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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Attack on Titan S2E7: Close Combat

Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 7
Close Combat.

We interrupt this series of Attack on Titan to bring you a suspiciously well-made MMA anime, complete with a cheering crowd, lingering shots of muscular bodies, grappling holds, characters standing back and explaining what techniques are being used, and flashbacks to being trained by an old friend. It's practically a Hajime no Ippo episode, just on a much bigger scale, and with a looming Colossal Titan in the background.

Speaking of, I didn't realise last week that Bertholdt didn't actually form the entirety of his Titan form, instead just sort of perching on the wall, attached to it by a bunch of bones, like a giant boss in a hack and slash game. Well, it's a strategy, I suppose, as is his 'release waves of steam and wait' strategy.

With Reiner and Bertholdt having been revealed as the Armoured and Colossal Titans, the Survey Corps are thrown into a fight against the two, with Eren assuming his Titan form to fight Reiner. However, Reiner's armour and skill in close combat sees him easily beating Eren -- and to combat this, Eren attempts to use joint locks that Annie taught him during training. Meanwhile, Zoe and Armin try to take down the Colossal Titan, only for him to repel their attacks by producing heat like a furnace. Leaving a small group of soldiers, Zoe and Armin head out to assist Eren.

Eh, he's fine.

This episode is split fairly firmly between 'Reiner and Eren duking it out' and 'flashbacks to Eren's time in training,' with the latter being used to both contextualise some of the things Eren pulls off, and to hammer in the idea of betrayal: Reiner knows Eren's past and his goal, and his being the Armoured Titan is a betrayal of the highest order, and Eren utilises a technique taught to him by another traitor to (almost) win.

Interestingly, despite the Colossal Titan practically being the series' mascot, being the huge, terrifying Titan that is both foremost in Eren's memory and always at the forefront of marketing, Bertholdt's treachery is barely even touched on. Since Bertholdt has always been treated like an extension of Reiner, the idea of betrayal is squarely focused on Reiner, with Bertholdt almost as an afterthought.

Which goes some way to explaining why Bertholdt spends most of this episode unmoving on top of a wall, although part of that is also 'we only have so much budget for this Colossal Titan CGI, guys.'

The animation department is dying, Steve.

We even get a monologue from Eren about how Reiner and Bertholdt are the worst people alive, and honestly, he's not wrong, given that they basically attempted genocide, and then infiltrated and betrayed a much weaker group of people to the end of trying to finish the job. Obviously, the two of them have some kind of backstory that will go some way to explaining what drove them to this -- but I doubt it'll matter to Eren, and really, nothing would justify what they did.

The rest of the episode is the back-and-forth of Eren fighting Reiner, and the flow and pacing of this fight really could have come out of Hajime no Ippo, or something of the sort: Reiner has an immediate advantage with his size and strength, only for Eren to gain the advantage through techniques he's unfamiliar with but has had some training in, only for Reiner to then regain the advantage by revealing something he was keeping hidden (hitherto unseen speed), only for Eren to turn it around at the last moment.

That's not necessarily a bad thing -- the reason that structure is so prevalent in sports anime is because it allows for good pacing, and a back-and-forth of tension, relief, then tension again in a scenario that could otherwise quickly just become 'two people hitting each other,' which is boring as all get out.

It does, however, immediately frame Reiner vs Eren as a fight between two rivals, moreso than any other battle we've seen so far in the story -- Eren vs Annie wasn't at all like this, being a much more sprawling battle with the focus more squarely on the Survey Corps' attempts to help, and the damage they were doing to the city.

Yeah, Eren, you do that, 

The end sequence, of Reiner calling Bertholdt with his cry, and Bertholdt not so much moving as just shifting his weight to topple down towards Eren, is a nice moment as well. It looks like Bertholdt might end up just enveloping the two of them in his jaws, unless Eren gets away in time.

If the preview is anything to go by, next episode will cap off this battle and then deal with the aftermath, with Reiner and Bertholdt escaping and the focus of the episode being squarely on Mikasa and Armin. That possibly means that episode nine will be an Eren focus episode, but we'll see.

Incidentally, Zoe, contain yourself and your weird Titan-lust, please.

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