Man, Attack On Titan’s character and thematic writing really is underrated.
I see almost nothing picking the characters apart (outside my bubble of Tumblr, at least), when to me it’s the most interesting part of the story.
I don’t think the horror would work if the characters didn’t have these human reactions. If everyone were a badass like Levi you wouldn’t believe in their threat. It’s really the tragedy element of a character’s human flaws and desires getting the best of them.
Eren’s mother’s death is so effective because she is so human. Because she isn’t a infallible source of hope. She’s just another human being who breaks when her family is taken away. If that weren’t there, I don’t think the scene would be nearly as powerful.
Imagine if Gelgar didn’t really have the drinking problem?
If the Levi squad never admitted their mistake?
If Ymir had no motivation of living for herself or Historia her predicament of having given a false name?
If Mikasa didn’t have everyone she loves constantly taken away?
If Eren and Armin didn’t have their shared dream of freedom or putting an end and giving a meaning to all the deaths that happen?
The characters all have human desires, but within a cruel and unfeeling world.
The world is unfair and our characters fight so it no longer would be unfair, this is why I think I care, at least.
Would you really care if these characters weren’t shown to be feeling these things? It’s not that the Titans are this overwhelming threat that makes this story effective, it’s that they turn a blind eye to feelings. The Titans could be no matter what size or shape, but their threat wouldn’t be real if it didn’t mean anything to the characters and thus the audience. We hate the Titans because they make the world unfair and cold (just as we hate Marley because they make the world unfair and cold).
The idea that rational badass who does nothing wrong = good character is such an annoying thing for AoT for this reason and would absolutely ruin the series.