Attack on Titan – 02

titan21

As the first waves of Titan victims become a feast for crows, Eren, Mikasa and Armin retreat from Shiganshina and the breached Wall Maria to Wall Rose. Initially carried by Hannes, Eren fumes over running away, but there’s nothing else to do: he lacks the strength, as does all of humanity.

titan22

As for the Titans themselves, there’s a bizarrely charming dumpy childishness to many of the smaller ones, acting like the humans spread out before them are simply fun toys that happen to double as food. But then there are some that seem much more purely evil, or at least more evolved to dispatch humans on a massive scale, like the Titan that blasts through the gate and uses fire breath to roast the garrison.

There’s a sickening inhuman cruelty at work, but also the sense that this is simply how nature has progressed; humans are no longer the top dogs, and life is going to get more difficult. The Titans are simply doing what they’ve evolved to do: feed on humans. Sorry, humans.

titan222

The kids end up on a boat with a few hundred other survivors, who then become refugees within Wall Rose. Whatever picturesque, idealized town Shiganshina was, their new temporary home is far bleaker and harsher, with a populace already experiencing a food shortage, there’s great animosity for the newcomers; even wishes that the Titans ate more of them.

Once he’s over the initial shock of witnessing his mother’s death and the death of hundreds of others before his eyes, Eren switches to anger and goals that, at this point, are absurdly unreasonable and premature. He tries to run before he can crawl, or at least talk about running, i.e. driving the Titans out.

Thank goodness then, he has the more sensible Armin to keep him from getting an even more severe beating from a guard, and a no-nonsense Mikasa who isn’t above punching Eren out and stuffing bread down his throat if it means keeping him alive.

I’m already enjoying the dynamic of these three, in particular Mikasa, the steadfast rock of the trio with no patience for Eren’s empty speeches about wiping out the Titans when clearly, at present, nothing can be done.

titan23

That fact is underlined when, after putting the refugees to work in the wastelands cultivating food doesn’t arrest the food shortage, 250,000 of them are sent back out to “fight” the Titans. Of course, they only serve as a massive buffet (only 200 survive), and a sign of how callous those behind an inner wall can be to preserve what they have.

A lot of time passes this week, making these first two episodes  a solid foundation chronicling the trauma endured by our protagonists that motivate them to enlist in the military, that they might do something, anything to try to push the Titans back.

Meanwhile, Eren has intense, disturbing dreams and/or visions of future events; his dad is still alive somewhere, and there was a secret in the basement of the family home his dad intended Eren to see. All of this points to Eren being more than just talk, but whatever power he possesses seems a long way from being unleashed.

9_brav2

Reminder: Comments are welcome as always, but please limit discussion to this episode and avoid spoilers, as I am watching AoT for the first time. Many thanks—HB

Attack on Titan – 01

titan11

Thanks to Netflix and a relatively light Fall season, I am pleased to finally crack open the massively popular Attack on Titan, a show I eschewed virtually sight unseen, choosing instead to follow Gargantia, Majestic Prince, and Valvrave. I’m only past the first episode of AoT, but I can already see I made a major oversight; one that will be corrected forthwith.

AoT’s cold open shows us the very moment the people of Shiganshina are royally hosed, then after the credits, rewinds to the morning before the shit hits the fan and begins the process of masterfully building up the dread and tension preceding the events of the cold open.

As we follow Eren (a loud-mouthed portentous shonen if ever there was one) and his sister Mikasa (a girl of few words but immense strength) as they wind their way through the streets of their huge hometown, the walls, streets and structures have a strength, solidarity, and safety to them. Even the sounds of everyday life are lulling.

titan12

If there is one shortcoming to this first episode, it’s that Eren isn’t necessarily likable at first. His reasons for wanting to strike out into the outside world aren’t unreasonable, but he can be over-emphatic in his protestations and scolds.

Sure, he may have had a vision of doom descending on Shiganshina, but he’s fighting against a century of idleness and contentment. Conviction and loudness are no substitute for hard evidence. Also, the episode tries to paint Armin with broad strokes, but there’s not much to him yet except that like Eren, he’s not content to stay within the walls.

