Almost five months ago I called Attack on Titan one of the must see anime of the spring season. Three months ago, I said it was good, but didn’t live up to its own potential. And as for my final verdict? It’s definitely worth watching, though still not quite perfect.
[Note: This review contains moderate spoilers for Attack on Titan. For a non-spoiler look at the series, check out my review of the first half.]
Coming out of the first story arc, it seemed as if the series had finally established its long-term supporting cast—namely Eren's trio and the rest of his class. Then the second half introduces us to veteran characters, the best of the best when it comes to Titan hunting. But as the series quickly makes apparent, none of these characters, old or new, are safe. Better still, destined to die or not, the supporting cast gets an equal amount of development, making it hard to guess with any certainty who is going to die before hand. This creates a constant tension that is missing in many anime.
The first arc of the series took place almost exclusively in two cities (barring the training camp/flashback episodes) and showed us only the bare minimum of what the world of Attack on Titan is like. The second arc takes us outside the safety of the walled cities and shows us a countryside overrun by Titans.
But more than just the scenery, the world is expanded by showing humanity’s tactics and technology for combating the Titans. This in turn shows us how the humans must work when out in the open where they are unable to use their maneuver gear to its fullest. Then later, we move into a forest and see the best possible environment for using the gear—as well as some of humanity’s new tricks for dealing with the Titan threat. All in all, the second arc does a great job of expanding the world of Attack on Titan by looking at the implications of such a world.
The majority of the second half of the series deals with the discovery of and attempt to capture the Female Titan. It is a lengthy battle, but in the end, it turns out to be a costly draw with neither side obtaining its objective. In fact, it looks more like a defeat than anything else to our heroes who have lost countless lives—not to mention the loss of equipment and other supplies.
Yet, all this occurs so as to set up a final climax where our heroes must snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a series of fast-paced episodes. And because of their recent failed attempt and the impending repercussions of that failure, the stakes seem far higher than ever before. It really allows the show to end on a high note—though with an admittedly bittersweet twist—even though the full story of Attack on Titan is far from complete.
The sudden (and bloody) arrival of the Female Titan is a great twist for the story. While it was obvious the Armored Titan and the Colossal Titan were also human Titans like Eren, there had been nothing to overtly suggest there was a fourth human Titan among the humans.
While Eren and the survey squad do eventually work out her identity through clues and careful logic, watchers of the series are likely to figure out her identity long before the characters do. After all, there is literally only one female character we know of that is not on the survey mission.
This mystery (as well as that of the identities of the Armored and Colossal Titans for all you manga readers out there) make the whole series worth a second viewing. There are clues everywhere you look—and even the characters’ proximity in certain key scenes should have been a dead giveaway. And it’s always interesting to listen again to these characters’ conversations when you already know the secret of the big reveal.
Sadly, little has changed with regard to the problems I noted in my review of the series’ first half. It’s still talky to the point of lunacy—where a several minute conversation is supposed to have taken place in a matter of seconds in the storyline. It also still relies far too much on cliffhanger endings as a way to get the audience to come back each week. And as with using any trope, you use it too much and it loses its effectiveness.
As for the pacing, there are still episodes where you feel as if nothing really happens and other places where flashbacks are used mid-climax—largely dispelling any of the carefully constructed tension.
However, suspecting all this would be the case, I decided to wait for twelve weeks after finishing up my first half review so that I could watch the rest of the series all in one go to see if it would mitigate these problems. It did. Because while the problems are all still there, when you don’t have to wait a week in between each episode, you have no time to think about useless cliffhangers and a lack of major plot progress as you’re already diving into the next episode.
When you look behind the window dressing, Attack on Titan is really a giant mecha anime. A young boy discovers that he is the only one able to pilot a giant robot (read: “turn into a colossus”). Moreover, his giant robot is also far more powerful than the other side’s standard giant robots (read: “normal colossi”), and he looks to be the key to turning the war in his allies’ favor. However, soon he runs into the enemy’s own special pilots—each who have his or her own super powerful mecha (read: “colossus forms”)—that are intent on defeating/capturing him.
Yep. When it comes down to the general framework, Attack on Titan is basically Gundam.
All in all, Attack on Titan is easily one of the best shows of the spring and summer seasons, and I really enjoyed it despite its several nagging flaws. The world it creates is not only imaginative but also chock-full of mysteries. Moreover, the series goes to great pains to explore the implications of this compelling world. So, if you like steam punk, dark fantasy, or want a series filled with real life-or-death stakes for the characters, then be sure to give Attack on Titan a try.
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