Shingeki no Kyojin – 04

Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -5 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -18 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -25

There’s more than a little JoJo in Attack on Titan, now that I think about it.

Kakumeiki Valvrave gets a lot of flak (not entirely without reason) for being a bit of a scattershot affair, but I’m not sure why Shingeki no Kyojin seems largely immune from it.  While certainly the better, his show is almost as much a non-stop assault on the brain as that one, and it’s certainly louder.  To be honest, for me this series is a bit of a mess – the animation is all over the map, the behavior of the characters is borderline comedic even when it’s not supposed to be, and there are more holes in the plot than bean sprouts in a bowl of Jiro ramen.

I cut a considerable amount of slack on that last point, because it seems as if most of those holes are intentionally left for the moment.  In fact, I find the strange inconsistencies in the mythology to be the most interesting part of the series – nothing about Attack on Titan is as compelling for me as curiosity over just WTF is going on here.  I was especially pleased by one moment in this episode, when Eren and Annie were talking about how the top 10 scorers from the training class would get the right to be Military police in the interior.  Why?  Because she asked exactly the right question, at exactly the moment I asked it – why the hell would you take your best fighters and send them as far away from the ones you’re supposed to be fighting as possible?  Yes, it could just be abject stupidity – but my suspicious are that there’s something deeper and more sinister at work here.

It’s not just that one point – the entire storyline is riddled with questions and suspicious anomalies.  In fact, nothing about it makes any sense at all given what we’ve been told.  Did the Titans simply appear out of nowhere?  How did humans manage to build three massive walls big enough to keep them out without them being destroyed in the process?  Why did we all of a sudden get mega-titans and armorerd titans – and why do they disappear for long stretches instead of simply finishing off all the walls and wiping out humanity (I do have a theory on that one – if you simply eat all your cows, you’ll starve to death soon enough.  But if you only periodically cull the herd and then leave them alone to breed…)?  If I thought all these intriguing questions were simply plot holes I’d be in despair, but I’m holding out faith that all this is intentional and leading somewhere.

I didn’t realize that this series and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure had the same head writer (Kobayashi Yasuko) when I connected the two in my head (though he also filled the same role on Pita Ten, so grain of salt with that one).  It’s the tone that sparked the thought in me – the loud, relentless, heady mix of GAR and stupidity that defines everyone’s behavior.  If this show had a motto, I think it would be “GRRRRRR!”  Eren – via Kaji Yuuki’s trademark wail – is certainly the poster-boy, but it extends to most of the cast.  “Dramatic” isn’t a sufficient word – there’s simply never a lull.  When Titans aren’t snacking on Moms the 30 year-old 14 year-old cadets are beating the crap out of each other or squabbling over philosophy or their drill sergeant is ripping them new ones for perceived indiscretions.  It’s heady but exhausting, and it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up for two cours.

In any event, it’s graduation time, and setting aside the absurdity of the fact that some of the characters we’ve met could have ranked in the top 10 based on what we’ve learned about them (indeed, it seems only poor Armin out of the named cadets didn’t make the cut) that means – surprise – it’s time for a shouting match and a lecture from Eren.  He’s quite right of course that the system of sending the elite to the interior is bizarre, and thus to refuse the “honor” – but his lecture of the night before is apparently enough to convince even those who worked for two years to get that cushy job to abandon all that and do the right thing.  Indeed, things are looking up – everyone is bright-eyed and ready to take on the Titans, and Eren can finally stare down the future with a sense of hope.  But Shingeki no Kyojin is obviously the sort of story where the light at the end of the tunnel is usually an oncoming train, and his words could hardly have been a more obvious death flag for optimism than they were.

