5 Reasons Why ‘Attack on Titan’ Is So Popular
Click in any websites about this season’s anime, and chance is likely that you’ll come across Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) almost immediately. Every anime fan is talking about it. Every anime fan is watching it. Its immense popularity is almost unprecedented, compared to other anime in recent years. But why is that the case?
*Warning: Contains spoilers*
The anime is adapted from the manga series of the same name, written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. Set in an alternate universe, Attack on Titan took place in year 743 when a group of titans, giant creatures that were 3 to 15 meters tall and looked strikingly similar to human beings, appeared out of nowhere and drove humanity almost into extinction. The survived men built three sets of tall, solid walls surrounding their capital to keep the titans out. A hundred and two years of peace followed, until suddenly a 60-meter titan began attacking the outermost wall. When the wall was broken, other titans entered the city to kill and eat civilians living in that area. Ten-year-old Eren Jaeger, who witnessed his own mother being consumed by a titan, vowed revenge against the titans and desired to wipe out their existence on earth. He joined the Training Corps that trained people to become soldiers to fight against the titans, and five years later, his first battle with the titans began…
On a glance, Attack on Titan has a rather simple plot that seems promising to sell. However, it has become such a sensation among anime fans that surprises everyone. In recent years we have popular series like K-On, Bakemonogatari and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but these series are often criticized for various reasons. Attack on Titan, on the other hand, almost receives universal praise. I think there are five reasons why that’s the case.
Attack on Titan has a typical shounen storyline: Eren swearing to avenge his dead mother and his journey against very formidable opponents. He had encountered failure in training, but his strong and determined will of eliminating all titans made him overcome the obstacles and he became a strong soldier. Whenever there was a difficulty, he would remember his dead mother and did anything he could, however reckless his actions might be, to kill the titans. He despised people who only wanted a comfortable lifestyle and thought everyone should fight the titans. He was the typical protagonist you see in any shounen shows: passionate, courageous, acting before thinking.
Aside from Eren’s teenage rage, there are many moments in the anime where the people, citizens and soldiers, freaked out because of the titans. A character would then ask for them to remember those who had fought with their lives to protect them, and urge them to never give up, and then everyone would untie together. It almost sounds cliché that it happens once every couple episodes, but that’s why the positive message of the anime appeals to many. It’s almost like as long as they had faith, then everything would be alright.
4. Character appeal
A popular show demands lovable characters that viewers will talk about, particularly a great female character when the show’s target audience is adolescent males. Attack on Titan has Mikasa Ackerman, the female protagonist who was very loyal to Eren and would literally do anything for him. Her ambiguous relationship with Eren (step-sister/childhood friend/potential girlfriend) makes her a big talking point of the series. She was even willing to kill other soldiers if that meant protecting Eren’s life (as seen in episode 9 and 10). A lot of fan-arts online are about how protective/possessive Mikasa is over Eren, to the point that she is often considered the masculine husband in the relationship while Eren is the weak, needy wife. Gender stereotype, yes, but it successfully sparks discussion.
Then we have Armin, Eren’s childhood friend who was the brain of the group. He was soft-spoken and physically weak, lacked confidence and worried a lot. However, when in danger he was the one who could come up with a plan to save everyone else. What made him appealing, however, were not his intellect but his feminine traits and appearance. Due to his femininity fans often joke that he is actually the real female protagonist of the series, and create fan-arts where he wears skirt and ‘successfully seduces’ all the males in his class. Much like Hideyoshi Kinoshita from Baka and Test, or Totsuka Saiga from My Teen Romantic Comedy, Armin is a boy that fans like to think of as a girl. Armin has become an androgynous male among fans. Even though this probably was not the intention of the production company, his character design again successfully sparks discussion among fans.
The other characters do not get as much appearances as Eren, Mikasa and Armin. However, fans will be sure to look forward to Levi, the proclaimed mankind’s strongest soldier. He is a favorite among manga readers, after all, for his coolness and his infamous shortness (160cm). As he was now properly introduced in episode 13, there would be more of him to come.