Shingeki no Kyoujin – 22

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -10 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -15 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -24

This is not so much the sort of episode that Araki Tetsurou was born to direct – but it still had its share of fine moments.

Attack on Titan giveth, and Attack on Titan taketh away.  For me at least the sort of approach this series takes is inherently going to have a fair measure of inconsistency.  We saw the upside last week, where the series was at its bombastic, deafening best – and indeed, with Levi’s phenomenal display of battlefield prowess against the female titan as well.  But this week shows off some of the limitations too – whether they be the source material itself or Araki-sensei’s directorial style, I’ll leave others to decide.  But on balance this ep was decidedly a mixed bag.

The issue is mostly twofold for me.  First, any series that relies so little on believable characters as this one does it going to have lulls, because no show – no matter how good – can constantly deliver riveting action and plot, week-after-week.  When the cast is itself engaging, that smooths out some of the valleys because you’re always involved emotionally with the characters themselves.  And second, Araki is using a sledgehammer “more is better” approach to everything in Shingeki no Kyoujin and while that works terrifically in the big set pieces – which due to that approach often gain a measure of emotional power the smaller moments usually lack – it often comes off as ham-fisted and heavy-handed in those smaller moments.

Where that leaves us is this: we have a scenario that in itself has emotional power, but Araki pushes everything too hard and somewhat dilutes it with sonorous orchestral BGM and long, lingering close-ups of tear-stained faces and dead bodies (one shot of those wrapped bodies rattling in a cart, boots hanging out, is powerful – ten of them just dulls the emotional senses).  The sheer hopelessness of what the Recon Corps – and thus, effectively, humanity – faces is one of the strongest elements of Shingeki.  These guys are out there risking and often sacrificing their lives and for that they get little respect from the general populace.  Worse yet, their work truly does seem hopeless.  What real signs of progress can Smith point to in justifying both the missions he leads and the sons and daughters he leaves behind?  It’s a masterwork of bleak hopelessness, this premise, and when Araki’s foot momentarily eases up on the accelerator in this episode, it hits like a punch to the face.

For me at least, Araki steps off the gas too rarely.  He seems to revel in the death and gore to the point of fetishism sometimes, and I just want someone to scream “I get it already!” but no one ever does. I’ll admit that I don’t really feel anything for Eren or Mikasa as people, so the moments that focus on them don’t impact me much – Eren is crucial as a symbol, but as a character he leaves me cold.  So of course the eps that focus heavily on them lose something for me, too.  But I do feel something for Gunther and Aurou and  Petra and Erdo, and for the fact that even cold-fish Levi does too.  And the weight of what Erwin bears on his shoulders is one of the most powerful character elements in the show by now.  I just wish those things would be allowed to speak for themselves more – I don’t need to see extended montages of cute children and ojii-sans about to be told their loved ones aren’t coming home, accompanied by mournful strings.  I get the point, and it speaks loudly enough that it shouldn’t need to be drowned out by a lot of unnecessary embellishment.

In terms of the practicalities of the situation, what really struck me is that for an organization as elite as the Recon Corps, it seems as if there’s a real lack of military discipline.  An inordinate amount of time is always spent with officers arguing their case to grunts or junior officers in the face of imminent danger, first off – when it seems that what should be happening is orders being followed, not debates.  And then there’s the matter of the soldier Dieter who went back to retrieve the body of his friend Ivan, defying a direct order from no less than Erwin himself.  In the process he gets his other friend killed and brings a swarm of titans down on the entire surviving brigade, and would have died himself too if not for Mikasa’s intervention.  And what he gets for that is Ivan’s insignia a verbal pat on the shoulder from Levi?  I’m baffled by this – it was a disastrous act in direct defiance of orders that jeopardized the lives of everyone in the corps, and resulted in the bodies that had been recovered being abandoned.  Shouldn’t there be a court-martial in there somewhere?

Yet for all this – for all their lack of discipline, military success and respect – Erwin’s force is seemingly the best humanity has to offer.  And that’s a measure of just how fucked humanity is here, which is one of the things Attack on Titan is brilliant at communicating to the audience.  Simply by nature of being willing to actually fight despite hopeless odds and having some sort of proactive agenda, the Recon Corps is the most admirable body we’ve met in this series – and they deserve better than the derision and scorn they receive from an ungrateful public.  But in a sense I can’t blame that public, because in their shoes I’d probably be asking “What’s the point?”  Eren’s existence at least gives the cause a wild card, a small ray of hope – but the public doesn’t know about that.  And those that do know about it seem ready to pounce on the Recon Corps’ repeated failures and rip Eren away from them, wasting his potential to cause the enemy anxiety.  Without even knowing who’s the enemy and who’s just incompetent, the true measure of the problem can only be guessed at – but what’s clear is that humanity is on a river of shit without a boat, never mind a paddle.  And demonstrating that shows off Araki and Shingeki no Kyoujin at their very best.