I can’t help but wonder if the location – and timing – of the Colossal Titan’s appearances are a coincidence.  It seems connected to Eren somehow, and there’s still the matter of his father’s disappearance and those mysterious dreams.  I smell a much deeper connection between the Titans and the humans in general than we’re being told – I’m not necessarily suggesting a Committee of 400 population control level of conspiracy, but something is definitely rotten here and Eren is somehow directly connected to it.  Everyone of import will likely survive this current attack – we’re only at episode 4 after all – but then it will be time to decide the future.  Given that Mikasa has already said she’ll do whatever Eren does and Armin has stated his plan is to join the Recon Corps, my assumption is that all three of them – and likely most of the other cadets who’ve been given names – will join the RC.  Hopefully that will be the point when we’ll start to dig deeper into the mysteries that suffuse everything about Attack on Titan.

Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -8 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -9 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -10
Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -11 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -12 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -13
Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -14 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -15 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -16
Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -17 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -19 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -20
Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -21 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -22 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -23
Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -24 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -26 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -27
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41 comments

  1. C

    Just wondering, do you think you will pick up the manga? Way back from your Spring preview post I looked up a few of the anime's you highlighted and went through their source material. Attack on Titans was hands down the best and I ended up blazing through as many scanlations as there were available at the time. 44 chapters later, I think this is a really solid story and I highly recommend you check them out!! Well, whenever you have a free moment from blogging, teaching, oh and baby-sitting your followers on here. >_<

  2. I may just do that, but now that I've started with the anime I prefer to ride it out as far as it takes the story. If I do pick up the manga it'll be after the anime finishes.

  3. l

    Fwiw, even reading through all of the released/scanlated source material won't answer most of the questions you have right now.

  4. l

    ^Edit:
    Well, some of the questions you have right now do get answered, actually, only to be eclipsed by bigger questions. =P

  5. s

    GE, be prepared to be asking a LOT of question whilst watching Shingeki no Kyojin. After watching the first episode, like Chelsey above, I marathon'ed through all the scanalated chapters, and boy was it addictive.

    In terms of your questions and the disjointed-ness of the animation. Part of it can be attributed to the fact that some of this material was originally flash backs in the chapters, and was not shown linearly to the reader. While I do like that the studio is going that route rather than sometimes seemingly-random flashbacks, some parts become less fitting (knowing the source material).

    But, as for the unending amount of question you raise and how they were be handled and dealt with, lets just say you're in for quite a ride. 😛

  6. L

    Definitely, this is one hell of a ride.

    I think the way the manga was laid out made everything flow in a logical way, but required a lot of memory to connect the flashbacks together. What the anime did with the chronological retelling may afford it an easier viewing experience, but makes parts of the plot feel disjointed (like you said).

    But as a manga reader, I feel the story's going just fine, but with a LOT of things that make sense to me, yet might confuse the anime-only viewers.

  7. R

    I don't really mind a series where we don't get all the answers in the first two episodes but only bit by bit.

  8. q

    I'm glad you picked up on the conspiracy part of things. I personally picked up ont hat in the second or third episode (don't remember which) where it shows those people in the King's cabinet or whatever it is called in a very dark perspective.

    Don't forget about Eren's father, I think he may be connected to it and Eren is sort of just bearing some of the burden in some way.

  9. h

    I still think the absurdly long theory I posted in the comments for episode 1 (or 2?) holds up magnificently in light of recent happenings. Perhaps even more so (barring only the most trivial of details).

    /Shameless asshattery

  10. q

    Also, I also have a theory that Mikasa knows about all of this, and it is the reason that she is protecting Eren. It is kind of curious that she is following exactly what he is doing without much resistance. Although she said in this episode that she does not want to lose anymore of her family, i do not believe that is her real reasoning.

  11. a

    It's possible, but I think it's just as Mikasa has said, that if she isn't there to watch over Eren he would do something stupid and get himself killed. From what I've seen there's a purity in their character relationship where she's really there to protect Eren from his own idiocy.

