Attack on Titan
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 46 of
Attack on Titan (TV 3/2018) ?
Back in the salad days of Attack on Titan's first season, a conflict as enormous as the Big-Ass Titan would have taken whole multi-episode arcs to resolve. (Remember how many weeks it took for the gang to take down Annie?) Now the scope of the story has expanded so much that we simply don't have time to spend more than an episode or two dealing with Rod Reiss' Bogus Journey – there are bigger fish to fry, at least metaphorically speaking. In terms of pure scale, Reiss is easily the most gargantuan beast anyone has had to take down so far, which might explain why I'm not sure that this one episode was enough to do the attack on Orvud justice.
Some of my misgivings might come from how this episode felt off-balance when it came to tackling both the logistics of keeping Orvud's population safe while also figuring out how to take on the unprecedented Reiss behemoth. In past arcs, whole episodes might have gone into showing the struggles of using Orvud's people as unwitting bait while Hange and Levi scramble to piece together whatever improvisational weaponry they can think up in the hours they have to prepare. But that mostly gets brushed over this time. There's even a brief scene that shows the common folk growing dissatisfied with what they perceive to be the military trying to flex its muscles and assert their new authority, but nothing much comes of it because that's essentially right when Reiss arrives to start busting down walls. It all feels rushed and half-formed in a manner that AoT is usually able to avoid; I'm not sure if things played out differently in the manga, but I wonder if I might feel better about this story if we had even just one more week to build up to Reiss' assault.
Then again, part of the point this week seems to be showing how effective Levi Squad has become at their jobs when they're working in synergy, especially once Eren is able to get out of his self-loathing funk. I honestly found his inner monologue this week to be redundant, since his tumultuous emotional state was already handled so well over the past couple episodes. I suppose Eren literally punching the angst out of himself doesn't ring as cathartic a payoff as Attack on Titan seems to want it to be. Still, everyone is able to get their groove back and put their heads in the game, which the episode hammers home when we get to see a trio of kids who are perfect counterpoints for the innocent days that Eren, Armin, and Mikasa used to share, before their innocence was buried in the rubble of Shiganshina. It's about as subtle as taking a punch to the face from the Big-Ass Titan himself, but it works well enough to get the team ready to take down the monster when the walls start to crack apart.
Thankfully the battle itself is pretty damn exciting, brief though it may be. It makes sense that a conventional assault on the nape of the Titan's neck wouldn't do any good, so Eren has to shove a literal ton of explosives down Reiss' throat to blow the man's cocoon out from inside the Titan's body. It's a great comeback for Eren the Titan, and Reiss' design is one of the series' all time best. Days of dragging himself along the ground have worn away the entire front of his face and belly, exposing his skull and brain and dumping a mountain of steaming entrails on Orvud's walls. It's gloriously gruesome stuff, and the CGI model used in between the traditionally animated cuts mostly holds up, save for a couple of unfortunate shots where Reiss' mangled face is obviously a 2D texture slapped onto a 3D skull, which makes the Titan look far too much like a monster from a PS2 game.
The explosion that sends Reiss flying through the air also provides Historia her big moment to shine. Despite Erwin's protests, the young princess demanded a spot on the front lines, not just because she wanted to help her friends, but because she needed to prove her own autonomy on the battlefield. As she recalls explaining while careening toward her father's soon-to-be corpse, this is the first (and likely only) time she'll have the experience of fighting with her father. It's a warped take on a nearly universal coming-of-age experience, and Historia needs to go through with it if she's truly to lead humanity as their queen. It's just that in this instance, “fighting with dad” involves a lot less slammed bedroom doors and more slicing the man into ribbons with razor sharp blades.
The vision of Rod's past that Historia gleans gives her pause, though we don't get much time to puzzle out what any of those flashes of Rod's life mean or how they relate to Historia's newfound role as the titular “Ruler of the Walls”. Instead, AoT ends this week's episode with a check-in on Kenny, who isn't doing so good when he crawls out of the Crystal Cavern rubble, covered in burns and bleeding to death. Levi finds him lying beneath a tree and assumes that this means he's finally killed Kenny once and for all, but the needle full of Titan juice that Kenny stashed away could indicate otherwise. Kenny's been the most underdeveloped element of this new season's many plot threads, so I'm excited to see that next week looks to be the big backstory episode we've all been expecting since the crazy cowboy showed up in season three's premiere. I'm sure that whatever we learn about Kenny and the Ackermann clan will only make our heroes' lives that much more difficult. That's how things always seem to go for the poor kids stuck in charge of protecting humanity by, when the need arises, blowing up some really big-ass ugly Titans.
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