liberate money from obedient fans. Good job Wit Studio, and good fucking job to Tetsuro Araki.