  12. a

    Regarding the lack of critique, I think it's as simple as the viewer versus critic delineation. Most viewers/readers of any form just don't take that same level of examination to what they think of as entertainment. So for people of that mindset, Shingeki's first episode was so tremendous that it probably set their view of the show and it would take an insane decline in quality to change that. The most recent example would be SAO where for many fans that decline was present, but the majority or at least a huge amount of fans still enjoyed it.

    As you said here, for Shingeki the intrigue is still captivating enough that the flaws that exist aren't enough to ruin the experience. Whether that trend continues will depend on the writing from here on out. But yes, Shingeki is in general probably getting a pass on many areas (especially the character handling).

  13. L

    It's funny you said that—I did feel that happened exactly as you said with several series, like SAO, GC, HanaIro, etc. where I only realized they got worse well past the point I could honestly call "good." I've been trying to take a neutral stance, but knowing the story well ahead of time, I guess the story is cohesive enough for me (not to mention the super subtle foreshadowing we got these past two episodes totally make sense).

  14. S

    Sending the top 10 recruits to the Inner Wall makes sense if you think that the King wants to be protected by the best fighters. Those in a position of power only care for their own security.

    People are cutting some slack to SnK because we read the manga and we know that most of the misteries will be explained. And the setting is fantasy in the first place. Valvrave's body-swapping vampires and One-Man Army are just so over the top that they become ridiculous.

  15. So fantasy gets a higher bar for acceptable ridiculousness than sci-fi?

  16. h

    Sci-fi is supposedly garbed in the thin veneer of :SCIENCE:, while fantasy requires no such trappings; the latter, in turn, receives liberal interpretative leniency, unsteeped as it is in realism by very definition.

    Just kidding, obviously. Suspension of disbelief is a tad more universal than biased detractors of one show or another would likely pitch. It does still depend in large degree on the presentation's presumptuousness and mode of storytelling — far more so than the rote fact tallies and realism checklists that are all the rage in certain circles. I sincerely hope I'm preaching to the choir.

  17. Yeah, I pretty much see it the same way. We overlook that which we choose to overlook – all of us are guilty of it sometimes.

  18. h

    I will gleefully take this statement (perfectly in context, of course) as a reference to Stannis Baratheon. Thank you. Thematically speaking, things have most certainly come full circle.

    Maru etc

  19. l

    Stupidity is a bit harsh.

    Everything that set up to the episode's finale in which Eren goes headstrong against the Colossal Titan has been one of finest character developments in recent anime history, if you ask me.

  20. You're certainly welcome to that opinion, but what does it have to do with stupidity? The only place I see that word in either the post or comments is where I suggested it as a possible cause for the best fighters from the cadet class being sent as far away from the Titans as possible, and that has nothing to do wuth Eren.

  21. l

    Oh, my bad, I actually meant those to be two irrelevant opinions.

    For the first one, I'm not sure if I am misreading your sentence or if you mistyped a letter. I was referring to the line, "It's the tone that sparked the thought in me – the loud, relentless, heady mix of GAR and stupidity than defines everyone's behavior." If you did in fact mean "that" instead of "than" then I stand by my opinion that it is a bit harsh to call the characters defined by stupidity, or any mixture that involves half of it. I do however agree that the word might just fit the bill with the cast of JJBA, just because they are a breed of their own, indeed.

    I guess my second statement could qualify as a counter to your claim of everything being more than dramatic. I do feel that there's a sufficient amount of calmer and more sincere happenings, such as the three mains' brief bonding outside. Additionally, the comedy does well in administering a more day to day vibe. All in all, I was just implying that the happenings in the past four episodes were a very impressive build-up to Eren and the others' growth.

  22. I do see where you're coming from, though I think you're taking it a bit more broadly than I intended it. To be blunt I think there's a whole lot of dumb behavior on display in the first four episodes here – some of it from Eren though by no means all. And some (but not all) of it seems to be intentionally depicted as such. I don't think pointing that out is the same as saying the characters are stupid, period. I don't think that and never intended to imply I did.

