The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Attack on Titan season 2
How would you rate episode 26 of
Attack on Titan (TV 2/2017) ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
After what seems like ages, Attack on Titan has finally returned. Not only is anime's premiere genre behemoth back for another round of gruesome, gory, and terrifically satisfying Human-on-Titan warfare, we also have Funimation releasing a Simuldub of the show to boot. Now that fans have both language versions of this new season, was it worth the wait? If you've been keeping up with my weekly reviews of Attack on Titan Season 2, you might have already guessed my answer:
Hell yes it was.
This new season of AoT has improved upon the first in nearly every way, delivering a leaner and meaner show that's as much a gut-churning horror story as it is a fantasy-themed war drama. The shorter 12-episode run has meant that the production team has to milk every scene for all of the tension, mystery, and spectacle they're worth, while making the show as gorgeous as humanly possible. Interestingly, Eren, Armin, and Mikasa have all taken a backseat so far to give the show's supporting characters more time in the spotlight. Reiner, Connie, and Bertholdt have more to do in general, and Sasha got an incredibly suspenseful and thrilling episode all to herself.
Even folks like Ymir and Christa have gone from being background characters to serving as key players in the show's dense, ever-expanding mythology. While it remains to be seen how all of this will play out in the long run, the focus on moment-to-moment storytelling has made each of these new episodes feel vital and rewarding in a way the first season captured only sporadically. Some might complain about the slow-burn reveal of the season's larger mysteries, such as how Titans came to inhabit the Walls or what lies in Eren's basement. All the same, Attack on Titan is still delivering the most compelling, surprising, and overwhelmingly entertaining material it has ever produced.
Funimation's Simuldub is another go-round from the same team that dubbed the first season, which means it lives up to that initial release's high standard of quality. Mike McFarland's back as the director, and pretty much everyone who survived the first season is being voiced by the same performer, so if you've seen Season 1's dub, this should feel familiar. While there are certain casting choices I'm still not keen on, that's more a matter of personal taste than the quality of the talent. Every actor on Funimation's team is giving a decent performance, and most of the core cast knock it out of the park. The newly credited cast members for episode 26 don't really have much to do this week, so I'd be hard-pressed to say how much they add or detract to the proceedings for now.
If I have any issues with the dub, it would actually be with how it handle's the first episode's standout character, the Beast Titan. In the original Japanese, this unexpectedly articulate giant speaks with an air of inquisitive menace – much like a scientist conversing with his insects as he pins them down with needles. Funimation's take on the character (who goes uncredited for clearly spoilerific reasons) take that inquisitiveness and give it a strangely naïve, almost childlike bent. That's threatening in its own way, I suppose, but that interpretation of the character, combined with an overreliance on post-processing and down-pitching effects, made this premiere episode's most shocking scene a little less harrowing overall. It's a slight issue, however, and it shouldn't detract much from Funimation's solid English dub ensuring that as many people as possible get to enjoying brilliantly gruesome insanity that is Attack on Titan.
It's probably fair to say that the new season of Attack on Titan is one of the most anticipated – if not the most anticipated – series of 2017, much less merely this season. Because of that, it comes packed with some lofty expectations. Does it live up to them? Well...
There's no question that Wit Studio is bringing its A game for the artistic side of this production, as episode 26 is probably as sharp as the series has ever looked. It's loaded with attractive designs, strong background art, and consistently high-quality animation, with none of the shortcuts that sometimes marred the original series. The graphic content has definitely not lost its edge, either, with the final season involving the one guys being torn apart being particularly harrowing. The musical score, on the other hand, is a bit of a letdown, as it never really captures the dramatic spirit of the first season at its best. New opener “Shinjo o Sasage yo!” is also definitely a step down from either of the openers used in the first season. Those would be forgivable, though, if the content was compelling enough.
