Shingeki no Kyoujin – 33

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 33 - 01A word seems in order about Fujiwara Keiji, the actor who played Hannes in the first season of Shingeki no Kyoujin.  Fujiwara-san would be beloved around these parts for his portrayal of Leorio Paladiknight in Hunter X Hunter 2011 even if he’d never done anything else in his career – but of course, he’s done a great deal of other wonderful things.  Kenjirou Tsuda is a very fine seiyuu but this episode is really the first time this season I’ve been acutely aware of Fujiwara’s absence, because it cast Hannes in the same dynamic in which he spend much of the first.  Fujiawara has taken his cue from Togashi in initially not saying what the cause of his professional hiatus is – “unspecified illness” is all that’s been reported – but let’s hope he finds his way back to voice acting soon.  He’s missed.

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 33 - 02Hannes is the one who really sums up the state of affairs in this episode, which is one of Shingeki no Kyoujin’s rare quiet interludes between bouts of insanity and violence.  Things between Eren, Mikasa and Armin are just like they were when they were kids –  Eren acts rashly, gets in way over his head, and Mikasa goes racing off to save him.  She has to wait a little longer this time until the cavalry arrives (with the horses) but in the end, the cycle is the same.

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 33 - 03That may be why the relationship among the main trio just isn’t all that interesting, at least to me.  They really just do the same things over and over, and Armin is the only one who shows any growth (though even he remains trapped in the same patterns a lot of the time).  Eren and Mikasa are just bigger versions of themselves, and I’ve never felt the emotional traction in Mikasa’s obsessive loyalty to Eren.  This pool just isn’t very deep, but Attack on Titan just keeps jumping back in it.  It’s kind of the opposite of the phenomenon I talked about with the other “Shingeki”, and Boku no Hero Academia – when it comes to Eren and Mikasa, they always leave me wanting less.  I really only want to see them when they’ve been gone for a long period of time and I’ve forgotten how little they interest me.

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 33 - 04That leaves us with the story to carry the day, and there’s no denying Eren is essential to that.  I was pretty pleased to see him kidnapped by Reiner and Bertolt, because that at least signalled the possibility that we were about to get some answers.  For the most part the human authorities have been hamsters running in the cage – Erwin looks pretty, Levi scowls, Hange plays mad scientist, Pyxis drinks.  But the more the obvious conspiracy this society is built upon is forced to the surface, the harder it is for them to keep doing the same things over and over.  “Stale”, indeed.

Shingeki no Kyoujin - 33 - 05What of Eren now?  Well, he wakes up in the forest where Hange has miraculously concluded that Reiner and Bertholt will be taking him, there to conveniently rest until the Survey Corps can catch up.  Eren’s situation may seen armless, but this isn’t just a gathering of classmates – Eren is the outsider here.  Presumably Reiner has brought him to to at least attempt to talk Eren into joining whatever cause it is Reiner is fighting for – a discussion which will presumably take place mostly off-camera.  It seems unlikely anything will come of that effort – I’m not sure where the narrative could go from there – but hopefully at least a couple of the smaller puzzle pieces will be filled in over the course of the final showdown with Reiner.

 

 

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8 comments

  1. s

    You know what? I can actually get behind the whole Eren, Mikasa, and Armin’s relationship dynamic. It’s not so much because i think they are these multi-faceted characters more than it is that there’s just something humanly relatable about wanting to be together with the only family you have; deling with the feeling of having this headache of a family member than you always got to keep in line. Eren is rash and rambunctious as fuck (almost to a clinically extent) and so i can understand the feeling of wanting to care for a guy that you know will most likely always get in trouble for the rest of his life because he’s so damn headstrong. It’s that headstrong nature of his that gave both Armin and Mikasa a reason to live and persevere. As much as Eren’s behavior can get exasperating, it’s that undying flame to always survive no matter what comes his way is what Armin and Mikasa love and respect Eren for. With Mikasa having lost everything and Eren showing her that life is still worth living, of course she’s going to be so moved by that sentiment that she’ll always want to be by Eren’s side. I can get behind that as simple as that reason may be because that reason is poignant and universally relatable enough to provoke significant emotions from its audience.

