Attack on Titan – 46 – Playing to the Crowd

The Rob Reiss Big-Ass Titan is coming; there’s no getting around it. And it’s attracted to huge groups of people, so it’s avoiding villages and going straight for the densely populated Orvud District, which Erwin keeps UN-evacuated.

Using the citizens of bait may at first seem to run counter to their first mission to protect the people, but if Orvud is emptied the Titan will head to the main wall and possibly break all the way through to Mitras.

I assumed we’d get some kind of Battle of Helm’s Deep-style all-nighter siege, but dawn arrives far quicker than I expected, but both the wall defenses and the Scouts are as prepared as they’re going to be.

They’ve got a plan. Historia isn’t sitting on the sidelines to let her future subjects bear the brunt of the battle; she’s on the front lines, against Erwin’s urging. She muses that if she’s to be accepted as the new ruler, she must earnit with deeds, not simply lean on her name.

In a nice nod to the opening, which IMO is the best of any Titan season, Eren notices a trio of kids not unlike him, Mikasa and Armin back in episode one, on a similarly lovely day, before the Colossal Titan attacked.

Showing Eren looking behind his back and seeing who he must protect is a nice move, and the three kids are the first citizens who I actually want them to protect (a bunch of others are annoyed they have to carry out an evacuation drill).

As for Eren punching himself until the weak, ineffectual, useless brat within him is “gone for good”, that doesn’t work quite as well, but I like the fact that he’s inspired by Historia’s transformation into one of the strongest among them.

When the Rob Titan reaches the wall, no amount of artillery bombardment does much good, and he puts his hands on he top of the wall and stands up, revealing his face and half of his head has been sheared away.

The Scouts shoot more gunpowder into him, and Eren transforms into a Titan to personally deliver another load of powder directly into the very large and open head cavity, thus destroying the core from the inside.

This is where the wheel is broken and history doesn’t repeat itself; the three kids are scared, but their homes and families are spared the cruel, gruesome fates of Eren’s, Mikasa’s and Armin’s.

Even more significant, the fates conspire to make Historia, not Eren, the public savior of the day, as the assembled masses watch in awe as she delivers the killing blow to the Titan core high over the city, before landing in a wagon.

Little do they know she just had her first—and last—fight with her dad. And she won.

When she rises from her fall, she promptly tells all within earshot her name, Historia Reiss, and her position: their ruler. It’s yet another badass moment in perhaps the best character arc Titan has yet delivered. She achieved what she set out to achieve: gain credibility with the people and legitimize her claim to the throne though great heroic deeds.

Meanwhile, Kenny bleeds out against a tree not far from the destroyed Reiss caverns, his entire team destroyed in the fracas the night before. Levi arrives to confront and possibly arrest him, but takes a look at Kenny’s burns and wounds and declares him beyond healing. Kenny isn’t so sure, and presents a syringe of…something. Is that Titan serum? Whatever it is, Levi needs to be on guard.

Attack on Titan – 21

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AoT’s pacing during its building up can be foot-tappingly sluggish, and it’s a show that loves to have its characters explain every last detail of what’s happening ad nauseum, but it can still stage one hell of an intense payoff, as it does this week when the She-Titan pilot takes out Gunter, transforms back into a Titan, and then kills off Erd, Petra, and Oulo in quick succession. All Eren can do is watch, as he made his decision to place his belief in his friends over his belief in himself.

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It proves to be the wrong decision, just as his decision not to fight the She-Titan when he first encountered it was the wrong decision. I thought that Levi looked somewhat surprised when Eren decided to press forward, allowing him to lead the Titan to Erwin’s trap. But the trap was the wrong decision, too.

Sure, you’re supposed to believe in your comrades, and perfectly-executed traps are supposed to work, but Erwin and Eren both learn that doing things that seem most reasonable aren’t effective when dealing with the Titans, especially this one. I knew some shit was going to hit the fan, but the shit was so thick it stopped the fan blades in their tracks. Gunter, Erd, Oulo, or Petra? Sure, one or two were bound to die. But all of them? That’s some rough carnage.

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But one good thing comes out of that carnage: it provokes Eren into a murderous, vengeful rage, transforming into full-on Titan Mode (no partial manifestation) and getting into the best Titan-on-Titan battle yet, an epic struggle in which Eren’s brute force intermittently finds purchase with the slick, slippery She-Titan, who also packs a punch due to her ability to harden her skin.

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Throughout this battle all the way until the end of the episode, my heart rate went up and my adrenaline didn’t stop pumping. But while it’s clear now who’s inside the She-Titan, Eren doesn’t pick up on it. He doesn’t realize someone used these kinds of moves on him before, in human form. No, he’s too goddamn angry to think about anything other than beating her into oblivion.

