It’s not easy to muster up much emotion at the prospect of more Shingeki no Kyojin, because it never gives you much of a chance to miss it. Predictably we’ve being inundated with an endless chain of OVAs, spinoff manga, recap movies and other Titan miscellanea, all building towards the least surprising second season ever sometime in 2015. I would suspect the series will never really be gone at any time before the manga is completed and the last volumes adapted – the powers that be will find a way to keep the gravy train running nonstop in one form or another until then.
Still, it’s nice to have more Attack on Titan in relatively canon form, not least as it serves as a useful reminder of what an annoying prat Eren is. And this OVA is a pretty solid effort, certainly better than the second one. More than either of the prior OVAs (I liked Ilse’s Notebook quite a bit) this one feels of a kind with the TV series, though there’s certainly a bittersweet quality in seeing so many characters we know will soon be dead as a major focus.
The focus is on a training mission, set about two years before the series’ present timeline. The trainees are split into two groups with the simple task of riding through the wilderness to a distant point, turning around and coming back, and recording their progress all the while. One team is led by Marco with Armin recording, the other by Thomas with Mikasa Sue recording. The challenge, supposedly, is to keep their wits sharp even when there’s no crisis – it seems almost as much a team-building and psychological profiling exercise as a physical challenge.
This being AoT of course it isn’t going to be that easy, but the danger here (and this is becoming increasingly the case as the series progresses) is humans, not titans. There’s some speculation (by Armin) that the military sent the brigands who steal Marco’s team’s manouver gear and kidnap Krista as part of the test, but it seems more likely to me that they were simply thieves and human traffickers. Given that Eren and Jean have been butting heads since they met it’s no surprise that they do so during this exercise, but the ordeal puts them on the same page at last in being unwilling to leave Krista to her fate and go back to HQ for help. I confess I wasn’t that pleased to see Jean run for it during the initial ambush – he talks a good game about being out only for himself, but that seemed out of character to me.
There’s nothing too Earth-shattering or surprising about the way the crisis is resolved. Armin comes up with the plan and Mikasa rides in to the rescue at the last moment when it starts to go sour. But if a little standard, it’s classic Shingeki with some very nicely animated sequences, and it seems to be setting the mood for the upcoming season. “We have met the enemy, and he is us” has rarely been more appropriate than it is as a descriptor of how things were developing towards the end of the first season, and “Distress” fits right in with the motif.