This Week in Anime
Attack on Titan Gets Political

by Nicholas Dupree and Michelle Liu,

Attack on Titan roars back for its third season with a suspicious lack of Titan attacks. This week, Nick and Micchy discuss the political intrigue of this more narratively complex new anime arc.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for language.


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You can read our weekly coverage of Attack on Titan here!

Micchy
Hey Nick, how's this season been treatin' ya?

Nick D
Oh...just great...

It's been more like this on my end.

Gotta say though, sure feels weird to be coming back to Attack on Titan after a year has passed and we've gotten two additional TWIA contributors and a format change!

A lot's changed since we last talked about Attack on Titan, both in the world and in the show itself. Why it feels like just yesterday we were listening to Linked Horizon screaming about being hunters while all of our favorite traumatized survivors tried desperately not to get eaten and/or kidnapped by their heel-turned friends.

Yeah, now all we have is X Japan crooning about lost innocence and a better place while Politics Happen. Coming into this season with knowledge of the manga, I was dreading the way the momentum kinda screeches to a halt after the high points of the previous arc, not gonna lie.

As somebody who's taken pains to stay unspoiled on Titan, I still hear manga fans talk about "The Coup Arc" the way somebody might talk about food poisoning.

Thankfully, it's been compressed in adaptation, but this is still the driest part of the story so far. It's important for establishing who the actual threats are in the story now, but it ain't the flashy action spectacle that fans are probably used to from Attack on Titan.

You're telling me. Eren hasn't gotten to scream even once this whole season! And there's even a plot reason for it!

That said, I've found the ride pretty enjoyable so far. While it's far from the most exciting thing Titan's ever done, it's at least dealing with some interesting ideas. Since the moment they revealed that Titan face behind the broken wall in season one, there's been this huge question about the true nature of the ruling class in this story and what they're hiding from everyone. Another whole season and several years later, we're finally digging into that more.

This whole arc is all about sussing out who's really in charge, what they're not telling the populace, and the methods they use to protect their own power. In short, the government is Bad, full of jerkwads who value their own comfort over the people's safety and pull out the "greater good" card only when it's convenient to them. There have been hints of this ever since the tail end of the first season, but we're finally seeing just how twisted this whole system is now.

There's also a conspiracy to frame the Scouts for murder and insurrection so they can claim Eren, which introduces us to my favorite new character.

Wait no, sorry, there we go:

You can see how I might make that mistake.

Kenny is THE BEST.

Of all the things I was expecting from Attack on Titan, Levi's Crazy Cowboy Stepdad was not on the list.

I know some folks might grumble at the presence of a dual-wielding cowboy who chews the scenery every time he's on screen in an arc that's mostly about Serious Business, but god damn I love this character. He's so utterly ridiculous, and that pose is just priceless.

Kenny is a light in some very dark times, and we could all do well to take his advice.

Sadly, he's not been as present in this arc as I was hoping. He fades into the background after the first couple episodes, as we get into the nitty-gritty of Erwin's coup plot, the search for Eren and Christa, and the Scouts trying to turn the tide of public opinion from the fringes. All of that is by no means bad but it is rather dry. Part of what got me back into Titan in season two was its focus on the characters' emotions and motivations: messy stuff like Ymir's relationship with Historia or Reiner's conflicting feelings on his mission. Comparatively, season three has been a lot more Plot Plot Plot.

And I'm sorry but that's just not as entertaining, no matter how cool they try to make Levi look.

That's fair. Early Titan was all about big emotions, perseverance in the face of mortal danger, and the spirit of humanity; now it's a distinctly different beast that might have some interesting things to say about power. It's not surprising that most folks find this less engaging than the bombastic action of prior seasons. (And for the record, Levi will never be cool to me.)

At least give him a better haircut.

You're not wrong, but at least he's not this guy.

I mean, it's not like many characters in this show have much room to talk, but if Jean's throwing shade at your fashion sense, you know it's bad.

