Studio: Wit Studio
With a head full of more steam than the Colossal Titan and a book-load of unsolved questions, Attack on Titan enters its third season having finally found its footing not as the shonen action series of the first season, but as a satisfying military fantasy putting the focus not just on the epic showdowns between the Scouts and the Titans, but also on political and social issues in some unexpected ways. It makes season 3 the best season yet; thought it still can’t escape the inconsistent plotting that made season 2 a drag.
The bulk of the first part of this season is about a military coup as it comes to light that the king within the walls is false and weak, and the only way for humanity to achieve any sort of progress against the Titans is to have a new leader with military ties. This leads to an arc discussing where Titan powers come from, who the royal family is, and probes the pasts of some fan favorite characters like the antipathetic Levi and determined Christa. All the political machinations also bring in a cowboy-type character called Kenny the Killer with ties to Levi’s past, leading to some of the best showdowns in the series.
It all builds to the final showdown to take back the town that started everything: Eren, Mikasa, and Armin’s home of Shiganshina. All the villainous powers of the Titans align to prevent the reclamation of the town and we are treated to a series of episodes of nonstop action – which I found to be somehow lacking. There were a few epic moments here and there but the bulk of the action felt slow and I wasn’t as invested as I wanted to be. I think a lot of that comes down to the villains, despite having ties to our heroes and being involved in pretty much every facet of the series, just aren’t that threatening or scary when you realize they’re humans who turn into giant monster thingies (there is an exception in the first arc of the season with one of the series' most horrifying visuals). This final battle to reclaim the walls misses a lot of that epic aura that the first season managed so well. Maybe it’s because fifty-some episodes in, I’ve seen all that the action really has to offer.
But after that letdown of a battle, it’s exposition city. Who are the Titans? Why is humanity stuck behind the walls? Almost everything is explained in a memorable flashback to a World War II-style society with some deep religious discussion sprinkled in there. For all the wanton violence and ridiculous quality of the elevator pitch of Attack on Titan, the intricacy of the plotting and backstory is something to be admired.
Attack on Titan has grown as a franchise; not only within the confines of its story, but in our real, non-Titan infested world as well. Over the course of the past decade it has become a staple, an instant classic, and a pop culture phenomenon. Most entry-level anime like Attack on Titan fall into a category of forgettable action schlock that rarely challenges the viewer or offers anything more than...well, action schlock. The first season falls under that umbrella in a way and the series is a gradual build-up to grander ideas, more plodding fantasy elements, and less generic characters. I like that subversion, as well as the way it feels like Attack on Titan was built from the ground up with a plan in mind. It occasionally spins wheels but not long enough to make you want to turn it off and only in order to experiment with another plot element or try a new storyline.
It shines in being entirely unexpected yet always fulfilling in some way. In no way is Attack on Titan the best anime ever made, nor would I necessarily put it in my top ten. But I would suggest it to pretty much anyone. The façade of anime familiarity hides beneath a frightening, challenging, and ultimately rewarding series that still has more to come.
The final season begins in December and I, along with thousands of other anime fans the world over, can't wait to see the conclusion to this seminal series.