It’s interesting to see how one’s perspective can change when faced with new, original material. Of course, I’m talking about me reading the Shingeki no Kyojin manga, which I had the opportunity of blazing through and fully catching up on once I had the chance last week.
I’ll admit that I prefer the manga, not just because of art style but rather because of just how it’s done. The excessive grimdarkness is there which still bores or irritates me, but there is something different about flipping through a black and white page while having no dramatic music and loud yelling jumping out at you every two seconds. That is the main difference – the most significant one – I found in comparing the manga to the adaptation, and it really changes the way Shingeki lays out its tone. There is a sense of desperation in the manga that isn’t necessarily always conveyed through screams or dramatic yelling, but through painful and critical moments. I don’t feel that same emotion in the show, where it’s dropped for complete dramatics.
That said, I do prefer the way the anime progresses chronologically instead of skipping around in the manga, which made things a little confusing for me (as someone who watched the anime first). However, I will still argue that Shingeki no Kyojin as a whole lacks cohesiveness, and that this ends up sticking out in every little mistake the show creates in terms of direction.Take this week’s episode, for instance. There was a lot of running and talking, which is fine – I would much prefer people in action while talking rather than just standing and waiting for a confrontation. But for the past two episodes now, Shingeki has covered one chapter a time, and these drawn out scenes really start to drag over a certain period; punctuated by an excellent but brief flying scene that probably cost most of the entire episode’s budget altogether. This has happened twice now: a lot of talking and exposition, followed by intense amounts of action, followed by the chapter cliffhanger. Shingeki both in the manga and the anime, tends to lack a consistent pace, teetering back and forth between minimal character development, plot dumps, and action scenes very quickly instead of slowly leading into one event after the other. Maybe this is a reflection of “how war works” but to me it’s still a sign that the writer/director/mangaka still lacks a strong idea of what he or she wants to do and how he or she wants to get there, thus ending up all over the place with no real focus or pinpoint.
I did say this before, and my opinion still stands, though now I do realize that at least things get slightly better towards the middle of the manga, also known as the Scouting Legion arc. The anime hasn’t covered this yet, though I hope that it does, because that’s really where things start picking up and characters become a little more interesting and stand out in their own ways. With that in mind, let’s go back to this week’s episode, which actually turned out to be my second favorite after Episode 8. Wendeego didn’t enjoy the extended scenes of talking, but I really did – this was one of the few times where action and dialogue was mixed in evenly enough so that we got a sense of what our characters were striving for, whether they were new or not. This comes first in the form of Commander Pixis, who somehow is able to sonorus his voice and talk to the entire army, managing to give them a meaning to fight. What I did enjoy was how this wasn’t necessarily your typical inspirational speech – Pixis offers no comfort or happy dreams for his soldiers – but he does outline the consequences if people give into fear and back off from their duties. This is also seen when Pixis’ soldier gives a discussion about how these people who die aren’t meaningless (despite the anime seeming to suggest so) and have lives, blood, flesh, names – and that their sacrifice is no easy thing to digest and Eren will need to take responsibility for the people who will die today. It was very curt and necessary and I do wish that the show could reveal this aspect of war more instead of just monotonously repeating “People die a lot!” I guess we’ll have to hold on a little longer for that shift to take place though.
Mechanics-wise, this episode was well balanced. There’s a beautifully animated 15 second scene that made me hold my breath. Many have complained about Shingeki no Kyojin‘s inconsistency when it comes to animation, but I personally find it quite solid. Sure, there were plenty of stills used throughout this episode, but I feel like they didn’t really take away any value from the episode altogether, especially considering how next week’s installment is where the real fighting takes place. The show has made good use of its music as well, picking a variety of music from pumped up techno beats mixed in with drums and chants, to piano melodies that manage to evoke some feeling alone. If we could only get a response through character development, I think Shingeki would be set for some really great progress, but once again – I can’t say that these expectations will be fulfilled until later on when things start becoming a little more coherent.
Next week is probably the week devoted to a lot of action, so I’m not complaining about these two weeks’ worth of talking and yelling in the long run. But now that I have the ability of foresight, it only begs the question: how does Araki plan to make this show into 25 episodes? That’s a question that’s got me interested, and while I think about it while perusing over some more Shingeki chapters, I can only hope that the show knows where to draw the line rather than going over it as it’s done so many times already. There’s always the chance for a second season, but I’d rather go for the “safe than sorry” route. Hopefully Araki will do the same.
(Though he probably won’t, who am I kidding.)