Attack on Titan – Episode 22

In my continued quest to put off watching more Fate/Zero (yes, I am determined to antagonize every anime fan, thanks for asking), it’s time to continue catching up on Titan. Last episode was awesome, and I mean that in the least ironic way I’ve ever used the term (meaning “only lightly tinged with irony”) – the action was sweet, the deaths were unexpected and fairly chilling, and the action was sweet. Though I know episodes like that are paid for in a whole lot of episodes like #19, here’s to hoping this show continues to do what it does best – spend money like a motherfucker.

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Attack on Titan – Episode 21

Welp, time for episode 21, or as I’ve surmised from reactions around the internet, “The One They Spent All the Money On.” Sweet! My body is extremely ready to see a lot of money turned into a lot of animation. How will they handle the spy?!

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Attack on Titan – Episode 20

Alright, episode 20. Last one was bad, not gonna lie. The sum total of its progression was “Eren runs through forest, decides to actually follow orders for once,” it engaged in a bunch of redundant characterization, and the characters finally learned Titanification is triggered by injury PLUS a specific goal. That’s… not a lot of content, for twenty minutes of anime. I guess if I watched more shounens I’d be used to this, but I don’t, and I’m not. The pacing sucked.

However, when this show is good, it can create either solid dramatic moments or at least sweet action setpieces. So let’s get to some of that.

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Attack on Titan – Episode 19

Yep, fell behind again. What can I say, I’m pretty lukewarm on this show, and it comes out right in the middle of the Gatchaman->Monogatari->Uchouten Kazoku time frame where my anime-watching time is actually monopolized by serious business shows. Plus, like most shounens, the show just works better when you build up a few episodes anyway.

Anyway. Big female titan in the trees. What do?

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Summer 2013 Halfway Point: Season So Far

Management: Sequel to this post. My general thoughts so far on the winners, losers, and casualties of my summer season.

This has been a very good season, and though there hasn’t been anything I enjoy as much as I enjoyed OreGairu in the spring, I think the top show is technically better this time. But the top tier is really good all around. In descending order:

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Summer 2013 Halfway Point: Week in Review

Management: Speculatively calling this the first half of a two-parter on the summer season. This half will focus on the specific episodes that have marked the halfway point in my schedule (I’ll probably add in Monogatari after it airs), and the upcoming one will cover my thoughts on the overall series so far.

So! Halfway through the summer season, and there really haven’t been any crazy upsets so far. My top tier is still Uchouten Kazoku, Gatchaman Crowds, and Monogatari, but I’m enjoying the also-rans as well. Let’s check in on what the crap everybody was doing this week.

Free! 6

This episode felt kinda tedious to me. I think this show has pretty much only three things that make it watchable to me:

  • The concept is funny and results in some cute subversions of genre tropes
  • It’s very pretty and the direction is occasionally inspired
  • The better episodes are actually very funny in their own right

Unfortunately, this week focused on the character relationships, and KyoAni’s slice of life characters are always too thin to afford compelling character drama. I mean, I love character-focused stuff, it’s my favorite thing, but for character-focused stuff to be compelling you need characters with a little more depth than “the genki one,” “the glasses-pusher,” etc. Bleh.

Uchouten Kazoku 6

I didn’t like this episode as much as the last two, but its first and last acts were still tremendous and heartfelt and beautiful. However, the centerpiece of this episode was a long conversation that I’m frankly still trying to figure out. Tanukis being eaten by humans (and that just being accepted as something that happens sometimes) has always been the point of greatest disconnect between this show’s fantastical flourishes and sharply grounded character conflicts, and this episode basically dove directly into that disconnect, presenting a long monologue by the mild-mannered but strongly pro-tanuki-eating professor, complete with a flashback where Yasaburou’s father displays absolute complacency towards being eaten, and only professes a hope that he doesn’t ruin an otherwise agreeable hot-pot. And Yasaburou is pretty much charmed by him!

I just don’t know how to square this – perhaps on a thematic level eventually all these contrasting viewpoints will fit into neat holes regarding the value of a life well-lived (we’re actually pretty close to that point, I think), but on a more practical character-empathy level, I just can’t relate to the way these characters treat the tanuki-eating. Which is frustrating, since this show is normally incredibly good at grounding its fantasy in universal human emotion. So while I can’t say this was a “bad” episode, it was certainly a tough one for me to wrap my head around.

C3-bu 6

C3-bu is also turning out to be more slice of life than I could have hoped for, but fortunately this show is more fun in concept, more creative in execution, more regularly funny, more dramatically sound, and populated with much better characters than Free. I’m actually just enjoying this show on its own merits at this point – Yura’s personal issues are being handled with more grace and thoughtfulness than I expected, and it really knows how to handle either a fantasy-world or standard gag setpiece. You’ve won me over, moesoft.

