Shingeki no Kyojin – 18

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Crank the intensity meter up to eleven for that one.

Still hopelessly backlogged and I’m going to be playing catchup for a while, so short posts look like the norm for a few more days.  That said, it’s been a pretty solid weekend for anime, and Attack on Titan continues its very solid run of episodes over the last few weeks.  You have to figure the anime was pretty much preaching to the choir with this episode – lots of cartoonishly gory and silly carnage and non-stop action – but that’s fine, as this is a mode the series can obviously pull off very well.

As usual, there’s a strong sense here that there’s much more happening in Shingeki no Kyojin than meets the eye.  Even without the veritable avalanche of troll spoiler comments after last week’s episode a lot of us had a good guess about just who the female titan might be, and nothing that happened this week seems to argue against that theory.  But the main wrinkle this week is trying to figure out just what Cmdr. Erwin has in mind.  The purported aim of caching supplies seems like a cover.  That most of his troops seem to be in the dark about his intentions is obvious; that he gave conflicting information to his own forces is indisputable.  Why?  It seems likely he’s trying to smoke out the traitors responsible for killing Sawney and Bean, though it isn’t immediately clear just yet what his trump card is, or how far he’s willing to go – and how much he’s willing to sacrifice – to achieve his true goals for the mission.

It’s interesting to see Shingeki seemingly turn more and more to Armin as a point-of-view character, though it was always suggested by the fact that he seems to be relaying the events of the series in retrospect.  He’s certainly more interesting than either of his friends, at least so far, but it’s nice to know that Isayama seems to get that too.  Armin is the one who always strives to see both the forest and the trees (he had plenty of both this week), seemingly adroit at both strategy and tactics (which is relatively rare).  He doesn’t always share what he knows with the audience right away – AoT isn’t that sort of show – but he’s usually the one in the lead when it comes to sniffing out the truth.   My gut instinct is that while that makes him potentially useful to guys like Pixis and Erwin, it also makes him dangerous to them – and to the other forces controlling events in this mythology.

While this episode was quite good start to finish, it was really the last five minutes or so that stood out.  When the center column disappeared into the forest and the recon formation basically disintegrated as the flanks had to detour around it, there was a delightful sense of all hell breaking lose. Almost no one knew what was happening, death was closing in, and events were spiralling faster and faster (much like the poor sap who fell victim to the female titan).  It was tense, thrilling and gruesome – all things Shingeki no Kyojin tends to be when it’s on-form.  Unlike the violent thrashing about that went nowhere for weeks in Trost, this wasn’t simply noise – it was driven, focused action that drove the plot forward and presented a set of real consequences that felt like they mattered.  That was true right up to the “Cover your ears” cliffhanger ending, which strongly suggests that while his cohorts might now know, Levis is in on whatever scheme Erwin is perpetrating.

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  1. R

    The second half of the series feels like a completely different show from the first half. The characters behave more like the characters in the story, and the plot is surely getting intriguing — it piques my interest and makes me care. This arc is a good page-turner. By the way, I haven't seen Hanji…wondering where she is…

  2. R

    I'll paste a comment I posted on reddit, Episode 17's thread. It's my opinion on why the second part feels different. I'm reading the manga but there are no spoilers below.

    Sorry if I had already posted something similar here in one of the past AoT posts.

    It's a shonen manga published in a monthly magazine. Naturally, it needs IMPACT to get started, otherwise, people won't notice it and won't spend money on it.
    It's common knowledge how ruthless the industry is. At the start, it's either success now or die. This largely explains why the first part of the series is so ridiculously engaging (for the people looking for light entertainment) and lacking (for the people looking for substance in their entertainment).
    To achieve that, the author HAD to leave many of the "slow" aspects of a great story for later: character depth, smooth pacing, world building, and dialogue were sacrificed for IMPACT NOW (action, violence, tragedy, shock, etc.).
    A year after its debut, the manga reached 12 chapters and was getting done with the first arc. It managed to get the commercial success it needed. So, what happened after that?
    By the end of the Trost arc, the author wrote the training arc and the chapters that came before the currently airing Expedition arc (Note: This means that the manga readers knew even less about the characters during the first part of the story!). And set everything up to tell the tale he intended to. Now with far less pressure than before when it comes to reaching those commercial goals.
    I don't know if you were keeping track with the latest episodes, but if you did and still have some respect left for it, you should definitively notice a change on the atmosphere and how the show carries itself. Eren barely had a scene in EP17 and it's probably one of the best episodes aired to date.
    Anyway, after Trost, the plot start to get many layers of complexity. The actors and factors involved multiply. It seriously embraces the military genre. There's an entire episode dedicated to SCIENCE, that raised more questions than the ones it answered.
    Overall, it's completely debatable whether Titan deserves its mass praise or not, but it's undeniable that it stopped being so simple. It gained a lot of substance now that it's not pressured to get popular instantly.

    Not telling you to ignore the flaws. I know they are there, but I think it's at least interesting to understand why they are there.

  3. L

    That might be why us manga readers see the story as very detailed and concise, while some anime-only viewers complain about it being mostly bark, no bite.

    On the other hand, because Isayama had to build characters late, I remember being totally confused who was who until much later (than even now), which wasn't helped by the fact that everyone looked similar in his rough, inconsistent art each month. The anime does it a ton better when it comes to art and chronology, so it's mostly praise to the anime team from me.

  4. Richard, in spirit I agree with most of your comment. The series has gotten better and the tone has changed. Part of the improvement comes on the change in character focus – Armin, Jean, Reiner and Erwin are more interesting than Eren or Mikasa. But I don't agree that a shounen series should get a complete pass on character-building for the first arc because of the demands of the genre – there are plenty of shounen series that disprove that.

    In fairness, it seems the problems associated with Trost are worse in the anime, because of how long the sequence was drawn out for plotting purposes. If it had ended in three episodes, it wouldn't have been a big deal. My feelings about the lack of interesting character content in the first couple of arcs wouldn't have changed, but that's what it is.

  5. i

    I finally caught up with AoT and GE was right (bit of streak you've been on with recommendations) that it has improved significantly, or rather that I've become use to. But with only one Eren rant, and that too the only which deserved to be dished out, the change in OP has come with a good flush of episodes.

    My thoughts on the episodes so far:
    That blonde girl, who beat Eren in training at hand-to-hand combat, is the titan because of the nose.
    The OP suggests to me that Mikasa might be one as well.
    These walls were once a fortress that held Titans for research but the giants broke out and the place of humans and titans reversed.
    Bean and Sawney were killed with Erwin's knowledge. I think he and others don't want crazy potato eater look a like but with glasses scientist to find out titans true nature.
    There's some kind of elaborate trap set up for the female titan in the forest.

    One complaint I have is that why no one immediately realized that going into the forest was an advantage for them as they could use their spidey powers properly there unlike open ground. If memory recalls they had a training episode in a forest itself.

  6. R

    Mikasa's scar did not heal.

  7. s

    It's good to see that the series has hit its stride; to me it has always had the potential to do this but could never figure out how to go about showing this potential until recently so good stuff there. Short post or not, they are still good reads and hope everything is working out well for ya Enzo; between what you're going through and blogging one should wonder when you ever have time for yourself

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