Now that’s more damn like it.
While enduring the seemingly endless Groundhog Day that was “Defense of Trost”, I couldn’t help but think of the succession of chapter titles Togashi-sensei used during the “Greed Island” arc of Hunter X Hunter:
“To Masadora! Part 1”
“To Masadora! Part 2”
“To Masadora! Part 3”
“Are They Really Going to Masadora?”
“They Got to Masadora, But…”
“Already Been to Masadora so Next Time Let’s Use Some Other Title!”
Now in point of fact Togashi wasn’t actually repeating himself at all in story terms, just laughing at his own laziness and the conventions of shounen chapter titles. Shingeki no Kyoujin, by contrast, was recycling both literally and figuratively for the better part of ten episodes – and it was only with the vastly improved episode 13 (which probably should have been about episode 7, and from what I’ve heard would have been if the manga had been adapted more literally) that things took a turn for the better. Like a great wounded beast, Attack on Titan lumbered to its feet with a thunderous groan and the story finally jerked forward, and things actually got resolved to the point where the story could progress.
Having had a week off because of the recap episode, it was interesting to reflect on AoT. In truth, it wasn’t a show I thought about much because it’s been so long since it was really riveting that I’d almost forgotten what I liked about it. Almost, but not quite – and when we see taut, smartly-written material like we did this week it’s easier to understand why this is such a popular series. I happened by a doujin fair today and as they’re free and air-conditioned, stopped in. And while this was primarily a fujoshi-themed event judging by the row after row of Inazuma Eleven and Prince of Tennis circles, one entire side of the hall was dedicated to Shingeki no Kyoujin. This is a series that seems to have limitless commercial reach, with appeal to every corner of the demographic market – but it’s been too long since we’ve seen any of the substance to back it up. We got a bit in episode 13, and more this week. May the rest of the series follow in their footsteps.
This show seems to be at its best when it focuses on the ugly, petty nature of the state of its humanity (all the more reason to suspect that humans are the top boss). Predictably, Eren’s miraculous transformation has become a political hot potato and grist for the rumor mill, with each group seeing it through their own selfish perspective. The folks inside Wall Sina see him as a threat, as he might team up with that Wall Rose trash and attack them. The unwashed masses on the outside of Wall Sina see him as a potential savior to retake Wall Maria and with it, give them a chance to spread out and thrive again. The police want to dissect him – The Recon Corps wants to use him as a weapon.
And into the middle of all this steps Supreme Commander Dallas Zackley (Tezuka Hideaki). In a show full of larger-than-life characters (that’s the charitable term) Zackley is pretty low-key – a dour, bearded old fellow who betrays no histrionic character traits. He’s in-charge of all three armed branches – police, recon, garrison – and it’s his job to decide who “gets” Eren, and indeed whether he lives or dies. I thought the sequence leading up to Eren’s court-martial was rather well-done – it was tense, and struck a balance between bombast and believability that this series has often struggled to find under the hyper-aggressive Araki Tetsuo. I’m not exactly a fan of Levi – he seems like a psychopath to be honest, though I’m not so sure Eren isn’t too – but Erwin is Sphinx-like enough to be an interesting mystery (holding his cards close to the vest makes him a real rarity in this cast, where unspoken thoughts are as rare as four-leaf clovers), and I’m always glad to hear Paku Romi. Her Hanji Zoe is immediately interesting in a way few characters in AoT have been so far – weird without being psychotic, amusing, and clearly smart. I hope we see a lot more of her.
There was never any doubt the Recon Corps would “win” the trial – clearly they have the edge in brains over the police, and the merchant and priest were buffoons to the point of being comic relief. The only question for me, really, was whether Zackley was on the up-and-up or whether he’d decided the whole thing in advance with Pixis, though the execution of the “plan” – namely Levi kicking the shit out of a shackled Eren and enjoying himself – seemed to indicate the decision was legitimately uncertain. In any event the prospect of the story following Eren and the Recon Corps in a mission outside human territory seems to offer promise to take the series in an interesting direction – they’re more interesting than most of the cast, generally, and I’m more drawn to the prospect of events unfolding in the badlands than spending more time cooped up behind city walls. I’m not ready to declare Shingeki no Kyoujin all the way back, but I’m more optimistic – and interested – now than I have been since the defense of
Masadora Trost began.