    I dont know; overall, there’s just something melancholic yet emotionally tender about Mikasa and Armin coming to terms with the inextricable truth that Eren is their responsibility and that while he’ll always get into trouble, it’s up to them to try and keep him out of it because they want to stick together as a family; though I’d say Mikasa and Armin feel more strongly in this regard. Eren is portrayed to be so simple-minded most of the time that it doesnt seem like he values their love as much, and that’s were a bit of their character dynamic loses some of its emotional weight for me. There’s this imbalance in their family relationship that seems to be hand-waved by the writing which leaves a bit cold towards it sometimes. But besides that, yea, i can get behind their bond. I dont think all narratives need to have multi-faceted or outwardly endearing characters for certain relationship to work in a story (of course it’s much better when that depth exists).

    Take the movie “your name” for example; the relationship/love between its two main leads in all honesty doesnt have any sort of interpersonal depth and character intricacy; however, the love between the characters still resonated with me (and apparently a shit ton of people) because their relationship is thematic effective. Those themes and feelings were relatable enough and presented effectively enough for those core messages to touch the hearts of those who watched the movie. In some ways, it’s same with attack on titans three main cast members. The bond they have and how they feel about each other has been solidified well enough throughout the series’ narrative, with the show demonstrating how far they (and by they i mean mikasa and armin;…ehh i guess Eren has pulled his emotional weight here and there) will go to protect each other, that i can care just enough to get behind their relationship.

  2. Sure, I can respect that – it just doesn’t do much for me. It doesn’t help that Armin (to me) is the only fully realized character of the trio, and the only one who’s shown any real development (and naturally, is the least focused-on). It doesn’t help that there seems to be no relationship at all between Mikasa and Armin, who spend more time together than any of the trio.

    Honestly, I just don’t think Isayama can write three-dimensional relationships – to me, they’re all pretty superficial. The best course for the series IMHO would be for Armin to formally be extracted from the trio and become a kind of disciple for Hange, who actually seems to respect his intellect. He really fills no function in the Eren-Mikasa-Armin dynamic because there is no dynamic between either of them and him – he’s vestigial. Let Mikasa and Eren be a 2-D pairing and involve Armin directly in the more interesting area of the plot.

  3. s

    I agree your response to some extent; however, i will retort with that fact that armin does serve a purpose within the trio’s dynamic in that he keeps them out of trouble. He’s the third wheel in this baby-sitting type relationship where mikasa has to keep eren out of trouble and when both of them get too hot headed, armin has to pull them out of their trouble-making abyss. Going back to their childhood, Armin couldnt do contribute to protecting Eren and mikasa because his smarts werent applicable to the situations they would get into as children. Now that they are fighting for survival in a world invested with titans, his brain power is a necessary tool for their survival. For the first time, Armin feels like he has a place in the trio besides being the damsel in distress and this allows him to play off of them in that he has to reel them in when they get too crazy. It’s superficial, but it still there and this dynamic plays towards Armin’s feelings of confidence and self-worth to his family and as a soldier to his corp.

    While you are correct that armin doesnt have a dynamic with mikasa specifically (which is a shortcoming of the writing…tsk tsk Isayama), he sort of has one with Eren. Attack on Titan’s problem with characterization isnt that the dynamics dont exist; it’s that the writing doesnt excel at making these dynamics flourish beyond their superficial trappings, sometimes to the point that you can forget that they exist at all. When it comes to storytelling, what i have found is that there are three different categories of building intrigue in character relationships to your audience: 1. no apparent character relationship- that one is pretty self-explanatory; the story doesnt spend any time on establishing how characters feel and behave with each other, resulting in them just feeling like avatars to move the story along. 2. superficial relationship- this one has character dynamics that are seemingly deep but dont go beyond their defining feature or relationship aspect. There are times where this kind of relationship can be effective in a narrative (like it somewhat is for mikasa, eren, and armin) and times when it doesnt. This can depend on how well the relationship reflects, strengthens, and/or influences the core themes and messages of the narrative and vice-versa as well as whether there is a sense of reciprocity between characters that can be considered poignant enough to grab the audiences’s attention. Again, category of character writing can work in a story, given that it respects the stipulations i’ve listed. 3. interpersonal dynamics, rich character building, and a character arc.- now this is the good stuff, where characters reveal aspects about themselves through action and dialogue. Where characters change throughout a narrative from interacting with the cast and revealing things about themselves through their distinct relationship with those cast members. This gives the audience the feeling that the character is multi-faceted, well-constructed and layered and that the relationships they create with the cast are integral to their emotional and psychological disposition as well as their course of action. This creates some of the most sublime characters and relationships in fiction. Clearly attack on titan does not fall into category 3 but i think at times it pulls off the positive aspects of category 2 to some degree of success.