The World God Only Knows S3 6

TWGOK slowed down the pace this week, which I guess is fitting for the Shiori episode. Shiori’s inner monologue was both funny and relatable, and her own fantasy-world imaginings are always great, but this story itself felt far more lazy and convenient than this season has been so far. I feel this show’s strengths are its humor and its habit of pointing out and subverting cliche story structures, but this one just played entirely by the book – Keima’s plan was very simple and it worked perfectly. It was perfectly watchable, but I was still kinda disappointed.

Attack on Titan 18

This episode was definitely a step down from the previous two (which I very much enjoyed), and felt a bit like one of Trost’s renowned “oh shit this story doesn’t correlate to our number of episodes let’s check in with everybody maybe take five for a flashback and move the plot forward seven inches” episodes. The first half was more excitement with the female titan, who’s apparently beginning to favor some style in her kills, but the second half consisted of people getting up into some trees and wondering why they were in them. I’m not worried, since the female titan represents a much more immediate threat than Eren not remembering he was human or the giant boulder ever did, and this show is still leagues better in its second half, but that second half was still not particularly engaging stuff.

Hunter x Hunter 92

This arc has gone totally nuts, and this episode was a nuts cherry on a nuts cake. Desperate giant-ant surgery was witnessed, vows of parenthood and brotherhood were made, and now a minor army of powerful monsters with hallucinogen-prompted designs have begun spreading out to conquer the world. This show is basically my definition of entertainment.

Gatchaman Crowds 5

This show never lacks for ambition, does it? This episode focused on the not-so-secretly most important character, Rui, and had him basically set out his thesis statement on his ideal, communal, utterly crowdsourced society. Showing its usual respect for easy answers, this speech was immediately shut down by one of his subordinates rightly calling him a naive, idealistic fool, and promptly hanging up on Rui to go play with his adorable daughter.

Rui’s plan has always had a number of internal inconsistencies, with his belief in a human nature that’s far less reliable than he thinks certainly being one, but another being the fact that for all his rhetoric regarding the death of heroes and the equality of his system, he is king of his powers. He decides when they’re used, he pulls the trigger, he is judge jury and executioner. This episode was the breaking point on that internal tension, when the collapsing tunnel finally prompted him to make himself the hero-celebrity he’s never wanted to be. Now he’s finally going to come into direct contact with Hajime, who is perhaps the only human being who truly represents the spirit of community his hundred were supposed to embody. This show just keeps getting better and better.

And the rest

Monogatari was a recap this week, and I’ve officially dropped Watamote – the show seems to really not have any aspirations outside of humorously and deservedly dumping on Tomoko, and that’s just not too compelling to me. I’m very excited for next week, though – a new arc in Monogatari, a new day in Uchouten Kazoku, and the long-awaited confrontation of Gatchaman’s two leads promises plenty of action, excitement, and thoughtful understated character drama. My favorite things!

 

Attack on Titan – Episode 18

So I’ve finally caught up on this show, and I’ve actually been really enjoying it lately. I think this second season has been much faster-paced and more full of interesting developments than the first half, and has been basically doing everything I could have hoped for – broadening the character focus, introducing multiple concurrent conflicts (the traitor, the original squad’s troubles, Eren’s own issues), and consistently adding new ideas. And I’ve got the goddamn words to prove it – if you’re interested, you can see writeups on 16 and 17 here[1] and here[2] . But screw that, I’m up to date. Let’s watch some Titan.

Episode 18

2:47 – That shot of Mikasa acting all stoic and badass always makes me wonder what she would have done if Eren had decided to be a banker or something. Would she just be running the surviving human economy at this point? I guess maybe she could do her own thing if Eren weren’t so goddamn intent on getting himself killed

2:56 – Titan is Serious Business[3]   Sorry, sorry. Sorry.

4:07 – I really think the show needs a balance between Titans as immediate obstacles and Titans as source of constant, invisible threat[4]  . I think this setup provides for a much more even horror/action mix than Trost did

4:16 – Man, Jean can get down on himself about anything[5]  , huh?