And that's where I am waffling the most on how to rate this series. Certainly there are some interesting things going on, as we learn slightly more about the Wall Titan and that the priest who appeared in the last couple of episodes seems to know something about it – or at least thinks he does, as he could just be a batty religious fanatic. For my money the ungainly-looking Beast Titan is the vastly more interesting story prospect, especially the fact that whoever is operating it can talk through it but apparently hasn't had much contact with the defending humans to this point. Somehow I have a feeling that we aren't going to see more of him right away, especially with the other soldiers splitting up to warn the local villages. But that's not so bad, as that should provide the opportunity for some insight into the backgrounds of several key figures.
Ultimately there's enough interesting hooks flowing through this episode to whet the appetite of any established franchise fan. Somehow, though, it doesn't seem to come together well enough to be anywhere near as compelling as the start of the first season was, and I just can't get as excited about it as I was for the first season. Rather than starting with a roar, this season is merely starting with a raised voice.
Attack on Titan is back, and despite the lengthy break between seasons, it still feels like Attack on Titan. The first season still stands out in my memory for its ability to evoke an instinctual, pit-of-your-stomach sense of dread as it repeatedly thwarted the main characters’ efforts to survive. We're now one episode into this new season, and I've already had that same feeling of impending doom a couple of times. As far as I'm concerned, that's a very good sign.
We get a little bit of a recap at the beginning of the episode, but it serves more to get retuning fans back into the right mood than it does to get newcomers caught up. If you were to start from here with no prior knowledge, you'd end up confused and unhappy. The upside is that the limited recap allows plenty of time to set up two new major threats for the characters to deal with. Both are interesting in their own way, and they upend two existing assumptions at the core of the show's world. The walls exist to protect humans, right? Even the most cunning Titans aren't all that intelligent, right? Maybe not.
As it sets up these new conflicts, the series makes a smart decision in leaning on the older and more experienced characters. We've seen plenty of Eren, Armin, and company freaking out over their first encounters with Titans, so having veterans like Hange and Erwin react to the new problems helps drive home just how much trouble humanity is in. This episode also revives an old Attack on Titan trick by having an apparently tough and reliable character panic upon coming face to face with the enemy. We as the audience may yet grow numb to the horror of being eaten by a giant monster, but it still works remarkably well for the time being.
Attack on Titan continues to run the risk of being exhaustingly grim in its pursuit of dramatic intensity. Emotions are still more raw than nuanced, and the dialogue is still filled with constant reminders of the obvious “keep fighting if you want to survive” message. That being said, this remains one heck of a show. It's instantly addicting on an instinctual level, there's an intriguing bigger picture, and the sights and sounds are spectacular. If it can maintain this level of quality, then that long wait should feel more than justified.
You know, I feel like there's nothing I can say to qualify my score after a four-year hiatus from Attack on Titan. If you're a fan of the show (and I am a big ole fanboy for AoT), I think almost any table scraps from the main course they threw our way after years of recap movies and side-story OVAs would feel like a feast. Knowing that, I tried to go into this episode as fairly as possible. I tried to judge its story and execution in a vacuum instead of reacting like a starving dog to a whiff of bacon. I really tried.
But this premiere still absolutely blew me across the room from start to finish. Oh Titan, I've missed you so much.
After only 90 seconds of recap that feels more like casual scene-setting (take notes, My Hero Academia), season two of Titan throws us butt-first into all-new material, fully assuming that the audience has refreshed themselves on their own time. The pacing is riveting, blowing through a couple chapters of content without feeling rushed but slowing down to milk the showstopping debut of the "Beast Titan" for all its worth, before cutting to a truly disturbing new credits theme that prepares the audience for a more horror and existentialism-driven second season focused on the side characters compared to the action-packed adventures of Eren that came before. On the note of the Beast Titan, if you found him unsettling before, the excellent voice they chose for him in the anime will definitely triple that queasy sort of awe.
