“You can’t change anything unless you can discard part of yourself too. To surpass monsters, you must be willing to abandon your humanity”
– Armin Arlet
Annie, you haven’t done a horror anime review yet! You haven’t written a shonen review in bloody ages for that matter! Give us the gore; give of us the intensity! Well, my lovely Annieme-niacs, ask and you shall receive. We’re tackling my favorite horror anime of all time. My choice, however predictable, is well deserved.
You’re singing “Guren no Yumiya” in your head right now, aren’t you?
Good. Settle in, because this is gonna be a long one.
Attack on Titan (Japanese: 進撃の巨人: Shingeki no Kyojin or “Advancing Giant”) follows Eren Yeager and his two childhood friends, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Altert who once lived in Shinganshina. BUT EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE FIRE NATION ATTACKED. Just kidding: they were Titans, not firebenders. When wall Maria is breached by the Colossal Titan with the Armored Titan further compromising their hometown, the three are forced to evacuate. A titan eats Eren’s mom. His father disappears after giving him a key to their basement. Eren joins the Survey Corps to fight the titans to avenge his mother and take revenge for all of the loss humanity has suffered.
Five years later, the three cadet graduates are positioned in Trost District, one of the border towns jutting out of Wall Rose when the Colossal Titan appeared and history repeats itself. In the ensuing battle, Eren appeared to have been killed when he sacrificed himself while saving Armin from being eaten by a bearded Titan. Things appeared bleak until Mikasa and Armin encounter a Titan that uncharacteristically attacks the other Titans with raging fury, the creature ultimately revealed to be Eren. Though considered a threat by some despite helping take back Trost District, the following military trial ruled that Eren will be taken in by the Survey Corps’ Special Operations Squad under Captain Levi. In an expedition to Shinganshina to make use of Eren’s abilities, the Scouts are attacked by a Female Titan who attempts to capture Eren while wiping out Levi’s subordinates. Though Eren was saved, the expedition ended in failure while Armin determined that the Female Titan is fellow cadet from their class named Annie Leonheart. When Annie realizes her capture at Stohess is assured, she encases herself in crystal.
AND NOW WE ENTER SEASON TWO. SPOILERS BELOW: you are warned.
Hange Zoë and her team discover there are Titans sealed inside of the wall. Pastor Nick of the Wall Cult arrives and urges the team to cover it from sunlight with sheets. However, Pastor Nick refuses to tell Hange why it is there, even after she threatens to kill him, leading Hange to suspect that there are more Wall Titans hidden within the walls. Wall Rose has been breached by another group of Titans, led by the intellectual, ape-like Beast Titan, who is capable of speech. Conny journeys to his hometown to find it has been already attached by titans. Upon reaching his house, he discovers a titan trapped inside which he thinks resembles his mother and who says “Welcome Home”. Interestingly, we discover no walls have been breached and that Eren may be able to repair wall Maria with his powers.
Eventually, there is a battle between the Survey Corps and the Titans led by the Beast Titan. Ymir transforms into a Titan to save Christa, who we learn is actually Historia Reiss. Additionally, Eren learns that their fellow cadets Reiner Braun and Bertolt Hoover are the Titans (respectively Colossal and Armored) who compromised Wall Maria. They and Annie are revealed to have been sent by an unknown party to capture Eren, as he possesses “The Coordinate” which allows him to control titans. Eren Fights Reiner and Bertolt, loses, and is captured along with Ymir. Reiner begins to ramble about his duty as a soldier and as a warrior, from which Ymir deduces that there is confusion between his undercover and real personas. Ymir says that Reiner and Bertholdt must take Christa with them.
