Shingeki no Kyoujin – 36

I’m not gonna lie – that was one of the most absurd things I’ve ever seen.

Full disclosure up front – I thought this episode of Shingeki no Kyoujin was absolutely ridiculous.  And that’s by Shingeki no Kyoujin standards.  I’m never fully sure if this series is trolling us at any given moment, but that effect seems to have expanded exponentially this season, especially over the last few episodes. And it’s also worth mentioning – there’s no excuse for a show that’s made as many gazillions of Yen as Attack on Titan to have an episode look so fucking cheap.  The wide shots of the horses in motion looked like something out of the first season of Symphogear, and the ep had more still frames than the Louvre.  I’m sorry – where this franchise is concerned, we have a right to expect better than that.

Can this series still make me laugh?  Sure, and sometimes even when it wants to – like Ymir’s line to Christa about everyone “having a few faults”.  That was comedy gold – and on purpose!   But what about the rest of that surreal chase – Ymir and Christa having a heart-to-heart after Ymir spit her up while riding on Reiner’s back being chased by Erwin and his men?  It’s become very hard to tell whether we’re supposed to be laughing or not, to be honest – is that Isayama winking at the audience I see, or does he think this is actually credible?

As for the nature of that conversation, while there were interesting nuggets in it, it was hard to take it seriously given the context.  Ymir’s comments about “stealing a titan’s ability” certainly qualifies as interesting, as did Bertholt’s lament of “Do you think we’d do this if we didn’t have to?”  To be honest I was hoping against hope that Reiner and Bertholt would escape with Eren and Ymir and Christa in tow, because I’m much more curious to see what their hometown is like than about anything going on inside the walls.

I also found myself hoping that Erwin was going to be eaten, though I knew that too was probably a vain hope.  This goes back to the first season, but it seems to me that Erwin is terrible at his job.  It’s one thing for a leader in his position to have people die on his watch because that position is untenable and he has no choice, but it’s quite another to have so many die because he simply makes bad decisions.  Erwin’s hero moments always make me laugh (and here I am pretty sure I’m not supposed to) because this dude is incompetent.

The real bright spot of the episode for me (apart from Ymir’s one-liner) was that it was Armin who broke the stalemate at the end, after Mikasa’s usual BS got us absolutely nowhere.  Of course, it was convenient (absurdly) that all of the cadets managed to wind up in close quarters on Reiner’s shoulders to turn the conversation into a class reunion, while all the experienced soldiers were still on the ground.  But that was a nice moment – it’s nice to see an acknowledgement that cleverness is more powerful than mindless aggression.  And the way Armin played Bertholt was like Rubinstein with a concert grand (and there was added subtext here too, because one suspects Armin was legitimately aggrieved about what’s happening to Annie – there was definite chemistry there).

I won’t lie – I’m past caring in the strictest sense about what actually happens now, because this whole story has just become too silly.  I still have curiosity to find out about the conspiracy plot, and I still enjoy Attack on Titan most of the time for sheer spectacle and rollicking action (and comedy both intentional and unintentional).  But actually caring, in emotional terms?  I still did to a degree at the end of the first season, but that ship has pretty much sailed at this point.  Fortunately though, I don’t think that ticket is required to ride this runaway train.

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14 comments

  1. M

    Thank you for stating what should’ve been obvious – but apparently it isn’t! This episode went from (rare) beautifully animated shots, to a retarded horse looking into the camera as his owner is awkwardly getting eaten, and finished with painful still shots or even unfinished animation. We really do have the right to expect better and it baffles me why this season is yet again battling against the lack of staff and/or budget. Production decisions that I will never understand, I guess.

  2. Y

    I guess I’m finally done with this series… It’s just too ridiculous. Too bad. I thought it had so much potential at the beginning of the first season :”(

  3. b

    What’s really concerning is not only does SnK’s fanbase adore Erwin (he has all the things the internet likes, after all: cold-hearted decisiveness, an unshakable belief in some great cause, manliness, and a weird dramatic flair), but I feel like Isayama likes him too. Maybe his character is supposed to represent Isayama’s ideas on nationalism/patriotism.

