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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Attack on Titan S2E12: Scream

Attack on Titan
Series 2, Episode 12

Well, we're finally here, at the final episode of the second series. It's been fun, even if I could have happily done with less character development episodes that would ultimately not pan out to not be that important later on -- look, I like Sasha plenty, but if you're just going to have her become a total background character immediately afterwards, you may as well not bother with the flashback episode; and I definitely didn't need another iteration of the 'Eren is angry and fights stuff' flashback -- and maybe a few more explanations and a little more action.

It behooves us to say that Yasuko Kobayashi and Hiroshi Seko have done a good job -- I'm informed that rather than just doing a straight, compressed adaptation like last series, they moved events and reveals a round, bringing the reveal of Ymir's backstory forward, among other things, and for the most part, I think those changes worked really well.

In this week's episode, with Eren freed but the Scout Regiment in disarray, with a wounded Erwin unable to fight, Reiner throwing Titans at them, Ymir's loyalties divided, and Eren frozen in place after seeing the Titan that killed his mother, the Scouts' chances go from bad to worse. As Hannes dies and Reiner frees himself, Eren abruptly unlocks a new power: The power to control the mindless Titans.

This episode actually doesn't do a terrible job of tying everything off. Ymir and her betrayal is dealt with pretty early on, with Christa (or Historia, as she now insists she be referred to) telling Ymir to live for herself. The storyline is capped off fairly neatly there in order for the rest of the episode to focus on Eren, but we do get a return to it later on, as Ymir escapes with Reiner and Bertholdt, apparently accepting that what she wants to do is give up her life so that they won't return empty-handed.


(Oddly, it's this storyline that leaves the episode feeling slightly incomplete. I think seeing Ymir's fate -- if she is going to die, and the show is certainly making that seem like an inevitability -- would have been a more compelling way of finishing up both her storyline and the second series.)

That immediately raises the question of exactly what kind of place Reiner and Bertholdt are from, and what their status there is -- obviously all we've heard from them is that it's their 'hometown,' but in Ymir's flashback it looks almost Nazi Germany esque, and the idea that Reiner and Bertholdt cannot afford to return without some kind of result almost makes it seem like their position in that society is tenuous at best.

The only other real hint we get about Reiner, Bertholdt, their home, and their motivation for wanting to find the Coordinate (identified now as Eren's Titan-controlling power) is Reiner remarking that Eren is the worst possible person to have it -- but we're never told why. Is it because Eren is so unstable and angry? Is it because he wants all Titans to die? Is it just because he's their enemy, and an enemy they can't really reason with? Is it because of something else that we don't currently know about?

Best characters.

Speaking of Eren, he gets one of the best emotional scenes of this series, as he tries desperately to transform, nearly gnawing his hand off in the process, only to fail and for Hannes to die. Honestly, it would have been a scene with perhaps more emotional impact if Hannes had been present throughout this series, instead of only really re-entering it towards the end, but the writing and Yuki Kaji's voice acting manage to sell Eren's anguish and his breakdown.

The quieter scene that follows with Eren and Mikasa was also pretty emotional, and taken with the breakdown, and Eren's relative helplessness, it makes for a pretty good emotional set-up for Eren's new power to be revealed. I clarify that it's only a good emotional set-up because that plot twist isn't really set up and foreshadowed much at all -- the only foreshadowing I can think of is the reveal early on this series that the Beast Titan can partially (but not reliably) control Titans.

Eren, being all lit up by the sunset and stuff.

On a note that's almost exactly opposite to the problem of 'good follow through, not enough foreshadowing', this episode tries to follow through on the 'Titans are people' thing that's been set up all over this series, but doesn't quite manage to give it the punch it needs. Seeing Connie stunned and clearly broken inside was pretty heart-wrenching, but the fact that we never saw either him or Zoe learning this news meant that it felt more like an afterthought, when it should have been a massive revelation.

Either way, I enjoyed this series, and a third series has been announced for 2018, which is surprisingly soon -- I thought for sure that we wouldn't even be hearing news on a third series for a very long time.

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