In a flashback, Ymir was worshiped by a cult as a child under supposed royalty. The cult was later apprehended and punished by soldiers, in which Ymir was injected with something and thrown off a wall, resulting in her transforming into the Dancing Titan. Ymir spent the next sixty years as a Titan, and she ate Marcel, a childhood friend of Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie, before returning to human form. She realized that her freedom of accepting her true identity was why she developed such empathy with Christa. In the present, Ymir convinces Reiner and Bertholdt to allow her to transform into the Dancing Titan and take Christa with them. When the Scouts enter the forest, Ymir finds and swallows Christa before rejoining Reiner and Bertholdt. As the Armored Titan flees, Ymir regurgitates Christa and exits her Titan form in order to explain her seemingly selfish actions to Christa. Armin, Erwin and Mikasa work together to distract Bertholdt, cut Eren free and rescue Eren. Conny and Sasha retrieve Christa and explain that Ymir is lying about her recent actions. The Scouts are hampered from retreating when the Armored Titan throws Titans at them, knocking Eren and Mikasa off their horse. Eren and Mikasa then come face-to-face with the Smiling Titan, the same one that ate Eren’s Mother. Hannes sacrifices himself protecting Eren and Mikasa from the Smiling Titan.
Ymir realizes that Reiner and Bertholdt want Eren because he possesses the Coordinate, the ability to control other titans. The surviving Scouts escape after Eren causes the titans to go after the Armored Titan. Ymir decides to leave Christa in order to save the Armored Titan and Bertholdt from the Titans. A week later, Hange and Conny give a report to Erwin, Levi and Dot Pyxis, which reveals that the titans that appeared within Wall Rose were the citizens of Ragako. Remembering how many died to rescue him, Eren vows to use his new power to help humanity, while Erwin is determined to learn more of the truth behind the titans. Elsewhere, the Beast Titan looks out from atop Wall Maria, as a mysterious blonde man with glasses emerges from its back uttering the words, “not just yet” after a series of flashforward scenes similar in style to those appearing in the finale of the first season.
Review: / 5
Attack on Titan is undoubtedly one of the greatest animes of all time. Even those not a part of the otaku community have heard of it and its merchandise can be found in stores like Hot Topic. This series is one of the canonical giants of the industry, and with good reason: it has cut a niche into the market and underscored the horror genre in a way which has given it devout enthusiasts. It is a show where nothing and no one is safe: will our protagonist or our favorite character die? Honestly, you don’t know. People die; good people die. This show isn’t afraid of shocking its audience with the cutthroat way it treats its characters and it is this realism and integrity which makes it reliable.
Its authenticity is undeniable: mature, grotesque and dramatic, this series leaves you in suspense from the first episode until the last–exactly what you would expect from a horror series. There aren’t any filler episodes and all of the backstory pieces included are purposeful, adding to both character development and plot advancement. It’s fast-paced, but perfectly executed. From the first episode, we’re faced with Hange discovering the compositions of the walls, and that titans are sealed within them. This is huge, as one of the main questions from the first series was how did the walls get there and why are they effective in keeping the titans (for the most part) out? Furthermore, the Wall Cult’s involvement and their unyielding conviction to not share their information with Hange piques our interest.
Then we’re introduced to the Beast Titan, unlike any titan we have seen thus far: he is intelligent. Capable of speaking and leading the other titans, he questions Miche about his omni-directional mobility gear and takes it for further research. Proposing that titans are rational beings rather than mindless, grotesque man-eaters gives them dimension and weight. Sure, not all titans are this way, but if one can be, it shows a humanness in terms of motive for their actions, goals and initiative. They are more realistic and more terrifying. We don’t get to learn much about the Beast Titan in this season, but we’re certainly going to see more of him in July with season three. His existence keeps me intrigued without revealing too much too soon.
Next, let’s talk about episode two, “Tadaima”, which admittedly brought me to tears. We learn that Conny’s Mom was probably a titan, and even says ‘welcome home’ when Conny returns.
From my standpoint there are two possible reasons for this:
- She, like Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie, comes from the titan homeland and was a titan originally.
- She was originally human but was turned into a titan somehow.
