As more and more services come and go (pour one out for Quibi), the streaming wars have been exponentially heating up in the last couple of years. Recent data reveals that WandaVision, The Mandolorian and Cobra Kai are pulling in huge numbers but none of them, it seems, can compete with the shonen juggernaut that is Attack on Titan. Parrot Analytics reports that in the week of Jan. 31 - Feb. 6, the anime series was the most in-demand show in America. In fact, it had 110.5 times the demand of the series average -- beating out other animated fare such as SpongeBob SquarePants and My Hero Academia, which came in second and fourth, respectively.
When Attack on Titan first shot to global fame in the early 2010s, it was an instant breakthrough hit. Hajime Isayama's manga of the same name even jostled with One Piece, Shonen Jump's untouchable crown jewel, for the top of the manga sales charts at one point. Long gaps between the follow-up seasons of the anime, however, dulled some of that initial surge of interest, but it seems that the fourth and final season -- which is currently halfway through its projected run -- has generated a Titan-sized renaissance. Not only that, but the news proves that even its harshest critics haven't detracted from its success.
Though Attack on Titan is no stranger to controversy, content-wise, there was until very recently a cloud of doom-and-gloom hanging over the production of the final season. The concern started when it was confirmed that the fourth season would be its last. Given the dangerous path HBO's Game of Thrones was already heading down at the time, parallels were quick to be drawn, with fans worried that the anime would wrap up ahead of its source material and would therefore be forced to come up with an alternative ending. This problem is one anime adaptations of ongoing manga continually face. The solutions range from producing filler material to plug the gap; diverging from their source entirely (as Fullmetal Alchemist did) or going on an indefinite hiatus, as Black Clover is set to do.
Those fears have not been cleared just yet. Currently, the only information we have about the final season's episode count reveals it will be comprised of just 16 episodes. Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the manga still has two chapters left until it concludes. It's likely that the anime will return for a second cour once these 16 episodes have aired as previous seasons have done; following the final chapter's release, it can then faithfully adapt Isayama's ending. But this is only speculative at this point. In any case, the quality of the final season of Attack on Titan has become an even larger point of contention.
While the first three seasons were handled by studio Wit, MAPPA has stepped up to the plate for Season 4. The in-between limbo of this handover sent the series' fandom into an overdrive of worry, and even when MAPPA -- a company whose star has only burst into the stratosphere in the past 12 months -- were confirmed as Wit's replacement, the negative atmosphere was hard to disperse. Concerns varied from MAPPA's already packed slate (which wasn't entirely unjustified) to its preference for CG compared to Wit's more limited use.
Not even Attack on Titan's Season 4 premiere earning it the top spot on MyAnimeList's most-watched list dispelled these opinions entirely. On the contrary, the following episodes continued to draw the ire of fans online, who found fault in everything from the pacing to the character redesigns to the CG used for the Titans to certain music choices. Some Twitter users were so vocal in their critique of Episode 5's music cues, in fact, that the episode's director felt the need to lock their account on the platform altogether. Amid this, a counterbalance could be found in #ThankYouMAPPA, which others used as a sign-off on their praise, expressing their gratitude for MAPPA's work, specifically. As with anything popular, there will always be detractors -- some offering actual measured criticism and others enjoying playing Devil's Advocate purely as an antidote to bandwagonism. Anything of both substance and popularity will always leave itself more open to nitpicking by virtue of heightened expectations, particularly if it's the last of something.
As of Episode 9, the naysayers have mostly either been silenced or turned around. Commentary on this key, exposition-heavy installment of the series and its skillful delivery of said information from the manga has been largely positive. Attack on Titan is also now nipping at the heels of the long-reigning shonen classic, Fullmetal Alchemist, for the highest-rating on MAL's Top 100. Coupled with this newly-released data on its popularity in the U.S -- even with Disney+'s WandaVision to compete with each week -- and it's abundantly clear that the series has recaptured the fever-pitch of its heyday nearly a decade ago.
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