4:53 – Another war story staple.[6]   “We survived the battle, what justice is there in cold/starvation/lack of medical treatment killing us?” I’m not knocking it – knowing what sources to draw on is a key part of storytelling, and this is a good call for this kind of story

6:56 – Though this war has taken all else, moe must not die[7]  

7:17 – Moe was saved. The sun shines upon this day[8]  

7:26 – This show really is pretty funny[9]  . I think I actually love stupid jokes as long as they’re incredibly inappropriate to the tone and really stupid

9:31 – I like this.[10]   After all the chaos of the last episode, just letting us see it from Eren’s incredibly limited, claustrophobic perspective

10:09 – A nice demonstration of how much better[11]   the recon team is than the rookies we’ve seen so far. That gear is quite the superpower

12:33 – Recon team: not the best at naming things[12]  

14:09 – One of these days, Armin is gonna figure these things out[13]  

17:03 – Half-off sale at Macys you guys[14]  

17:27 – Awesome.[15]   Not only is this much more practical “intelligence” than most allegedly intelligent characters, it’s also my first rule of worthwhile criticism – assume the people making decisions aren’t complete idiots, and make deductions from there

18:24 – “Lol 2deep4u shit… wait… oh my god[16]  

Man, I’m being a dick tonight, huh? Apologies, I hit the bottle a little early

18:50 – And then the show provides its own counter-meme[17]  

19:44 – These titans[18]  . Reiner is not amused

I do like this strategy, though. They can use the trees to basically create a fence of titan-bait with the outlying soldiers, and reduce the fight to the best soldiers versus the female titan in the most fortuitous possible environment. I approve

And Done

Oh man, those fuckers. They dragged out that last moment there, but the female titan’s reentry was top-notch action drama. I think this episode was a bit of a step down from the previous one, but it was still exciting and propulsive – no true standout moments like the female titan’s introduction, but a lot of fun action and back-and-forth between the members of the various squads. They’ve probably got another couple episodes of sweet drama to draw from this female titan, as long as they keep shifting up the variables (like this episode’s wider squad focus and introduction of the forest, as compared to last episode’s more personal focus and introduction of the female titan). I’m still having a lot of fun with this second half. Here’s hoping they keep it up

Attack on Titan – Episode 17

Episode 17

3:04 – This show does have some lovely backgrounds

3:48 – Solid stuff. This show is always at its best when it’s riding on action momentum

4:46 – “Don’t pee your pants!” “You too!” Goddamnit Armin he was making… never mind. Forget it. It’s just Jean being tsun again

4:59 – Okay, this is exactly the kind of shit I was hoping this show would be about

6:26 – “Thus the column can proceed without encountering titans.” Interesting. I guess the commander uses the trails to gauge where specifically the first signal came from, in case he doesn’t catch the original trail? That would make the “if you see a flare, fire as well” make sense – I assume there are more specifics to this system they’re just not explaining, otherwise I assume everyone would fire a flare as a domino effect any time a titan is sighted

7:02 – Fuckin’ sweet sequence. Titans are much scarier when it’s one horrible creature chasing a person you know, and not a wave of monsters killing a wave of faceless victims. Plus, the fact that we’ve had some breathing room helps greatly – Trost resulted in massive titan fatigue for me, with any single threat just becoming meaningless by the end

8:10 – It was an interesting choice, making the abnormals seem souncomfortable with their bodies. Definitely heightens how “wrong” they’re supposed to seem

8:49 – Wow, this job sucks. No wonder they lose so many goddamn recon troups

9:40 – This sequence is excellent, and honestly one of the first examples of truly good direction I’ve seen in this series. The whole sequence builds that “wait, something’s not right here” feeling in the best possible way – Armin’s expression, the slow pan as the sergeant gets back on his horse into the Titan in the distance, the soldiers grimly but stoically resolving to kill this one as well. All the momentum up till now has been cut out, as this scene is neither an extended Titan fight nor a series of jump-cuts as before – the very fact that they’re lingering this long on the introduction of one more titan implies something horrible is about to happen. Really, really nice

11:23 – Didn’t really want to pause for screencaps, because that whole sequence was fantastic. Great introduction, the music perfectly nailed that kind of off-kilter horror film vibe, and Armin is far more compelling to watch now that he has some confidence and resolve. It was also an action setpiece that efficiently pushed the narrative forward – the scene was visually compelling, but Armin took the time to push the dots from “Eren can become a titan and act intelligently -> that makes it likely that the other unique titans are similar -> that means they are humans as well -> what do they want,” which is ahuge progression in narrative for a show that’s so far been so miserly in its plot progression. This show is looking up!

12:20 – I mean, it looks like Annie, right? Am I supposed to think that?

