Attack on Titan – Episode 25

Hey guys it’s me. All caught up, just in time for this freakin’ finale. I’m excited. You guys excited? I guess everybody’s excited.

These last couple episodes have easily been my favorites of the series. Though Eren’s development still lags, I’m loving how they’re putting Armin and Jean’s character growth into practice, and the side characters of the Survey Corps are just extremely fun to see in action. Things are moving fairly quickly, they’re burning animation budget like nobody’s business, they’re bouncing effectively between flashbacks and action setpieces… just lots to love at the moment. I hope it finishes strong.

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Attack on Titan – Episode 24

ERMAHGERD THERE’S A TITAN IN THE CITY WHAT THE FUCK.

Alright, I’m sure the army has some kind of backup plan here. And last episode managed the excellent trick of being an extremely entertaining twenty minutes without spending absurd amounts of animation budget. So I’m quite excited to see where they go with this – frankly, the fact that the army went so completely all-in on their Annie hypothesis (putting the words of Erwin and Armin into action) is by itself quite exciting, and demonstrates the overall military apparatus being both more intelligent and more decisive than we’ve seen previously. Does this mean we get more Pixis? Possibly a spirited brofist between Pixis and Erwin? A boy can dream.

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Attack on Titan – Episode 23

Alright, Survey Corps. You’re really in it now – morale is low, the public hates you, and like fifty people just got eaten by giant abominations. If ever there were a time to prove you’re secretly harboring a human-formed titan spy, just like that other human-form titan you swore wasn’t a spy, it’d be…

Well, actually, might want to keep that one under wraps. Good luck out there, Survey Corps! I’ll be right here, a healthy and anonymity-ensuring distance behind you.

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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