My reactions to Attack on Titan continue to be somewhat different than with most series. I find myself laughing at seemingly inopportune moments with alarming regularity, yet it doesn’t make me dislike what I’m seeing. I’m not sure whether this is because I sense that on some level that the show wants me to laugh, or because the atmosphere and dialogue is so absurdly grandiose that I don’t mind it emotionally misfiring. I suspect it’s a combination of both, but the further we go with Shingeki no Kyojin, the more I get the feeling that Isayama-sensei isn’t taking this all that seriously. I sense a trollish sense of humor lurking underneath this story.
The one thing we can say for certain, pretty much, is that AoT is going to be with us for a very long time. When shows sell as much as this one – the manga numbers are already astonishing, and it seems possible the anime could rival or even surpass Nisio Isin numbers – the powers that be will extract every once of life they can. Shingeki was announced as a two-cour series but you can bet there will be more, and soon – perhaps a continuation as soon as Fall or Winter. And movies, and OVAs, and more tie-ins like the Pizza Hut ad campaign blanketing Japan right now. This is a series that’s already made the transition from hit to phenomenon.
In his own way Armin is every bit as over-the-top a character as Eren and Mikasa. Among the main trio each of them are rather absurd in their own way. Mikasa is the stone-faced superhuman killing machine with maniacal loyalty to Eren, the send-up (and I’m more sure than ever that’s how he’s intended) of every over-the-top cliche of the bad shounen male lead. But Armin is just as much a caricature as the others, as witness his perpetual expression of wide-eyed, slack-jawed terror. The brainy but weak sidekick who forever frets about being a burden to the lead? Check – except here, Armin actually blurts all that out aloud (to us, anyway), practically writing a summary for the audience. Again, the growing sense for me is that he’s an intentional parody of the trope he represents, as is Mikasa – which makes you look at the rest of the cast in an interesting light, when you think about it.
All of that is what makes me kind of hope Jean becomes more of a focus character, because he’s the one person we’ve met so far who seems more of an individual than a caricature – but this probably isn’t that sort of show. Looking for realistic characters here is probably as futile as it would be in JoJo or Level E, series which exist to elevate the absurdities of shounen to comedic levels. And anyway, this week was all about giving Armin his showcase moment. I found the whole exercise of Eren coming up with “two plans” and then giving Armin 15 seconds to decide what to do pretty silly, but not quite as silly as the reactions of the soldiers to Armin’s speech. The initial gung-ho stampede to blow the three of them up seemed hasty to me, but all it took was a simple reminder from Armin – “Hey, did you notice that Eren’s titan was actually killing other titans and they were attacking him?” – to make the rank-and-file come around. Fortunately we have Verman to go into full asshat mode and restore insanity to the moment.
All of that, though, is really just a setup for the return of Dot Pixis to the scene after a five episode absence. He too seems cut from a very well-established mold – the brash and witty eccentric with the flask always at the ready, a military genius who plays by his own rules. He sets things to rights quickly enough, sending Verman off to organize reinforcements while he sets about trying to figure out just exactly what he has in Eren. The sheer strangeness and military potential of Eren would seemingly have been obvious to anyone, but it’s interesting to consider what Pixis may or may not know – I think that’s a key question when it comes to how he sees Eren. I wonder whose side Pixis is really on, when push comes to shove – which is all the more critical when you consider that we don’t even really know what the sides are, yet.
I found this week’s eyecatch infodump – all about the special yeast that keeps supplies from spoiling – to be quite interesting. All of these eyecatches have been spoilers and teasers to some extent or another, but this one especially seemed to come out of left field, which leads me to think it’s going to be a very significant plot point. The truth certainly seems to lie in that basement but as to how quickly the story gets there, I think that boils down to whether Pixis wants that truth to be revealed. If he’s on the up-and-up, finding a way to use Eren’s power to his own benefit should seemingly be priority #1-A – it’s not as if the war against the titans has exactly been a winner so far. A holding action at best, a series of disorganized retreats at worst – and if Pixis is both as smart as we’re seemingly being led to believe and loyal to the cause, why hasn’t he been able to make more of a difference?