5 Reasons Why ‘Attack on Titan’ Is So Popular

3. Lack of fan service

If you want to sell, you need fan service. That’s why we have series like Infinite Stratos and To-Love-Ru that have basically no content but only fan service. In contrary, there is almost not a scene of fan service so far in Attack of Titan (up to episode 13).

Krista, or as some like to say, what Armin looks like if he really is a girl

Krista, or as some like to say, what Armin looks like if he really is a girl

What about pretty female characters? There are different types of beautiful girls: Mikasa and Annie, the cool beauty; Sasha, the clumsy one and nicknamed as ‘Potato Girl’ due to her debut appearance; Krista, the kind ‘goddess’; and Ymir, the one romantically attached to Krista. However, apart from Mikasa the others were not featured prominently in the series so far. There was some yuri tension between Krista and Ymir, but it was not elaborated much. We don’t see any flash of panties or the female characters wearing swimsuits/sexy outfits for no particular reason. This allows the series to really focus on the plot, emphasizing more on the action of fighting titans than teenage romance.

Really, the only fan service you’ll get is the naked bodies of the titans.

2. Predictability

Eren Jaeger facing a titan

Eren Jaeger facing a titan

This is related to my first point about how the show is a typical shounen series. It makes the show very easy to follow. It’s very straight-forward and you don’t need to think too much about the plot, because it lays out everything for you. In other words, it tells, not shows. Most character’s thoughts were narrated thoroughly that it left almost no rooms for second-guessing what they really were thinking. Apart from Eren’s transformation into a giant titan, there is hardly any twist that is surprising.

Even the good guys and the bad guys are easy to distinguish. In episode five a wealthy merchant refused to let people pass through the gate as he wanted his cargo to go through first. An aristocrat also wanted a top-class general to stay by his side instead of going to the frontline, when a titan was attacking the city. Here, the rich were basically all portrayed as weak and needy, and were indifferent to the lives of the peasants. They were obviously the bad guys who did not give a damn about the lower class.

The good guys were people like Eren, who would fight with their lives. They felt sorry for the lives lost, but at the same time they fought hard so their comrades would not die in vain. Even those who originally were pessimistic about fighting the overwhelmingly powerful titans later were determined to engage in battles as well. All the soldiers were the good guys here, even if some were not as determined in eliminating the titans (Then, of course, anyone who reads the manga will know things will turn much complicated later on).

1. Easily generalized… to anything

The idea of Attack on Titan is about fighting against the monster that tried to ruin your life, when your seemingly content life so far is actually just an illusion of success. The lyrics of the OP echo this kind of passion.

“O pigs who laugh at the resolve to walk over corpses to move forward. Livestock complacency? False prosperity? Give us the freedom of dying starving wolves!”

Here’s a jab at the fake sense of prosperity and stability that humanity lived in. People knew the titans were out there, somewhere, but they chose to ignore the threat until it was too late. Eren saw through this and wanted to make a change. Like a dying, starving wolf, he preferred to live as a free individual rather than as a person trapped in this counterfeit utopia that would fall very soon.

A demonstration in Hong Kong with a titan model.

A demonstration in Hong Kong with a titan model

The ‘titans’ and the ‘people’ then become an interesting contrast of the ‘strong’ versus the ‘weak’. These titans could be generalized to anything: the government, the mainstream media, any influential, political, religious group. You name it. The point is that they are so powerful that you can never completely get rid of them in your life. Like the peasants in Attack on Titan, you either succumb to it and accept it as your fate, or try to resist their invasion by all means.

We can substitute ‘titan versus people’ with contrast such as ‘monarchy versus peasants’ or ‘rich versus poor’. There was also a brief mention of the unfairness of the class system in the anime, and the viewers can think of that as a jab at the wealthy in the world, like the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. People also perceive this relation as a strong political message: some Japanese and Taiwanese think of the titans as the emerging China that poses a threat to Japan’s economy and culture; some Koreans think of the titan versus people’ idea as Japan’s reemerging militarism, as right-wing politicians return to the political stage in Japan’s recent election; some in Hong Kong see the titans as powerful businessmen and the Chinese government who are trying to dominate every aspect of their lives. Whether these claims are valid or not is another matter. The point is that everyone can easily put Attack on Titan’s situation into their own shoes. They can relate to the show in different ways.

