「初陣 ―トロスト区攻防戦①―」 (uijin ―Torosuto ku Koubousen ①―)
“First Battle ―Defense of Trost (1)―”
We’ve had a pretty good month of Shingeki no Kyojin, haven’t we? Mother-eating titans, genre-savvy soldiers, potato-eating, potato-farting, Bollywood dancing…all that, and we haven’t even gotten to the moment I’ve been waiting this entire month to see; Steampunk Spidermen vesus the Man-Eating Eotens.
Okay, serious face on; Studio WIT is proving to be the animation team to beat this season. I don’t want to go on too much on their excessive use of still shots, because when the moment counts, they can really dish out some truly spectacular sequences. Sequences like the Shadow of the Colossus-esque opening of this episode, as Erens swings, dodges, and climbs to the weak point of the Colossal Titan.
The entire premise seems completely ridiculous at times; humans using grapple ziplines and dual blades to strike at the Titans’ weak point on the back of their necks. The story’s rationale is that they have insane regenerative abilities, which practically negates the use of projectile weaponry; but it doesn’t quite change how absurd the whole premise seems. Even so, the moment-to-moment action is constantly being pulled off with an excess of bravado and assertiveness; so much so that it becomes utterly awe-inspiring to see those small humans go up against the massive titans. Studio WIT has done a marvellous job in capturing that grandiose, merciless nature of the action, and coupled it with the pulse-pounding orchestral score; the result being an absolute roller-coaster of an episode.
There seems to be two key points on the agenda of this episode; the first being an exploration of the Titans’ nature. There’s some really interesting points raised here; they’re single-minded in their consumption of humans, but it’s not a result of the instinct of survival. Titans are perfectly capable of surviving without nutrition, which then begs the question about the reasons behind their action. It’s hard to believe it’s a natural instinct of any sort; this especially so when we consider the bigger mystery of the Colossal Titan, who seems to defy every assumption humanity had of the titans. There’s a couple of prominent traits that makes it stand out from the rest of the goggley-eyed bunch: Its incredible size for sure, but there’s also the fact that it possesses an intelligence not common to standard titans. And remember the ending of last episode where many were confused about how the colossal titan could approach the wall without anyone noticing? Here, we’re also shown how it can apparently appear and disappear at will. No doubt, a bulk of the story will be about piecing together the mysteries of the Titans.
Then we get to the human side of the picture, and their utter powerlessness when faced with the titans. There’s a sharp irony in Eren’s statement to Jean about remembering their 3 years of training; only for him to later be ambushed and subsequently eaten in a shocking turn of events, before he even had any chance of enacting his vengeance. The first 4 episodes largely saw the powerless children pitted against the titans; but even with the 3 years of training that had him graduating among the top of his class, Eren and his squad could barely put up fight here. It’s already a given that Shingeki no Kyojin was going to be a unforgivingly brutal show; but to see Eren’s squad torn to shreds in those few seconds just brings home how utterly merciless this series is going to be. Humanity at its best has now been shown to be tragically weak, and Eren’s utterly pathetic death only seems to cement that notion of their eventual extinction.
There’s some great emotional real estate that can be mined here; The twist of Eren’s seeming death could drastically change up the dynamics of the rest of the cast we’ve been introduced to, when the most driven, shounen-esque character gets put out of the picture. And then there the immediate aftermath of Mikasa and Armin to consider, when the person they’ve been utterly reliant on for emotional support is now lost to them. (and which the next episode seems to be getting into.) Coupled with studio’s WIT incredible production values, I can truly say this has been the moment in Shingeki no Kyojin I’ve been waiting for; when the action –and by extension, the emotions- in the series gets kicked into overdrive.