Shingeki no Kyojin – 06

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This was really the first episode of Shingeki no Kyojin that played exactly like what I was expecting before the series premiered.

I’ve made a point not to look at any reactions to this week’s episode of Attack on Titan before posting, but if I’m going to guess, it’d be that it’s the least well-received episode by the bulk of the audience.  Because it was easily my favorite, and at the way things seem to be going with this show I more or less expect to be in the minority no matter what I say.  I’ve enjoyed the first five episodes a lot – especially the premiere – but not on the same level as I did this one.

It would be tempting to make a smart-ass remark and attribute that to the relative lack of Eren – and I won’t deny it was a factor – but it goes a lot deeper than that.  To start with, for the first time I really felt Shingeki no Kyojin on a human scale (apart from the moment in the first episode when Eren’s mother said “Don’t leave…”).  The first five eps were a thrill ride, but given the type of things that were happening I really shouldn’t have been laughing nearly as often as I did.  There was simply no time to breathe, and the events played out with such bombast and in such a preposterous way that I felt very little emotional connection to them.  For the first time most of this ep was spent with people talking rather than shouting, and the moments of intense action were intermittent rather than non-stop.  There was enough time to digest what was happening – intellectually and emotionally.  And in my view, that’s a good thing.

I also liked the fact that we got a chance at last to get beneath the wafer-thin characterization of Mikasa and Armin.  I had hopes for Armin as a potentially compelling main character – not so much because of anything he’s done, but because we know so little about him that at least the possibility existed that there might be more to him, and I’m not sure I saw that with Eren or Mikasa.  I don’t know that this episode changed that definitively, but it at least began to expose the character a little.  He’s weak physically – we know that – and he’s smart.  But what compels Armin, apart from the facile explanations we’ve been given?  How does he feel about depending on Eren and Mikasa to protect him?  Finally we began to get some answers to those questions, especially the latter – he has a long way to go before he’s really interesting, but given the limited options for interesting major characters so far, a lot depends on Armin getting there.

As for Mikasa, this was obviously a crucial episode.  Basically, up to this point she’s been a robot – a seemingly emotionless girl who’s a serious badass and absolutely committed to protecting Eren at all costs.  There were suggestions that his family had taken her in after a tragedy, but not the nature of it – and with no clues from the character as to why she felt the way she did about Eren, nothing to latch onto as a viewer.  I’m not crazy about character flashback episodes as a rule, but this one was handled well.  If any character ever needed humanizing it’s Mikasa, and seeing her frightened and terrorized certainly helps that cause.  And given what happened, it’s now perfectly understandable why she feels so strongly about Eren – he was strong when she wasn’t, and he saved her from a terrible fate.  I still find him pretty hard to take, but this was about the right dose.  I won’t be counting the minutes until whatever trick Isayama-sensei uses to bring him back to life is revealed, though, if I’m to be honest.

That flashback was important for many reasons, plot-wise as well as character (not least in that in showing us Eren’s father, it reminds us to wonder just what’s happened to him).  There was one very big bombshell dropped – this world is sometime in our distant future.  We know this because Mikasa’s kidnappers discuss how she might have extra value because she’s an “Oriental” – a member of an extinct race of humans from ancient times, when there were many such races.  If anything this only strengthens my instinctual feeling that the Titans are directly connected to humans – created by humans, perhaps, or somehow from them.  And the evidence only mounts that humans might be the true villans of this piece, not Titans.  The implication is certainly that a slave market exists – we can imagine what Mikasa was to be marketed as – and in “present” times we see the escaping Trost civilians endangered because a wealthy merchant has blocked the exit trying to escape with his fat cart o’ gold (or whatever’s inside it – slaves, for all we know).  Mikasa puts a stop to that of course – though she stays her blade long enough for the merchant to surrender the case.