I’m in favor of the second theory, and I’ll tell you why:
From this image, it’s pretty clear to see that this titan’s limbs cannot support its massive torso and head. Furthermore, it looks like it exploded from the house, suggesting it was originally in the house during transformation. Since the titan can’t move, it would be impossible for it to have lived as a titan before coming to Conny’s village without help (titan’s are self-centered, rarely acting for the benefit of others). Thus, I think she was turned into a titan. Like the Beast Titan, this theory isn’t confirmed or resolved in this season. It’s just a bit of foreshadowing to keep us interested while the rest of the puzzle pieces fall into place.
Ultimately, the characters are round, interesting, believable and true to their values, all while growing at a realistic rate. Even initial side-characters are given necessary backstory, goals/motives and flaws. Sasha (who I have always lovingly referred to as potato girl, even though she was eating bread), gets some development–Yay! More critical is the examination of Ymir and Christa (Historia) and their relationship as friends. The reveal of Ymir as a titan, while predictable, was satisfying. The facts (she ate Marcel and chose to leave Historia in order to save the Armored Titan and Bertholdt from the titans), show her character’s depth and conflicting values. These are all comments that we have heard before and I’m not breaking any new ground to say how amazing this series is.
So let me say that it’s extremely rare for me to experience shock or surprise in a series when it comes to plot. I earned my MA in creative writing, so I’m pretty well versed in how stories are constructed, common tropes explored, subtle foreshadowing and literary elements used to advance arguments on themes and character development. The majority of the time, shows, films and books are predictable on the sole purpose that I’ve been studying these things for about a decade. I still enjoy the stories–I’m just not surprised by them.
And I can say on no uncertain terms that I was absolutely flabbergasted by this plot twist. My mouth dropped; my heart skipped; I had to practice my breathing exercises. Let’s take an detailed, frame by frame look at Reiner’s confession to Erren. I couldn’t find a video of the entire thing, so here’s the screenshots I took, followed by a YouTube video of the rest.
Reiner begins by just being like “Yo, Eren, can I talk to you for a minute?”
AND THEN HE DUMPS THIS ON US:
Hold up. Go back. Abort mission.
Say what now?
I’d like to point out that this confession right here is spliced– it’s conveyed as an aside as we cut between Reiner/Eren’s dialogue and Hange’s musings. If you’re not paying attention, you’re sure to miss it. I had to pause, rewind and replay multiple times during this episode. This is extremely effective. The anticlimactic tone Reiner uses and the spontaneity of the moment enhances the element of surprise, and in turn, the scene’s intensity.
Okay, I want to talk about this point right here.
This is Eren we’re talking about: vengeance-hungry, justice-bound Eren. Is it believable for him to say this line? No, because Eren would be freaking pissed. What’s great about this line is that we get context for it: Eren knew. We see a flashback on the cadets and other scouts theorizing this situation as a possibility. Eren’s reaction here isn’t in line with his character, but it is in line with the story. This is what using flashback correctly looks like. Perfectly executed!
This response is also a little jarring and unfortunately isn’t ever really expanded upon. I question the root of this statement: what is Eren grappling with? Is it a belief that going with Reiner would still cause a crisis for humanity? Is it his own inability to control himself completely in his titan form, and therefore cause a crisis at the titans’ homeland? Is it Mikasa, and the fact she would go bat-shit insane if Eren left just like that? I’m not sure.
Is this a mood? Because I feel this shit in my soul.
Want the rest? Watch it here:
One of the great things about this plot twist is the acknowledgement of Reiner’s soldier and warrior sides. His split-personality and confusion as to which part of him is authentic allows us to empathize with him, and makes him a more human protagonist.
Lastly, Hanne’s sacrifice to protect Eren and Mikasa from the Smiling Titan was touching and heartbreaking. While I’m unsure about the appropriateness of Eren and Mikasa’s conversation in the midst of the battle that follows, the sacrifice seemed well placed. The other issue I had was with Eren as the coordinate and his ability to control other titans. I’m interested to see how this evolves next season, as right now I felt the explanation unconvincing.
I’m so ready for the third season’s release next month. Who else is stoked? Do you have other thoughts or insights? Lemme hear know in the comments below!
Watch on, Annieme-niac!