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Attack On Plots & Storyboards

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

The world's most popular Anime of the last 8 years. My favorite of the past 5 years. Attack on Titan (AoT). Why though? Well, this review is written to explain why, of course. Also, to give those that have not seen this show (How?) an understanding of the appeal it has. And, to start an open discussion with the faithfuls. This review is long enough, so let's get started.

Attack on Titan rose to fame in 2014. The year after it's initial premiere. Maybe it just took some time for potential viewers to actually gain access to the show as it started its journey to fame internationally. The talk of this show has been #1 amongst Anime fans and really hasn't had a peak moment, because it has never had any low valleys to peak from. Never losing its luster after all these years. So how do they do it? For writers, this may be some kind of cheat sheet. I'm giving you the answers to great plotting and storyboarding which ultimately has controlled the success of this story.

"Binge worthy," isn't a term I want to use here. Not because you don't want to watch episodes back to back to back, but because "binge worthy" diminishes the quality that is presented. Because "compelling" doesn't necessarily mean "great". There are plenty of shows plotted to where you can easily watch episodes continuously because they are formatted so plainly that it takes no effort to continue watching. Then, there are programs that are just so great and complex, and well presented, that you just can't get enough; AoT is that show.

The Director Duo: Tetsuro Araki, Masahi Koizuka; Assistant Director: Hiroyuki Tanaka, direct the program by creating strong emotional attachment between viewer and on-screen characters. Each character is given dynamics. Multi-faceted personalities that help you grow along with the relationships of the program. As the personalities develop, you see perspective after perspective of how the chemistry, or lack thereof, is dramatized to give the show its oomph. Let's start with the most obvious, prominent, focal relationship of the show: Eren Yeager and Mikasa Ackerman. These two are long time childhood best friends, and have personalities not generally seen in protagonists. Vengeful, reckless, and egotistical describes Eren. While Mikasa relates to this being a co-dependent character who longs for the acceptance of being considered good enough. They're like the high school couple that everyone grows to despise because of the drama that may arise being in the vicinity of these two. Yet they are evidently popular, and win Homecoming King and Queen. Somehow, Armin Arlert, being the outlier of the trio, sticks with these two no matter what. I don't think a dog could be more loyal. Armin is tentative at times. But deep down, he possesses a passion that matches Eren and Mikasa. Maybe this is why they all stick together for the majority of the show. Armin's tentative nature causes unconditional trouble for our protagonists, and creates an offsetting emotion that leaves you on the edge of your seat. "What!? But protagonists are never in any real trouble." Well, in this show, they are.

What contributes to the stronger emotional connection in AoT, is that avantguard approach spoken about before. The storyboarding is so brilliant, it causes mysterious anticipation and fear amongst fans. AoT is notorious for creating a personality you want to cheer for, then inevitably crushing it under the heavy weight of a Titan. Too bad, so sad, your heart drops.

Not getting attached to their writings. As a writer myself, I often find myself emotionally attached to characters I've spent so much time thinking about and developing mentally. Some of them for years. Maybe that's the reason protagonists never really die; the writer just doesn't want to let them go. That's not reality though. Reality has no "favorites", and death is an outcome for all. It's just a matter of time. Writer Hajime Isayama understands this completely. No one is safe from severe trauma, injury, or gruesome death in Attack on Titan. This ultimately helps lead the powerful storyboarding that opens up avenues with multiple mind numbing, sweat inducing outcomes that all have high probability of occurrence. Let's just call this, "Brilliant Writing."

Let's now introduce some of the negative outlooks coming from the positives. Since the writing is so strong, it often takes away from the illustrations. Often times in the show, characters can easily be misconstrued with one another. How many ideas can you have, right? Along with that, a common critique of the Anime is that is too dark at times. Shading is too heavy, and the eyes are too dramatic. Going hand in hand with the illustrating being way too dramatic at times, the animation follows suit with being too over the top with screen shaking and evident emotional strain on the characters. Too much sweat, too much teeth, too much emotion. Dialing it back a bit would probably do a service, but that weakness is also a strength. It helps build that emotional attachment of reality. "How would you feel if someone close to you dies a gruesome death?" You would probably be the most "dramatic" to every extent of the word.