Mikasa’s revelatory moment was when she stared at Eren being throttled by the last surviving kidnapper and realized that “The world is a merciless place” – or rather, that she’d known it all along.  That tells you a lot about who she is, and it’s interesting that Armin had almost the identical realization in the present – that he hadn’t just descended into Hell, but that the World had been Hell all along.  This somber, tragic mood is what I thought might be the prevailing wind in Shingeki no Kyojin, but this was really the first episode where the relentless sensory onslaught paused often enough for that feeling to sink in.  It’s not as though Mikasa and Armin (or Eren for that matter) have suddenly become compelling characters or that the series has overnight become as compelling a character drama as it is a mystery/thriller – but it’s a start.  In anime as in cooking, it’s usually best to have different flavors play off each other rather than overwhelm the senses with one.  I don’t expect Attack on Titan to abandon it’s blistering action and violence and become a sober reflection on tragedy, nor would I want it to, but more episodes like this one would be a welcome contrast and make those runaway train eps that much more effective.

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  1. i

    Indeed it is the best so far, Mindless action can only go so far. That's why HxH is so good. Lack of Eren, excellent. Regeneration likely similar to titans. Shin Sekai Yori was futuristic world with less technology. Expect similar with AoT but not as good. Humans created Titans as WMD. #Titansaremoe

  2. R

    Eren was a weird kid. Easily able to track three men into the wild and kill them without any hesitation or to even be slightly fazed by his actions afterwards.
    Was Eren a child soldier or is he just a born killer?

  3. H

    Eren is just a psychopath, pure and simple. If it wasn't obvious before then it's obvious now. If it weren't for the titans he'd probably be a serial killer.

  4. f

    You brought up a good point. It really made me think a lot. I think this episode really puts his titan-killing obsession in context.

  5. E

    A really good point there. I have never thought too deep into it and let flashback be flashback. Maybe he has killed people even before this? Scary… kid…

  6. S

    Nice Haylias. That just makes perfect sense, and makes Eren so much more believable. I can't believe I didn't think about that myself.

  7. A

    The alternate title for this episode would be "The Kids are not alright"

  8. Which could have worked just as well for this week's Oreimo…

  9. A

    LOL.Very true!

  10. R

    TL Note from the manga:

    It's been going on for a while now but in Japanese, Eren's way of saying "to the last" -一匹残らず- (ippiki nokorazu), uses "ippiki" (一匹), which is a counter for small animals and bugs, instead of the more appropriate "ittou" (一頭), which covers the big ones. This is a means to convey his scorn.

    If you go back to the anime, you'll hear him say this several times and you'll now understand why he was getting such weird looks.

    Eren was a well-oiled hate machine.

  11. a

    Eren justifies his actions in this episode by saying he killed "beasts that just happened to look human" so I think that might be a bigger example of his scorn lol. Really the psychopath explanation just makes too much sense.

  12. N

    Eren is the logical conclusion or origin of the Burning Spirit.

  13. l

    … more episodes like this one would be a welcome contrast and make those runaway train eps that much more effective

    I very much agree with this. Until this episode, there was nothing much we know about the main characters.

  14. K

    Eren's peculiar sense of justice as a kid definitely makes me inquisitive about the events prior to the tragedy of Mikasa's family. I'm gonna take a wild hunch that it is because he has already realized that the world he's living in is merciless at a very young age. No?

  15. d

    Agreement in that the series has been a great thrill ride, but it's also been blatantly manipulative from the "don't go" scene to the mustache twirling villains played straight. I don't think human scale can happen unless it happens organically. The button pushing works with the rousing "here come the hero(s)" moments, but that tends to work with all blockbusters. Despite all that, this is still worth watching.

  16. I think they got closer to honesty this week than they have in any other episode, let's put it that way.

  17. A

    Apparently all medical doctors in this reality train their children in the arts of stealth, deceit, and methodical assassination from a very young age.

    I didn't really care for the first couple episodes because of the small pieces of unnecessary drama. Having already read the manga, the only thought in my mind was "how long until we get to the good part…". But then episode 3 came up, and suddenly I started having the time of my life.

