Attack on Titan – 37 (Fin, For Now)

Erwin manages to tie off his arm stump and stay conscious enough to witness a lot more of his scouts get eaten by the swarming Titans, but Eren and Mikasa are rescued from “Momeater” by Hannes, looking to settle a score from the very beginning.

Historia, who is now correcting people who call her Krista, tells Ymir it’s time for them to live for themselves, and when Ymir is around, no matter how messed up things get, Historia isn’t scared. Seeing her brandishing a sword and a confident smirk is a great way to close this chapter on the character.

Hannes lasts about as long as one would expect, but Momeater ends up eating him in much the same way, as Eren and the injured Mikasa can only watch. Eren tries to transform before his hand is fully healed, resulting in failure and an emotional breakdown.

But Mikasa is there to pull him out of it, bringing out the Full Adorable Mikasa routine and essentially charming Eren into calming the eff down, which still leaves the matter of Momeater starting to finish up with Hannes.

When it reaches out to grab another snack, Eren stops its hand with his fist, and something happens: Eren gains a new power. That power transforms his ravings into orders for all the rank-and-file Titans to follow, making them his minions.

They surround and tear Momeater apart, then aid the scouts’ retreat by swarming Reiner, forcing him to give up on grabbing Eren. Seeing that Reiner and Bertholdt are in deep trouble, Ymir runs to their aid, leaving Historia behind with a simple “I’m sorry” and tender caress of her hair.

Reiner and Bertholdt survive the day, and that night, Ymir tells them why she helped: because the day they brought Wall Maria down was the day she was freed from her nightmare of a life, into a life that’s, if we’re honest, still a nightmare, but maybe not quite as bad because she does have a measure of freedom.

As for Eren, he has no idea what happened, so Armin has to put two and two together for him, having talked it over with Jean. That Eren now knows he can control Titans without becoming one (he’s the “coordinate”, as Reiner says), is huge. It means civilization behind the wall isn’t as imminently doomed as everyone thought the previous day.

Not that there’s going to be smooth sailing ahead. As the scouts look out, the camera speeds past the horizon and beyond any point the humans we’ve been following have ever reached…all the way to another wall; another civilization, where a shirtless man with glasses sits atop the Beast Titan…whom I’m guessing is Eren’s dad.

That’s an effective, world-expanding teaser for a continuation of the story…whenever it happens to come around. While I’m not greatly informed of the particulars, it seemed like a huge effort just to get these twelve new episodes produced and aired, so I’m not holding my breath for episodes 38-50.

However, for all the questions from the first season the second failed to answer, I still feel it did the job most people expect of Titan: to entertain. I can’t say I wasn’t, or that I don’t look forward to the next chapters.

Attack on Titan – 36

This week is a non-stop, bloody, gory, slimy, and above all mobile episode. With only the occasional momentary flashback rather than an episode dominated by one, we stay in the present, where there is quite a bit going on. Sure, the background sounds are reduced and time seems suspended at times, but everyone’s minds are still racing, wondering what the heck to do and who the hell to trust.

When Krista pops out of Ymir’s mouth, Ymir emerges from her Titan’s neck to tell her she’s using her as a chip with which to bargain for her life, putting Ymir #1 as always (only now with no more self-lying). Krista, er, Historia, wants Ymir to come back with her, but when it’s clear she won’t, she doesn’t give up her friendship, saying Ymir will always have her as an ally, no matter what.

As their lover’s quarrel goes on, Erwin and the scouts catch up, heading Reiner off with a huge horde of Titans right on their tail, and the commander launches a crazy charge that immediately claims his right arm. But rather than scream and ask for mommy as some scouts have done in their final moments, Erwin surprises by continuing to order the charge, and, indeed, charge himself, arm or no arm. We’ve got ourselves a badass here.

When Reiner finally has to move his arms to defend against the Titan scrum, Mikasa makes her first attempt to snatch Eren, but misses Bertholdt by a hair and gets nabbed by another Titan she didn’t see, who crushes her midsection. Jean saves her, but Eren remains in Bertholdt and Reiner’s clutches…

…That is until everyone’s favorite dramatic preview narrator Armin shows up next to Bert and Eren, and after thinking about what he can give up, what he can sacrifice to assure a future, he decides to give up any semblance of diplomacy with the traitors, and brings up their comrade Annie, taking care to go into great detail about the constant agony she’s in as a result of torture.

That gets Bertholdt to lose it and draw his swords to answer Armin’s insults, but Erwin leaps into the frame and relieves Reiner of a digit, sending Eren falling into a waiting Mikasa’s arms. After scoring her first Titan kill protecting Ymir, Historia is snatched up by Connie and Sasha, but demands they let her go lest Ymir be killed. They think Ymir’s just lying again.

In an effort to wrest himself free, Reiner decides to perform the shot put on numerous Titans, launching them into the sky. One such ground-to-ground missiles knocks Mikasa and Eren of their horse, who runs off, leaving them alone, on foot, on the ground with not just any Titan approaching their location, but the Titan that ate Eren’s Mom back in the first attack.

Is Eren healed enough to transform and get some payback? Will Mikasa’s internal injuries keep her from fighting 100%? Can help arrive in time? Will anybody get back to the wall? What will become of Ymir and Historia? So much to be resolved with just one episode remaining…

Attack on Titan – 35

Episode 35 starts by checking in on the mystery in Connie’s village, which was devastated but where there are no human remains, and where every horse is still in the stables. So what the hell happened? We don’t learn the answer to that, only that the sole Titan in the village—the one that looks like it’s fallen and can’t get up—is indeed Connie’s mother.