  4. TBH, I think Ishayama’s warped perspective is a big part of the problem. He likes the wrong characters and hates the best ones (like Armin). He seems to have a romantic fascination with simplistic, neo-fascistic ideologies. Should it really be a surprise if what he finds inspiring or funny is a whiff for some of us?

  5. Is it possible that it is really Wit’s simplistic and bombastic presentation of the show that makes us think that Isayama likes Erwin?

    There is a subtext in the writing potentially critical of Erwin, but the presentation of the show isn’t really bringing that out. I mean, Erwin’s ‘thematic fanfare’ in this show is the ‘sacrifice your humanity’ angle. Its rather unfortunate that he always has gotten pitched as this heroic leader and all, because intrinsic to the ‘sacrifice your humanity’ angle is the idea that Erwin has degenerated into a bit of a heartless monster.
    Enzo describes him as incompetent but perhaps its simply better to see him as (by now) thoroughly cruel. You cant expect to carry out plans like the one at the end of S1, or over here where be basically asked his boys to charge a wall of titans on flat ground, without expecting to lose most of his force; its really unlikely he’s that daft and more likely that he’s callous. The last time we saw him express grief at the loss of his men was, I think, in episode 1 … of season 1.

    Conceivably, you could re-spin Erwin as someone who has grown frustrated and impatient with the progress he’s made and and the system that regularly denies him answers, which gives an emotional justification to why his plans as of late are all such low percentage gambles. Part of the problem with his character is that its an emotional black box covered with pomp and manliness.

  6. Yeah but that cruelty is incompetence too. The Survey Corps don’t have an endless supply of recruits. Training these people takes time and money. Their Maneuver Gear is expensive. Even if you’re a heartless monster, this still qualifies as terrible resource management. They’re not disposable mooks, they’re a highly trained specialised elite force.

  7. As a manga reader, yeah, I get the impression we’re supposed to think Erwin is some great military genius. But IMHO the problem here is more one of storytelling: as it often happens, it’s hard to portray someone who’s supposed to be more intelligent or knowledgeable than you, because you’re limited by your own mind. So we get “Tell, don’t show” – everyone saying how Erwin is a GREAT commander, while every single display of leadership from him is mediocre at best. Of course part of it is that bravely dying in the line of duty here is supposed to be a good thing, but there is a fine line between bravely dying and pointlessly throwing away your life and Erwin pole-vaults over it, then rides away in the distance while screaming unintelligible inspirational speeches.

  8. One could make a case that dying pointlessly and throwing away your life is the essence of the Bushido which is no revered by Japanese nationalists, though they themselves would deny it.

  9. Well, from their point of view it isn’t pointless, it serves the purpose of protecting your or your country’s honour or some shit.

  10. K

    4chan has already turned the horse calmly turning to the camera as his rider is eaten into a meme. That and the scene with another horse putting an unsuspecting soldier and Mikasa’s death stare to Bert gave this episode a lot of unintentionally(I think?) funny moments.

    I really don’t care about Ymir. I felt the same in the manga and it hasn’t changed here. I just don’t care for the constant flashbacks about her and Historia and her illogical actions. She really does make no sense, she could have helped finish off Reiner and Bert right then and there and been reunited with Christia and all is good for now. Then there is also other reasons I can’t spoil.

  11. Well you know, that’s an interesting point too. After what, four years, we finally get a second season and it’s focused mostly on two characters who’ve had very little buildup and frankly aren’t that interesting? Seems like an odd choice.

  12. I think considering the spoiler stuff, Ymir’s behaviour could make more sense. But her character arc still is very abrupt and kind of nonsensical.

  13. It felt like someone just threw the kitchen sink at me with this one…

  14. p

    I agree with most of this article, but I don’t understand the criticism directed at Erwin. The stakes of the war the Maria-Rose-Sina society is in seem mortal for each resident, the military situation looks desperate, and Eren’s military value is extraordinarily high. Recovering Eren is obviously crucial. Is there something obvious Erwin should have done that I’m missing?

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