12:24 – Okay, that was obviously titan-perspective, so it apparently recognized him specifically and then decided not to splat him

16:10 – Jean’s toughened up quite a bit. Not much else to say here. This exposition is fine, since it’s actually conveying necessary information, and this feels like the first time Armin’s actually demonstrated real intelligence, and not just “shounen smart one”-level intelligence. It’s not graceful, but it’s fine

16:37 – Yeah seriously though

16:47 – Okay, getting a little on-the-nose here. Goddamn is this show bad at character development

17:43 – Holy shit Armin realized Jean was insulting him

18:51 – And the show straight-up admits those two are OP as fuck

21:16 – Holy shit Reiner’s dead! Well, fuck! Two down, eight left…

21:26 – Nevermind Reiner’s fine fuck you Titan

And Done

That was an excellent episode. Some fun tactical stuff, some nice bits of direction, and several good action setpieces. I had my complaints too, but I always have some complaints with this show, and as long as it keeps up momentum in both narrative and individual scenes, any issues I have with characterization or storytelling are minimized. Those things have never been what this show does well, and when it doesfocus on what it does well (and especially when the direction gets careful), it is a damn entertaining spectacle. Definitely one of the best episodes of the series

Attack on Titan – Episode 16

Yep, picking this up again, again. What I’ve seen/heard about this recent arc seems far more interesting and dynamic than Trost, and this show just works better when you watch at least a couple episodes at a time. It doesn’t make its’ flaws go away, but it does make the show more enjoyable in spite of them. But enough negativity – new arc, new characters, and this time we’re working with actual professional Titan-killers, so it should be much less “let’s all die as slowly as possible so Eren can get shit done” than I was worried about. Let’s fighting!

Episode 16

2:17 – “Whoever did it must have really hated the Titans.” You never were the smart one, Connie…

And then of course Armin agrees with him, proving no-one in this show is actually the smart one.

3:30 – These quiet moments with the team are generally my favorites of the series (which might betray the fact that I’m probably not the right person to be critiquing Titan, of all things)

4:06 – “Not everyone can be like you.” Don’t knock your lack of shounen protagonism, Jean. It makes you the best character in the series

4:49 – That expression. Courage isn’t a lack of fear, it’s acting in spite of it

5:54 – “There’s a time and place where people are morally obligated to lay down their lives.” Not that humanity here has really been portrayed as a race worth protecting

6:45 – And there’s the murder-mystery angle. I’ve been liking this second half significantly more than the first so far – the characters actually have a little grounding now, there’s more going on, and each plot thread is moving forward in a way that changes the variables of the world and characters. But again, I find stuff like Levi’s guitar-solo-Titan-slaying introduction actively tedious, so that might just be me

6:59 – “I wonder if there’s anyone crazy enough to join us.” “Hey Eren! You’re crazy, wadda you think?”

8:23 – It’s like that scene in Starship Troopers where the protagonist is now the grizzled sergeant talking to the new recruits, except this isn’t a subversive indictment of jingoistic war fetishism and that comparison doesn’t make any sense

8:30 – “Unlike some dumbfucks, I ain’t got no death drive.” For this show, I actually appreciate Commie’s bullshit

10:26 – “We have the key to discovering the Titans’ true nature.”Don’t listen that dumbfuck Armin, I actually love it when this show’s leaders use a little propaganda or mob-riling for the greater good

12:13 – “Most of you who join will die. Likely slowly, almost certainly horribly. Those who survive will watch the first group as they are dying. Most of this second group will then die.” Man, he really knows how to sell ‘em

13:31 – Man, I was wondering if they’d actually switched directors for a couple episodes there. Nope!

15:15 – I actually find this show’s goofy, bipolar sense of humorpretty endearing

15:58 – “Strangely, Eren’s position was nowhere to be found.” Adding the possibility of some kind of traitor really does make this more interesting

16:40 – “This mission may have a secret objective…” You don’t say! This should be fun

17:28 – Commie contain yourselves.

17:36 – Okay this is getting out of hand. Switching back to subs written by adults after this…

And Done

Fine episode. It was a board-arranger, but it arranged the board pretty effectively, and there was plenty of Jean. I’m honestly not sure what I’m supposed to believe convinced the recruits to join the death squad – it made it clear they were all scared out of their wits, but the only motivation I’m really seeing beyond Marco’s effect on Jean and Mikasa’s motivation is “somebody’s gotta do it!” I guess that’s the best you can do in an action show with an ensemble cast, but it’s not all that satisfying. But this episode still moved well and drew the players together for the next act, so overall it was a serviceable if unremarkable episode

Attack on Titan – Episode 14

Confession time: I actually haven’t watched this show since episode 13 three weeks ago. I thought that episode was reasonable, but at that point the show’s issues had basically lost me as a committed viewer, and I didn’t think doing writeups would accomplish anything but annoy people.

