Damn, but the mystery aspect of this series is really interesting. To be honest I still rarely find myself caring much whenever a character says anything (apart from last week’s ep, which was very effective) and I think Mikasa’s audience-pandering Knute Rockne moment this week was not nearly so different from Eren’s constant GAR proselytizing as his detractors and her fanboys would like to think. But the action is top-notch and the plot just continues to take us deeper into the rabbit hole, and that’s more than enough to make Shingeki no Kyojin a good watch.
For whatever reason, the thing that popped into my mind as I watched the major development this week was Soylent Green – or more specifically, its most famous line of dialogue “Soylent Green is people”. There’s the obvious fact that much of the series is taken up with lovingly patient scenes of merrily smiling titans messily devouring humans, but it goes deeper than that. I still don’t know what the connection between the two species is, but I can’t shake the feeling that Eren’s soul is somehow inhabiting the body of that titan-attacking titan. It’s loud, it loves to kill titans – that should be enough evidence right there – but Mikasa’s comment that it “sounded like the embodiment of human rage against the titans” was probably the thing that sealed the deal for me.
Of course, I can’t back that notion up with hard facts – hard facts seem to be in short supply where Attack on Titan’s conspiracies are concerned. But one thing’s for sure – that titan is quite different from any we’ve seen before, and the timing is highly suspicious (as is the fact that as far as I can recall every appearance by a previously unknown type of titan has happened in Eren’s presence). Not only is it the first sign we’ve seen of titans attacking each other, but this one was distinctly more human in its demeanor, musculature, and its attack style. In short – as Mikasa pointed out – it seemed to fight like a person would, right down to the classic boxing stance. Another giant (pun intended) anomaly raising more giant question marks – welcome to the world of SnK. (Whether any of this is on-target or not, please don’t refute or affirm anything in the comments!)
Scenarios continue to outstrip character development for me, and we had another excellent one this week. The civilians are safely evacuated, but the soldiers are stuck behind the giant wall without enough gas to scale it. Trapped inside the cage with the tigers, as it were – and the titans have the gas supplies surrounded, along with the support squads who were supposed to get the gas to the frontline troops. It suggests intent on the part of the titans if you ask me – they’ve headed straight for depriving the humans of their means of escape rather than fanning out through the city to hunt them down one by one – though whether it’s individual reasoning on their part (which seems unlikely based on the evidence we’ve seen) or the more intriguing possibility that they’re some sort of hive-mind under centralized control, I couldn’t say. Many of the troops have already given up, which leads to Mikasa’a aforementioned JoJo moment. It’s a crowd-pleaser, no doubt, though pretty low-hanging fruit from a dramatic standpoint.
More interesting is Mikasa’s interaction with Armin, and the way she reacted to the news of Eren’s supposed death. She went into dead-eyes mode again, but she didn’t abandon Armin and the others, though from everything we’ve heard from her up to now it seemed as though protecting Eren was her sole purpose in life. Her mission to go off and kill all the titans surrounding the depot – when she knew she didn’t have enough gas to do so even if it were possible – certainly had the whiff of an intentional suicide run to it, but it did shame the others into following her into the seemingly hopeless mission. She was certainly right in that no matter the odds against her, they were better than simply waiting until presented with the inevitable choice of suicide or being devoured. It’s only memories of Eren – and the thought that if she died, she can no longer remember him – that spur her into fighting for her life, when all else is lost. That and a stray pomegranate (fruit of life?), which certainly offers another example of Attack on Titan’s facility with offering up strange and iconic imagery.
If there’s a character element that I do find somewhat intriguing, it’s Armin. Just what is his role in all this, from the standpoint of character dynamic? Thus far he seems to serve no indispensable purpose apart from living out the “weakling dealing with feelings of inadequacy” trope. Mikasa appears to feel nothing approaching the affection or responsibility for Armin that she does for Eren. He offers no urgent personal motivation, apart from staying with his friends and eventually seeing the outside world. Yet he narrates the story, and his constant presence – even as a seemingly incidental appendage – suggests something more. He has the grace to feel shame over living and watching Eren die (though it wasn’t really his fault), and manages to muster the composure to realize that his survival is trivial for the group’s chances compared to Mikasa’s, which is why he quite rightly gives up his remaining gas to her (“Just leave me one small blade”). Perhaps Armin’s role is simply to provide a kind of viewer’s perspective in all this, someone who’s as frightened and horrified by events in the story as any sane person would be – but I hope it turns out to be something more essential and compelling that that.