Attack on Titan – 04

titan41

I’ll say this about these first episodes of AoT: it does not dick around. Two more years pass during which Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and a large group of fellow young cadets are hardened and trained, and graduation nears. As the drill sergeant observes them training in the woods he helpfully lays out the strengths and weaknesses of each recruit.

Armin lacks strength, but he’s got a sharp mind; Eren isn’t spectacular at any one thing, but he learns quickly, works hard, and no one is more driven. Mikasa is perfect at everything; a once-in-a-generation all-round talent. But you know what? That’s fine with me, because she’s so damn modest and unassuming about that ability.

titan42

What I also like is that Mikasa isn’t just tough for a girl, she’s the toughest cadet, period, and there are other tough girls too, like the food-obsessed Sasha and aloof Annie Lockhart. The latter teaches both Eren and Braun a lesson with combat skills her father taught her, but isn’t taking any of this seriously, as the whole idea of those who are the most talented at killing Titans get to serve furthest away from them, in the interior Military Police.

titan43

Indeed the top ten cadets in the class of 218 have the option of reporting straight to the Military Police, where they may theoretically live out their lives in relative peace and safety. Mikasa graduates top in the class, while Eren finishes a surprising fifth, with Armin placing outside the top ten.

Eren will have none of the military police; he’s joining the Scout Regiment, where he can take the fight directly to the Titans who took his mother and home. Armin and Mikasa decide to join him in turn, with Mikasa convinced he’ll die a quick death without her by his side. Protective? Sure, but he is her family.

When they graduate, Eren gives a speech rejecting the notion the Titans cannot be beaten, and that there’s value in fighting them even at the cost of his life, as continuing to fight them will allow them to gather more and more intel about their foe, so that one day, future forces might be able to bring them down for good. He doesn’t want to die, but he can’t sit back and do nothing.

titan44

The speech clearly moves a few of his fellow top tenners like Conny and Sasha, who join him in the Scout Regiment. When they arrive in Trost district along Wall Rose, they’re welcomed by an optimistic crowd; it’s been five years since the Colossal Titan attacked, and there hasn’t been any advancement by the enemy. In that time, the collective wounds have healed a little, and both hope and dignity are in the air.

…Then, on Eren’s first day atop the wall maintaining the cannon, the Colossal Titan returns, and the lighthearted mood is replaced by terror and despair. Man…Not particularly forgiving to its human populace, this show. Yet Eren doesn’t freeze in fear. He and his comrades are scattered off the wall, but he uses his ODM gear to get back to the battlements and face his nemesis down.

He’s not scared, he’s pissed, and his time has come to finally attempt what he’s wanted to do since he saw his mother get eaten. I have no earthly idea how he expects to take the behemoth on, who will help him, and who won’t survive the imminent battle, but I’m damned eager to find out on all counts.

8_brav2

Advertisements

Attack on Titan – 03

titan31

Two years after the Titan attack destroyed their home, Eren, Mikasa and Armin begin boot camp, and their drill sergeant suffers no foolishness, especially from one Sasha Blouse, who just can’t help scarfing down a hot potato while he’s talking (the tension of the exchange is highly amusing, showing off Titan’s sense of humor even in such bleak setting. (The sergeant also thinks Armin Arlert is a dumb name.)

It’s a common strategy: strip the cadets down and then build them back up, in their case, into Titan-killing soldiers. As the sergeant walks down the line, we learn how the recruits are from all over, and have enlisted for many different reasons. Many don’t cut it and leave to work the fields on the first day. Others will wash out later. I liked how the sergeant knew from the look of the cadets who’d already gone through the wringer.

titan32

Eren is eager to get through training so he can start kicking Titanic ass on the front lines, but he hits a snag: the omni-directional mobility gear all soldiers need to master. In short, he sucks at it. He has all the motivation and determination in the world, but appears to lack the aptitude. This is a huge setback for his life goals, and you can see in his haunted expression at dinner that he fears failure and his own weakness far more than any Titan.

This episode also presents the opportunity to spread out beyond our core trio to several interesting supporting characters, some of whom may well end up in the same unit as Eren. The aforementioned Sasha is a bit one note in her relentless pursuit of food, but Jean Kirstein’s honesty about wanting to join the military police so he can serve in the safe(r) interior provides a welcome contrast to Eren’s puffed-chest gung-ho act.

