Attack on titan needs no further introductions, we all know about it… there are some people who put it on a pedestal, and there are some people who denigrate it. I choose to be honest and interpret the facts as fairly as I possibly can, and not write a verbose review.
In my opinion, Attack on Titan is one of those shows that even though it does not shine quality-wise, meaning it doesn’t have “great” characters or “epic” twists, it is amazingly entertaining to watch.
The story is fairly simple and straightforward, but thicker than my expectations based on the previous season, it is decently paced and has enough twists and “spice” to keep the viewers engaged and maybe draw the attention away from the lack of gravity on the characters’ side.
The premise and setting of the series is something I always found intriguing: the last traces of humanity trapped in an apocalyptic/dystopian world, giving their all to survive the man-eating monsters and live another day to fight. It sounds great, right? Hell yes!... but the execution of this great premise is lacking in many ways, or rather could have been done better.
For starters, some viewers, myself included, may find the pacing somewhat of a problem. I sometimes felt the show was dragging on, being laggard and just covering as little manga content in as much screentime as possible, ending up with a bunch of episodes and little story progression… but this pace issue frequently got clouded by fighting, so it wasn’t that big a deal., unless you particularly looked for it.
Of Course, the pacing of the show most probably is part of some dilatory tactics on the director's side, but that only makes things worse.
There is no “great” or memorable conflict to mention, no depth to the show and the story doesn’t have a clear direction.
The story of AoT got an awful lot more “messy” compared to the first season. In the previous season, the show had somewhat of a clear direction given by Erren’s aspiration to “kill all titans!!!”(as cliche as that may sound), his quest to find what’s in his father’s basement and Anne throwing sticks in his wheels, but this season, nothing about his father’s basement is mentioned, Anne is old history and her shoes have been filled by pretty weak characters, and Eren has way less intense scenes to get me hyped up, but that’s not to say other characters didn’t have some badass scenes.
As a side note, the random characters flashbacks were awful, the out of nowhere “Hey bro, I’m the armored titan” plot twist was deplorably executed, and throwing a bunch of Humanoid Titans in the mix did no good either, just made the show feel a lot more “random”. At every new human titan presented I sarcastically said “Oh, really? They’re titans too?”.
As I’ve already said, the story is fairly simple and highly predictable. I expected and wished the show would contain more subplots that would deepen the main plot and make it more interesting, not that it was necessary.
Subplots, they can be used to reveal important aspects about characters’ personalities and make them more appealing, or to present the story from different perspectives and give it a twist, or a bunch more other desired results, imminently making the story more complex, which is a good thing. What I wanted the writers to use subplots for mostly has to do with the conflicts in the series, which I’ll mention next.
When we think about the word “conflict” we immediately jump to violence, physical altercations, political matters, etcetera. Well, when it comes to stories, there are many, many types of “conflicts”, such as character versus self; character versus nature; character against fate; human nature; (etc.) that will never get old and can make a show so much better.
While I agree AoT employs various conflicts and I’ve witnessed some self-exploration, a lot of fighting against nature (portrayed by Titans) and a bit of human nature exploration, I don’t think enough emphasis was put on them.
Getting back to subplots. Amongst other reasons, I wanted the writers to use more subplots as a way to fluidly introduce and combine different kinds of story conflicts within a single narrative, so that tension would be generated by varied sources. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but it ain’t the end of the world, so… moving on.
All in all, nothing was particularly well done, or deplorably done regarding the story. Both the story and the execution of it, was tolerable, most of the times I found it decent but sometimes annoying. I have to give credit where it’s due: the show has no plot armor (except for Mikasa) and little plot conveniences, but it’s got nothing else going for it.
I consider the character side of AoT to be what’s really crippling the show. The characters miserably failed to make any sort of good, or remotely good, impression on me.
The characters - They’re like white crayon on white paper. Sure, the characters run around and they do stuff and say lines but none of it has anything to do with character and has everything to do with plot — as if the characters are just another mechanism to get to the next action sequence or the next plot point, and that is why AoT failed constructing and developing its characters.
