I dont like AoT... and this pretty much sums up everything I think is wrong with it:
Attack on Titan gave me Stockholm Syndrome
It’s just one of those things. You watch the first episode, no, the first ten minutes of something, and you think to yourself “Oh man, what is this. Oh, no I’m cringing so hard. Are they serious?! I have… I have to keep watching!” This very feeling, which I got from the start, lasted all the way through 25 episodes, because I couldn’t stop watching.
I can’t quite put my finger on it — or at least, I’m going to spend this rant trying to figure it out — but it’s not that it’s a BAD show, I don’t think that. I had a good time watching it, honest! It was entertaining and I was hooked to see what was going to happen in the next episode, every episode. It’s just, what it is… is a really frustrating, really awkward story. Where do I even begin with this? I had so many different reactions to the show throughout watching it, and a lot of them didn’t feel like what was intended by its creators.
Attack on Titan is a very popular IP right now. I’m not criticizing it just to try to go against the flow — I’ll probably catch some flak for this post — but I guess what I’m saying is that it just didn’t gel very well with my brain. Your brain is not my brain, we might disagree, which is awesome! So, here goes.
Needless to say: Spoilers be lying ahead.
4. Conveniences everywhere
Attack on Titan absolutely thrives on this. I don’t think I’ve watched anything before that made me throw up my hands and say “Alright! Yeah! Sure! Of COURSE that would happen! What the hell!” as often as this. The plot relies heavily on the impact of the reveal planned for the episode. The problem is that many of these reveals come off to me as shocking swerves that I just have no choice but to roll with and wonder “maybe this is going somewhere for later in the series.” And it sort of does, but not enough for me to look back fondly at the show as a nice tightly wound story. The shock-swerve-tactic storytelling just kept on coming episode after episode and, to my disbelief, I just started accepting it after so long thinking to myself “No one knows anything about anything in this show, so I don’t know what makes me think I do.”
One of the worst cases of this was when they killed Eren after the first couple episodes. I was legitimately impressed when they did this, I thought “Whoa, what the hell, alright alright —- Eren was killed so… holy shit does that mean he wasn’t the main character afterall? Is it Mikasa??” But I should have known! The convenience hadn’t kicked in yet! Eren comes back alive controlling a Titan he can summon on command! Yes! Because now this is apparently a thing to the story! GREAT! It’s not quite what I was hoping would happen but… allllriiiighhht. (This is sort of my own problem of personal expectations not being met, but it was just so … it made me sigh. Loudly.)
It was honestly a let down for me the when he stepped in to protect Mikasa — I knew precisely at that moment it was Eren in Titan form and I sank disappointed into my chair. Just like when we find out the female titan has the ability to selectively harden parts of its body to prevent it from being killed by the swords. Because of course it can. The titans and all of their strange contrivances sound like they were thought up by school children so they could never be outdone by their friends other make-believe creations.
Closeup shot of a character that died this episode. “Sorry man, there was something we had to pull on SOMEONE for a twist, and you were the unlucky bastard to test it out on. Better luck next time… or something.”
See also (what it can tend to feel like) Ass Pull
3. Dialogue more important than Action
This is a bit of a problem with anime in general, but Attack on Titan doesn’t dodge this one at all. Far too many times throughout the show, sequences of action and fast pace are completely broken by comparatively lengthy bouts of dialogue even as the characters are flying through the air at speed in a dense forest while being chased by a really fast gigantic woman.
It’s really frustrating when this happens because it stretches time out considerably when things, apparently, are still happening rapidly around them. I don’t want a flashback of a childhood memory in the middle of a fight to understand why a character suddenly has motivation to deliver a finishing blow. I should understand these feelings from better delivered exposition given to me earlier at a more appropriate time. I’m paying attention to the story, I can remember stuff.
This is why I’m still such a fan of shows like Cowboy Bebop, because they don’t let things get in the way of the action and its flow. When a character has something to say in Bebop, they say it where it makes sense to say it. (Or, they don’t say it at all. Because the writers understood we’d be able to sympathize with the characters without being told precisely how they feel or why they acted the way they did.)
Fortunately some of this clears up a bit more toward the end of the season, but only a little bit.
2. Happiness is failure. Success is failure. Everything is failure.
I get it, the creators wanted the story to have a realistic, visceral, cynical feel where the characters feel tiny and weak in their struggle to survive in their strange world. It’s not supposed to be a cheerful or optimistic story. Characters are scared, fear the unknown power they’re up against, and only ever have one question on their mind: “when will I die?” These are supposed to be regular people, not hollywood action heroes —- I get it, really.
