It’s the Multiversity Summer TV Binge! Although I’ve never been deeply into anime, I’m totally in love with Attack on Titan. Having already watched the first season with subtitles, I thought it would be cool to return to the dubbed version of the series. Be warned, here be spoilers!
1. The threshold of our extinction
“Cadet Yaeger will schlep it to the hole” – Dot Pixis
Not content to simply dominate the last couple of episodes, Dot Pixis continues to be amazing. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on screen, but every second of Pixis is glorious. He does not mess around. He shouts inspirational speeches, then follows them up with soul crushing straight talk, then turns it around with more inspiration. It’s like emotional edging. He takes you to the brink of fired-up vainglory, then right back to the edge of despair. If John McCain was a fantasy hero instead of an overrated senator, he’d probably look a lot like Dot Pixis. Every time Pixis is on screen, I need to catch my breath.
2. Ian vs Sergeant Glasses
We spend far more time with Ian and Sergeant Glasses (and their friend, who is too boring to get a nickname). While their conflict is a microcosm of the greater conflict within the ranks, it’s still pretty boring. Glasses doesn’t trust Eren, and Ian doesn’t see what choice they have. I guess it’s interesting that there’s no “I believe in Eren” option, unless your his old friend. To everyone else, they either think he’s a monster, or have given up on their convictions.
Unfortunately their motives get a bit muddled. Mikasa is ready to throw down to protect Eren. It’s implied she’s ready to murder her other three companions in cold blood. That drives Ian to double down on his protect Eren strategy, and then abruptly, Glasses switches over too. They decide to protect Eren. Good for them. I don’t care.
3. “Am I sitting?”
The last episode ended with Eren spazzing out as a Titan; this episode starts with him collapsing. The big cliffhanger is that he stands up. That’s some crappy anime pacing if ever I’ve seen it. The plot slows to a crawl so we can make room for a dream sequence. In it, Eren is back with his family. Armin shouts at him a bunch, but in his dream, Armin is outside a window. When Armin finally gets through to Eren, his family is immolated in a blast of flames, which is a pretty neat visual, but man was this whole sequence a waste of time.
4. Professional and amateur soldiers
In the meantime, Jean is awesome. He’s what redeems this episode. As the soldiers realize that the Eren plan may be a bust, even Pixis can’t preserve discipline, and they make an ill-advised charge. It’s chaotic, but it’s exciting. Anonymous folks get eaten. A bunch of supporting characters do their things (Marco is encouraging, Annie is cold-blooded, Connie jumps around a lot). Jean is next level though. He managed to occupy that Harrison Ford sweet spot of being an absolute loser and looking so cool while doing it. Mike McFarland is a good voice actor, but he’s always seemed a bit too old and weary to play Jean. Here he really sells it, running through the streets yelling, “I am not going to die today!” He has an old-school action movie charm that brings, not levity, but a sense of adventure to the otherwise dreary proceedings.
5. Armin Arlert, titan surgeon
It’s a shame that Armin was so tangled up in Eren’s mess this episode, because he acquits himself very well. While he’s not yet to the point of arrogance, his last couple of epiphanies seem to have stuck, and he faces his fears to try and help out his best bro Eren. He does this by performing titan surgery, and stabbing Eren in the shoulder. The consistent portrayal of weird titan physiology, helps Armin look like a total badass. It also helps that for the most part, characters have been learning alongside us, and watching Armin struggle with the mechanics of his friend becoming a titan seems suitably daunting.
I do like that Eren is revived through a passion for exploration. What finally gets him to stand up is not Armin reminding him that he’s loved, or that he hates titans. It’s Armin reminding him of their dream to see the world. It captures what I love about this show; even in the middle of the most nihilistic angst, the small life-affirming touches aren’t simple throwaway aphorisms. Eren and Armin are united by their passion to experience the world, and they keep on living to discover the secrets of nature. Then the episode ends before any of this character work has a chance to breathe, but it’s good storytelling. Hopefully next episode will finally give us Eren schlepping that rock to that hole.