There’s nothing like witnessing a masterpiece in the making.
It’s so rare that in my 32 years of living, I’ve only seen it unfold twice. First with Breaking Bad, and currently, with Better Call Saul.
Now yes, Better Call Saul is still ongoing. But come on, do you really think Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan would shit the bed as hard as the Game of Thrones guys did? Absolutely not.
But when it comes to anime or manga, I haven’t been as lucky to witness the same thing happen. I’m still disappointed at how bad Naruto ended. And don’t even remind me about Bleach.
Now Full Metal Alchemist and Demon Slayer (manga)had nice, satisfying endings, but I don’t consider both to be masterpieces by a long shot.
They’re just really polished examples of traditional shonen storytelling, which while enjoyable, is not anything ground-breaking.
Of course, One Piece might be a good contender for that honor. But its ridiculous length (and mind-breaking number of characters) ensures very few new fans will be able to actually catch up on it when it does end. And who knows when that’ll be? 2030?
Most of the anime I consider masterpieces are movies. Stuff like Your Name, End of Evangelion, Akira, or pretty much any Satoshi Kon or Miyazaki film. And that makes sense, because they’re singular narratives. With their much shorter runtimes, there is far less to worry about.
After all, long-form storytelling is HARD. It takes a lot of time and talent to do well, as you’re handling much larger world-building, more characters, more relationships, and more plot points.
When you look at the gold standard of western TV shows, you realize they all work well thanks to 2 things: an excellent writer’s room, and long seasonal breaks. This time off helps the showrunner and team figure out what to do next.
Meanwhile, manga artists don’t have that luxury. Long-running series are usually the work of one person (both story and art!), along with the help of a few drawing assistants. And they have to release a new chapter either weekly or monthly too.
Imagine the pressure of that life. Imagine grinding 10–12 hours a day, 5–6 days a week, for years. It’s no wonder a lot of mangakas fall sick, as they work punishing schedules just to meet their deadlines.
That’s probably why there hasn’t been a long-running series that’s been able to consistently deliver the sort of thrills that the best of Western TV has. The deck is just stacked impossibly against them. They’d need both the shadow clone jutsu and a time-stop machine just to be on equal footing with their western contemporaries.
But that’s probably gonna change soon with Shingeki no Kyojin, or as most people know it, Attack on Titan.
I don’t even know where to start with this god-tier series. But I’ll try, because holy shit, the story is so damn good. I have not experienced such amazing highs and lows in an ongoing manga/anime since… ever.
Attack on Titan is simply on a league of its own, and so far above its peers that it isn’t just a good manga story, it’s a good story, period. This is something you can show to a film snob who hates anime, and they’ll be singing Sasageyo with their fists over their hearts after season 3.
So what makes Attack on Titan great? Let me break it down into 3 main reasons:
1. The Meticulous Worldbuilding
The world of Attack on Titan is pretty grim. There’s plenty of tragedy and despair, which the series isn’t afraid to show. Hell, the first episode alone will ruin you.
But that constant agony also has its moments of beauty. Artist/author Hajime Isayama is so good at balancing the epic with the horrific, making every hard-fought win feel tremendous. There is beauty in the struggle, and tragedy in victory. Yin and yang.
That’s largely because his universe employs real-world logic. Everything about the society in Attack on Titan makes sense. The characters act the way they do because of the lives they’re forced to live. There is no random fan service, or characters suddenly doing something because the plot demands it.
A lot of shonen anime is guilty of this. That’s why I can never take a series like Code Geass seriously. It insists on mixing tragic, world-altering events like wars with stupid, fan-servicey bullshit like random ass shots in the heat of a life-or-death battle. And when an anime does this, your immersion is broken instantly.
Attack on Titan is all business. The setting, which is clearly inspired from the 19th century, shows remarkable attention to detail, from the architecture, to the clothing, the food and even the technology. There’s no dumb technological inconsistencies like in Naruto, where ninjas somehow have radios, TV screens, and video cameras.
The world in AoT is so consistent in its details, that you don’t even question how the hell ODM gear actually works. You just know that they do, and that they make sense in the context of the show.
Because when you’re trying to build a convincing fictional world, what matters is not the logic of the details, but how they add to the atmosphere of that world.
They might be nothing more than window dressing plot-wise, but as anyone who’s watched a low-budget movie knows, terrible set-design or technological inconsistencies can break your suspension of disbelief in an instant.
But more than the aesthetic, Attack on Titan also succeeds in exploring the realities of living in such a harsh, unforgiving world. Isayama depicts power struggles between the ruling class and increasingly disgruntled citizens without it feeling forced or heavy-handed.
It reminds me a lot of peak Game of Thrones, where powerful factions are often locked into conflict with each other despite both facing the same existential threat. It’s a powerful statement on the messiness of human dynamics, one that mirrors actual recorded history.
