Unpopular opinion incoming: I do not particularly like Attack on Titan (Season 2 especially…)
HERESY! You say…! And, you might be right. Maybe…
Currently AoT stands with a score of 8.69 on MAL. Something which I personally think is absolutely mental. And, before I go on, I want to say that I do not think AoT is bad – not at all. Only, that it is not fully deserving of the score and praise it has. There’s far worse anime out there. There’s far better, too. To some degree I enjoy it, but even those words are hard to say.
Attack on Titan’s Problem
The thing is, Attack on Titan is just soooo incredibly dull. It’s premise: a young-ish group of elite soldiers, collectively known as the ‘Scouts.’ Some of which are titans themselves. With this, you’d think there’d be plenty of blood-rushing action, plenty of suspense moments where your breath catches and you’re excitedly unsure of the no doubt messy outcome.
Well… you’d be wrong.
So far in Season 2, there has been (probably) a culminating ‘fight-time’ of less than twenty minutes. Of course, I understand it is not all about the action. It’s about the story, the narrative, the characters. Of course it, that much is obvious. AoT is not a fanservice show.
And yet, all of those aspects are also so terribly inane. (I am regarding the anime specifically. I have not read the manga, and therefore cannot comment on it. I’m ignorant to any changes made between the two.) I’m contrived, because if AoT resides within the action genre – where’s all the action? If it resides in a more laid-back fantasy/character driven genre – where’s all the character? It doesn’t know what it is. It has no sense of identity besides its – albeit attractive – aesthetics. And sure, neither does it have to fit into a genre. But it has to at least give us some indication of things it offers… or lacks.
Not to mention, the only way the show understands exposition, is to relentlessly travel to the characters’ pasts in flashbacks that realistically serve no practical purpose. It’s lazy storytelling. It’s unneeded. We should be able to understand, come to realise these things through the character actions and interactions in the present. Maybe this is more of a personal gripe than anything else. Still, I think it could be handled much less passively than it is.
Not all flashbacks are useless, especially in film where there is much more nuance than in anime, simply because of the medium itself. I tend to think anime doesn’t lend itself well to flashbacks at all. Of course, the alternative may take more work – the construction of a deeper narrative, but isn’t that what we want? As the audience, we don’t want everything handed to us on a plate of gratuitous exposition; we want to think, we want to misunderstand only to understand shortly thereafter.
Media/film posits something called the Active Audience Theory. In which the audience do not receive given information passively, but instead are actively involved in the deciphering of messages and the application of meaning; as to develop a personal and often unique vision/opinion of what any one thing may mean/pertain to. I believe the best way to tell a story, is to have the spectator immersed within the narrative itself, not just the visuals or the on-screen action. AoT fails at this. It unapologetically rams plot-points down your throat so fast that you barely have time to wonder why they exist to begin with. Which is particularly ironic, because AoT is hardly a fast-paced show.
I’ll talk about episode 9 specifically. In this episode Eren, Ymir, Reiner, and Bertholdt sit in the ‘Forest of Giant Trees.’
Oh…? You thought I was going to go on… I needn’t because that’s it. The four sit there, for the entire episode talking. Now, don’t think this is a jibe at this kind of downbeat storytelling, no… In fact, I often like the relaxed nature of such scenes. The problem is, in AoT the entire 22mins served absolutely no purpose. I cannot recall what they conversed about, nevermind it having any impact on the actual progression of the story. Anyhow, the question you have to ask (one you always have to ask) is: If it didn’t exist, would there be any difference?
If the answer is no, or probably not… then why does it?
Filler maybe? I didn’t think a season of twelve episodes would have time for that – it’s understandable in gargantuan shows such as One Piece, Fairy Tale, and Naruto. But twelve episodes… I think not. I’m more inclined to say the reason relies more an a lack of creative direction. (Not necessarily from the original author, but those who produce the anime adaption.)
Maybe you consider me to be overreacting? Maybe that’s so. However, AoT, for a show that has gained such a hardcore and widespread fanbase, I wonder why people are so accepting of its mediocrity? Of the things it could and should do so much better? I ask myself why has it become so big, why does it have such a cult following, when there are better (subjectively) shows that have been left in the dust of forgotten memories?
How could it improve?
I’d like for the characters to be less wooden, less predictable. Why have them sat on a log for an entire episode? Why not have them make their way through the trees, showing the struggle of Eren and Ymir in their current situation. Make the cast more interesting – they’re like watching badly handled marionettes. Have them serve some other purpose besides from being mere tools used to propel Eren through the crater-filled plot.
Every episode serves as a build-up for the following – and yes, this is as contrary as it sounds. It’s almost as if there was barely any content to work with in the first place. It’s easy to see why they decided to go with a twelve episode season, rather than twenty-four like its predecessor. At first, I thought this would be beneficial, now it seems nothing more than painfully necessary.
This brings me onto another issue: How everything in AoT seem so unashamedly forced. What there is of a plot, skips from one thing to another, rarely ever caring of how it gets there. There seems to be very little stitching together of the various, constituent parts. As if they are icebergs floating in a huge ocean, without connection. I want to know more of the world, and how it got the way it did. I fail to see how there could be a lack of ideas in a world as inspired as AoT’s.
It could do so much more with the screen-time it occupies. And, that itself is my main issue – not what it is, but what it could have been – what I’m still hoping it might become.
And sure… I love the Op and Ed, I’ll give attack on Titan that. They’re brilliant.
What are your thoughts on Attack on Titan S2?
As always, thanks for reading!