    I don't think this should be looked at as some sort of compelling work of literature about humans being human when pushed against a wall. This is a story about humanity fighting back, about holding your ground in the face of overwhelming odds. Anything more than that is a bonus.

    Well, at least that's what the soundtrack and the jojo dialogue were telling me. The selection of the top 10, the entire exchange against the colossal titan, the first shouting charge of the new recruits, and now Mikasa's Heroic BSOD. These are scenes that I've rewatched over and over at full volume just because of how uplifting they are. I don't know how it looked like to other people, but personally, these past few episodes have been a lot of fun just for being able to get my blood pumping like that at regular intervals.

  18. R

    You know what's more unstoppable than an Armored Titan?

    Shingeki no Kyojin pre-orders.

  19. R

    Forgot to add the Stalker's over-optimistic prediction;

    最終予測累積ポイント Blu-ray:67973pt(残り日数65)
    最終予測累積ポイント DVD:18200pt(残り日数65)

    This means that if the preoders go on at this pace (they most likely won't, unless it really is the new Bakemono), We'll see around 80k first week BD+DVD sales, not counting storefront numbers. Insane.

  20. It's no surprise that this is going to be a big seller (though it won't be as big as that prediction – stalker numbers notoriously overestimate shows at the top end of the numbers). The big hype show of the season generally sells a ton at least for the first couple of volumes, and this one has the added benefit of being quite good (not that it matters, usually). Look at the numbers SAO puts up.

  21. R

    Oh well…. it just took over Eva3.33's spot.

    **1位/**2位 ★ (*12,058 pt) [*,822予約] 13/07/17 進撃の巨人 1 [Blu-ray]

    Ranked #1, let's see how for long it can hold that spot.

  22. K

    Did anyone think something is off with Eren's dad. When your child methodically tracks down and murders two people without the slightest bit of turmoil the first thing you would say would not be " I'm scolding you for putting his life at risk carelessly"

  23. R

    I agree Kamen — I still don't get Eren as a character. Where does his anger or the idea of "fight or die" come from? His parents seem to be kind and normal so far, and they all live in the same world under the same roof, so why is that his parents are calm and collected while he's always antsy and angry?

    Agreed Enzo — the is a much better episode for me. I haven't read the manga and am sure that it's awesome judging from the hype this adaptation gets. The first few episodes gave us the setting and thrill — that's intense sensory feast, like Enzo said. For someone who doesn't know the story, I would have appreciated more for an episode like this earlier on so that I could connect better with the characters and feel the same as they were fighting for survival in the slimmest chance (This is why I love SSY so much — the creators made the characters come to live while telling its story so damn well). Well, it's still early on for AoT…hope that we see more on the characters.

    Just aside, I quite like the scene when Hannah was trying to save Franz. I still don't remember all the characters, but I do remember Franz. Hannah's desperate attempt for saving Franz was touching, and I wanted to know what had happened to Franz and if he really stopped breathing and died. Also, the idea that the Titans are connected to humans sounds pretty interesting and intriguing…it would be something that the humans are actually fighting against the humans and reaping on their bad karma. I would love to learn more on this.

  24. R

    You can't see it well because of the way they animated the scene but Franz was bitten in half

  25. R

    Thanks Riliane. Oh no, that means he's dead…

  26. J

    If you pay attention to the scene where it's shot from Hannah's back, you can see that there's nothing below his waist

  27. R

    Just re-watched that scene, and you're right Jeroz.

  28. C

    Guessing Eren has been "tampered" by his dad somehow, I mean He is pretty much going to recover from the wounds inflicted on Ep.5 (growing a leg and an arm not going to be easy) and today we get a glimpse of just how Psycho Eren is and his dad not even torubled by it. Maybe Eren has been "groomed" (read experimented on) to be a counter to the Titans.

  29. m

    this is also my favourite episode, or rather it had the most scenes i couldn't dislike… even without the GAR, it's so unsettling :D:D
    but seriously, mikasa going morgiana-mode just doesnt make sense. i mean… it just doesnt fit in that moment ><

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