Attack on Titan
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 45 of
Attack on Titan (TV 3/2018) ?
“All hail the Queen!” That's my main takeaway from “Outside the Walls of Orvud District”, which is largely a transitional episode, wrapping up the “Rescue Eren and Historia” plot while setting the stage for the upcoming battle against Rod Reiss, who Levi appropriately refers to as the “Big-Ass Titan”. I'm not using "transitional" as a pejorative here, to be clear; there's a lot going on this week, from Eren finally breaking out of his captive funk to Historia taking her first steps to possibly inheriting the throne. It's just that, given the ebb-and-flow style that Attack on Titan's story arcs tend to take, this kind of important table setting isn't as invigorating or impactful as the high watermark of action and drama we got from “Wish” last week.
The first half of the episode is what I would call the most traditionally “exciting”. With Kenny's forces in retreat and the Big-Ass Titan slowly tearing apart the crystal caverns beneath the chapel, Eren, Historia, and the rest of Levi Squad have nowhere else to go. Eren in particular is convinced things would still be better if Rod just ate him already and took back the power of the founding Titan, so it takes a touching tough-love speech from all of his friends to convince him that he isn't some lone tragic hero that needs to sacrifice his life; they're a team, and they'll live and die by one another's resolve.
For all of the show's perceived emphasis on spectacle and lore-heavy plotting, I really love how far this core cast has come as both a military unit and a surrogate family. With his friends by his side and his verve reinvigorated, Eren finally bucks up and swallows a vial of presumed Titan spinal-fluid goo labeled “Armor”, which gives him the very useful powerup of being able to generate the same crystalline material that forms the underground caves and the interior of the walls. So not only does the group escape with their lives, but they have also found a way to permanently patch up the hole in Wall Maria.
What follows is mostly an extended conversation between Levi Squad as they regroup and head to Orvud, which is where Erwin suspects the monstrous, worm-like Rod Reiss is headed. Eren briefly argues that he still might need to be eaten, if only to undo Rod's madness with the power of the Founding Titan, but Historia and Armin correctly advise against it. It's possible that the First King's will infects anyone given the power, and there's no proof that Eren sacrificing himself would even fix Rod up again in the first place. Historia, once again proving her newfound resolve and agency, declares herself more than willing to take down her father and forge a new path for the human race. She admits that she honestly considered killing Eren to please the elder Reiss back in the cave, but she also believes that Grisha Yaeger's attack on the Reiss clan was motivated by a desire to rescue mankind from its own ignorant captivity. I've been seen concerns from some manga readers that the build-up to Historia's climactic denouncement of the Reiss family line last week has been too heavily truncated compared to the source material, but as an anime-only viewer, I feel like her characterization has been handled excellently, especially given this season's breakneck pacing. She's quickly grown into a confident, complex, and dangerously capable young woman, and each passing week has me more convinced that she might be one of my new all-time favorite AoT characters.
I also love how quickly Historia has integrated herself into the rest of the squad, seeing as she was barely even a character until halfway through the second season of the series. Conny and Jean get an excellent little exchange where they try to stand up to Erwin's plan for Historia to assume the throne as the rightful Queen, arguing that it's literally been hours since she's broken free from the bondage of her bloodline, so to set her up as a new head of state would just be shackling her to another political agenda. Historia points out that she's technically the only one who can decide her plans for the future, but it's a great moment that shows how close these men and women have become since they graduated from training camp, which seems like it happened a million years ago (though I'm pretty sure in terms of the timeline it's only been like a few weeks).
So regardless of whether or not Historia decides to reign as humanity's new monarch, I'll still gladly proclaim her the Queen of Attack on Titan, at least until Sasha is finally revealed to be the true savior of the story, which I've been predicting for years now. Until then, I'll gladly watch this ragtag group of monsters, revolutionaries, and anarchic princesses do whatever they need to do in order to take down the Big-Ass Titan that is slowly slithering towards them.
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