That proves his undoing, however, as he blasts his own fists away and has to wait for them to heal. Also, after appearing to walk away from the fight when he’s down, the She-Titan turns back and blasts Eren’s head off, exposing the human within, which she swallows. Now, we’ve been here before, so again, Eren clearly isn’t dead, but he definitely lost a fight I thought he’d win. He just lacked the experience in his Titan form and over-relied on his brutality. The way of water beat the way of fire here.

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As if this episode wasn’t awesome enough, Mikasa shows up just in time not to save Eren, but watch him get glomped by the She-Titan. Her sudden transition from shocked-and-fragile Mikasa to Pissed-and-Lethal Mikasa was wonderful to behold, as is her ultimately futile attempt to get Eren back immediately by chasing the She-Titan and slashing the shit out of her.

Like Eren, Mikasa falls victim to lack of experience when she goes for the nape only to hit the She-Titan’s crystalline shell. She took her shot and missed, but looks fully prepared to go at it again, but we can guess how it would have ended: out of gas, out of blades, and with no Eren to save her. Instead, Levi grabs her from death-by-blaze-of-glory, and we’re glad for it. Let them try it his way, if he has one.

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Next Week: My AoT Retro Reviews come to an end, just in time for Christmas.

Attack on Titan – 20

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Hmm…this is what I was afraid of: either the episode would feature everyone besides Erwin and Levi heeing and hawing about what’s going on, delaying the reveal of who is inside the Female Titan, or they’d simply be unable to get her out. We get both. But while this episode lags at times with its scores of characters who don’t know as much as we do, I still didn’t hate it, because it went in a different direction and opened my eyes to a through line I hadn’t yet fully considered.

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Speaking of eyes, both they and the short blonde hair got me thinking Krista is the Female Titan, but we see her positioned on the edge of the forest, distracting the lesser Titans along with Armin, Mikasa (who has been criminally sidelined this arc), Sasha, etc.

So Krista’s out, leaving only one blue-eyed blonde, who oddly chose not to join the others in the Scout Regiment. If that’s Annie Leonhart in there, it explains her past aloofness and desire to be independent from the scouts when the time came to nab Eren, not to mention her martial arts background.

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Unfortunately, Erwin and Levi aren’t able to get past the Titan’s hands, and before they can blow them off with explosives, she gives out a blood-curdling cry that sends legions of Titans to her position, where they proceed not to free her from her restraints, but eat her, leaving Erwin no choice but to give the order to retreat, with their prize now gone.

Erwin, clearly feeling pretty defeated and distraught, notes that the She-Titan gave up everything to foil his plans, mirroring Armin’s notion that those who aren’t prepared to lose it all won’t be able to enact the necessary change to save humanity. Well, it works both ways.

Meanwhile, and less interesting, are Eren, Petra, & Co. sussing out exactly why they were left in the dark, concluding that there’s a pro-Titan traitor in their midst, so need-to-know was the name of the game.

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When Eren was told the expedition isn’t over and you haven’t officially survived until you’re back home, I knew it probably wasn’t going to be an easy retreat. Erwin also makes it a point to order Levi to fill up on gas and blades for the return trip, just in case something happens. And something does, with the “pilot” of the Female Titan masquerading as Levi and luring his squad to their potential doom.

For the first time, this episode turned me on to the idea of humans collaborating with Titans, even if I don’t quite understand how the hell it works. When everyone was accusing Eren, I obviously thought they were full of it, because I watched what Eren went through firsthand.

But this female traitor (who is probably Annie?) She’s the real deal: she’s killed dozens of her fellow humans and isn’t done, and is still very much after Eren. I’d say a Titan-on-Titan duel in the forest is pretty much inevitable.

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Attack on Titan – 19

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What does Levi’s big flare gun shot set into motion? Well, in the immediate moment, not all that much; it’s only an acoustic round that doesn’t seem to affect the She-Titan at all, but could serve as a signal for the soldiers ahead of them, as well as wiping everyone’s slate clean, so to speak, and focusing them.

But the more Eren focuses on what’s behind him—scouts engaging the Titan and getting killed, while he runs away—the more upset he gets, to the point he’s ready to bite his hand and become a Titan himself so he can stop the killing. Levi, looking ahead the whole time, doesn’t discourage him from this. Rather, he tells him to make his own choice, though Petra begs Eren to believe in her and his other comrades.

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Those words—“Believe in us.”—triggers a flashback, which is another suspension of the momentum of the present events, but actually turned out to be a worthwhile detour. When Eren climbs down a well to test his Titan-transforming powers, biting his hand doesn’t work. Levi tells him not to sweat it, and they have some chow.