But when everything and anything that can go right for these characters happens, it’s still a failure. A failure to start with, a failure to get there, a failure on execution, a failure afterward, it’s so damn depressing. Even during the fights leading up to the season finale, I found it impossible to root for Eren because I was so jaded by the rest of the series, (soldiers giving up at the first mere sight of a titan,) I was waiting for his inevitable sorry beat-down yet again. Meanwhile five more members of the cast get killed off before the credits roll. Because these characters are powerless. Did we mention to you that these characters are powerless? Because these characters are powerless (usually at the hand of a newfound plot convenience.)
Next season, or the season after that, the characters might actually start getting a bone tossed their way and winning a little now and then. But that hardly happened the entire series so far, so I’m left nearly cheering for these characters uselesness. “YEAH, you deserve that crippling defeat.” Am I supposed to not care about them succeeding anymore? Because I surely don’t expect them to, ever. —— The new Tomb Raider game comes to mind in regards to this. They went for this realistic tone that made Lara feel fragile and you really didn’t want to push her hard at the start. Well, later in the game she’s an unstoppable action hero of a force, and I couldn’t take it seriously for the longest time because of how the first half of the game set up her character to just not be that way.
All of the suffering these characters in AoT are constantly experiencing makes the story feel much more drawn out than it should be. There’s only ever one emotional state in this show. Compare to something like Saving Private Ryan, where we have a very realistic depiction of war and the effects it has on people, but we also see a breadth of how the characters cope their situation in order to carry on, despite never really knowing what they’re going up against next, or how much longer they’ll be alive. There’s not really anything like that in Attack on Titan, so we get the same wide-eye stares, the same petrified stances even on down-time, it feels like literal hours of this could have been cut out and have no impact on the story at large.
1. Worst of all, I just couldn’t take it seriously.
All of that ranting above is one thing, but this is the real meat of my problem with the show. From the very first moment a titan was seen on screen, I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. I don’t think that’s the reaction I should have had. After all, Attack on Titan is a serious show. It has serious emotions with serious social commentary and what it means to be human. And I couldn’t buy any of it even for a second.
Alright that’s a little bit of a stretch. There were parts in the middle and later on in the series that I got into more seriously, but I think that only happened after the show broke me to just accept the crazy world it kept feeding me. Still, for large swathes of the story, I just watched and tried to keep my temptation to make wisecracks down. Hard to do when the sight of any titan makes me want to squirt milk out my nose, (if I were drinking milk at the time, anyway,) and every character’s default expression is a wide-eyed shocked stare that would put Shinji out of his league.
AND YET, I will continue to watch this show because some deep morbid part of me can’t get enough of it. Yeah, the constant shock tactic of killing off characters puts Evangelion to utter shame, it’s TRYING to pull on my emotions as hard as it can and I know it. And whatever! I’ll keep letting it try when the next episodes come out! I’m not expecting the show to get better with these criticisms, not at all. Nor am I going to keep watching it just to fulfill some desire to think I’m better than it — it’s just one of those things.
*flips hands up* Don’t really know how this works out but it does. I just wonder if other people who are falling over heads over heels for this show have any of these same thoughts…
I get that this is just the first season of a larger overarching story that will probably come to an exciting and victorious resolution for the characters and humanity at large. (Or it could go the route ala Berserk, you never know.) BUT My problem with this is the pacing. When I think back at the 25 episodes I just watched, I’m amazed at how little ground was actually covered plot wise, even though it feels like motherload after motherload was dropped on us each week. It’s the incredible amount of padding each episode has to turn a one to two episode endeavor into SIX that makes me so critical of it. I don’t accept the excuse that they’re buying time because the manga isn’t done yet — they should have waited if that’s the case. Are we really going to go through two to four seasons of this just to arrive at a conclusion that could have been focused into just 25 to 31 episodes by better writers?
Evangelion is a good example. It’s a complex story as well. The show had 26 episodes and a 90 minute movie to tell its epic story. Then it was rewritten into an even sharper and more impactful version of itself by compressing all of THAT into just four 95-minute films — and it’s honestly better for cutting out all the extraneous stuff and respecting our ability to understand plot and character’s emotions and motivations without lengthy explanations for them.
Attack on Titan isn’t alone on this, it’s a problem MANY anime shows have, sort of a characteristic of the overall genre. But I think it’s one they have to move on from, we’re smarter than they think we are.