    The comedy helps, no doubt. But I don't see a lot of tonal variation, to be honest – this series seems to be going at one emotional speed to me, and that's "runaway train". I really don't feel any emotional connection to the characters, and that's the biggest reason why I think this is a very good rather than great series. I think the arc for Eren (I don't really see Mikasa or Armin as having had any arcs at all, yet) has been strictly formula.

    In some ways it reminds me a bit of another series, Kingdom, in the way the emotions play out, the action is non-stop and the violence relentless. This series is better in many respects (far, far better visually) but I think that series actually does a better job of character development using this style, at least based on the first four episodes here.

  23. h

    Agreed with Enzo — more so if the connotation of "stupidity" as written concerns the 2-fold "ignorance" of the characters regarding both the true nature of the events unfolding around them and their own relationships with one another, where both forms represent an arguably accurate manifestation of naive, youthful brashness.

    Them 30-yr-olds…

  24. l

    Fair.

    I can somewhat agree to that. While there are definitely different genres (comedy, drama, action) portrayed here, it all still inter-meshes to one over-arching tone, which I agree can be described as "runaway train." I see it in the sense that there is a variation of lighter moods while still maintaining the predominant one, something that takes skillful execution to accomplish. In that sense, I do find myself invested enough in the characters.

    In that case, I look forward to comparing the two series. Kingdom has been on my to-watch list for a while now, ever since I instituted it as a "Series You Really Should've Watched" alongside Chihayafuru and Space Brothers.

  25. E

    As someone who has also read the manga, I don't think it's all that great and all. Yeah, people tend to be unfair. When it comes to sci-fi, they are picky about a lot of things, and when it comes to fantasy, everything are forgiven (?). Hey, how could this happen? How could that happen? Because they are magic, bro. The laws of physics (mass, momentum, equivalent energy exchange) don't apply here.

  26. K

    What magic?

    There should be no difference between fantasy and sci-fi. In any setting you need to establish laws and not break those laws.

    Titans isn't perfect but it has put a lot of thought into its world building so I do give it credit for that.

  27. E

    Well… there is at least one occasion where a titan pulled a brand new skill / ability out of her arse. Saying more will be a spoiler, so I am going to stop here.

  28. s

    All…well most of those plot holes will be explained in due time

  29. i

    Much better than the first two episodes for me. And after that dinner scene it is like Jojo.

    I think there are two ways to make an audience care for characters. Firstly through creating a human connection based on emotions, doubts and desire, Taichi being an example of this. The second way is easier, humor. I might not still give too much of a crap about them but at the very least I won't not bat an eye if they're crushed underfoot.

    Couldn't the coincidental appearance of a Colossal Titan be just for dramatic effect?

  30. t

    I think a somewhat big part of the over the topness is due to Araki's direction of the anime,it's already kind of there in the manga but the anime takes it up a notch,remember,this is the guy that brought to you the "i'll take a patato chip…AND EAT IT" scene in death note and the matrix boobs in HoTD, subtlety is not part of his vocab.

    What will probably be frustrating for anime viewers is that this season might not even get to the part of the story where we start getting some hints at the mysteries like how did they build the wall and such.

  31. Well, it is what it is. If you're going that route, I guess you may as well go all-in.

    If sales are as good as I expect (very) I would imagine a second season is a very real possibility.

  32. Z

    It's not even an issue of Sci-fi versus fantasy (although people are free to take it that way if they are so inclined). Mecha is a subgenre of Sci-fi in which viewers are already expected to accept a few concessions. One must accept the principles of a working bipedal tank that weighs a tonne and has all the maneuverability of a human body. They are hardly the most practical design. Perhaps their is some advantage on terrestrial environments, but when in space there is no real advantage to that form factor. Of course we all know that the real reason for that shape is allusions to knights in armour and of course the 'cool' factor.

    The problem isn't the genre, but setting the ground rules and then sticking to them. Instead Valvrave makes the rules up as it goes along.

