Shingeki no Kyoujin – 27

I’ve always tried to be deferential to official naming conventions wherever possible, so from here on out I’ll be going along with Wit on Shingeki no Kyoujin’s episode numbering.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me given the four-year gap between seasons, but be that as it may, this is Episode 27.  And to be fair, it really does feel like there’s a continuity here – for better or for worse (or perhaps for better and for worse is more to the point) this is very much the same series.

One thing that strikes me a bit odd is that this season looks, if anything, a bit cheaper than the first one.  If any anime should have a huge budget to play with, you’d think it would be one of the most commercially successful multi-platform hits in history. But there’s more CGI than ever (and Bahamut’s is the better Shingeki CGI most of the time), and some of the movement scenes (especially involving the horses) are frankly subpar.  Maybe this is really a matter of scheduling more than budgeting – Wit had their share of time crunches on the first season.  But with four years to get ready for the first few episodes, I’d certainly have hoped for better.

Content-wise, this episode suffers a bit as Attack on Titan generally does when it focuses on its more idiotic characters.  Sasha never did much for me, so I wasn’t all that wrapped up in her back-story, though it was interesting to hear her father talk about the social changes brought about by what amounts, effectively, to a refugee crisis.  And the shock value of scenes like a mini-titan eating a woman alive while her child watches accompanied by comically gross sound effects tends to dull with repeated exposure.  And we’ve certainly had repeated exposure.

That’s an essential problem with Shingeki no Kyoujin for me.  It is, essentially, a roller-coaster – but eventually all those dips and loops lose their shock value.  The conspiracy plot is the more interesting element of the series even if it is largely predictable, but Isayama is so stingy with the details that there are times when I just want him to get on with it.  This show desperately needs to focus on its smarter and subtler characters, perhaps more than any other anime I can remember – it’s just so much better when the focus characters aren’t preening for the camera like Levi or generally acting like morons.  But it doesn’t happen often enough, which is why I was pretty fatigued by the time the first season disgorged us back at the gate.  Hopefully Conny’s backstory will prove be more interesting that Sasha.  I’m not sure how much endurance I’m going to have for the lulls this season of Shingeki, though the fact that it’s a single cour probably helps.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

21 comments

  1. H

    As someone who reads the manga I was pretty worried when I found out this season was only going to be twelve episodes because I thought they might try to skip stuff like Sasha’s backstory (personally I cannot stand this character) in an attempt to move the narrative along at a faster pace. So far so good. Things are certainly booking along but not in a bad way. I’m quite pleased with everything even though I too have noticed a dip in the animation quality. I have no complaints thus far actually. I’m totally hyped more than ever for the adventure to come and hope they announce further seasons because it only gets crazier from now on and I would love to see it all get animated.

  2. I don’t read the manga so all I have to go by is what we see on the screen. Sasha is a likable character and I thought the episode was pretty thrilling as well as informative.

  3. G

    While I was trying to write this comment I realized that it’s quite hard to get my point across a) without insulting you to the point of you being unable to take what I’m saying seriously or b) being mistaken for a rabid Shingeki fanboy. But I know it’s gonna bother me when I try to sleep at night if I leave this infuriating and embarrassing pretension going. Your patronizing and smugly dismissive tone when talking about this series is truly insufferable especially in light of all the shit you pleasingly eat up every season.

    It’s like we have to sit here with you, put our knowing, ”insider” ,veteran anime watcher faces on and pretend that Shingeki isn’t one of the best things to happen to anime these past 5 years. Like it’s a mistake it is so popular or that there are oh so many series that can compare to it in quality, visuals, direction, themes and atmosphere. I mean you act like the fact that you still haven’t dropped it from your busy schedule is some compassionate act of leniency to the poor grotesque fool, while at the same time you fawn over mediocre, at best, series like Boku no Hero. Shit I remember you treating fucking Seiren with more respect.

    Ok let’s be specific for a sec and talk about yesterday’s especially moving episode. It showcased Sasha’s character through a combination of quiet terror, authentically weird humor and sheer physicality. Yet you predictably refuse to take Sasha’s story seriously so I’m left wondering why, even though I’m fairly certain I know the answer. I think it doesn’t fit with the narrative you have constructed for yourself and your relationship with this series. It will render your whole pose moot if you suddenly started treating it soberly and sincerely.

    By now it’s clear why I had to put these disclaimers at the beginning of this post. Take solace (or extra insult) in the fact that I’ve been following this blog closely for over 6 years.

  4. Hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions. If I had a buck for every time I’ve gotten attacked over a Shingeki post I could probably retire.

  5. o

    I’m glad you said it, because I was tempted to make a similar post last week. Also have been following the blog for about the same amount of time.