Another strength turned weakness in season 4 is the storyboarding. Season 4 presents us with a backstory of Eldian which probably should have come an entire season earlier before we understand even the broad introduction of Zeke. It would have heavily increased the pacing leading to a much stronger final season.

The "Final Season" has been a pretty messy, mundane and anticlimactic fiasco. Which can cause squints beyond compare. Upturn your palms with that squint, and ask "Why though?"

Originally imaged as having only 16 episodes, fans knew there was no way to finish the show in just 16 episodes. That turned out to be the case when episode 16 rolled around, and there still was no finale in site. The direction of Season 4 is lost by unclear motives and objectives. Another strength that turns around to bite AoT; no clear protagonist leaves the audience wondering who to cheer for. Which gives the viewer the power. Great. The only problem is, we don't get enough screen time of anyone to decide who we want to actually cheer for. Skipping the entirety of a greater possible conclusion into a future time that leaves us pondering, we follow "Gabi and Falco". Two children we know very little about to actually care for them. They are simply a distraction from the characters taken such time to invest in like Levi Ackerman who has been developing for multiple seasons. Clouded by anticipation of fans, Gabi and Falco don't have enough room this late in the series to play a major role. The goal was to show a cycle of war that effects everyone, and how it endangers the future. So AoT will be AoT, and still prevail no matter how non-effective one season becomes. The hard work has been done.

The mysterious shroud of Season 3 leads to heavy success. You have to know more. New characters that take president, Historia Reiss and Annie Leonhart. So what's the difference between Historia and Annie and Gabi and Falco? Historia and Annie are solely attached to the main story line. Annie, growing up as a Scout with Eren, Armin and Mikasa, and Historia being the reason the show exists to begin with. So the writers were sure to bring them along sincere care. Historia came along in Season 1, but was prominent in Season 3. The trend is evident here: these characters were previously introduced, so we knew enough about them to soon allow them to take center stage of Season 3. This is the most eventful season of the show. With that said, the objectives were always clear. Each episode and dialogue had signaled the direction of the plot toward the conclusion step by step commanded by Commander Erwin Smith. So eventful, it would have been beneficial to stretch some these happenings into Season 4. In fact, if the show ended with "To the Other Side of the Wall", I would have been satisfied.

Season 2 is action packed, but didn't have too much variety to plug at different reactions from the audience. But it was extremely sharp in its delivery. Causing "Ooooh!" reactions throughout the entirety. Your favorite anti-heroes are the focal point in season 2: Reiner Braun and Bertholdt Hoover. You wouldn't be able to hate these two even if you tried. Reiner is courageous, while Bertholdt is brave and will take advances when required to. Always looking to execute well thought out plans constructed by Reiner. These two stick together no matter what. Watching their chemistry on screen being so grateful to watch.

Season 1 is in debate with Season 3 for best AoT season. The 3rd had a variety of components that came together in an impactful manner. While the 1st set the tone by being the ideal representation of what the entire series strives to be: the emotional tugging to the point where it could cause solemn thoughts of the downfall of Scout. Dramatic intermissions. Storytelling that gave informative structure to the build of story lines. Diverse attention grabbing tactics used in the Animation and storyboarding.

As you can see, there is some formula to the madness. It's a formula I generally fall in love with. Mystery coating a serious amount of drama and action. When all the dust settles, the mystery is concluded, or pinpointed leading into the next chapter. The plotting is so much fun to watch, and engaging, it's difficult to ride away from it. Tagged with incredible storyboarding, allowing viewers to understand each character and their purpose, if not their individual purpose, like Season 4 exemplifies, then moral signaling is the pin to nail.


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