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Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -28 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -29 Shingeki no Kyoujin - 22 -30
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25 comments

  1. D

    Can't really blame the source material this week, everything but the first and last few minutes were anime original content.

    It was slightly hamfisted (Araki is as Araki does), but the scene where Levi sees Petra's corpse thrown off the cart was pretty hard hitting and I for some reason didn't see it coming. Alright episode, for a filler.

  2. K

    I almost expected Levi to sock the solider for almost getting everyone killed. At least that's what should of happened. It's amazing how incompetent some of these soldiers are. I understand how they feel but, a soldiers should be able to put the majority's concerns over a dead body.

    Levi comes off like a good version of Mikasa. He just seems to be everything she's not. He's starting to show some layers in contrast to Mikasa's Eren infested mind set. Although it got to be a little much when Petra's father came up and started talking a little too much.

  3. R

    Only two things.

    1) This episode was the only time that I have seen such a blatant lack of military discipline in the entire franchise. It doesn't even fit with how the earlier episodes handled the whole military elements of the story. Anime original moment done wrong.

    2) Levi gave the guy Petra's insignia. It being his friend's was a lie. That's a subtle yet important detail for his characterization. Anime original moment done right.

  4. Are you sure on that second point? It's a good notion – I just don't remember anything from the episode that would prove it conclusively.

    On your first point, I certainly agree this was the most egregious example we've seen. But it seems like every time we see an order given in the Recon Corps, there's an argument or at least a counter-argument. Admittedly some of it is Eren and his usual blathering, but even among the veterans I still think it happens a lot.

  5. D

    Levi picks up the patch from a soldier's corpse at the beginning of the episode. The bite mark on the soldier's hand implies it was Petra (we saw the exact same mark on her hand a few episodes ago).

  6. R

    >Levi picks up the patch from a soldier's corpse at the beginning of the episode. The bite mark on the soldier's hand implies it was Petra
    Yes. Also, from its size you can tell it was a short soldier.
    And Ivan's body was left behind because it was right next to a Titan. There's no way Levi had time to get the insignia from its body.

    >(we saw the exact same mark on her hand a few episodes ago).
    Actually, everyone saw it many episodes ago. She has the bite mark in the OP but it's only seen for two or three frames.

  7. l

    I was waiting for this episode (well, the beginning of it, anyway). Was great to see Levi kick titan arse. Wish he'd do the same to titan Eren every once in a while.

  8. S

    So it was entirely a filler? I don't like where this series is heading in terms of adaptation. They only have two cours, and STILL use such a horribly slow pacing and fillers (which mess with the canon – honestly, guys, Levi should have kicked the crap out of that idiot on the spot, and probably would have if that was canon)? I'd hope they put it on hold for a while waiting for new manga material now, but seeing how much of a cash cow AoT has become, I wonder whether they'll go for the easy road – the one paved with money – and do a filler hell season, an anime only ending or some other such bullshit.

  9. S

    Thats quite a strong opinion you have there.
    This "Filler" was fine. It was expanding (or rather literally filling in the blanks) the narrative and story of the homecoming. If you didnt read the manga you wouldnt notice.
    Horrible Pacing? They want to end this Series on a specific point, without this 15 Minute of original storytelling, they would have to drag the fight with the Female titan another 15 Minutes. And THAT was considered horrible Pacing in the Trost Arc.

    There is no way, that we will get a Filler Season. SnK will come back with season 2 anyhere between Spring 2014 and 2015.

  10. S

    Uhm, it's just that I'm worried because I understand from manga readers that they've basically used 2/3 of the available material… "horrible" was mostly referred to some occurrences, where nothing happened for whole episodes. Last week's episode was fine of course, for example. And, well, this episode did feel a bit unnecessary – it wasn't downright terrible, but Enzo points out rightfully how some elements were a bit weird and made no sense in the overall scheme of things. I guess they could have just made the series a bit shorter – one less episode would have been fine imho.

