Attack on Titan edged out Space Brothers in the recap derby this week, coming in about 3:10. It’s irritating as hell, but at least you can see what they were saving the budget for. After a couple of weeks of subpar (by this show’s very high standards) animation, Production I.G. threw everything including the kitchen sink at this one, and in the process demonstrated once again why it’s not just sakuga animation that makes action scenes pop, but choreography too.
I’ll confess that this sort of all-in bombast isn’t my favorite side of Shingeki no Kyoujin, but you’ll get no argument from me that it does it very well indeed. When it comes to over-the-top Attack on Titan feels very much at-home – the action sequences were long, loud and bloody. The emotional speeches were GAR and a little silly, and the character deaths truly significant. Along with all that comes an admission from Smith that conventional thinking simply doesn’t work in doing battle with this enemy – they hold all the cards. If you’re going to go down in a splatter of gore anyway, you might as well take some huge risks if there’s even a narrow chance they’ll turn the tables in your favor.
As I mentioned in the post last time we sometimes see Armin slide into the role of “designated expositor” and so it was this week. He’s a smart kid, but when he explains things to Jean it’s pretty clear he’s explaining them to the audience (a nice symmetry, as Jean is the designated audience stand-in generally). Of course what Armin said is pretty much what I’ve been saying for weeks – Eren is the game-changer here, and his presence has the enemy worried in a way nothing else has for a very long time. It’s very clear from the actions of the female titan that nothing else really matters except taking Eren alive – the Recon Corps themselves (even Erwin) are strictly an obstacle to be overcome in achieving that goal. That the Recon Corps are so obviously humanity’s best fighting force yet represent no worry to the enemy is a testament to just how bad the odds were before, and just how much of a worry Eren’s existence is.
The entire expedition sequence has really been a preamble to Eren and Nice Ass finally doing battle. It’s been delayed and deferred and the merits of what Eren should do loudly debated, but the deaths of Petra, Auruo and Erd pretty much invalidated every decision they – and Erwin – had pushed on Eren up to that point. At the time I might have agreed with the notion that Eren’s survival meant everything, and it’s still a compelling argument. But equally true is that he’s really the only weapon that has a chance to inflict real damage on the enemy, and if you’re going to take it upon yourself to effectively use him as bait then you should probably be prepared to unleash him in the battle.
In the end, seeing the deaths of the squad caused Eren to unleash himself, and with a rage we haven’t seen in one of his transformations. It seemed as if there were moments where the female titan was genuinely frightened during their battle, and indeed times when it seemed as if Eren would have the upper hand. While his ability to retain some sense of himself during titan time is clearly progress, it’s just as clear that he’s a rank amateur compared to Nice Ass when it comes to maximizing his abilities. Their battle royale was beautifully done, right up to the moment where she did… something (we aren’t shown what, but Eren clearly doesn’t like the look of it), and took Eren’s head clean off. She’s full of surprises, this one.
This is the sort of episode where you’d figure Mikasa would emerge with a prominent role as all that bombast and rage is right up her street, and so it was – after a few weeks where she’s been out of the spotlight she takes over the last few minutes of the episode. Mikasa is an incredibly 2D character so far, but somewhat like the series itself she’s predictable and does what she does very well – and that’s rage about anything that threatens Eren. And since biting him out of his titan’s neck and swallowing him whole certainly qualifies as threatening, we saw berserker Mikasa in all her glory here. She’s soon joined by Levi, and with Eren having at least managed to tire the female titan out (I also wonder if there’s a finite amount of power at her disposal that all that turning-to-stone and regenerating eyes slowly depletes), it appears as if her reign of terror may be coming close to an end.