The most tragic loss of the fall of Wall Maria was the Titans eating the last living hair stylist. Anyway, Titan is still a fun ride. I've at least never felt bored during this arc, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't itching to get back into the meat of things. LIKE HEY MAYBE WE COULD GET TO THAT FUCKING BASEMENT? IT'S BEEN FIVE YEARS???

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha no.

In the meantime, we can chew on the dynamics between the different branches of the military and their distinct worldviews. Like remember how the average recruits wanted to be MPs so they'd never have to fight? It's fitting that they're the ones defending the status quo.

That is actually something I appreciated about Erwin's big speech in this latest episode. Rather than making an impassioned speech about how his plan will Lead Humanity Forward or whatever, he lays out a practical, grounded argument for why the current leadership's plans are ultimately going to fail. Like he knows these overstuffed nobles aren't interested in progressing humanity, they only care about saving their own asses, and if the scouts (and humanity at large) don't start fighting back and regaining ground, their society will collapse from both internal pressure and the external threat. The nobles are so crooked that they decide the solution to such a crisis would be to just let half the population die. It's a cool way to show that Erwin isn't just an idealist; he understands how to persuade people and that's what gets the rest of the military on his side.

The whole report of a Titan invasion might've been a ruse, but the brass' first reaction of saving their own hides rather than taking in refugees shows immediately what lousy leaders they are, which persuades the rest of the military to ditch their sorry asses. The people calling the shots from within Wall Rose (including the MPs) have no interest in actually preserving their civilization so long as they make it out okay. And the thing that sows dissent among the populace isn't a forcible takeover so much as the truth of the situation just getting out in the open.

Information is power, and hiding it only protects those who abuse their power.


Another thing I dug was them letting Flegel of all characters come into his own. Like, the dude starts off as the definition of a bumbling fool.


But by the end of this, he comes forth as a local leader, helping to spur the common folk to action in a way the Scouts never would have been able to alone.

This exchange between Flegel and Hange also makes Attack on Titan's worldview clear.


Living means giving your all and breaking free of the systems that confine you, status quo be damned. It doesn't matter if you're a top commander or just some nobody; everyone's capable of taking what matters into their own hands. Which is a neat message in the abstract, but gets a little iffy once you realize that almost all of the protagonists in this show are in the military.

YEAH STICK IT TO THE MAN, uhh also we've also committed our lives to the whims of this regimented government organization b/c it's cool or something idk.

Yeah, Titan's relationship to militarism is complicated, and it only gets moreso as we dig deeper into its setting. Like yeah, Erwin's group is in the right overthrowing the oligarchs in charge, but real-life military takeovers rarely go down so neatly.

It's fascinating how distrustful of authority Titan is while also making the military seem like the coolest shit. Like, that's a hell of a contradiction there. "The people in power are bad" but also "the people who seized power are cool and good".

Rumblings I've overhead from manga fans suggests this comes to a head at some point in the future, so I suppose that's something to look forward to! But I'm sure Titan will handle this issue with the grace and care it handles all its other sensitive topics.

Like child abuse.

Speaking of Historia, here's something I still don't get: why does it matter that she's of royal blood and Fritz isn't?

It's totally arbitrary right now, but I mean, so's everything else about monarchy in the real world.

The current king is a fraud installed by corrupt officials, but what's different about Erwin's regime putting Historia in power? I guess the important thing is for the populace to consider their takeover legitimate, plus y'know, secret Titan shit that'll come up later.

There's a lot at play in Titan so far, and it's only gonna get more complicated as it goes. There's much more to chew on in this arc, even as it speeds through a lot of its material, and while it's not the fist-pumping ride of season two yet, I'm still looking forward to sinking my teeth into whatever's to come.

like maybe we find out
WHAT'S IN THE FUCKING BASEM--

Probably shirtless Eren. Oh, and vore, lots of vore.


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