Attack on Titan, also known as Shingeki no Kyojin, is one of the most popular anime around. Based on a manga by Isayama Hajime, it depicts a post-apocalyptic world where humanoid, man-eating monsters called Titans have forced humanity to live behind a series of walls. After 100 years of peace, the wall is suddenly breached. Teeangers Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert join the Survey Corps, a military branch dedicated to rescuing humanity from the Titan’s reign of terror.
Sounds awesome, right? That’s what a lot of people thought... until they actually watched it. Unfortunately, Attack on Titan doesn't live up to its exciting premise. For reasons ranging from poor pacing and an unsatisfying plot, to one character being lovingly created to resemble a Japanese war criminal, Attack on Titan sucks pretty hard.
Like Dragon Ball Z and the Zelda franchise, there are many dumb things about Attack on Titan, despite its widespread popularity. Attack on Titan is just one of the most overrated anime of all time, and a cursory examination will prove that it really doesn't deserve all the hype.
Also, obviously, MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Protagonist Has No Character Development
Eren Jaeger, the protagonist of Attack on Titan, is one of the least interesting characters in the whole show. Eren starts off the series dissatisfied with living life inside the walls. He feels trapped, like he's being treated like cattle. He wants to escape, and he wants to destroy the Titans. When Titans attack his hometown of Zhiganshina, destroying his home and killing his mother, his desire to kill Titans intensifies.After that... things don't really change much. While he does learn more about the Titans, including coming to terms with his own identity as a Titan shifter, in the end, he's still motivated purely by rage and revenge. He still wants to kill all the Titans, he's just louder about it.
The Biggest Ship Is Horrifying And Distracting
The most popular ship in the Attack on Titan fandom is Eren x Levi, also known as Ereri. This is a terrible, terrible ship. Eren Jaeger is a severely traumatized child soldier. At the start of the series, he is 15 years old. Levi Ackerman is his military commander. Levi is probably somewhere in his early 30s. So that’s a major age gap, combined with the fact that Eren is legally obliged to obey Levi or risk being imprisoned or killed.
There’s a scene where Levi savagely beats Eren in order to prove a point, and that’s deemed appropriate by the higher-ups. Not exactly a great set-up for a romantic relationship. While it’s not the fault of Attack on Titan itself that this pairing dominates the fandom, it’s hard to get invested in a series beyond the initial viewing if every time you Google the show name, you have to think about a 30-something military commander banging his teenage cadet.
Mikasa's Backstory Is Handled Terribly
Mikasa Ackerman, one of the main characters in Attack on Titan, has a horrific backstory. As a little girl, her parents were murdered in front of her eyes by slave traders, who then kidnapped her with the intention of selling her into sexual slavery. Eren rescues her after murdering two of her kidnappers. When a third slaver appears and starts choking Eren, Eren screams at Mikasa to fight, and she does. She murders the third kidnapper and saves Eren, allowing the two of them to escape. After that, Eren's parents adopt the now orphaned Mikasa, and the two of them develop a sibling-like bond.
That's all well and good, but the incident never really comes up again after that. It's used to explain why Mikasa is so attached to Eren, and why she can sometimes be cavalier about death, but beyond that, it's not mentioned. Parental death might be common trope in anime, but you know what isn't? Sexual slavery. Mikasa was kidnapped so that she could be sold into sexual slavery. While the kidnappers weren't successful, this is still very much a thing that happened, and for the rest of the series it's completely ignored.
Not only is this serious topic swept under the rug, but the fact that the victim is Mikasa, a Japanese girl, is incredibly twisted. Remember, the Japanese imperial army actively sold Korean women into sexual slavery. One character in Attack on Titan, Dot Pixis, is a tribute to a general from the Imperial Japanese Army. That's like if a Christian German author based one of his good guys off of a renowned Nazi, then wrote a scene where a Christian German girl was sent to Treblinka.
It Relies Too Much On Shock Value
There's no question that watching the Titans gobble up their human prey is both terrifying and exhilarating. Well, the first 10 or 15 times it happens anyway. After that, the concept starts to wear a little thin, and it becomes clear that the main thing holding the show up is shock value. Of course Titans are going to keep on eating people, but it'd be nice to see something other than Eren Yeager reacting in an endless cycle of rage and disgust.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club came out at the same time as Attack on Titan, and a lot of people watched both simultaneously. The fact that some viewers were more emotionally affected by crying teenage boys on a swim team than they were by child soldiers getting vored on says something about the over-reliance on shock value, and the under-utilization of character development.