  33. H

    This series definitely has a lot of the same hard to swallow qualities that Valvrave does, although I think that the characters in Titan have been a bit more consistent in their motivations and actions. The end of the episode was one of those things that makes little sense, if you're up on this wall that's the highest thing around, you can't see a giant red guy coming up? Instead he pops up "Oh HAI!" right next to them? Never mind that the first time he showed up, there was all sorts of ground shaking associated with it, but none this time? That's the kind of stuff I think needs explanation (and the giant wind that blows everyone off the wall?).

  34. K

    Yeah sure both Titans and Valvrave are over the top and over dramatic but Titans to me has the more compelling and intelligent narrative.

    So to me it's not that Titans is without faults, it is easier to overlook those thoughts when the series gives me other things to chew on.

    Anyways my main worry about this series is it won't leave things open and will have an original ending. I never trust anime original endings so I sincerely hope they don't go that route.

  35. I certainly don't disagree this is has the more compelling and intelligent narrative. I just think it's funny that the one show has obsessed haters gnawing on every frame, and this one seemingly gets a pretty much free pass for its own often clumsy narrative style.

  36. K

    Well I personally don't hate Valvrave. To me it is similar to how I feel about Code Geass, entertaining show but not much else. There is nothing about it I actively dislike, it's just pretty much what I expected from the show.

    I don't think Titans is without faults but it does give me stuff to think about. I guess that makes it easier to overlook its faults because it has more strengths.

  37. A

    Setting aside the already mentioned flaws or the yet-to-be-explained plot holes of this series, the ending for this episode was epic. Those action scenes with the 3D maneuver gear are so damn awesome!

  38. s

    I wouldnt say the narrative for Kyojin is clumsy at times; It's not perfect but i think a better word is "rough around the edges". The main things titan does with its narrative, it at least does right, even though the characters are still 2-dimensional. I'm a stickler for character depth; a show can lose a lot of points for me if the characters aren't well done, but for titan, at least this far in the narrative, the lack of character depth has yet to make it suffer. The show is an assault on the senses and that's what it does best and that's what it does pretty damn good.

  39. M

    Valvrave shot itself in the foot for trying to be something it isn't. A complex and compelling mecha drama brimming with preposterous fun and flair – Basically everything Code Geass happened to be. It's fairly evident that all it exists for is to sell more merchandise.

    SnK has had a clunky start but it has the stylistic touches, confounding mysteries and intelligent originality to look beyond this. I think the pace has suffered for the direction they took in this training arc, but it has introduced some interesting side characters to the mix. I don't think it's any big wonder that they send the exceptional to protect the top brass in the inner walls – they are supposedly the be-all end-all of humanity.
    I've been totally thrown off by the rapidly aging character designs; it's so jarring that it must have some key relevance to the mysteries latter on.
    I'm also suspicious of Mikasa's genetic perfection. Perhaps the father's serum did have some larger involvement in the genetics of this show – which would indeed pull in the sci-fi elements descriptors have promised.

    This story at its core is a compelling vengeance story that holds enough originality to forgive odd artistic choices (they seem to be recruiting newbies) or character obscurities. The mysteries could either hinder or elevate the material, but certainly match the eerie tone making it worth sticking around for. And I might add Kaji Yuuki has definitely found his comfort in older Eren. Hopefully the writers use his venerability to good effect.

  40. B

    This show really isn't connecting with me right now. I hope it will get better as time goes on but for me right now it's reminding me too much of SAO. By that I mean it's got a fascinating world and overall plot but it's struggling when it comes to executing on that. In both cases the biggest part of that is the characters. I just haven't connected with these characters at all, which makes it hard to care about the broader conflict. The titan that appeared in this episode could eat every character that was up on that wall and my reaction would be "meh, oh well." The characters have to propel the drama forward and so far they just aren't doing so for me.

  41. M

    Umm… Can't wait for your next episode review.

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