Shingeki no Kyoujin – 20

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -3 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -11 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -21

Ever the tease, Attack on Titan once again shows how compelling it can be when it gets in (manoeuver) gear.

You know Shingeki no Kyoujin is in run-out-the-clock mode when it resorts to three-minute recaps, but they’re back.  Clearly it’s a matter of stalling for time to end the season at a specific point, but it’s really too bad, because apart from the Trost debacle this really is quite a good show, and it deserves better.  Not as good as its hype and BD/DVD numbers would suggest, maybe, but still damn good – and far better than most series that have achieved the blockbuster 30K threshold in the last few years.

Fortunately, this time around the stuff after the recap was really good – some of the best of the entire run, in fact.  It’s no secret why Shingeki comes alive on the rare occasions when Armin and Jean share screen time – they’re the two most relatable characters in the cast, the only ones who really act like a sensible person would act in such bizarre circumstances.  They’re also the most realistic in terms of what they know and what they guess based on what they’ve seen, though Armin sees a little farther than any normal person would.  That makes Jean’s perspective the most “normal” of anyone, but since Armin is supposed to be a genius I think that’s an allowance the audience should be willing to make.

Completing the trifecta, Erwin is interesting for entirely different reasons.  He’s a cipher most of the time, someone whose inner workings are almost entirely hidden from us.  But he’s interesting for his actions, because they clue us in that he’s the most dangerous, fearless and potentially clever commander on the human side.  In effect he’s fighting with one hand tied behind his back, because the enemy knows far more about him than he does about them.   Viewed in that context his actions make a lot of sense, though they could certainly be viewed as quite harsh.  If there was a theme this week, it was sacrifice (perhaps a bit too heavy-handedly, to be honest – having Armin spell it out explicitly was probably unnecessary) and Erwin is certainly willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve his larger goals.

If there was one moment this week I especially liked, it was when Erwin made the decision to punt and ordered the retreat.  It was beautifully presented – it felt as if one could feel all the conflicting emotions running through Erwin’s mind at that moment.  Clearly this was extremely galling for him – many of his elite troops had died in order to capture the female titan, and retreating when he did was effectively invalidating that sacrifice and declaring his master plan a failure.  But there was almost no hesitation – just one moment where he closed his eyes and allowed himself to be really pissed off, then a shouted order to retreat, because he knew that every second he delayed would mean more dead soldiers.  That was a nice illustration of the burden of command right there, and of the fact that Erwin is strong enough to carry it.

As for the female titan, it was certainly made clear that the #1 priority was protecting the identity of the driver, no matter whatAoT can be quite irritating in that it stubbornly refuses to reveal anything of significance (apart from the fact that Petra pissed herself on her first mission) outright – the gamesmanship gets a little old, to be honest.  But we’re creaking ever-closer to this sliver of the truth in spite of that.  I knew as soon as she let out that scream that Nice Ass was calling the other titans in – it was the only option she had left at that point, even if we’d seen no proof that it was possible.  It was pretty obvious what was going to happen – the human inside would escape in the chaos of steam and gore – and slip into spy mode again.  At least as a titan there was no question where the enemy was (assuming there aren’t multiple collaborators inside the Recon Corps, of course, which is a real possibility).  Now, Erwin is dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and one who’s willing to kill the other sheep to protect its own identity.

What seems to be happening here is that the enemy – whoever they may ultimately be – is being forced to bolder action because the threats against them are more immediate and dangerous.  The Recon Corps generally provide the greatest ongoing threat, but before Eren’s arrival on the scene it seemed they presented a limited danger – they could be picked off in bits and pieces every time they ventured outside the walls.  Eren’s presence is the game-changer here, a threat both to the identity of the enemy and in physical battle against them.  Eren they want to take alive – to see how he managed to obtain the ability they thought was theirs alone – but someone like Erwin would be a target for elimination altogether, seemingly.  Indeed, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of an obvious attempt to take him out, given that he’s obviously critical to the cohesion and strategic prowess of the Recon Corps, and there’s no obvious replacement waiting in the wings.

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Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -12 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -13 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -14
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Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -18 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -19 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -20
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Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -28 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -29 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 20 -30


  1. K

    I like Armin as character but I don't find him relatable the way Jean is at all.

    I mean sure Armin doesn't come off psychotic like some of the other characters but personally I can't relate to his way of seeing the full picture and coming up with strategies. He's a genius and I do appreciate his scenes (since I prefer strategy to action) but that doesn't make him someone I can relate to personally.

  2. Jean is more relateable overall, no doubt. I can relate to Armin because emotionally, his reactions make sense to me without being over-the-top histrionics. Intellectually he's a bit of a freak, to the point of being a plot-driver, but in terms of gut-level response he and Jean both connect with me.

  3. L

    My major gripe with the anime-Armin is that he turned into the guy who lays out everything for the audience. I don't remember his inner thoughts being so obvious before, but I feel this change was made specifically to target the amount of heavy-lifting we needed to read the manga.

    That plot-driver you're seeing is the end result… I sometimes feel like cringing whenever that happens.

  4. Z

    Liking a character is all that is really necessary IMHO. You wouldn't have people enjoying villainous characters despite not exactly being able to 'relate' to them. I've enjoyed many characters over the years for the exact reason that they were not at all like me.

  5. A

    While I wouldn't find it strange at all if it were true, I think it was Petra who wet herself on her first mission, rather than Sasha.

    I guess I'm a little sad that the dramatic speeches are still a thing even now, but at least it's not yet another variation of "I know it looks hopeless, but we have to fight or else we die!".