The cast is composed of a large number of characters, but most if not all of them are just for decor, bodies in the background, lacking any vigor or personality and aren’t even worth mentioning. Considering the show focused the first half of its episodes on side characters and completely erased the main cast from the screen, not being able to develop those side characters is quite pathetic in my humble opinion.
The “main” characters aren’t much better, they are one dimensional, cliche stereotypes, lacking any interesting features or depth and frankly, they are boring and irritating.
I believe that in a good story, the main character, Eren in this case, should win or lose at least partly on his own strength and not just be rescued by someone else or some fortunate “random” event, and in the end, the protagonist learns and grows as he tries to solve his problems and face his actions.
Events that happen to the characters have to in some way affect them. Things cannot be the same at the end as they were in the beginning.
As you can probably guess, I am disappointed with Erren. He is a hard headed, hot blooded, impulsive, titan-hating young man who lacks self-restraint and the mind to see what his actions may lead to, and he is prefigured to try and yell his way through any situation, later getting his ass handed to him.
He oftens loses confidence in his powers and capabilities, later on regaining it (as seen when he almost defeated the Armored Titan). He is your typical avenging main character, he has nothing else to offer, he goes in half-cocked, panics, screams, gets his ass whooped, gets saved my Mikasa and then repeats, learning nothing from what has happened.
Besides those “amazing” and “awe inspiring” traits, Eren’s development goes no further than whatever he received in the first season, he is just like a large rock, be it winter or summer, snowing or sunny, the rock stays the same.
His character is so stagnant to the point it irritates me, the events he goes through and actions he takes affect his nature in no way, and that is just poor writing for the sake of poor writing.
As for the rest of the main cast, Armin and Mikasa, should they even be considered as main characters for this season? I think not, since they received so little screentime, held no important role the show couldn't have done without and had no great influence over the progression of the story. Anyway, I’ve barely seen Armin this season, and from what I’ve witnessed, he is the same as before, the tiny guy with the big ideas.
Mikasa, almost nothing changed about her either, she is as poorly constructed as ever. She is described as a goddess of 3D Maneuvers and overall combat skills, she has no flaws, and ironically, that is a flaw in itself. But, this season she turns into some sort of yandere girl, going on about “noone stand between me and Eren”, and that is just laughable.
As far as aesthetics and sound go, this season felt a weaker than before. The animation was fluid, consistent and overall pretty good, even the CG, but certainly poorer than what the first season had to offer.
With a mediocre opening theme and an ending theme I don’t remember listening to, the sound is nothing memorable, but the OST does the trick and facilitates the “hype” mood to set in. I consider the sound to also be inferior to what the previous season featured.
As for enjoyment. Oh, maaan... AoT was a highly entertaining watching experience, it got me engaged and hyped up for 80% of its duration, saw some very nice and juicy titan fight scenes and that’s exactly what I was looking for. Long story short, I had A BLAST watching this series, really did.
Although I had a lot of fun with the show, something felt missing while watching this season, but I’m not sure what. The music is still there, the visuals are still there, the gruesome, bloody deaths are still there and yet, it doesn’t feel the same as before. The atmosphere and vibe of the show changed, and not for the better.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the point of this season was and why the creators decided to do it. It’s clear the budget wasn’t that great so they weren’t expecting the show to bring in huge profits and it’s clear they don’t want to progress the story because they keep dragging things for episodes and episodes.
I guess the point of it was to revitalize or reignite the hype for the show, so it wouldn’t loose all it’s fans and end up forgotten like some old rock band from the ‘80, or maybe the purpose of it was to get people to buy and read the manga. Afterall, someone has to do it, just not me.
In conclusion, AoT is a decent show quality wise, it has a fairly good story that is, unfortunately, dragged down by poorly constructed characters, all coming in a package with good animation and sound. It is definitely not a bad show but nor the masterpiece or revolutionary, one-of-a-kind series people make it out to be.
To put it bluntly, AoT is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster: you watch it, you really enjoy it, you finish it and then you forget about it, or at least that would be the case if it weren’t for the fanboys constantly mentioning it.