    Since this is the only Isayama work i have watched/read, i cant say for certain if he lacks the ability to write 3d dimensional characters; however, i will say that i have not seen a 3 dimensional character in attack on titan; and in a show that has 3 dimensional gear, you would think it would have 3 dimensional writing as well…sigh. Still, certain things work well in 2 dimensions and im okay with that.

  4. I agree with a fair bit of your relationship thesis in the broad sense. It’s different for me in a couple of ways, though. First, I don’t generally find the 2-D dynamic to be successful in the sense of interesting me in the way it interests you. And specific to Shingeki no Kyoujin, I don’t think Isayama even gives us that with most of his characters and their interactions.

    I would be curious to hear your answer – since you feel Eren and Armin do have a dynamic, what do you think it is? Because I just don’t see anything there that lives up to the term for me.

  5. s

    In comparison to mikasa and armin who dont have a dynamic whatsoever, Eren and Armin kind of do;; as fleeting as it may be. Their dynamic is the camaraderie they feel towards each other as a result of their shared dream to explore the world outside the walls. If you notice, while Eren seems to be brash and slightly irritated with Mikasa often , he’s actually softer with Armin and protective of him even; he respects how smart Armin is and is appreciative that a all-brawn and no brain guy like him can have a friend like Armin by his side. All of this was pretty much within the first quarter of the first season of the show before, like i said, Isayama decided to drop building that character relationship in favor for GAARRR in-your-face intensity and world building; to which i think he does a good job of building intrigue through his narrative, but then sometimes he goes a bit overboard in trying to maintain said intrigue through cheap moments of tension and leaving unanswered plot threads dangling for long periods of time.

    Anywho, the point i was trying to elucidate was that compared to mikasa and armin in which i can even try and bullshit a dynamic between those two, with Armin and Eren, you can see threads of what could have been a strong bond in the series if Isayama was capable of fleshing out those character narratives. It’s unfortunate that he is so wrapped up in his world building; which again, while i think that’s a strength of the series, too much focus on it leaves other important elements of storytelling. When looking at the main trio’s dynamic in pairs of two (i.e Mikasa and Eren), it’s much easier to expose the superficiality of the character writing. However, when i consider the three as an ensemble; as a family trying to survive this titan apocalypse, i can more readily get behind that sentiment, as superficial as it is, because it ties fairly well into the show’s themes of survival and maintaining one’s humanity.

    Whenever i see Eren, Mikasa, and Armin worrying about sticking together, I’m reminded of that humanity that they still have and the dreams that they hope to achieve somewhere down the line in this hell they live. I’m reminded that at the end of the day, they all want to look after each other; the complex Armin suffers when he is unable to protect Mikasa and Eren and the sort of clinical attachment Mikasa has towards Eren because she has no one else (sorry armin, but you needed to missed the critical period to become mikasa’s obsession). It reminds me that Isayama still tries to inject some heart into the story………….and then i realize that it could be better if they were fully-actualized characters if the writing expertly transposed those aspects of their relationship with poignancy; but for what i get, it works well enough in some of the more critical moments of the series.

  6. s

    *sorry Armin but you missed the critical period to become mikasa’s obsession* proofread sonic

  7. I was waiting for the camera to shift to Eren the whole episode, I would like some explanation for why Reiner did what he did.

  8. B

    > Eren’s situation may seen armless

    Heh heh. Well played Enzo

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