But as Eren reaches for a spoon that’s just out of reach, the Titan transformation occurs, as he unwittingly creates a partial Titan torso and arm grasping that spoon. All of a sudden, Eren’s comrades draw their swords and start yelling, ready to kill him if he so much as flinches. The sense of cascading fear and mounting chaos in this scene was quite palpable.

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Eren tries to de-escalate by shouting “Be quiet for a second!”, but he’s really saved by an elated Hange Zoe, whose mouth is literally watering at the chance to see Eren’s ability in the hot, skinless flesh. Ironically, it’s Hange’s crazed, reckless thirst for knowledge and unapologeticly light mood that defuses the tense standoff. And Romi Park is immensely entertaining in this role.

An assist goes to Levi, who stood between Eren and his trigger (or rather blade)-happy officers and insisted they all basically chill the fuck out. No one acts in the time between Eren’s transformation and Hange’s arrival because the others are heeding their Captain, even if the compulsion to act decisively without thinking too much is strong.

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In fact, those instincts are one of the very reasons Levi chose them for his unit. None of the men or woman directly under Levi can be said to be like Armin; they’re not overthinkers. If they see an imminent threat, they don’t assess; they act. But another reason he chose them is their unswerving loyalty. When Hange determines Eren’s actions were involuntary, they know when they’re wrong and that they were threatening jerks to Eren, and not only apologize, but bite their own hands.

Would they act exactly the same way as they did if the clock was turned back (as tends to happen on this show) and they faced identical circumstances? Definitely, but that’s not going to ever happen, because now they know a little more about Eren and his ability: he only transforms when there’s a specific purpose to it, whether it’s protecting his friends from a cannon, plugging the gate, or reaching for a spoon.

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That night when Petra and the others bite their hands pledge to believe in Eren, and urge him to believe in him; that’s the end of Eren’s deliberations. Petra’s look up top is the same as the one from that night, an earnest plea for him to put his trust not only in himself, but in her, and Levi, and the rest of his comrades. Rather than transform, with the purpose of beating the She-Titan, he decides to keep racing forward on his horse. He’s growing a lot on this mission…without having to grow into a Titan.

His faith in his comrades and the Scout Regiment in general pays off, as the She-Titan, having been harried by several scouts who gave their lives to enable Levi, Eren, Petra & Co. to stay just ahead of her, is led straight into an elaborate trap consisting of hundreds of restraining wires that stop her in her tracks.

This was Erwin’s plan all along: using Eren to draw the She-Titan into captivity. She’s covering her nape, but they believe someone is in there (probably someone with that same hairstyle, I’m thinking), and they’re itching to get her out of there so she can answer for what she’s done…whoever she is.

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Ao Haru Ride – 06

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When Futaba learned that Yuuri liked Kou, it could have been a simple matter of her telling her she likes him too, so of course Futaba lies and says she doesn’t, and everything Yuuri says and does thereafter makes it that much harder for her to recant her statement. Yuuri trusted her, so now the truth will hurt Yuuri and damage that trust, instead of just the former.

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But by lying to Yuuri, Futaba is lying to herself too; something she realizes by the episode’s highly charged ending. Futaba decided to consider whether she actually loved Kou, or was simply charmed by his sparingly-used nice side. She strives to devalue her feelings for Kou compared to Yuuri’s, even though it’s far more likely the opposite is true. It seems to me that Yuuri is the one letting one instance of Kou being nice balloon into infatuation.

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Futaba’s doubts are supported when she has trouble with Kou trivia, but Yuuri knows even less about him, and has no history with him. Not to devalue the strength of Yuuri’s feelings, but from our perspective, Futaba was first, and has just as much right to love Kou as she does. We also don’t see Kou choosing Yuuri over Futaba…not even as a cruel joke.

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Of course, I’m talking about sense and logic, concepts unknown to teenagers with love on the brain. Futaba wants to love Kou, but it makes her feel like crap because of Yuuri. It’s an unenviable position, and she tries to let fate and circumstance choose for her, with Kou himself as the game piece. The result is satisfying because as inevitable as the couple seems, in this instance it really could have gone either way.

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Kou surprises her when he sticks around after she turns in the paperwork, and even when she takes the ridiculous step of deciding to give up on Kou if he doesn’t get out of the train and not giving up if he does, Kou stays right there, by her side, a fairly arbitrary test! Yet, it’s as if he’s just naturally drawn to her, and picking up on what he said, it would be “unnatural” for them to be apart. At the end of the day, she wanted him to step out of that train—to pick her—and he did. So, as Futaba says in her head: Sorry, Yuuri.

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