Even better though, Jean and Eren don’t just come to blows over the disagreement. A bell rings, and the two make up, perhaps aware that fighting each other is a waste of time. Then there’s Reiner Braun, who like Eren & Co. is one of the few cadets who has seen the Titans firsthand; in other words, who have seen hell.

titan33

But the undisputed rockstar of this episode, and of the show so far, at least for me, is Mikasa Ackerman. We learn a little more about her intensely close, co-dependent bond with Eren; neither of them want to ever be apart from the other; both feed off of one another’s unique energy. She aces the OGM, makes someone fall in love with her just by walking past, looks awesome no matter what her length of hair is, and even owns Sasha by not surrendering her bread.

She also rejoices when Eren finally gets the OGM right (turns out he had a defective belt, but even managed to balance properly on that, proving he’s more than capable). But she’s also the only one who doesn’t see self-satisfaction in Eren’s face. She sees relief that he doesn’t have to leave her.

Not that he would have to: had he failed, she would have gone with him to the fields; Armin too, probably. Because if there’s one thing that’s working out for these three kids in this dastardly post-apocalyptic fiasco of a world, its the three of them sticking together.

9_brav2

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 06

y761

It’s Summertime on Y7, and Miyamura, Urara and Itou waste no time hitting the beach, but Yamada can’t go because he has supplemental lessons. Urara in her generosity lets Yamada switch bodies for her so he can soak in the rays. Itou seems miffed by Miyamura’s assertion Urara thinks it’s boring without Yamada with them, but Urara has kinda always liked Yamada above them.

y762

While in Yamada’s body, Urara is suddenly confronted by the green-haired Otsuka Meika, one of Yamada’s fellow summer school buddies, who ends up kissing him as a “gesture of their new friendship.” This makes Urara suspect Otsuka is a witch, but she doesn’t know her power, as nothing happens during the kiss.

The next day, after Otsuka accuses Yamada (who is really Yamada now) of being a different person (causing her a nosebleed and such), and Yamada returns to the dorms to find Nene and Ushio have joined them on their…er, witchhunt. The only problem is, the “volume two” notebook they seek is in a locked classroom, and the one with the keys is running Yamada’s class. To get access, the class will have to pass the exam and end the supplementary lessons.

y763

To that end, Urara switches with Yamada manages to convince Otsuka to kiss Yamada one more time, while she tasks Yamada with giving her a bath. This results in Nene getting all close and personal with Urara, unaware it’s Yamada until it’s too late. I love how these powers encroach on all of the characters’ boundaries of privacy and modesty, a free and uninhibited dynamic rare in a genre where even calling someone you like by their first name is a big step.

y764

Urara succeeds, and Otsuka wearily kisses Yamada again, and then Yamada kisses everyone else…and nothing happens. The boys all meekly decide to wait it out in the girls’ room, but Nene and Itou break their resolve and they all go to sleep. Yamada is then woken up by a loud, brash female voice, which turns out to be Otsuka’s; her power is telepathy. Neato!

y765

The next morning Yamada undergoes telepathy training with Otsuka, whose inner voice is far more forceful and domineering than her regular voice. In fact, there’s a flame-wreathed drill sergeant who won’t suffer any sass. She’s already passed her telepathy on to the others in their class, and now Yamada is a member of their little outfit. Together they’ll collaborate on passing the test, which is what everyone wants.

The problem is, witnessing Urara in Yamada’s body gave them the mistaken impression Yamada is smart and has all the answers. He doesn’t, but they’re depending on him anyway, so he must send the questions to Miyamura for Urara to solve. Then Urara will send the answers via Miyamoto to Yamada, who’ll distribute them to the others.

y76a

It’s a lot of complicated telepathy to ask of a novice, but he works hard and everyone passes the test. And to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t get bogged down in showing a lot of the process, which probably would’ve just made my head hurt! Yet even though the classroom is unlocked it has been cleared out, allegedly by the president. Still, they’ve discovered a new witch, and the whole big group celebrates by enjoying the rest of their Summer vacation at the beach.

y777

On the last night, as the others light fireworks, Yamada and Urara have a bit of alone time, during which he reports that he may have figured out why the three witches he knows have their powers: they wished for them: Urara, who didn’t like her situation, gained the power to switch bodies; Nene, who wanted to be president, gained the power to charm; and Otsuka, who couldn’t talk to people, gained the power to communicate.

That means there must be a reason Yamada, while not technically a witch himself, gained the power to copy powers. It’s a mystery he believes will be solved when they discover the remaining four witches, something they’ll have to do without the benefit of the second volume notebook.

One could say he shares the same insecurities as the three witches he’s ID’ed so far, being a recovering delinquent, and his life has grown richer and happier with each ID. So maybe it would behoove him to look within himself to find the other four, since they’ll inevitably have the same problems he wrestles with.

8_mag