Hard to believe I know, but if you didn’t hear, a second season of Shingeki no Kyojin was announced (it and Kamisama Hajimemashita – equally surprising sequels?) for 2016. And of course, it’s already had several semi-canon OVAs, and the live-action and animated theatrical releases (including a recap) will be upon us soon enough. If you’re a fan, Attack on Titan is the gift that keeps on giving – however long it takes Isayama-sensei to finish the manga, the various invested parties are going to milk this cash cow for years and probably decades to come.
To be honest, I don’t know how much input Isayama has on all these side projects. I don’t know if he’s asked to help guide them, I don’t know if he cares one way or the other. But I do know that they span a pretty wide range in terms of how connected they feel to the original material – some of them are abject trifles, some of them seem to be trying to fit with and even prop up the series mythology. Kuinaki Sentaku (“No Regrets”) is definitely in the latter group – there’s nothing in the first of this 2-part OVA that immediately gives away the fact that it’s not written by Isayama. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your view of the core series (I would say it’s mostly a good thing, though the bar isn’t terribly high as Isayama doesn’t exactly trade in subtlety and complex characterization) but this episode definitely feels pretty canon.
What we have here, in a nutshell, is an origin story for Levi and Erwin. And given how massively popular they (especially Levi) are with the fanbase, it’s no surprise and might even be said to be an important building block. This first part is focused mostly on Levi, who’s living in an underground society of society’s poorest dregs, where lack of sunlight leads to crippling disease of the legs and seeing the surface is an impossible dream. Levi – whose personality is wholly unchanged from the character we’ll meet later – is the head of a gang of thieves and shady operators that used 3D manouver gear to run rings around the military police. His best friend (as such) and seeming lieutenant is Farlan Church (Yusa Kouji).
Well, we know Levi at least is going to get to the surface sooner or later and there’s no Giga-Drill Breaker in sight, so it’s a given that the episode is mostly a waiting game as to the method. It’s a good enough story and well-told, with a fairly throwaway moe element in the person of Isabel Magnolia (Ise Mariya, sounding very Killua-like) spunky girl who joins up with Levi after being chased into his clutches by the underground mafia and immediately starts calling him “Aniki”. The turning point comes when a stranger blackmails Levi into taking a job with the promise that one of the ailing gang members will receive treatment on the surface if they do (and the threat of what will happen if they don’t), and his benefactor eventually shows his face and reveals that surface citizenship is also part of the potential reward.
The details behind all this are pretty scarce for now, but what matters is that in the course of the job Levi and the others are captured by the Recon Corps, led by Erwin himself. Obviously for him to be involved this was a big deal, and I wonder if the entire thing wasn’t a setup to achieve the desired result – Levi forced to join the Recon Corps rather then be turned over to the military police and presumably executed. As origin stories go it’s a pretty plausible one on the whole, and it does feel pretty consistent with the parent series, and it’s quite entertaining as well. Araki Tetsurou obviously knows his way around this sort of material, and the pacing and action sequences do their job well. Left to make the actual connection to the present is the second episode – and I’ll be shocked if Isabel and Farlan make it out of that one alive.