  6. Yeah it is. The funny thing is I caught that typo when I read through the draft and said, "go back and fix that", but then I forgot to fix it. Sad, really.

  7. C

    Speaking of typos, it should be either "maneuver" (American) or "manoeuvre" (very British), and since you're American, I'd go with the former. 😛

  8. Actually, manoeuver is also an accepted spelling.

  9. R

    You said 30K was blockbuster status, well the first volume has sold 75K and is still selling steadily. What should that be called? :O

  10. Yeah, I never said this was limited to 30K, but for me that's more or less the threshold for a blockbuster hit. I've been predicting (as has just about everybody) that this was going to be a huge seller since before it started airing, so it doesn't come as any kind of a shock.

  11. R

    Production I.G. is going to make an insane amount of profit off this show, I think it's having the best sales since Madoka Magika, and it doesn't look ridiculously expensive in the way that shows like Fate/Zero and Star Driver do. I'm hoping they invest some of the money they earn from this into making more artistic shows like Usagi Drop and Eden of the East.

  12. Z

    I hope they invest that money into more quality Sci-fi and other neglected genres.

  13. R

    Sales are going to drop to the 50k range for the following volumes unless it keeps selling strong over the weeks.

    I believe it's going to average around 55k. So, even when Vol.1 performed like a monster, I don't think it's going to be a record breaking show. The manga is a different story.

  14. i

    I already have my thoughts on who the traitor (likely forced into action rather than a willing accomplice) is but the backers seems to obviously be the highest level of government. Reason is we haven't even heard of them yet (I believe we've seen one useless, incompetent, fat, self-preservationist lord as the CA King would call him) and it usually is government when conspiracy is about. What I don't know is their motive? What could they possibly gain from trapping humans eternally within the walls, along with losing pieces of their land when titans attack? Do they want control, are they covering up a failed experiment (titans), do they have some ambitious human instrumental plan? Or are they just megalomaniacs so common with evil foes in shounen anime/manga?

    My honest opinion is that not even the mangaka knows. He's just building up a conspiracy for the sake of it rather than any meaningful theme or purpose (unlike Togashi). That's not a bad thing in itself but it just proves why AoT is content stringing us along – its keeping the suspense and interest high so we find it entertaining and as Enzo said break the Manabi line (was this what's called) hundred times over.

  15. n

    Uh no. The mangaka has said that he has this planned until the end.
    And if you read the manga you'll agree.

  16. A

    Not every mangaka/writer/show runner is Cris Carter – the X-Files creator – the classic guy who made it up as he went on, and as the calvin-ball got more and more obvious towards the end.

  17. R

    And here he is again, tuning in Attack on Titan and watching it every week even if he hates it.

    >He's just building up a conspiracy for the sake of it rather than any meaningful theme or purpose (unlike Togashi).

    Now you turned to fabricating your own assumptions and blind guessing to criticize the show.

    Where are your arguments to back this up? Why do you think the mangaka is writing this up on the go?

    >its keeping the suspense and interest high so we find it entertaining

    How is that a bad thing?

    See you next week.

  18. i

    Don't worry I'll be there with another set of complaints. If its an Eren based episode you can expect another mouthful on him and why Kaiji Yuki is 2nd on my list of people that need to disappear.

  19. J

    Can't wait for your post next week

  20. R

    Nice post, Enzo. This is indeed a good episode, and for the first time I can feel the despair. After plotting the detailed plan, setting the perfect stage to deceive the enemy, and sacrificing many, the mission still failed without making one small step forward. Like you said, my jaw dropped from the moment Erwin closing his eyes for a brief moment, calling for retreat to Hange and other soldiers showing expressions of defeat — the aftertaste from this sequence was despair for me. What the humans know about the titans is still so little, making it even more apparent how disadvantaged the humans are.

    This episode shows us more about Erwin and gives us answers to why he asked Eren the weird question when the test subjects were killed and why he exposed the confidential information and asked the new recruits if they could give up their lives when asked to in his welcome speech. This episode also adds meaning to what the Recon Corps actually stand for and what it takes to be one. Whether Erwin represents the good leader in real life can be controversial, but he absolutely fits for a good revolutionist that the situation in the story calls for. His vision is big; his drive is enormous, and his actions are bold — he's there to make a big change. I can't help but think of Squeeler of SSY, and I can't help but be amazed by how his followers firmly believe in his vision and put their lives on the line.

    AoT turns out to be a good page-turner, and I find myself wanting to know the answers. Where do all these titans come from and why? Who are those transformed titans and what are they scheming? Where is Eren's father and what secrets does he hold? Will there be hope for humanity? As for the next episode, it looks like it will be action-packed again, but I can't help but worry about the Levi team…

    By the way, I have a couple of questions. When Armin talked about those who demanded change, it showed Pixis, Erwin, and another character. Does anyone know who that is? Also, what chapter of the manga are we at and how many chapters are actually out? Thanks.

  21. D

    The other character Armin was thinking about was Ian, the commander of the elite squad that protected Eren as he moved the boulder in Trost. Relevant since he sacrificed nearly everyone, including himself, for the sake of the greater victory.

  22. C

    After watching this episode I started reading the manga, I had to. I have to say that after this everything will get better, next episode is going to be amazing and so will be the last one. Though if the anime sticks to the manga it won't resolve much stuff but it will go out with a boom. I just hope they'll make a season 2, if not the series will feel incomplete.

  23. Let's take that out, as it confirms something doesn't happen in the manga.

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