That willingness to dive into human ugliness is what gives its world its impact; as it so closely resembles ours. Because if you remove the Titans in this series, it would still be as gripping thanks to the conspiracies, military coups, and eventually, world-spanning wars.
2. The Epic Soundtrack
Great music adds a lot to a story. If you recall, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul were all excellent at this. They always had the right music for the right moment.
Attack on Titan is no different. Its soundtrack is fucking epic. It matches so well with its world, with its use of classical instruments and soul-rousing opera vocals. It really complements the dangerous situations the characters find themselves in.
Seriously, listen to this and tell me it doesn’t raise your neck and arm hairs:
Every time I hear that iconic scream at 2:37, my goosebumps pop like crazy. And they use that soundbite in the show’s greatest moments too, which gives you a rush of adrenaline as you watch a major battle unfold.
I’ve used this soundtrack for my workouts, and lemme tell ya, it slaps hard. It makes me wanna go out and fuck up some Titans, even though I’d more likely die from misusing ODM gear than fighting those big, naked freaks.
3. The Brave, Uncompromising Storytelling
When Attack on Titan first came out in 2013, it became immediately popular with how grim it was. People got eaten alive on this show, in very graphic ways. This immediately established the tone of the story and let you know Isayama isn’t playing around.
But it also had plenty of mystery. Numerous events and subsequent reveals messed with audiences. And with no quick answers to why all this carnage was happening, audiences were constantly on edge.
However, the pacing wasn’t perfect. It was honestly a bit frustrating at times, especially since none of it seemed to make sense. I remember liking season 1 and catching up to the manga in my excitement.
However, I forgot to keep up because at that point, it was starting to feel like Lost. I thought there where there were no real answers, only endless intrigue.
The long 3-year delay for season 2 of the anime didn’t help either. As a result of that hiatus, much of the hype and awareness for the series died down, in spite of the story actually getting better despite the reduced battles.
And then, season 3 arrived, and a lot of the big questions were answered. Suddenly, things weren’t so simple. The series went from fighting thoughtless monsters to fighting other people who know things about why these monsters are here.
It was no longer about surviving a brutal world, but trying your damn best to change it for the better. And it was told so, so masterfully.
Through a healthy dose of political intrigue, conspiracies, social upheaval, and of course, epic battles, the series has shown remarkable maturity and mastery of tone.
It’s not easy blending those elements smoothly, and somehow Isayama has succeeded. He’s grown into an incredible storyteller and artist over the years, and it’s been thrilling to witness.
It probably helps that the man is a Breaking Bad fan, which shows in his work. The way he plays around with character perspectives and flashbacks remind me of Vince Gilligan’s style. So I wasn’t surprised when this interview with an MMA fighter and this panel confirmed it.
As someone who has caught up to the manga, I am still floored whenever I think about how far the story has come, both in scale and scope. Pretty much every season adds a big new dimension to the story, and changes its tone sharply in a way that still makes sense.
The conflicts escalate organically, and by the time you get to its current 4th and Final season, you are presented with these crushing moral dilemmas that make it hard to root for anyone. No one is innocent anymore. There are only broken people, with no choice but to move forward and survive.
This brings me to the characters. Everyone in this series, even the biggest dickbags, are just fighting for what they think is right. You may not agree with their methods and philosophy, but you understand their reasons. Isayama doesn’t do black and white. Everyone is just a different shade of grey.
And it’s fascinating because I have never seen an anime series that depicts both sides of a conflict with this level of nuance before. Attack on Titan gives you plenty of flawed characters and asks you to empathize with all of them.
Out of all the “mature” anime I’ve seen, Death Note probably came the closest to this in terms of moral complexity. Sadly, it lost a lot of the smart writing and fun reversals towards the end.
Not Attack on Titan. The current final conflict is mind-blowing. No one who stopped watching this series after season 1 can even imagine the scale of devastation ahead, who’s going to be responsible for it, and why.
I’d love to go on, but the goal of this piece is really for anyone who hasn’t seen this yet to just go and check this series out.
I am telling you, the hype is real.
Attack on Titan is unlike any anime you’ve ever seen, and it will reward your long viewing with one of the best stories I’ve ever seen, in any medium.
Plus, you’ll finally understand all the funny memes too. And isn’t that one of the best things about modern fandom? Getting to shitpost about the episode’s events, to lighten up the mood after the heaviness it brings to our hearts?
But seriously, stories like these don’t come around often. So check it out now, so you’ll be part of the millions of people around the world who’ve been awestruck by how incredibly well this story has been told. The weekly discussions and memes are A-grade cultural moments that you’ll look back on fondly long after this is over.
See you at the finale. It’s gonna be amazing. ❤