  6. R

    We’ve all felt that way for at least one of series he’s blogged (or didn’t out of annoyance at a certain aspect of it).
    I admire your passion.

  7. I think in the end it’s all a matter of gut feelings, when push comes to shove. We either like stuff or we don’t, and that’s true on a fundamental level of casuals and seasoned critics alike. It gets to the point where sometimes we get people openly saying “I’m SORRY I don’t like this show as much as I should”, because they can acknowledge the technical quality but still it doesn’t click with them. There’s at least one blogger who had that attitude towards Rakugo Shinju, which really leaves me puzzled because HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT TO BITS. In the end, most of us first decide whether they like something or not, then rationalise that decision with our existing knowledge about our own tastes. That’s just how the human mind works.

    I’m not a huge Shingeki fan but my biggest quibbles with Season 1 were with the excruciating pacing in certain parts, mostly because it interacted badly with the way the plot went (namely: everyone gets mauled by Titans, ALL THE TIME). It provided far too blueballing for far little payoff. But this season seems to have improved on that respect and this may have been my favourite SnK episode EVER. The sheer body horror this show is famous for mixed with some really good reflections emerging from Sasha’s past (I love how her argument with her father could apply to real life today so well) and character exploration. It also goes counter to one typical accusation that is flung at SnK – that of being a militaristic, near fascistic wet dream – by putting up an unusually humanistic and solidarity-centred perspective. It was just overall solid and a nice self-contained bit of plot. But then again, sheer body horror is something that elicits a strong gut reaction more than most things, and it’s not surprising that some people are put off by SnK’s often over-the-top use of it. There have been moments in Season 1 where it did indeed border on narm for me (“narm” being when something that should be horrifying is pushed so far over the top it becomes involuntarily funny), but that was certainly not the case here.

  8. I agree, the monologue by Sasha’s father was the most interesting moment of the episode. It can certainly be applied to what’s happening in Europe and America politically right now, though I don’t think it was so obvious at the time Isayama wrote it so I doubt he meant it that way.

    Nevertheless, you’re kidding yourself if you think this series isn’t a militaristic, nationalist wet dream. You just have to look past that (or celebrate it if that’s how you roll) and judge it on its narrative merits.

  9. “you’re kidding yourself if you think this series isn’t a militaristic, nationalist wet dream”

    I think the issue is a bit more about how it maps to real life as a metaphor. In a vacuum, a lot of the content of the show is pretty standard fare: humans stick together against a terrible, mindless external threat, escape the confinement of a constraining environment and the illusion of safety it provides, and so on. If one thinks about it, it’s basically the same themes as, say, Gurren Lagann. What makes it most politically significant is the fact that in modern Japan’s context a lot of this can be perceived as a reference to their relationship with China. That casts it in a whole different light because the entire reason why you can’t apply these concepts as they are to international relationships is that on the other side there’s *other humans*, not mindless Titans. So the whole bit about fanatically fighting to the death, never compromising, never surrendering, becomes utter madness when you’re dealing with someone that you COULD reason with, and come at an agreement. The dehumanisation implicit in the metaphor is the problematic aspect.

    However, that doesn’t mean anyone is bound to read it according to what the author had in mind – and that includes the anime staff that adapts it. Art isn’t restricted to a single purpose. The very word “Titan” – from Greek mythology to the romantic trend of “titanism” – evokes an enemy that embodies the blind and destructive forces of nature and chaos, not a human enemy. If you interpret it that way it changes quite a lot. My point is that, regardless what the author intended, art escapes their hands and control. Today a lot of people could be watching Attack on Titan and feel inspired or pumped up by its rousing speeches and action to fight harder whatever their battle is – which doesn’t need be some nationalist crap. Perhaps one of the biggest secrets of its success is exactly this: everyone can feel they have an ‘enemy’ to fight (a feeling especially common when you’re a teenager), and everyone wants to identify with the ideal of the brave hero that doesn’t fear death and rises up to the challenge. It’s a key cornerstone of all shounen battle shows, but SnK kicks it up to eleven. So it basically works perfectly well as an empty box that everyone can fill with their personal struggles.

  10. M

    Agh, I feel like that last paragraph is provably wrong but I can’t say why because spoilers…

    On topic, I read through your old reviews and felt you were more than fair to S1. I found the Trost adaptation so bad I stopped watching the episodes and just skipped to the action scenes. The female titan arc was almost as bad as Trost, and I was surprised how well you received it given your early reviews.

    That said I don’t see why you’re so dismissive of these two episodes. They’re more subtly directed and clipping away at a faster pace than S1. Compare Hange hanging the priest off the wall to most any scene in S1 – no speed lines, no screen shaking, Hange is loud and authoritative but not screaming at the top of her lungs. It gives the bit at the end of 26 where these over the top expressions come into play more impact. If the direction keeps up like this I’ll be delighted with S2.

