Game of Thrones received a lot of criticism for rushing its final seasons and moving ahead of its source material, now Attack on Titan is in danger of doing the same. For much of its tenure, Game of Thrones was widely revered as one of the greatest productions ever to grace a television screen, with the live-action adaptation of George R. R. Martin's books proving far more popular than its source material. However, the HBO series eventually caught up and overtook the novels it was based upon, and this triggered a gradual decline in critical reaction. When Game of Thrones season 8 finally blazed onto TV, fans were more divided than ever before, and while the debate rages to this day, many viewers agree that the show would've benefited from a couple more seasons.
Even those who enjoyed Game of Thrones' final season seem to recognize that those concluding episodes move rapidly to wrap up the story, leaving very little time for detail or character exploration, and many blame this on the TV show outgrowing its relationship to the source material.
On a surface level, Game of Thrones and Attack on Titan couldn't be more different, however a closer look reveals a common trajectory. Both sprawling, epic stories that feature dark themes, strong violence and morally gray protagonists, Attack on Titan's TV adaptation, like Game of Thrones, greatly surpassed the popularity of the story's original format and was also hailed as one of the best examples of its kind upon release. However, it has been confirmed that next year's season 4 will be Attack on Titan's final run - a surprising turn of events considering that the manga not only remains far ahead of the anime, but is also still running.
The Attack on Titan manga is currently in its final stage, but manga arcs can often take place over several years and the series already has a considerable head-start on its anime counterpart. As such, many fans are wondering how Attack on Titan's fourth season can possibly adapt all of the remaining material while doing justice to Hajime Isayama's original story, as even without considering future chapters, there is easily a season's worth of material already waiting to be adapted.
It has been said that once Game of Thrones had an endpoint in view, it rushed there without considering how much time would be required to conclude each plot thread and character arc in a satisfying way, and the same sentiments are now being uttered by Attack on Titan fans. As with Game of Thrones, there may also be a danger of Attack on Titan overtaking its source material. In April this year, Isayama claimed that the manga would finish within two years, but season 4 is already confirmed for 2020, meaning the potential for overlap certainly exists. Unlike Game of Thrones, however, the anime at least won't be forced to come up with its own original content.
Even George R. R. Martin has conceded that he expected Game of Thrones to run for at least two more seasons, but HBO's decision to end with season 8 is perhaps understandable. Keeping the show's core cast in place for two more years would've no doubt been tricky, with the profiles of Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington growing rapidly with each passing season and Game of Thrones itself a very expensive production to put together. Obviously, Attack on Titan doesn't have to contend with the same issues regarding retaining cast members, so the decision to announce a seemingly premature ending feels odd. However, the high-quality animation the series has become synonymous with is expensive to produce and the problems of heavy workloads and overworked staff within the Japanese animation industry are well documented, possibly factoring into the decision to conclude Attack on Titan.
There's currently no word on whether Attack on Titan season 4 will be a brisk 12-episodes like season 2, a 25-episode saga similar to season 1, or somewhere in between. Even with the maximum amount of installments, however, Attack on Titan has a great amount of material to work into its final season and some clever pacing will be required to ensure that the ending doesn't attract the same criticisms that plagued Game of Thrones season 8.
Attack on Titan season 4 will premiere in 2020.