    But yeah, we'll see. It's just that, since AoT is a monthly manga, either they'll have to wait an insane amount of time before they get enough material for a full season 2 (something around 3-4 years I'd say), or we'll see more filler and even slower pacing. I don't see many ways around it.

  11. N

    The 3 last episodes will be epic for sure. It's because they want to end it at a particular chapter and it is a monthly series. I think 25 episodes was too much for a manga with so much action.

  12. S

    Next Year should be fine for a 24 to 25 episode Season 2. 2015 without a thought.

  13. h

    Since you questioned whether the issues you found with the episode steams from the source material or from the direction, I will give my own opinion, as a manga reader (no spoilers, of course).

    The character issue is probably from the manga. There isn't much difference between how the characters are presented and developed, most of the time, so you would likely think the same thing reading the original work as well.

    The "too much of everything (drama)" is probably the direction. The equivalent chapter ended in a downer note as well, of course (including the narration), but only 10 pages of the chapter was dedicated to the return to the wall. I think the direction might have overdone by showing all the relatives of the elite squad when the manga only showed Petra's father. Overall, I've never felt the manga suffered with overdose of bleakness as this episode did.

    The lack of military discipline is certainly all the anime, at last this episode. The whole subplot with Dieter and Ivan is anime original. Sure, some orders might be questioned in the past, but this is mostly to create dramatic moment for the history and to explain the reader what is going on. In the end the orders were usually followed instead of beign completely ignored, no?

    Personally, I am disappointed with this episode. It felt too much of filler. And the anime original stuff sucked. I am not totally against anime adding stuff, but the whole "failed body recovery" stuff was pointless, unnecessary and only made the corps look bad to the audience.

  14. J

    As for the family members part, I feel like it's satisfying the viewer's thirst to know the Levi's squad members better. They died a sudden death and those scenes gave a better look at them individually without having to resort to flashbacks. For that, I'm grateful.

  15. i

    I think I've criticized everything I can about this show but there is one thing that I should praise about it – that it, no doubt against the editor's wishes, avoids using moe. One extreme bad point of SAO, AW and Guilty Crown is that they all use stupid moe cliches. In this area I must at least praise AoT for not doing the same and trying to be intensely serious the whole time.

  16. Well, Armin is sorta moe…

  17. i

    Eeeh…

    Titans I get though. I did say moe cliches so I guess Armin is OK, if it floats your boat…

  18. i

    FEMALE ARMIN?! I see GE is into reverse traps…

  19. K

    Forget moe this series has absolutely no fanservice. In that sense it is a breath of fresh air.

    Granted the violence and gore is still over the top which is a type of fan service in itself but if this series can sell with no beach episodes and skimpy outfits I wonder why other anime feel they can't do the same?

  20. Hey, I didn't post the link, don't blame me.

  21. N

    It's not a spoiler but Female Titan sexiness is 10/10 in the Guide Book. AND SHE IS HOT.

  22. i

    Really, personally I'm not into girls that big. Maybe its just me though…

  23. Y

    That episodes definitely felt like a filler… And the BGM is really too heavy handed… But, as far as I'm concern, there's was one moment of shear genius that was 100% anime: the way the hair flow of the female titan changes right before she turns around which allows Levi to know exactly how to time his badass attack… Awesome stuff.

  24. T

    I've sunk into lurkmode regarding Shingeki posts till now, and even though my opinion on Araki stands- and is reaffirmed, constantly- seeing Petra's body bounce in the dirt like that was ouch.

    Levi did lie about the patch- he got nowhere near Ivan. While this was padding, it was really very nice padding in the sense that it feels legit in the way it turned out. The deja-vu scene with Eren and the kids, while maddening, is from the manga.

    Ahem. Now that aside, I must express how giddy I am over the art direction. IG always turns out great eye candy, but even if one muted out Kaji Yuki– I mean, even if one disregarded the dialogue- the composition, colors, the angles- they are breathtaking, and they tell the story beautifully. Even the slow-motion cuts in previous episodes (18 in particular- the soldier flying through the air waiting for the mysterious titan to come charging into the forest, with the buildup and clapping over the BGM, gives me chills). It's definitely not just the sakuga animation. The BGM is fantastic, too… I just hope they won't overuse the tracks.

    As a final bit of trivia, Levi actually placed first- overwhelmingly so- on the character poll. Quite a lot of people are fond of this cold fish.

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