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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Attack on Titan S2E2: I'm Home

Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 2
I'm Home.

So, someone last week left a comment saying that there were no mysteries in Attack on Titan, every mystery was solved in episode eight of the first series, and I'm confused, because leaving aside how the end of the first series and the start of this one introduced three new mysteries, episode eight is just a prolonged action scene about retaking Trost, and barely even touches on any of the mysteries in the series. I am very bewildered, Commenter #1! Explanations on a post card!

This episode is another one without much Eren, Mikasa, or Armin in, which is strange, but not something I'm against, as a rule. Much as I like those three, I'm also quite happy to have this rolling focus on other characters in the Survey Corps, because they're all pretty interesting, and seeing them all deal with this influx of Titans helps to sell this event as being one of significant weight.

In this week's episode, we follow Sasha as she returns to her home, hoping to evacuate the people there. She finds a new village instead, completely empty bar for one child and one Titan slowly feasting on the child's still-living mother. Without her gear, and with only an axe and a bow and arrow to defend herself with, Sasha attempts to flee with the child. Meanwhile, Connie returns to his home town, only to find it wrecked and empty, with a single Titan in the remains of Connie's house -- a Titan with legs too spindly to move, and so could not possibly have walked there.

The faces of the fans.

So, this is a heavily Sasha-focused episode, and Sasha being a character who I recall very little about other than that she was the one who ate a potato in training (Light Yagami would be proud), and that she's a generally cheerful, peppy sort, I wasn't super-stoked to see that. It won me over fast -- actually, it won me over round about the time the child and the Titan appeared, with the episode immediately setting up the problem (there's a small Titan here, and Sasha is all but unarmed for all the good her weapons will do), the emotional precedent (we've just seen Miche torn apart last episode, we can all see a mile off that Connie's not going to be having an enjoyable day), and the stakes (if Sasha fails, both she and a small child will die).

That's writing advice I'd give anyone, really: Establish your problem, emotional precedent, and stakes up as soon as possible, and then follow that through to an emotionally charged conclusion, and this episode nails that.

The conclusion, as it turns out, is Sasha using the hunting skills learned from her father to take out both the Titan's eyes, distracting it long enough so that she can flee with the child, thus bringing her arc in the episode full circle -- from who she is in her flashback, not caring about anyone else, to who she is in the present, willing to put herself in danger to save a single child. We even get some nice emotional pay-off when her father tells her he's proud of her.

Sasha reacts much like I do when exposed to uncomfortable critical attention.

Incidentally, I really expected the child to be, like, a tiny, talking Titan from the way she was acting. I'm glad that didn't happen, because in hindsight that would make zero sense, but the wide eyes, blank expression, and seeming calm really had me convinced for a little while there. Then again, that's always been a little trick of animation I've liked in this show: How it will sometimes make its human characters look more Titan-ish to drive home an emotional point. We even see it with Connie later in the episode.

The story is intercut with a few quick scenes of Eren and the others setting out to face the Titans, but for the most part, the only plot developments there are that Armin is uncertain as to whether the Titans would actually break a wall made out of Titans (and points out that, previously, they only broke gates), and that Hange hopes that seeing the Titans in action will convince that there Wall Cult guy to talk. It's set-up for later episodes, basically.

Sasha's dad is a cowboy.

Speaking of set-up for later episodes, the end of this episode sets us up nicely for what should be a truly harrowing Connie-focused episode next week. Psst, Connie, I'm pretty sure that Titan is your mother. They've got the same hair.

All in all, this was an unexpected but solidly good episode. It felt a little rushed at times, but it's a pretty compelling case study in how to set up a very condensed but effective story. So far, this series is off to a really strong start, which certainly makes my job a lot more fun.

I'm still really enjoying the mystery, too. Even if it was apparently all solved in episode eight.

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