Then the evidence arrives in the form of a hand grasping the top of the 50-meter outer wall, and it’s a powerful “Toldya so” moment that shakes every inhabitant of the city to their core. Then…a hole is blasted in the wall with such force it causes widespread destruction to the rest of the city. And that’s before smaller Titans start rushing in.

Any early quibbles I might have had with Eren or Armin go out the window when the appalling carnage starts, with throngs of humans running for their lives and many being scooped up and gobbled up like hors d’oeuvres. There’s a distinct sticky aura of awfulness to the spectacle, and the utter powerlessness of the three young protagonists.

titan13

When Eren rushes home hoping against hope his house is still intact only to find his mom’s legs crushed under its ruins, it’s a gut punch. Before I can recover from that, a Titan eats her with cold satisfaction as a fleeing Eren watches, flooring me yet again.

Amidst the wholesale butchery and mass despair, there are obviously glints of both hope and levity. Mikasa’s imposing brawn is employed for a snicker when she and Eren rescue Armin from bullies, and the smash cut from Hannes momentarily facing off against a Titan to reconsidering and scooping up the kids, and retreating was a legitimately funny “oh shit” moment.

As for hope, well, Eren, Mikasa, and Armin are still alive, which means anything is possible. Obviously, they won’t stay powerless for long. But nor is any viable counterattack likely in the immediate future. The onslaught of the Titans has only begun, after all. For now, surviving is the name of the game.

9_brav2

Welcome to my weekly (or bi-weekly) Attack on Titan retro reviews. Comments are welcome as always, however please limit discussion to this episode and avoid spoilers, as I am writing these reviews as I watch AoT for the first time. Thanks—HB

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 09

With Shun gone for four days, Satoru gathers the others and suggests they go looking for him. He and Saki travel to his house in Pinewood, but it is totally cordoned off in all directions, and they find that a huge gash has been made in the forest, with a burnt-out tree trunk in the bottom of a pit that reminds Saki of the one in Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru ask around school, but everyone from Pinewood is absent. Curiosity leads them to check out the inner yard, and they see three adults release two tainted cats from their kennels, and mention Shun. Maria comes to Saki in the middle of the night to tell her this, and she sets out alone to find Shun, but its confronted by one of the cats in the forest.

Whatever year it actually is in Saki’s world, it might as well be 1984 (while that monolithic tree they see brought 2001 to mind). People who do not obey and conform to the “society of love” live in constant fear of death, or worse – by the hands of the “Ethics Committee”, which may as well be called the Ministry of Love. People are supposed to stick to their particular vocation, and not pry in anything else, even if it concerns family or friends. In Saki’s case, her older sister vanished long ago, and she forgot about it like a good girl. But now she’s remembered. Now someone she cares about deeply – Shun – is in some very serious trouble. She cares about him so much she’s willing to risk everything – her freedom, her life, her parents’ peace-of-mind – to find him. Which is badass.

We don’t hand out tens willy-nilly; only three first-run episodes have received our highest rating so far, along with a handful of Retro Reviews. But we consider this episode the best and most complete of the series so far; a masterpiece of tone, mood, and tension. It’s not particularly flashy, but never before have the stakes seemed so high, or have Saki and her friends seemed to be in more danger. We’re not even sure what the real deal with Shun is yet – only that he may be turning into a full karma demon (that doesn’t sound good). This episode is the best kind of building-up episode: one that creates so much anticipation for the future, but more than holds up by itself as a comprehensive study in layering trepidation on top of disquiet on top of dread.

The moment Saki hears from Maria, she goes into Full Rescue Mode – suiting up with the talisman Shun gave her (and which she may believe was also a wordless message to come after him, not just a memento mori), and using her Cantus to good effect, bringing a loud wind that will mask her movements, flying through the air, and racing down the river. If she’s discovered, she’ll most certainly die, and the episode projects that perfectly. While a ten need not be totally perfect, we could not list a single flaw in the episode anyway. From the precise pacing to the stirring primeval score to the consistently excellent costume design, this was a winner on all fronts.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

P.S. The tainted cats have pumps for feet…very strange.