Remember when everyone was talking about this season? Like, literally everyone? And how they’d compare it to Game of Thrones even though the only thing they had in common was the tone? Yeah, I remember. I honestly don’t think I can ever forget it.
The first season of Attack on Titan can best be described as a rollercoaster. It can be terrifying at times, then it can get super fast and thrilling. But when you step off, you won’t remember many of the specific details. You’ll remember some things, like the drop at the top or a particularly nauseating loop. But if someone were to ask you for something more specific, you wouldn’t be able to tell them.
We all know the story. Eren and his friends Armin and Mikasa live contained in the towering walls, dreaming of seeing the world outside. Upon hearing this, Eren’s father promises to show him what’s hidden in their basement, which apparently hides a tremendous secret. But before that promise can be kept, a massive titan appears and busts down the wall, allowing a horde of titans into the city. While escaping, Eren watches his mother get eaten, igniting a spark of hatred deep within him. To satiate his bloodlust, Eren enlists in the military, determined to kill every single titan and discover the secret his father had promised him.
Aaaand then he became a titan. Whoops.
The hook of the story is incredibly strong. It establishes our three protagonists perfectly, sets a dark and horrifying tone, and places us right into the world. It’s easy to see why so many people got into the show so quickly. The narrative wastes no time whatsoever hooking you in.
Unfortunately, the rest of the narrative is a bit… lacking.
It’s got some fun surprises here and there, don’t get me wrong. Eren ‘dying’ in his first battle is a fun little punch to the gut, him becoming a titan is a decent twist that gets one of the biggest mysteries in the series rolling, and the appearance of the Female Titan is a great set piece. In terms of spectacle, this season is far from lacking. Even more so thanks to the stellar visuals.
But narratively speaking, this season has got some major issues. For one: a majority of the characters are paper thin. Seriously, detach yourself from everything you’ve learned about Reiner, Bertholdt, Ymir, Christie, and Connie from the later seasons. Think back to when they were first introduced here, in the first season. What can you tell me about their characters?
Very little. Christie was the cute nice one. Reiner was like the big brother of the group. Ymir was kind of a dick. Connie was… goofy, I guess? And I’m 95% Bertholdt didn’t say a single word.
This problem persists for a majority of the cast. Everyone talks about how sad the death of Levi’s squad is, but how much do we actually know about those four? Very little. I get that this is a dark world where people die by the dozen on every single mission. But it’s sort of hard to get invested in a character when we only learn one trait about them before they get chowed down on.
Everyone talks about how sad Marco’s death is. But when that happened, I legitimately didn’t know who Marco was. I forgot the dude existed. That’s how forgettable the characters were in the first season.
Thankfully, that issue would be directly addressed in season two. But we’re not there quite yet.
While the characters within the narrative are lacking, the presentation is firing on all cylinders. In terms of art and animation, it’s hard to top the first season of Attack on Titan. All the stuff in here is *chef’s kiss* spectacular!
I love how the titans move. They’re given so much weight with every movement, making them feel that much heavier and larger. Plus, their often messed up postures and horrific, almost infant-like features make them incredibly terrifying to look at. While the writing in this season would definitely detract from the terror of the titans after Eren becomes one, the visuals still go a long way in making them frightening.
The humans get some pretty well-animated shit, too. You can tell that the maneuver gear was an absolute nightmare for the animators to work with. Especially with Levi, who consistently gets the most well-animated segments in both this season and the entire series. Watching him turn into a fucking Beyblade and rip the Female Titan to shreds will always be a delight.
Then there’s the music. Yes, everyone knows the first OP is incredible. But no one really talks about how insanely good the actual score of the show is. There are few OSTs out there as dramatic and intense as this one. Every single time the chanting starts, it’s impossible not to get excited.
Even if the track titles are gibberish. Good luck finding that one hype track you really want to listen to.
It’s easy to see why this season made as much of a buzz at it did. The narrative has some issues, yes. But it more than makes up for it with its rock solid presentation and an incredible story hook.
That being said, this is the season I least enjoy going back to. At this point, it feels more like a hurdle to be overcome to get to seasons two and three. It’s still plenty enjoyable, but it isn’t as strong as it gets later. Still, this is a solid start to a modern anime phenomenon.
Even is season two is infinitely better, fight me.