Although enjoyment is subjective, it’s possible to offer a few reasons why some might consider the Attack on Titan anime to be vastly overrated.
The following contains spoilers for the ending of the Attack on Titan manga.
It’s hard to overstate just how popular the Attack on Titan franchise has become, both in and outside of Japan. The series has become a mainstay of the shonen demographic, particularly since the anime first started airing in 2013. Since then, it has not only maintained but substantially grown its fanbase, with the last part of the show (Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2) finally scheduled for release sometime in 2023.
However, as with any series that turns into such a juggernaut, its numerous flaws stand out all the more for it, especially given that it frequently appears on best-anime-of-the-decade (or indeed of all time) lists. It’s essentially impossible to argue against subjective opinion — after all, what makes any anime enjoyable is in the eye of the beholder. Nonetheless, it is possible to offer a few reasons why some might consider Attack on Titan to be vastly overrated.
While many fans appear eager to label Attack on Titan’s core story as shocking or unconventional, its premise is far from unique. At its heart, Attack on Titan, true to its title, is about humanity being pitted against Titans — monstrous, man-eating giants who cause death and destruction whenever they suddenly appear. The anime contains several story arcs and sub-plots, but the main monster-survivalist narrative has been played out plenty of times before over various mediums — from Blue Gender (1999) to Claymore (2007) in anime to the likes of the numerous iterations of Godzilla or Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, to name only a few examples.
Meanwhile, the ending of Attack on Titan, revealed when the final volume of the manga was released in April 2021, is often hailed by fans as one of the biggest plot twists of all time — despite once again having been done in other media before it. Here, main character and sometimes-protagonist Eren Yeager is revealed to have purposefully taken on a villainous role in order to save twenty percent of the human population and have other characters, such as Armin and Mikasa, be enshrined as saviors of humanity for destroying him. This is of course strikingly similar to Lelouch vi Britannia’s long-term plan and machinations in 2006-08’s Code Geass.
One of the main arguments of fans of Attack on Titan is that the story, and in particular the anime, really get going sometime after the first season. The inherent problem with this argument is that the very best stories should be fully engaging from the moment audiences begin to experience them. While it could certainly be claimed that Attack on Titan’s story and cast become more complex as the series progresses, it’s odd that one of the supposed best shows out there should have this issue to begin with. It’s also strongly indicative of some early missteps in terms of plot and characterization that are difficult to overlook — for example, its uneven pacing and often underwhelming character development.
Moreover, if the argument that Attack on Titan becomes truly worth the watch after the first season is to be taken at face value, viewers would need to slog through 25 episodes of the show to finally become genuinely invested in it. To put that into perspective, it would mean an initial commitment of over eight hours — an unfairly tall order for anyone who wants to experience the promised emotional payoff, especially for a series with such grimdark themes and messages.
Last but not least, the violence and gore that Attack on Titan regularly depicts is not only relentless but often simply unnecessary. Any franchise, no matter the medium, can involve only so much tragedy, death and destruction before reaching the point where audiences become desensitized enough that they no longer care. For better or worse, Attack on Titan is a series that provides its tension and excitement via constant and unyielding bloodshed and brutality, both at the hands of the Titans themselves as well as by many a corrupt human.
This not only results in much of the cast yelling 80% of their lines to convey the intensity of each and every action sequence, but also aids in telling a story that has a massive overreliance on shock value to keep its audience interested. While it’s doubtful that anyone goes into Attack on Titan expecting an upbeat narrative with cheerful characters and positive outcomes, more violence doesn’t always equal more depth or meaning, especially when it’s there purely because it can be. In this case, the amount and detail of said violence seems designed to pander to a viewership that’s too young for R-18 or seinen-style fare but old enough to be wowed by something as dark and “edgy” as Attack on Titan.
Attack on Titan isn’t necessarily a bad show. It certainly doesn’t qualify as anything close to the worst. However, it’s also far from a perfect one — and just as it has plenty of fans, it likewise has enough obvious flaws that not everyone is excited for yet another installation of the 87-episode and counting series which, for many in the anime community, has now more than outstayed its welcome.
Christy is a CBR Features editor/trainer and anime aficionado with a penchant for slice-of-life stories and josei manga-based titles. Something of a nomad, she spent several years living and working in Japan, among other countries.