With the final volume of Attack on Titan manga set to release in Japan, we breakdown exactly why the anime series is so popular around the world!
There is no doubt about it, Attack on Titan is the biggest and most popular anime in the world right now.
Millions of people have watched the series and millions more, at the very least, know about it; something very few franchises are lucky enough to experience.
So, what makes Attack on Titan so popular and is it even possible to discern why this anime has become the global mega-series it is today?
Why is Attack on Titan so popular?
- Attack on Titan’s popularity can be considered to be a product of several factors; storyline and setting, characters and character building, the mainstream media, animation and longevity, the success of the manga and international appeal.
Of course, this is a personal take on why Attack on Titan has become the colossal success story that we know today. Whilst you may not agree with all the points here, or you think other factors may be at play, we believe that these elements are at the core of AOT’s popularity.
Storyline and setting; A tale of shock and awe…
The first point regarding Attack on Titan’s popularity is rather obvious, the storyline and setting are phenomenal.
At its core, Attack on Titan has a simple plot that you could explain in a single sentence; “Humanity now resides within three gigantic walls after nearly being wiped out from existence by monstrous creatures called Titans, who surround them on all sides.” That’s it. That’s the basis for the entire show.
Obviously, things are a little bit more complicated than that, but it’s this simplicity in the basic story that provides the crucial foundation for a deeper and politically-driven plotline to develop over the next four seasons.
Following that simple concept of humanity vs titans, the narrative grows into a masterpiece of intertwining stories from both an individual and collective perspective.
From what started with a young boy training to avenge his mother, we are now watching a full-scale war unfold between two nations with that same boy possessing world-ending powers; and we understand exactly why/how this has happened.
It’s incredible that we can summarise the plot of Attack on Titan in a few sentences, but could talk for hours about individual characters or events – that’s the sign of a phenomenal storyline.
Characters; Colossal development…
If Attack on Titan didn’t have a wide variety of characters and deep character development, it’s unlikely that the series would have reached the heights it has.
At the centre of AOT is Eren Jaeger, one of the most well developed and memorable characters in all of anime history. Over the past seven years, we have seen him develop from a naïve child, into a fearless warrior with the fate of the world on his shoulders and now into someone who has lost all hope for peace.
It’s also not just the main protagonist who has experienced a similarly impressive growth; Mikasa, Armin, Levi, Hange, Reiner, Sasha (RIP), Conny, Annie, Historia, the list goes on and on.
However, at no point in the series does the viewer feel that any particular character is safe from the threat of titans– something that is showcased right from the opening scene.
This is where the savage world of Attack on Titan really draws the viewer into the series; your favourite character can die at any moment in a horrible way. It’s extremely reminiscent of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, where that constant fear and tension entices the viewer to become invested in each and every character.
Mainstream media; Timing is everything…
For Attack on Titan, the series premiered at the perfect moment when anime was finally moving into the mainstream media.
In 2012, classic anime such as Sword Art Online and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure debuted, with series like Tokyo Ghoul and The Seven Deadly Sins airing in 2014. With Attack on Titan being the breakout series of 2013, the series became a fundamental part of that first drive into modern culture that anime experienced during these three years.
This is why Attack on Titan is arguably the most popular series amongst non-anime fans, e.g., friends who describe anime as ‘Japanese cartoons’ still know what Attack on Titan is. The series transcended the traditional anime community, growing into a global fanbase of people who could finally appreciate how entertaining it can truly be.
However, there is one other important aspect of Attack on Titan’s breakout that needs mentioning…It was right in the middle of the global obsession with zombies.
As YouTuber Super Eyepatch Wolf explains, the worldwide audience was gripped by zombie-related content at this time and Attack on Titan was able to use the titans to draw in those viewers.
“In 2013, when the Attack on Titan anime aired, America was in the throes of its love affair with the zombie. With season 3 of the world-shatteringly popular [The] Walking Dead about to air, as well as the undead being the focal point of many major video game series at this time. Meaning that the west at large was primed and hungry for a fresh take on the undead. A role that the titans filled, making the show infinitely more marketable.” – Super Eyepatch Wolf.
Production quality; Animation to behold…
There is some fantastic-looking anime out there today, but not many series can compare to the visuals, directing and animation of Attack on Titan. Whilst the general environment of AOT is gorgeous to look at, it’s specifically the fight sequences with ODM gear that showcase just how great the production quality is.
This is thanks to the incredible directing of Tetsuro Araki, who was in charge from episode one through 50, and Wit Studios. Araki is a master of camera manipulation and it’s an aspect of the earlier Attack on Titan episodes that rarely goes acknowledged.
Showing high-paced battles between Scouts using ODM gear, swinging like Spider-Man around huge titans is no easy thing to accomplish. Yet, we all take it for granted how clean entire sequences look.
The same goes for the animation quality from Wit Studios, followed by MAPPA in season 4. Every individual frame is beautiful, the fights between titans feel impactful and there are countless moments that take your breath away.
Most notably, the battle at Shiganshina between the Beast Titan and Levi during season 3, Levi vs the Female Titan in the forest and Eren vs Reiner at Wall Maria.
Longevity; An enduring war….
Going further on that idea of watching characters grow over time, Attack on Titan has been a mainstay in the anime world for over seven years.
Whether you watched the series when it first premiered or started in the years following, it feels like Attack on Titan has been a part of our lives for a long, long time. This is arguably because many of us, as viewers, have grown up alongside the series and the characters.
For those of us who started the series in 2013, we have been watching Attack on Titan for seven years. For comparison, Eren joins the Survey Corps when he is 12-year-old and is now aged 19 in the current arc, so he has also grown up over a seven-year period.
However, Attack on Titan’s longevity is not only about its past, it’s also about its future. Whilst I can’t speak for every fan, it’s safe to say that at some point in the decades to come, most of us will revisit the series again.
That’s the basis of longevity: Attack on Titan has been a long-running series that has developed alongside its audience and it’s an anime that will likely stand the test of time.
The manga; Exceptional source material…
Whilst it was the anime adaption in 2013 that truly catapulted Attack on Titan to global fame, you can argue that the original manga series was the driving force behind its success.
From its debut in March 2010, all the way to the most recent chapter, Attack on Titan has remained one of the most popular and talked-about manga in the world.
The series has benefited from remaining loyal (in the most part) to the source material and pacing each of the arcs appropriately; even adapting the number of episodes to best suit the story.
However, what is truly remarkable is the way in which the manga series has experienced widespread success amongst non-manga fans. You can argue that Attack on Titan paved the way for many people who had never picked up a manga before, including myself, to fall in love with reading stories in this manner.
Global domination; An international success…
Storyline, characters and animation aside, why Attack on Titan has become so popular is ultimately because it has global appeal; no matter who you are or where you are from, this series has an international allure.
Not many anime franchises are lucky enough to experience widespread success across the world and Attack on Titan seems to have transcended any geographical or cultural boundaries.
Whilst a large enough fanbase in Asia, Europe or North America may be enough to warrant the title of ‘success’, a series that can become a hit in almost every country where it airs is the one factor that defines popularity.
By Tom Llewellyn – [email protected]