However. What I’ve seen from episode 14 reviews is that it at least moves forward, regardless of whether I will like the direction it moves in or not. Currently I’ve got some free time and I’m not particularly interested in working on my backlog, which is shameful but what can you do. I kinda want to catch up on this show, but my thoughts from here on out are going to be fairly honest.

Second confession time: I haven’t thought this is a good show in a long time. I thought it started as a bleak, melodramatic shounen in a fairly compelling world, and the only thing more episodes have added to that assessment is “has horrific, glacial pacing.” I’ve gone kind of easy on it in my writeups because people like it a lot and pissing people off through attitude alone means they won’t read or consider anything I have to say. But unless this show immediately shapes up, these writeups might start becoming just a little Crime Edgey.

Alright. As long as we’re clear. As always, nothing I say is a personal attack on anyone, it’s just my feelings towards the media I am watching. 3-2-1 let’s jam.

Episode 14

0:14 – I have always liked this show’s visual aesthetic. Good to see it again.

0:32 – Goddamnit Levi. Well, I guess if you design a character specifically to be a fan-favorite badass, he’s gonna be a fan-favorite badass

0:42 – “I’ll make this piggy squeal. Nobody except me is up for the job.” That’s right, Eren. HE’LL LEARN YA

1:28 – God these Guns ‘n Roses video OPs. Love it

2:19 – Vague hints at a female Titan scattering that OP. Also loved how the song did that exact same “crazy repetitive progression solo-key change-even more furious progression solo” trick the first one did. Makes me want to go play some goddamn guitar

2:28 – I like that shot. Says a decent amount about their society and current situation without saying a word

2:56 – “But then there might be another food shortage…” Holy shit, a larger context for their conflict? Count me in

3:28 – That’s also some pretty efficient conflict-characterization there. The aristocracy only think of an unknown variable like a sympathetic Titan in terms of how it might upset the current balance of power, whereas the proles see it as an almost religious figure. This episode is doing a lot of work to make me like it in very short order

4:44 – A trial to remove him as a threat to the current societal order? Well, it’s not subtle, but it’s certainly about something

5:40 – “Unfortunately, all I can do is argue my case against the police.” I also like how they’re actually making a clean distinction between the executive calls Pixis can make in the heat of battle and his influence during peacetime. Man, if I’d known this episode was gonna be good I wouldn’t have prefaced it with all those dire caveats

6:50 – The trial’s this afternoon? Fantastic. Granted, the last afternoon we witnessed took about seven or eight episodes to get through, but I have a feeling they know that’s not a trick they can get away with often

8:10 – “I won’t have to live my whole life like this, right?” And here’s an internal monologue I can actually get behind. He’s frankly accounting the various weights on his mental state – this is a far cry from the “what am I doing? what’s going on? why are people yelling at me?” Titan-daze of the post-Titanification monologues

9:04 – “Hiiiiiii! I’m Zoe and this is Mike. He smells people, don’t worry about it.” So I guess all the Recons are weirdos

9:33 – And he’s on the trial floor? Man, what happened to the Titan that would spend an entire episode debating whether to say you’re a human or not? Not that I’m complaining

10:06 – They don’t really care about the dignity of the accused, huh?

12:22 – “He’s from the church of the walls… of course their superstitious jibber-jabber would set itself as an obstacle against human enlightenment.” I know when I’m being pandered to, Titan. Casting religion as a malevolent farce will not buy you my love

14:24 – “You look upon the greatness of the Walls, which defies human understanding…” Okay, that’s just such a beautiful articulation of this bullshit that I have to applaud. “Just look at this feat of human engineering which is slightly beyond my ability to grasp! Surely you must see the glory of God!” Adorable

17:08 – “He straight-up murdered those dudes at nine years old. Can we really entrust him with the future of mankind?” Playing on people’s silly emotional vulnerabilities to cloud the actual issues. I like it!

21:00 – “I can easily kill him.” “I’ve made my decision.” Oh man, so awesome. The Recon corps prove themselves just as capable of playing on people’s emotional weaknesses to sway this charade of a court – kick the shit out of Eren to generate sympathy for him as a human, then switch to an all-or-nothing proposal from a position of shock and strength. Great stuff

And Done

Wow! I really enjoyed that one! It’s honestly been a while since I could say that about Titan – it was fast-paced and introduced a lot of new ideas and actually put all that “manipulating public sentiment for the greater good” stuff that had been vaguely hinted at before front and center. I love how the Recon forces’ legitimate argument was obviously stronger than the Police’s, but they still had to resort to cheap disorienting tricks to win the trial, since that’s just how the game is played. And now Eren and Levi are off on an adventure? Hopefully next episode maintains this pacing, and doesn’t linger on incredibly dragged-out goodbyes or anything – either way, this was a very good episode.