Moving on, we return to Reiner, Bertholdt. With scouts approaching, they have no choice but to get moving before nightfall. Eren pretends to cooperate—for all of five seconds—only to struggle in vain; he’s still too messed up to transform.

Reiner takes Eren and Bertholdt takes Ymir, who is still not sure who to trust. Reiner likes Christa too, and she factors into their “plans” (whatever they are), so Ymir goes along, until she senses Christa is among the pursuing scouts, and decides she’s going to do things her way.

That decision comes after a lifetime far longer than the age Ymir appears, in which lies she told herself and others temporarily placed her in places of comfort and purpose, only for everything to turn to shit.

In the earliest instance, cultists pick her up off the street and make her their icon, claiming she has the blood of the king. When troops raid the cult, she lies about deceiving them to save lives, only for all of them to share the same fate.

That fate involves some kind of sentencing that involves turning the condemned into a Titan and shoving them off the wall. On the other side, Titan Ymir wandered, suffered, and ultimately fell dormant and became buried by the earth.

When she finally wakes up, instinct leads her to eat Reiner and Bertholdt’s comrade Marcel…but doesn’t remember doing so. When she returns to human form, she’s greeted by a gorgeous starry sky, and makes it her new purpose in life to stop dealing in lies and live the way she wants, leading her to Christa, whom she considers a kindred spirit.

It’s a bold, engrossing tale that further fleshes out Ymir the person, made more intriguing by all the questions and lines of thinking that it raises during the flashback—questions a non-source-reader like me has no knowledge of—questions about the nature of humans and Titans; whether everyone has a Titan within them; even whether the state of human civilization within the walls is the true aberration in this strange world.

Back in the present, rather than simply going along with whatever plan (or lack thereof) Reiner and Bert have, Ymir flips the script. She wrenches herself loose from Bertholdt  and demands they let her bring Christa with them, or else she’ll take Eren and escape on her own using her superior speed and agility.

The lads seem to agree, because when Mikasa, Armin & Co. arrive at Ymir’s position, she’s become a Titan, and when Christa arrives, she swallows her whole (for ease of transport, not to eat her) and rejoins Reiner (in Armored Titan form), Bert and Eren, running off into the sunset, having thoroughly outwitted the scouts.

Of course, the scouts aren’t done chasing them. Erwin, as well as Mikasa and Armin, have come this far; they’re not returning home without Eren or Christa. And so the pursuit continues.

Attack on Titan – 34

While I’m all for hanging out in the branches of giant trees on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, I was hoping for a little more substance. Instead, it’s a time-marking episode, with Reiner and Bertholdt waiting for a sunset that never comes while Ymir and Eren poke and prod them with questions, none of which are actually answered except one: they’re ultimately headed for the traitor’s hometown.

Just as Mikasa has to keep calm and watch her pace so as not to break the rescue party formation, Eren has to keep calm and not do anything stupid by transforming back into a titan before he’s healed and in the middle of enemy territory. But while his eyes bulge and his teeth grind, Eren’s struggle is pretty moot: Reiner says he and Ymir are too weak to transform anyway.

Then Reiner goes off, talking as if he wasn’t the armored titan, but just another soldier in the scouts who should probably get a reward, if not a promotion, for all his good work. Ymir surmises, and is probably correct, that after spending so long pretending to be a regular human soldier, he no longer knows who he is, or at least forgets sometimes.

However, he’s lucid enough to know he can flip Ymir if he can convince her it’s in her best interest, or more importantly, in Christa, AKA Historia’s. Ymir is at least willing to listen, adding another slice to Eren’s shit sandwich. But as the sun sets, their limbs start to regenerate, and the smoke flares in the distance indicate the scouts are further along in their pursuit than Bertholdt calculated.

I was expecting a quiet episode in the trees, but rather disappointed in the lack of answers, especially when it comes to the Beast Titan. Eren also seems to know, and accepts, less than we do, and it’s always frustrating to wait for a character to catch up to you.

Attack on Titan – 33

Thanks to Bertholdt’s colossal smoldering husk falling off the wall, he and Reiner are able to make off with both Ymir and an incapacitated Eren in a literal cloud of smoke. All the scouts present end up injured and burned in some way, and Mikasa, who is knocked out, isn’t able to immediately give chase, like she did when Annie took Eren. No one is.

It’s a good a time as any, then, for another flashback to the “good old days” when Eren, Mikasa and Armin played out the very same dynamic: Eren would bite off more than he could chew in fights with bullies, Armin would run to Mikasa, and Mikasa would unleash hell on those who hurt Eren. But because she’s almost always just a bit late, she’s rarely able to get Eren out of a fight before he gets beaten up.

EAT ANGRY.

Hannes, who remembers this (and misses being a ‘useless drunk soldier’), reassures the two that Eren won’t give up just because he’s been taken away. There’s no evidence of him ever giving up throughout the years they’ve known him. So the best thing for Mikasa and Armin to do is not to stew in their own present helplessness, but rest, heal, and eat food, so they can give their best when it’s time.

That time comes sooner than expected, as Erwin arrives with the military police and join forces with the scouts to go across the wall. Hange believes the two traitors are likely tired after their ordeal and will hole up in the nearby giant forest until nightfall, when (most) other Titans don’t move.

She turns out to be correct, as Eren wakes up, still steaming and missing his arms, beside Ymir, who is looking much better than a couple episodes ago (in that she’s up, about, and talking). Reiner and Bertholdt are both back to their human forms. They should have a lot to talk about before the cavalry appears, and before the sun goes down.

Attack on Titan – 02

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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