illegenes: What can I say about these past two week’s Titan? That they had the best animation I’ve seen yet? That they also had the best character exposition yet? That I finally might be growing on these people and what they’re fighting for? That I’m still a little tired of how much the show seems to be focusing on the grimdark-ness of these people’s lives and wish that the action was a little more emphasized? I’m not sure where to start. Actually I do. Let’s start with Episode 7.
What I can say is that now that Eren is um, temporarily out of the picture (I think? but more on that in a bit) the show has decided to shift its focus on other characters – characters that I’m more invested in. Jean, Sasha, that bald head kid – each one of these kids gets some screentime to themselves, and while it’s all pretty much the same (crouching down and suffering from temporary PTSD while friends get eaten) it’s effective. It works! I feel like these characters have become something more of actual people and less of puppets who speak frantically. Jean stops coming off as a jerk and a guy who literally just wants to live through the day. Sasha starts becoming a real human being who tries to keep the team together. It’s good stuff, and I wish we had gotten it a little earlier, but better now than never.
The heart of this episode’s brilliance in terms of character development however, is the relationship between Armin and Mikasa, which was perhaps the most emotional part of the entire show so far. I really admired how Mikasa was able to keep her act together for a few minutes, only for it to fall apart at the end (as denoted by the change in her eye design). Part of me was waiting for the disappointment to happen – for Armin to literally sit useless for the rest of the episode, or for Mikasa to brush off Eren’s death like it was nothing to emphasize how badass she really was – but it didn’t, and instead, the show decided to take the more effective and realistic route by showing us that these are characters, who when cornered, are at a loss to do anything but sit and watch. Especially powerful were the moments when both Armin and Mikasa spurred each other to move on, knowing fully well that they could only really rely on each other. The voice acting was a bit shallow, but the dialogue really made up for it, and I’m really happy to say that I’ve come to appreciate these two, especially Mikasa, who finally comes face to face with her will to live itself. Once again, I was waiting for that disappointment – the idea that Mikasa couldn’t live on – and once again the show surprised me by doing the opposite and showing that Mikasa was her own individual who wanted to live on for herself, and not just for Eren. In doing so, she stopped being a Rei copycat and her own character.
I can’t begin to express how amazing the animation was this week though. So I’m going to just let the pictures do it themselves.
Camera angles, the music and direction, and the fluidity of the frames – everything was really perfect (even with there being still frames here and there). I’m hoping that Attack on Titan continues to be superb in this area, even if it is lackluster in others.
That said, if there is one thing I’m worried about, it’s the last few minutes of Episode 8 which gave us a big reveal – the idea that humans can turn into Titans, specifically, Eren. I knew Eren was going to come back one way or the other, but if it included him having some superpower that makes him into a really badass Titan, then consider me disappointed. It isn’t really about the idea that our protagonist has a convenient ability that allows him to fight giants head on, but more about the fact that the show has created such a big effort into showcasing how the 3D maneuvering gear is important for humans – regular, small, puny humans – to fight back. And if you just make Eren into a Titan, that kind of takes away the impact of the show and its meaning. That these are humans who have flawed weapons and must struggle to use them so they can fight back, and may not have super strength or agility but are doing whatever they can to make sure they survive. Eren as a Titan basically stomps out that essence altogether, literally. Of course, the show may continue to surprise me as it did so this episode, but betting on that would be a little too much for me.
I guess we’ll just have to wait until next week to take a look at the consequences of this new twist – but until then, here’s to hoping that Attack on Titan continues to deliver like it did these two weeks. And to all those soldiers whose names we’ll never know but get eaten anyways.
wendeego: So Eren was revealed to have become a Titan at the end of episode 8. What does this mean for the series as a whole? Does it undermine everything that has come so far? Can a “real robot” shonen remain real when there’s a super robot running around fucking things up?
To be honest, there were two moments while reading through the Titan manga when I was sold on the series. The first was when Eren, the supposed protagonist of the series, was gobbled up by a Titan at the very end of the first volume. This meant that the whole second volume of Titan was (technically) without its central protagonist, further developing Armin and Mikasa and proving that the manga focused around a trio rather than a single protagonist. The second came when, of course, Eren’s body was seen dangling from the blasted corpse of the Titan body he briefly commandeered. On one hand, this is a great twist, bringing back the protagonist while simultaneously massively expanding the scope of the manga on the whole. On the other hand, despite Natasha’s reservations I think it’s important to note how Eren’s transformation ties into the greater themes of the series.
First off, Titan may not be a “pure” real robot shonen, but neither are plenty of other supposed real robot shows. The eponymous mech of the original Gundam, for example, was a special prototype with greater capabilities than many of the other robots at the series beginning, effectively a super robot in a real robot setting. Then you have stuff like Evangelion, where the robots are bound by science and human-built machinery but are really more biological gods than robots, capable of performing miracles of great violence. Sometimes you have series like VOTOMS in which the robots are literally interchangable, but to be honest stuff like VOTOMS are rare. Even past this point, Titan is able to preserve its focus on the efforts of humanity rather than on Titans punching each other in the face because despite the presence of Titan-shifters, the emphasis is really on the struggles of soldiers against almost impossible odds. Note that rather than Eren’s identity being revealed to us right away, the characters instead spend two whole episodes using the “deviant Titan” as a strategic advantage rather than attempting to find out what it is or where it might have come from. In another series the focus might have been solely on Eren and his new powers, but here emphasis is put on Mikasa, Armin and their host of survivors.
I think what makes Eren’s transformation especially interesting is how it ties into what I was talking about in my post on episode 6. One of the central conflicts of Titan is between predator and prey, the seemingly all-powerful Titans and humans who, despite considerable ingenuity, may be on the losing side. In episode 8, Eren is revealed to have crossed the boundary and become a predator rather than prey. By doing so, he is able to engage the Titans on their own terms, putting his hand-to-hand combat training (which was some pretty neat foreshadowing, by the way) to good use. The question, then, is the same as before: what happens when people sacrifice their humanity in order to become hunters rather than humans. Eren was already a monster, a murderer even before he came of age. Now that he has found a way to become a Titan, he is far stronger than he was before–but at what cost? Plenty of shonen manga focus on the transcendence of humanity, as their protagonists take on more and more power until they are practically no longer human. Naruto embraces more and more of the Nine-Tailed Fox’s strength in his own series until he becomes something else, Ichigo activates stronger and stronger techniques until he embodies his sword rather than himself. What makes Titan different is that it takes Eren’s “berserk” mode and puts it at the very center of its thesis. Must humankind become monsters to fight monsters? In order to defeat the Titans, must human civilization push themselves so far that they become something far stranger and scarier than human? Eren has been granted his wish, to be given the chance to wipe every Titan off the face of the planet; but he may only do so by wearing the body of what he most hates.
There were, of course, some great human moments in this episode. Armin is finally given the chance to show his stuff, saving the lives of his friends and allies on multiple occasions through planning. Jean, who at the beginning of the series aimed for a cushy job policing the inner quarters of humanity’s last bastion of civilization, has become a leader of men. The moment I was surprised by, though, was Eren’s reveal, when Mikasa ran to him and held him close among the steam. This is one of the most crucial moments of the series and I was worried that Araki would botch the thing, but the scene definitely worked for me. Mikasa’s catharsis felt genuine, and with over half of the series still left to go it’s going to be interesting to see how the staff of Titan build on what they have created. The groundwork has been laid; now the war begins in earnest.