Shingeki no Kyojin – 11

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It’s nice to see some forward movement, and it’s mostly thanks to one character.

I’m kind of torn about Dot Pixis, for the same reasons I’m of two minds about this episode itself.  I’m beginning to see now why Attack on Titan is apparently infamous among manga readers for the slow pace of the conspiracy plot.  It seems that Isayama plans to be about this for quite a long time, which is perfectly fine, but the result is sort of the opposite effect of what we saw in Red Data Girl.  There, we had a show that seemed to have a sort of ambling pace about it, yet always moved the plot forward tremendously with every episode.  Here, we have a show that’s relentlessly violent, GAR and action-driven, yet I’m always surprised when looking back an episode just how little of real consequence has actually happened.

None of that is really surprising: RDG is five novels compressed into one cour, and Shingeki is adapting a manga at the pace of barely a chapter per episode.  Stylistically the shows could hardly be more different, too.  I have no illusions we’re going to see anything remotely conclusive in the two cours of Shingeki running now – that will likely have to wait until the next series, whenever Production I.G. decides there’s enough material to produce it.  But at last we do at least seem to be moving forward with events of greater confidence than humans being eaten, screaming, people shouting at each other and smiling moe titans.  And Dot Pixis is the cause – he’s a catalyst if ever there was one.  He says what’s obvious but no one else is saying, and he seems quite willing to take risks in order to change the dynamics of the situation.

That last part certainly makes sense: given what the dynamics of the human-titan struggle are, I’d certainly want to change them any way I could.  But things just sort of happen in AoT, to the point where it strains credulity pretty hard.  We had an example last week in the reaction to Armin’s speech, and this ep was loaded with them.  There was the silliness of a senior officer listening to a pipsqueak cadet like Armin offer a tactical suggestion and saying “Okay, I’ll change the plan immediately” for starters.  The least hard-to-take is the idea that Pixis would decide to run with Armin’s larger plan without a scrap of evidence to back it up.  In real-life of course military commanders don’t do things like that, but this is hardly real-life, and Pixis has been presented as a pretty impulsive sort of fellow.  As well, as he eloquently explains, things are pretty darn desperate for the human race at the moment – necessitating reckless gambles perhaps.  And there’s the very real possibility that he knows much more than he’s letting on.

The problem for me is this repeated cycle of people coming to life-changing decisions, only to be persuaded by a couple sentences worth of argument to the contrary.   As soon as Pixis said “I’ll pardon anyone who leaves” half the garrison would have been out the door, rather than the 100% conversion rate we saw.  Patriotism is fine, but when staring the immediacy of a hideous death in the face, it takes more than a few pretty words to win over every single person in the audience.  As always with Shingeki no Kyojin, the premise itself outstrips the execution of it – the problem lies entirely with the behavior of the characters, not the story itself.  Of course the status quo can’t possibly work for humanity, and Pixis – whatever else he knows – indisputably knows that.

I’m interested in the “legend” Pixis tells Eren about, about ancient humans destroying each other in warfare over race and resources, until someone crafted the notion that a common enemy could “unite” humanity.  It’s too convenient to be totally true, sounds too close to the obvious theory most would draw based on the evidence we’ve been shown so far – but as with many legends, there’s probably a kernel of truth at the heart of it.  It’s seemed obvious for a long time that the titans were a human creation of some sort, or at the very least there’s both a connection with and a complicity with them among the human hierarchy.  Are they an experiment something like what Pixis describes that went out of control?  Were they designed to cull the human species, and are in fact to this day doing exactly what the human rulers intended for them to do – a sort of Committee of 300 solution?  I think Pixis knows the answer, whatever it is, and his conversation with Eren was his way of testing him by seeing how he responded.  And for the moment, it seems Eren passed.  And I have to give credit to Araki-sensei for breaking the taboo and giving us the rare spectacle of an underage teen actually drinking alcohol – even if he did spit it out.

