Sunday, April 02, 2017

10 Second Anime - Shingeki no Kyojin S2 - Episode 26


Humanity is on the brink of extinction as strange human-like monsters named Titans attack people sheltered behind great walls. Scouts defend against them with blades and maneuvering gear, but the Titans, and who controls them, are not the only enemy. Season Premiere.


Episode 26 - "Beast Titan"

Heh.

Has it really been 4 years since the first season began? Yes, yes it has.

This was actually one of the first anime I reviewed under 10 Second Anime while I was still experimenting with my review format. Much more plot summary in those days. Note to reviewers: don't do plot summary. Do reactions and analysis and cite plot elements briefly.

So, here's the brief plot summary to the episode: we pick up right from Episode 25 where we found a Titan face in the wall, but at the same time this huge revelation is happening after Eren's battle with Annie in their Titan forms, another huge revelation came walking up in the form of an Abnormal Titan looking like a Bigfoot or Great Ape speaking the proper language of the people in this story and controlling the lesser Titans as well.

This show just cranks everything to eleven and breaks the knob off!

Stylistically, no changes. The action sequences might be a little more fluid and ambitious with the camera work, but that's pretty much the only improvement they made.


The first season made a big deal about the 3D Maneuvering Gear, but I thought it was only as a plot device to track Eren's development as our narrative hero. I had no idea it would be important as a weapon in an arms race with these talking Beast Titans.


The face in the wall at the end of the last episode was a mind blowing development opening up all sorts of possibilities into the story behind these shapeshifting Titans like Eren and Annie (and maybe a couple more...). However, with Pastor Nick running up to Hanji telling her to block it from sunlight, we have to consider more than one faction running around somehow using Titans for their own purposes.

The clergy of this Wall Cult is willing to take their secrets of the Titans in the Wall to their graves.

Hanji had a good line about feeling vulnerable again like she did when she went on her first expedition outside the Walls. The Walls were suppose to offer protection from the Titans. But if the Walls are made of Titans, they're just as close and able to grab you as out there.

The Eye Catch said the walls were made of the same stuff as the crystal Annie hardened her skin with. Brick and stonework are just mashed up crystals anyway, but how did the Wall builders mash up the unbreakable crystal to form bricks?


Meanwhile, the rest of Eren's cadet squad have been placed far away just in case some of them are Titans too. They don't know that, though, but some of them are suspicious of their circumstances.

Sasha is extra bored without a potato to gnaw on.

The plot of the next few episodes begins with this crew as they realize the next set of walls has been breached and a horde of Titans is running around the countryside. We'll be following Sasha and Conny since their villages are relatively close by.


This show is not shy about killing off characters. We're introduced to Nanaba and Miche and by the end of the episode, Miche is already dead.

It's through Miche's eyes and ears we get our mind blown again with the introduction of Beast Titans. And even more confounding is that this particular one talks! And so nicely and calmly too. Such a kind face on him, even when he orders the Titans to finish eating Miche after he retrieved his 3D Maneuver Gear.

This show hasn't changed its gruesome bloody nature either as we had to witness Miche get ripped apart.

Miche figured something was wrong as soon as the Beast Titan picked up his horse and threw it at him. Titans had always only had one target: people. Also, they only had one mode, including the abnormals. Walk and grab people, or do some weird running and grab people. This Beast Titan appeared to order the smaller Titans to sprint after the escaping Scouts.

Ha! The smaller Titans don't seem to listen to direction very well. Beast Titan doesn't like smushing them either. "Uwa..." he said.

The Beast Titan, in just his little conversation with Miche, hinted at a great many things. Like they, whoever "they" are, didn't know people had been using those double blades to attack the napes "where we reside." That's confirmation of the pilot analogy for Eren and Annie, but I still wonder why the Research Scouts had never pulled a person, or whatever, out of the Titan before it melted and steamed itself away.


We had to get a quick look at Mikasa eye candy. Since the story is going to be shifting to Sasha and Conny for a while, this little scene with Eren, Mikasa and Armin might be all we see of them for a while. Levi had to show up to talk to Erwin, as well. I'm sure we'll get our fill of them before the end of the season.


Hmm.

Part of what makes a long running action serial popular is how it answers the questions behind its premise. The anime has adapted the manga into almost a procedural on how the Titan world works, which is nice for answering why the Scouts fight as they do, the Titans' weaknesses, how the cities are set up in response to invading Titans and so forth. But the most important question to all this world building is "why now?"

This is where a lot of fighting shows, especially techno-magical girl shows, fail in their stories and never become more than niche projects. Why are the Big Bads invading now, instead of after we see some kind provocation? The element of the new and sudden is good for suspense and action, like treating the invasion as a natural disaster, which is how most shows with red laser beaming monsters look at the enemy, but is it really that interesting to fight an intelligent earthquake? At some point, somebody needs to ask the earthquake what all the shaking is about.

I'm concerned about how Shingeki no Kyojin keeps putting off the "why now?" question and keeps introducing new mysteries. I can see how these new developments could be used as a way to drop hints to slowly answer the "why now?" question, but they need to balance that pace so the audience can feel as if the mysteries of the enemy are answered along the way because the "why now?" mystery is also part of the enemy's nature.

In this particular case, the Walls had not been breached for a hundred years or so, until 5 years ago when Eren and Mikasa lost their mother. What changed? Who did it? Why did they act at that moment? In the first season, we got this vague undercurrent of a conspiracy with the Titan Shifters like Eren and Annie. This is good. It felt like the "why now?" question was slowly getting answered as we got further into the mystery of how people are somehow living in the napes of these monsters.

But this first episode of the new season, we got a double whammy of conspiratorial mystery. The Church of the Wall knows a lot more about the Titans than when they were represented as a cargo cult worshiping the Walls as their eternal sentinels. And then we got a new animal type Titan, and it speaks their language! And the way it talked, it appeared it had no idea its smaller Titans were being kept at bay by the blades and 3D Maneuvering Gear. The Church being involved in a conspiracy is fine, but the Beast Titan wandering in as a seemingly unrelated party introduces a whole new "why now?" question.

What I hope is that these threads somehow get tied together in the overall narrative. Right now, it feels as if one or the other mystery was dropped in to prolong the story before we get to the "why now?" of when the first attack happened and made Eren the focus of the story.

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