  11. S

    Bwahaha, what a lovely comment.

    1. It is true that Enzo is bitter about anything that is more successful than any of Enzo’s favourites with art that completely outsourced to an avant garde art studio/ day care “Learn2draw in just a few baby steps”. And you can tell whenever he’s reviewing anything popular, or posting the perpetually bleaker and bleaker yearly outlooks.

    2. This AoT episode was crap, and reminds me so much of frustrating episodes 4 years ago. Flashback and intro, Eren shouting something annoying, shocked faces, great artwork, and nothing happening. Potato girl is not a very interesting character, and this family scenario was frankly not believable in the slightest.

    3. Oh god, Seiren was such horseshit, maybe the worst anime ever sympathetically reviewed here. Boring MC, boring plot, hamfisted wrapping up of the miniarcs in a way that made you wonder if the story actually had anything to say at all. (spoiler: it didn’t).

    Regarding 1: I like it. I come here for the bias, and I don’t have to agree with Enzo. There are other sites that disallow negative reviews (to the point where reviewers would just rather stop reviewing). And (2) this episode was objectively one of the classic crappy ones, and getting a blasé review is entirely justified. I get your concern when comparing 1 & 3, though. Shitting on the (pretty great) art only because it has a bigger budget than a box of crayons sets is silly.

  12. Yeah, #1 is blatantly and provably a lot of crap, but whatever helps you sleep at night.

  13. s

    I don’t disagree with you here. We can’t all like the same things Enzo likes. I follow him because I enjoy reading his commentaries of the series I do enjoy which are mostly the same ones he writes about. I suspect it is because we’re both in the same 40’s demographic. I must say it’s not fair to criticize Enzo for covering Seiren because last season was so incredibly bad and there was nothing else to write about. You can even observe his Seiren posts seemed forced and labored. In any other season, it would have been dropped.

  14. u

    Hey Enzo, I don’t really watch anime like I used to especially in the past couple of years, so I guess I can be classified as a casual fan. By the tone of this blog, it seems you’re decidedly on the negative for this show. That’s cool, but the reason I mentioned I’m a casual fan is maybe you’ve seen so many great anime these past years that its hard to appreciate Shingeki. As for me, I’m out of the loop, but hey I enjoy Shingeki for what it is. Actually, this season for me has been more enjoyable so far than the one 4 years ago, because,

    1) the pacing is much better, it seems like there’s constant, useful movement without feeling rushed. This is probably because the animation team have much more material to work with. I agree season 1 was a roller coaster, but this season seems more steady. It’s action packed yet not over the top at the same time.

    2) I actually read part of the manga (not all, been out of the loop for a while now), and this season seems to capture the mood of the manga better than the first season. There will always be some graphic horror scenes, but it feels quieter and more subtle terror. Like there’s something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Actually the formula for terror in the manga (and by extension, the anime) is simple but effective: uncertainty creates tension in the reader’s mind. The inability to decipher the enemy’s intentions/behavior (human or titan) causes this.

    For this episode specifically, I like the contrast between Sasha and Connie’s homecoming. I mean, Sasha is a bit of a gimmicky character, but she has not been killed off either so its good that decided to flash her personality and make her go through a trial.

  15. I know fans of this series have always been extremely defensive (at least the ones around here), but it strikes me that there’s some massive overreaction going on here. I was very positive about the first episode of the season, not as positive about this one. Since I think Sasha is a silly character, why should that be read as some kind of overarching negativity?

    The truth is, I’ve always been a moderate on this show, right from the beginning. I neither loved it nor hated it. Since most anime fans seem to fall into one or the other of those camps with AoT, I guess that’s kind of the problem.

  16. I think the problem might be that you can talk bad of AoT, Enzo – but never, NEVER talk bad of Potato Gir… I mean, Sasha :D. I’m not in the fandom and she’s one of my favourite characters from the show, and this episode was beautiful for me. Most people love her to bits. First rule of Anime Club: you do not just get to badmouth a show’s resident Best Girl and get away without some harsh responses XD.

  17. I should probably give up on posting here(been unable to post for the past 3 days for some reason, and only on this one), but I just want to make the point that Shingeki isn’t all that great, this episode especially reminds me of how bad the author is at flashback.

  18. Wow the comment managed to get through!

  19. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a common thread to those of you who are having trouble commenting, as it doesn’t seem to be any specific blog setting that’s the problem. Not really sure what the problem is – there’s some chatter about allowing applications on Facebook accounts, but I don’t know if that’s relevant to the issue.

  20. The strange thing is that I can comment fine on other posts, its usually just one of them that gives me the problem.
    Switching to another browser doesn’t help, and neither does posting with different username and email, so my guess is that its a kind of ip address block.

Leave a Comment