What happened there at the end, when Eren seemingly turned on Mikasa?  Frustration over the way she condescends to him finally breaking out?  Indications that his control over the titan he’s able to summon is erratic?  As usual Isayama isn’t giving us much to work with in terms of hard evidence, but it seems very likely to tease yet another major layer of the mythology that’s going to be important in the long run (and with AoT it promises to be a very long run). We’ve spent 7 eps just on Trost already, and it seems as if only now is the real importance of the event starting to come into play.

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  1. G

    If you look at Pixis he would be the last guy you would think that ould give such a desperate plan a chance. His ass is to the wall and he is desperate to give humanity any kind of a victory and seeing as everything else they have done has led to massive loss of life why not gamble on this?

  2. K

    These soliders are the most easily lead group in all of history. Once again it takes them one speech to bring them back from the edge of despair. And for the second episode in a row, nothing really happened till the end. Just going around in circles till the end. It seems Eren's Titan form is determined by his emotional state. He wanted to kill titans, wanted to protect Mikasa and Armin, and now his frustration over Mikasa clinging to him.

    It definitely seems like Pixis knows something about it. It could be why he was sort of pushing the idea of moving the bolder to Eren. Maybe knowing that would be the trigger in getting his Titan form to do it.

  3. S

    Maaaaan, when I saw the pics of the elite team moving around the city (all looking awesome), I really wanted there to be some awesome music. You know, to sort of give it that rising feeling sort of like the Mikasa goes berzerk. And then end on a high note of BAM "We started the battle. Wait until next week!" but with the way Eren goes berzerk it makes sense.

    We need more of those awesome scenes like Mikasa going nuts! No lies, this series is just my action urge.

  4. E

    Judging from how the pacing goes, Isayama must be planning for this monthly manga of his to have 300+ chapters. I don't know if I still read manga then.

  5. l

    He's probably competing with Vagabond for the "Most Pointlessly Meandering Plot" award, but hey, look on the bright side – at least Eren hasn't started farming crops yet.

  6. I wonder if Vagabond is in the running for manga (let's say over the past 15 years) with most sales and no anime adaptation.

  7. M

    It's one of the legends people speculated that Musashi was farming crops while raising an orphan named Iori so the author is sticking to that, I guess.

  8. s

    I had always wondered about the alcohol thing in anime and why it seemed so ubiquitous for teenage characters to always be offered alcohol and refuse it (the exact opposite of what most teens would do). It just never seemed to occur to me that there was a social taboo of depicting it on TV.

  9. G

    When you are a few moments away from possibly being eaten alive by a giant who cares if ya are getting a few sips of hooch. Courage in a bottle!

  10. J

    Keep in mind at the soldiers are not running away solely due to fear, but the sense of helplessness and the desire to spend the last moments with the love ones Since they expected a repeat of what happened 5 years ago. Pixie's words pretty much told them that all is not lost and they can still do things to change the situation, and it's better to die contributing than a petty meaningless death. All you need is to shine a light in this situation to reinvigorate them, and that's what that speech does

  11. Yeah, OK. I'll pass on buying that, but clearly behavioral realism isn't what the mangaka and director are going for here.

  12. l

    Adding to what Jeroz said,
    To be fair, Enzo, we've all heard much, much worse speeches in films. Go to Youtube and search for "The Immortals Speech".

  13. I wouldn't use the standard of Hollywood films to build a defense around if it were me.

  14. E

    Unbelievable speech. But still one hundred times better than the maid speech in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha. That one really gives me… Double Facepalm!!

  15. R

    Bad speech but I can buy that some of the soldiers turn around again on the perspective of their loved ones getting eaten by the Titans. Fazit: Bad speech but I've seen worse.

  16. A

    Mm, yea, I think I'm more focused on omnomnom and characters being epic action stuff at this point as opposed to the plot being interesting. I'm a bit sick of "plot" and the NPCs are just that single minded here.

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