Overall, Attack on Titan is a very entertaining anime of much passion and action. However, it lacks the substance to become an anime to be remembered. It tells too much and shows too little. Unlike anime like Shinsekai Yori or PsychoPass, it does not give people much room for thoughts, as everything is too clear-cut, either black or white. Let’s just hope the second-half of the season will get better.

What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Article covers: Anime

Article by: Justin Wu

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Justin Wu
A 22-year-old deeply influenced by British music, Japanese anime/manga, and Italian soccer. An active fanfiction writer and an aspiring writer/scholar.

29 Comments

  1. I still have a few episodes to catch up but wow, I’m really excited for this show to become a huge success as a movie. I hope they widen their cast a little more to not just Asian roles since the manga says mikasa is the last Asian alive. But none the less this is going to be amazing. If this get good enough attention as well as designers and animations you can expect a lot of Titan followers to be behind this movie. I was super excited for pacific run but now I’m ecstatic to see this hit the big screens.

    This was a great manga and the anime kicked it over the edge, I am really hoping this gets the support it needs to have as well as its chance to become big like the marvel movies. This would be an amazing movie and I would sure as heck buy it once it hit DVD!

    -Jessie

    • Justin Wu

      Indeed the manga does not follow up much on Mikasa being the last known Asian living within the walls. I don’t know if the author just forgets about it or if he’s saving that for later, given that now the manga is about revealing more identities of the titans. A movie will be great, although I think another season of anime may be more possible.

  2. Dominique Kollie

    Great Article! I’ve been waiting for an Attack on Titan Article. This is easily the most enthralling series to come out this year. The last bullet point perfectly sums up why this series has so much appeal

    • Justin Wu

      Indeed no other series generate as much hype as Attack on Titan does so far this year. However, I’m concerned if it can live up to its hype. Right now I can see it being a good anime, but not necessarily a great one.

      • Dominique Kollie

        I think it will live up to the hype. If it goes according to script, I assume it will get less straight-forward, so they’ll leave a little to the imagination. That would keep the existing audience entertained while still staying fresh for new viewers

      • Nellie

        Yeah, same. I have to say, I was a little surprised to hear that there was so much hype. Had to check out what else was around to see if it was just because everything else was not-so-good. However, after reading this, I can understand more of what caused it now.

        For one thing, I cannot stand fan service. It’s stopped me from paying much attention to a lot of anime and manga out there, despite having a huge interest in animation. So I’m glad that it’s not really an issue in this one, and that you pointed that out!

        The manga is so far so good (reading through it slowly, just behind the anime at the moment).Yeah, same. I have to say, I was a little surprised to hear that there was so much hype. Had to check out what else was around to see if it was just because everything else was not-up-to-scratch. However, after reading this, I can understand more of what caused it now.

        For one thing, I cannot stand fan service. It’s stopped me from paying much attention to a lot of anime and manga out there, despite having a huge interest in animation. So I’m glad that it’s not really an issue in this one.

        I hope the show brings more attention to the manga too (reading through it slowly, just behind the anime at the moment). Glad it was picked up as an anime! Good stuff.

        • Nellie

          I have no idea what happened to that reply. =O Must’ve copied and pasted part of what I wrote before near the end of the reply by accident, sorry. x

        • Justin Wu

          I like the manga better, and I also hope more people will pay attention to the manga as well. Personally, a minimal amount of fan service is fine as long as it does not hinder the plot. It’s good for entertainment purpose most of the time, it’s just that many authors nowadays overuse it and makes terrible shows of nothing but fan service. Well, it sells, after all

  3. I have to say this is one for the books, I have seen all sorts of horror but this series looks very, very interesting. One of the most original series to date. Waiting for more…

    • Justin Wu

      It doesn’t have that much graphic horror. The idea of some titans easily crashing your city and eating the people is quite horrifying though, especially when the manga discusses more of what the titans are

  4. I haven’t watched this but I had seen several posts on various tumblrs and did check it out, but it didn’t relate to me. However looking at your writing I may have to go back and give it another chance :)

    • Justin Wu

      Do give it a chance! It’s quite entertaining, though I’ll recommend reading the manga as I think that things are better explained there and the atmosphere is tenser

  5. Camille Brouard

    I wasn’t sure what all the fuss is about, but I’ve had a skim over your article (I’d read it all through but spoilers!) and I am intrigued, I reckon I need to check this anime out! (I’m notoriously bad at keeping up with season releases.)

