Attack on Titan – The One Anime Where Character Deaths Aren’t Spoilers

(originally posted May 2nd 2014)

(WARNING: The following post contains spoilers for ‘Attack on Titan’)


Let’s face it. You’ve probably already watched ‘Attack on Titan.’ I don’t need to tell you why you should watch it. It’s quite possibly the biggest anime in recent years, rivalling the popularity of the likes of ‘Bleach’ and ‘One Piece.’ Everywhere you go online, you’re bound to find something ‘Attack on Titan’ related. So, rather than explain why one should watch it, I shall simply give my personal thoughts on the series thus far.

Set in a world where giant monsters called Titans have wiped out most of humanity and forced them to live in the safety of a country surrounded by three walls, the story focuses on Eren Yeager and his quest to kill the Titans after they destroy his home and kill his mother, by joining the military alongside his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and best friend Armin Arlert.

From this point onwards, the story is just misery upon misery. I’m serious, barely anything good happens in this anime. And when it does happen, it’s usually followed by something bad. Seriously.

“Hooray, we passed training and are now part of the military – Oh wait; the Titans are back and broken through the wall.”

“Hooray, we’ve figured out a way to block the hole and stop the Titans – Oh wait, the plan’s gone horribly wrong.”

“Hooray, we’ve blocked the hole – Oh wait, the majority of our friends and fellow soldiers are dead.”

Normally, I can’t stand it when nothing but terrible things befall the characters because then it devalues them in my eyes. Why should I care about them when clearly nothing good will ever happen? I’d like some hope please.

But, weirdly enough, the way ‘AoT’ handles it is bizarrely refreshing. There’s a scene in the first episode where a woman is informed her son, a soldier, was killed by Titans and when she asks the commander if he died for humanity’s sake, the commander just breaks down and says all his soldiers are dying for nothing. I was shocked. No false reassurance or optimism. This show is filled with people who admit to being scared and people who only want to stay alive. It was oddly engrossing to watch a society like this.


Now, what about the characters themselves? Eren functions as a protagonist but I wasn’t ever invested in his whole revenge scheme. He’s more of a symbol of hope in my eyes, which he becomes midway through the series. Although when the last episode ended, I did find myself wondering where things would go for him next, and I do feel worried for him.


As for Mikasa and Armin, I didn’t like them all that much at first, but both gradually became awesome in their own ways. Mikasa was established early on as one of the series’ resident badasses but I honestly got bored of it pretty fast. Then the episode explaining her backstory happened and she suddenly started displaying actual emotion. Seeing Mikasa express concern, happiness, fear and anger is far more engaging than just seeing her kill a Titan for the eighth time.


Armin, on the other hand, I just could not stand. Yes, I get it, you’re scared. Shut up and move on! Okay, that’s harsh, he has every right to be afraid, but it’s the self-pitying that pissed me off. He keeps going on about how useless he is and how dare he try and help Eren and Mikasa and how his best friends probably view him as a hindrance – Oh get over yourself, Armin! Fortunately, after the battle at Trost District, Armin’s strengths begin coming in to play. It’s always been apparent that he’s incredibly smart, and once he starts using his brain to make strategies as well as some off-the-cuff improvising, his whinging is soon gone and replaced with his own brand of badassness.

As for the rest of the cast, half of them are likable in their own ways. I have soft spots for Connie and Sasha despite them not having much screen time or development, but my favourite character is probably Jean Kirstein. He starts off as such a smug bastard, which ironically enough is what drew me to him, but as the series has progressed, Jean has really grown as a character, forced to witness the damage the Titans cause and watch his friends die. When he decides to join up with the Survey Corps, he’s clearly terrified that he’s increasing his chances of getting killed, but he goes through with it anyway. Needless to say, it’s his arc that I’m most looking forward to; I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself in a position of leadership someday.

The other half of the cast… I can’t remember. There are a lot of characters in this show and I can’t remember a lot of their names. Not that it really matters all that much as, again, so many of them die. After a few episodes, the sight of someone becoming Titan chow or getting crushed by a rock kind of made me numb to the presence of death in this show. Normally, this bugs me because then it’s no longer a surprise. Shows that feature death but rarely employ it make the event all the more shocking, which is effective writing; you want the audience to be taken by surprise. Here, death is inevitable. And it actually works.


The character, Levi, is numb to death, so much so that even the sight of his dead squad doesn’t faze him. But that’s not him being emotionless. He knew it could happen; he’s seen it so often, unlike Eren who is unable to handle it all. And I think that’s the point. Death no longer affects me either. When several nameless civilians get slaughtered, I don’t get emotional, not because I don’t care but because I knew it would happen and I’m forced to accept it. It makes me wonder what would happen if someone like Armin or Sasha died. Would I accept it or would my own emotional connection to them still be prevalent enough to make me weep?

Despite this, it wasn’t ‘AoT’s characters that kept me invested. I mean, I didn’t really connect with them until midway through. What kept me watching episode after episode was its story. If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good mystery, and ‘AoT’ has a bunch of questions that I desperately want answers to, particularly ones concerning the Titans themselves. I had a theory that they were actually powered by humans or maybe even be robots of some kind, but those theories were quickly thrown out the window and without any possible answers, I found myself hooked. And soon, more questions arose.

Who is the Colossus Titan?

Why have they only attacked now?

When did Eren’s dad give him the key?

Why can Annie turn into a Titan?

What’s her motivation?

And the million dollar question, what is in that basement? My theory is that whatever’s in there, it’s probably something that our heroes are gonna regret finding out.

Shingeki no Kyojin - 18 - Large 26

Speaking of the Titans, I want to take a moment to talk about the animation. Normally, I don’t really focus on animation too much. I can recognise good from bad and I appreciate the work that goes into it, but it’s never at the forefront of my brain. With ‘AoT’ though, I feel I can best describe it as suitably depraved. The Titans are quite possibly some of the scariest things I’ve ever seen; part of the reason I put off watching it was because of that. The way they move, the way some of them grin and they’re soulless eyes make me shudder; I don’t want to know how the animators sleep at night.

The same amount of detail has been put into the humans as well; to me, the fear in their eyes feels genuine. When they are scared, it almost radiates off of them. Not to mention a few of them have creepy death glares of their own (looking at you, Annie).

While I certainly don’t love ‘Attack on Titan’ as much as a lot of other people do, I will admit that it is a good anime. It’s done its job right and got me hooked; I want to see how things will end, even though that path will most likely be filled with more death and despair. But I can’t stop now. I’m on, and there’s no getting off. Here’s to Season 2… whenever that happens.

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