With the long lead-time and full assistance from Production I.G., I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that this is already the best that Titan has ever looked, but damn, this is the best that Titan has ever looked. The opening theme is an absolute jaw-dropper with ridiculous imagery like the Beast Titan trampling humanity alongside T-Rexes and plesiosaurs, but the show itself isn't much of a step down from that in its aesthetic richness and striking attention to detail. I'm honestly not sure how easy it will be to sit through the gore in this season compared to the first, now that it looks slightly better even than I.G.'s episodes from season one. In this episode alone, the show's standard "ewww" factor ramps up to "EW! Oh god, ew ew!" several times. It's a warning for slightly more sensitive viewers, but by no means a complaint from me.
I should probably mention at this point that Tetsuro Araki is technically not directing this second season. Thanks to his ongoing love affair with his own Attack on Titan fanfiction (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress), Araki's lead directorial duties are now being handled by season one's chief animation director, Masashi Koizuka. Frankly, it's hard to tell any difference so far. Araki's "style guide" of sorts is pretty easy to copy, especially since most of the creative staff remains the same from season one. Even if he's taking on more of a producer role compared to before, I have faith that this will basically be the same old Titan all-around, probably told at a much more rapid pace.
That's the best thing about this premiere overall. Jumping right back into this material at such a brisk Hollywood-like pace, laying the long monologues about humanity's struggle that plagued parts of season one to the side for the moment, allows us to quickly absorb a fuller picture of how the pieces of this mystery connect. Fans of the manga already know more about this, but this episode's quick drawing of lines between the Female Titan, the Walled Titans, the supposed "breach" of Wall Rose, and the Beast Titan make it alarmingly obvious that Eren's recent (in-universe) reveal as a Titan-shifter is the true catalyst to blame for this frantic cover-up and espionage effort by the Titans. They want him in their giant hands at all costs, and innocent people will be the ones to pay the price in collateral damage. If anything, that's the real reason for Eren's backseating in the season to come; his own motives and goals don't matter as much as what he represents to more powerful parties. Eren just became the trump card in a game that's been on hold for centuries, and he's not the only one among our main cast. Even if we're only getting twelve episodes for now, I can't wait to see more.
Attack on Titan is finally back. After an unfortunately prolonged four year wait, the sequel to 2013's megahit has arrived, carrying with it some pretty heavy expectations. So does the new season live up to its predecessor?
So far, absolutely. Attack on Titan 2 picks up right where the first season left off, and by the end of this episode has introduced the Titan combo: an immediate life-or-death threat and a variety of mysteries regarding the nature of titans. There are desperate fights and dramatic pronouncements and a whole lot of blood and gore. If you missed Titan's exuberant style and bloody substance, everything that made the first season a hit is on display here.
This first episode actually feels like a step up from the first season, at least in visual terms. For one thing, the animation here is pretty terrific. Titan's first season had a few impressive single cuts, but had to cut a lot of corners outside of its big action setpieces. In contrast, this episode is full of smaller pieces of character animation that really help bring the secondary cast to life. It's an open question whether the ever-struggling studio WIT can maintain this quality, but a well-animated first episode is never a bad sign.
In addition, the shift in directors from Tetsuro Araki to Seraph of the End's Masashi Koizuka actually seems to have done the show some good. There are fewer of Araki's signature screaming closeups here, in favor of a more active style of camerawork that lets the drama speak for itself. It's nice to not feel clobbered over the head by the show's execution. The only real weak points visually were the unfortunate CG shots, along with the show's tendency to lose all sense of place when characters start flipping through its 3D backgrounds.
Visuals aside, this is still Titan through and through. The show's mix of propulsive threats, action movie platitudes, and gleeful ultraviolence make it a very focused articulation of precisely one thing - a grim and bloody spectacle. Personally, I find Titan's dour tone and focus on gore kind of draining, and I'd like something more to dig into on either a character or thematic front, but all that just makes this not a show for me specifically. Titan is back, and Titan is Titan. Our grim reminder has returned.
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