  6. NO FANSERVICE! THAT’S WHY IT’S A GOOD ANIME!

    • Agreed! Also plenty of strong female characters!

      **Though I have to disagree with the predictability part. I enjoyed the series because I didn’t see most major developments coming. The mythology of the series is very rich and very well developed. There’s also tons of things to speculate on, which makes reading/watching even more enjoyable.

      • Agreed. Though story wise it does seem a bit vague and uninformative at times, I do understand its mainly to keep the anime ongoing, but it does get to that point of frustration as you keep watching/reading. But its a minor complaint, the rest is all praise.

  7. Heads up… Early sneak game preview for Spike Chunsoft’s Attack on Titan being done by Paul Munro and Rebecca Clarke returning to Gameplay Today ( https://www.gameplaytoday.com ) this November…

  8. I agree with your points, this is very well written. However, it’s the other soldiers that I’m finding memorable as characters. Like I choked up about Marco, and Reiner and Jean are two of my favourite characters (something tells me that Jean serves more of a purpose than is being let on).

    Annie and Sasha as well. There’s just the right amount of characters to not have overload. How different is the manga to the anime? are we talking Soul Eater levels or?

  9. I missed the VERY tiny spoiler sign, now I know Eren’s becoming a titan. Thank you…

  10. well written friends i agree almost all of your point except for the Predictability. you see SnK main appeal for me besides the action and the drama is the mystery and how is this anime/manga(just for the information i do know the difference beetween anime and manga i give / sign because i watch the anime and read the manga.just a little trivia lol ok move on) is so unpredictable for example

    *WARNING HEAVY SPOILER*

    when eren getting eaten by titan(yes he DO survive but still) is totally unpredictable atleast for me because to kill the show main character? not even in my wild imagination or the fact that he is survive and can transform into a titan?,or when annie,bertolt and reiner is also a part of titan shifter and on the side of the bad guys is totally unpredictable(and the fact that it was reiner and bertolt the ones that destroy wall maria and the cause of the dead of eren’s mother),the fact that the giant wall that protecting humanity from titan is also made from a titan, and many more so when you say this show is “predictable” is realy funny and make me wondering are we watching/reading the same show? and there is still many mystery unsolved like the origin of the titan,or the key that eren’s dad give to him,can titan feel emotion or pain?,why is titan slaughtering humanity but not animal? animal and human is a living creature but why is titan only targetting human only?the true identity of ape titan,krista lenz origin(the depth),and many more(too many to list them all)

    *SPOILER ENDS HERE*

    and the mystery itself is one of the main appeal for me because i always like mystery genre,it play with my imagination or make me assume what will happen next? and SnK have it all. oops sorry for the long writing and my bad english lol and once again i say well written friends!

    • Justin Wu

      Thanks for the long comment! The first thing I’m gonna say is that this article was written for the anime only, hence I was focusing solely on what the anime presents us (which did not get to the part of Annie at the time I wrote this article – if I remember correctly, I published this when episode 11 or 12 was out).

      What I meant by ‘predictability’ is that it tells, but it doesn’t really show. As in the examples I used in the article, we can clearly see who the bad guys are (those rich, fat bastards living inside the walls) and what each character is thinking, word-to-word, hence viewers do not get to second-guess what their real thoughts are.

      To clarify again, I did mention that things turned out differently in the manga later on, and that Eren’s transformation into a titan is a surprising twist. I personally enjoy reading the manga version much more than watching the anime,and I am surprised many times by how the manga developed. Yet, again, this article was about the first half of the anime only.

  11. Hi, I have to say, the thing that draws me in is the mystery of the titans, its got a very science fiction/fantasy mix, its hard to figure out where its going. But when I watch other anime, at some point, the heroes will win because they feel so emotional, they get angry, ect. this breaks the immersion or reality of the story for me. but in attack on titan, there is no easy way out.

