Attack on Titan has achieved astronomical success since it 2013 anime adaptation, so the claim that it is somehow underrated would seem dismissible but, I believe Attack on Titan is not given the recognition for its best elements. Attack on Titan is at its core a mystery series, disguised as a flesh-mech action, political thriller. The mystery elements and the nuance in its execution and the thoroughness of the authors attention to detail isn’t discussed as prevalently as it should be. Hajime Isayama has laid this story out phenomenally, I am constantly caught off guard by the call backs and intricate details that I only notice as a hardcore fan. The real strengths of the show go unrecognised and the not so great parts are overblown and overrate the show, because people are hyped up idiots.
Attack on Titan is widely praised for elements like frequent deaths and heart-stopping action, but what it truly excels at is its set-up, mystery, call-backs and subversion of reveals. For instance: that random girl that Mikasa saves in episode 6 that was animated in 2013 and written even further back than that was reintroduced into the story last month (September 2018). That’s insane and the pay-off for me, someone who pays this series my absolute attention, was enormous, I was rewarded for my nearly obsessive interest in the series and shows that Isayama cares about his audience’s intelligence. There are countless other examples of definitive background characters that are reintroduced and given incredibly important roles. Historia is the most obvious example, a character that was virtually non-existent in Season 1 but is now a focal main character in Season 3. That random girl that Sasha saves from Connie fathers titan (another idiosyncratic recently revealed piece of information) is now a fully-fledge important character contemporarily in the manga. This coordination requires insane forethought and careful planning on Isayama’s part.
Isayama’s ability to reference his most early material and reward his audience’s attention is only personified further with the handling of the reveals. Attack on Titan has no dramatic reveals, intentionally. Instead of bombastic expositional dumps, Isayama (usually) subtly drip-feeds information to his audience and allows them to slowly put it together. By the time Annie is revealed as the Female Titan, the audience likely has already connected the dots, the same for the Armoured and Colossal Titan. The subtle reveal that they were indeed the shifters was communicated through the background, its simple juxtaposition but also fits the thematic elements of Isayama’s leading strategies. Even the reveal in the basement was assumed by most fans before the big reveal; the Beast Titan was making references to baseball calls and Reiner and Berthold had to come from some other community, but these reveals are always satisfying. Isayama isn’t insulting his audience so the ‘grand’ reveals feel like natural extension of the story he’s crafted.
These lesser praised aspects of Attack on Titan are what’s underrated by the wider community, while the less impressive elements are overpraised because people are stupid and don’t delve past the window dressing. Ultimately, I hope to see wider discussion about the truly impressive elements of Isayama’s mystery writing and call-back rather than the anime’s action. That’s why Attack on Titan is underrated.