The 36th episode of Attack on Titan (a.k.a Shingeki no Kyogin), or the 11th episode of season two, is an extremely notable point in the series. This is the episode in which everything these recent episodes have brought to the table finally diverge, the episode that sets up for the conclusion to what has been an interesting arc and a slight tonal shift in the series. And, certainly, something worth talking about whether you be a fan of the first or prefer the tone of the second season.
Part of me feels like I’m a broken record when saying this, despite the fact that I’ve only written about one episode so far, but the episode starts with some dialogue-heavy exposition. Unlike last episode, however, it’s done so in a way that I’m slightly more satisfied with. The military are approaching the shifters, and Ymir is having second thoughts after capturing Historia. This section of dialogue expands on for, once again, slightly longer than I might have hoped. However, I feel like it does have more to offer both visually and in terms of character development and plot progression than we’ve seen from some of the previous dialogue heavy episodes. I’ve already written about how I feel about that Here. I do think this little section of dialogue is interesting, and perhaps embodies the tonal shift of the show, that being exploring character interaction and the wider scope of the world instead of the epic kaiju-like battles of the first season – so in a way I’m not too bothered by it. These dumps of dialogue may not be the most interesting, or exactly what I’m looking for when watching Attack on Titan, but it is important to reflect on how they’re bringing about different layers of personality of each character. This specific section may focus mostly on Ymir and Historia, but later in the episode we get to see sides of characters such as Armin that we just hadn’t got to see before, but I’ll talk about that later.
Next up we get in to the bulk of the episode… The chase. This scene in which the Survey Corps are catching up to the Armoured Titan actually did a good job of peaking my interest. This really feels like something I’d see in a video game as a set piece in which the player must catch up to Reiner and recover the princess… Okay, maybe Eren’s not exactly princess-like, but it works as a comparison. And, although it may not be visually spectacular or even develop the story much, it is most certainly engaging. The fact that I even felt like it was from a video game, which in itself is based around being an interactive and engaging medium, proves that.
All of this leads up to Mikasa’s time to shine, jumping on to the Armoured Titan and showing just how dedicated she really is to saving Eren. I actually think this is a rather important point for season two, since our main characters from the first season really haven’t got much screen time at all. I feel like this little segment is almost a call back to the original series, tying the two together and allowing for an interesting meld of both the stories and tones for the final couple of episodes. I even wonder if this is a little of what we can expect should they chose to animate a third season – a blend of the two previous ones. If it were, I would actually consider this moment a great way to mark a turning point and leave season two being an overall pretty good mid season. But that’s speculation, and I want to talk more about what we’re getting here and now.
Okay, so all that over and done with and we’re pretty much reaching the climax of the episode. It’s been long awaited now and it’s time for humans and titans to fight. And, I was almost severely disappointed. Almost. For a solid minute or more this climax consists of singular frames of animation and made me feel like I was watching a little bit of a slideshow. To their merit, they do portray the emotions of the cast rather well and some of the voice acting is on point, but this isn’t really what I was hoping for. Then the time comes and the action finally comes to get that blood pumping. And this scene delivers pretty much to my exceptions, I’m not going to say it’s perfect by any means, but it was a joy to watch. It felt like all that talking and exposition wasn’t for naught after all, and the payoff was starting to ramp up. The animation here was pretty great, fluid flight with the manoeuvre gear and elegant transitions in to short but sweet amounts of dialogue.
So, one of these pieces of dialogue peaked my interest in particular; that being Armin’s little chance to show off his true potential. And this scene in which Armin confronts Bertholdt is exactly what I mean when I say season two has the potential to show different layers of characters we really hadn’t seen before. After a small amount of consideration, he abandones his persona of being afraid to speak up and emotionally dents Bertholdt with words, rather than beating him in a battle of raw strength. This is Armin’s true strength and shows that he does, infact, have potential to be a strong character – which is good due to how much he’s been shafted away in the majority of this season.
The episode wraps with some more of that juicy Witt studio action, and we’re left with a classic Attack on Titan season one cliffhanger. Which is something I’m surprised to say, for better or for worse, we haven’t seen much of in season two. The crew are back together and confronted with the titan that started it all. The titan, that ate Eren’s mother. A near perfect tie back to the start of the series, and yet another way the two season’s are converging to one.
This episode as a whole represents a true mark in Attack on Titan as an over-arching story. It represents a point where two different seasons come together and something that is likely to keep me interested should a third season ever be animated. Well, of course that depends on how season two ends, but that in itself I am looking forward to.