    I would say that its not predictable at all, every plan the characters lay out goes wrong in unexpected ways. It always feels like the characters are surviving on the skin of their teeth. Character that you had grown attached to die without ceremony, it creates a sense that any character could die, or that the people we see get killed that we don’t know are just like the people who we do know that get killed. The gore is not gratuitous, its impactful. And its impactful because the series has established a feeling of authenticity for the world and its inhabitants.

    The thing that is so appealing about this anime is that it doesn’t treat its audience like idiots and it doesn’t treat its characters like ideological pawns. The titans are a fearsome, unknowable, unstoppable force. you can understand why characters like eren would risk their life to try to kill them, but you also understand those that would rather stay within wall sina(the innermost wall) and stay far away from titans. And can you blame them? not when you see the massive casualty’s that those that fight against the titans face. but you also see how important it is to fight in the first place.

    But I’m saying all this after having watched all of season 1,and read most of the manga. I understand that you have only watched up to episode five?

    • Justin Wu

      To reiterate my point from my previous comment:

      “What I meant by ‘predictability’ is that it tells, but it doesn’t really show. As in the examples I used in the article, we can clearly see who the bad guys are (those rich, fat bastards living inside the walls) and what each character is thinking, word-to-word, hence viewers do not get to second-guess what their real thoughts are.”

      In other words, it tells and does not show. That’s my main problem with the first half of the series (around the time this article is published), which I think gets better in the 2nd-half of the show. To some extent I do think the show is treating the audience like idiots by how straight-forward everything is, though again it gets better by the 2nd-half.

      Aaaand save for the first 2 episodes, I did read the whole manga before I watch the rest of the series, so I wasn’t sure why you assumed I’ve only watched up to episode 5. I do like the manga version more for showing more of the characters’ inner struggle, instead of the anime where it’s crystal clear what everyone is thinking.

  12. i just started watching and i love this show.
    Just wondering why everybody is scared of Mikasa…

  13. Katharine

    Great article! For me another selling point of SNK (and any good sci fi story/anime) is the world building. SNK does a great job of reiterating that (titans aside) this is not the world that we the viewers know. I’m thinking specifically of episode six where we learn of Mikasa’s past. Right off the bat we learn that Asians are rare and thus a profitable commodity in the sex/slave trade, but the implications of the SNK world go deeper than that. As you rightly point out, much of Eren’s drive stems from his mother’s death and normally we’d view this as the sole catalyst for his rage: murder of loved one = the desire/ability to murder in turn. Yet we learn in The Battle of Trost Part 2 that this isn’t the case. Eren, entirely on his own, plans and executes the brutal murder of two adults when he’s only nine years old, years before he loses his mother. We know Eren isn’t a sociopath and we’ve seen that he comes from a loving home… so his ability to kill at such a young age must stem, at least in part, from his environment. It makes the viewer wonder exactly what kind of world they’re living in that creates children like Eren.

  14. Jemarc Axinto

    In regards to twist, while there was a lot of things that could be easily predicted *SPOILERS?* such as the identity of the female titan, or the existence of the other classes of titans. Yes you could predict something MORE happening, but the actual occurrences are still surprising enough to keep it fresh. That and the game of “Who will die this time?” always keeps me going.

  15. I want to know who the colossal Titan is, and the armored one. It’s nice how I just picked it for the cover, yet later Eren turned into a Titan. Which added a new explosive enthusiasm for the series. Just you feeling when he first turns, and you know nothing of the series. I mean you never see it coming, it’s such a big surprise and gift of what the series has brought to the table. Unlike others I don’t want there to be a new movie for it, I would really just like a continuation of the first season. If they go to 3D model in it might backfire. I want nothing more, nothing less, they really raised the bar and I don’t want it to go any higher.

    • Keep it 2D at least I would hate to see the series go to shit. I’m not saying like 3D in the movie theater I’m talking video game 3D. That call of duty kind of stuff

  16. I know it will be awhile but I can’t wait for season 2. And to just repeat No 3D, I just saw some examples of how terrible the characters would look in the show if it was 3D

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