Attack On Titan Part 2 (Episodes 14-25) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 279 minutes approx.
A quick warning before you proceed: if you have not seen the first volume of Attack On Titan you will find some significant spoilers contained within this review of the eagerly anticipated second volume.
The story continues with central protagonist Eren Jaeger caught between a rock and hard place with regard to his status as a member of the elite Scout Regiment, whose duty is protect the human race from the invading Titans. As we saw in the previous volume, Eren has acquired the ability to transform himself into a Titan, following a bizarre assimilation reaction when he was swallowed by one. After the initial shock of this revelation the military decided that they should capitalise on this and use Eren-Titan as a weapon. However not everyone is as positive about this development.
Volume two opens with a series of largely action free episodes in which the fate of Eren is hotly debated and ultimately decided at a tense military tribunal. Eren’s new found ability has polarised opinion – some believe it is a gift to ensure victory against the Titans, others are afraid that Eren’s loyalty cannot to the human race be guaranteed whilst in Titan form. The decision is made and Eren is transferred to the Special Operations Squad Recon Corps, under the command of the strict Captain Levi, who has already vowed to slay Eren if he should ever betray the people.
Don’t be alarmed that the opening episodes in this set are largely devoted to plot development there are nonetheless vital the furthering the story and fleshing out the characters while introducing some new faces. Zoë Hange, the excitable scientist makes a return revealing to Eren that the squad had captured two Titans, which she named Sawney and Bean, that she was studying and invited Eren to participate. However the two Titans had been murdered overnight, by whom it is not known but clues suggest it was someone within their ranks.
This mystery leads to the biggest and game changing revelation of the volume – the appearance of a female Titan! Up until now the Titans had all been male but this female is different, evidently more advanced. Not only is she aware to shield the nape of her neck – the Titan’s vulnerable spot – from attacks but she can also harden her skin at will to deflect the blades of the soldiers.
Say what you want about Attack On Titan, it is not a series that likes to sit still and it likes to keep the audiences on their toes with deft changes in direction and well crafted plot developments to ensure the pace of the story telling remains high. One of the strengths of the writing is how everything is relevant and nothing happens without consequence. Even if the story pauses for a brief character history flashback it all pays off in the long run, as does the action sequences none of which are thrown in for the sake of it.
There is also a pertinent thread running through the script, debating the value of human life and sacrifices, looking at how the survivors are affected by the loss of their comrades. As the casualties grow this becomes a more common occurrence among the soldiers and the civilian folk who rely upon them for protection, especially for Eren. With the extra burden placed on his transformable shoulders Eren takes each fatality incurred on the front line as those he were personally responsible, which he then turns into positive energy and uses it to fuel his motivation to fight back.
Eren is not alone in this as the loss of their comrades is felt by all of his fellow soldiers although some hide it better than others. One gut wrenching scene sees the Titans chasing the squad through open grassland preventing the use of their ODMs (Omni-Directional Mobile units). In order to create space and make it to the city quicker the soldiers need to eject the dead bodies they are taking back home which are weighing them down. The pain etched on the faces of the men as they make this difficult decision is haunting and brings home the true horrors of war.
It has been said that this show was an allegory for the current wave of disaffected youth in Japan, the Titans presumably representing the bleak future and the strict harsh realities of an oppressive world which seeks to crush their youthful spirits. I’m sure this is a universal theme even if people don’t make the connection but one has to applaud creator Hajime Isayama’s vivid imagination to come up with something so extraordinary from such a relatively commonplace theme.
One of the criticisms levied against this show is the heavy use of stills in the animation, although the more forgiving of us realised that the expense was saved for the action scenes which continue to be a true visual spectacle of exhilarant aerial motions and ferocious blade swinging action. As before the unhinged almost sloppy movements of the Titans are particularly unsettling, their eerie rictus grins belying the vacant look in their eyes. The female Titan copies Eren’s Titan form, taller than the others and without skin while possessing a formidable strength.
There is a definite darker and more intense mood to this second instalment of Attack On Titan with an increase in the violence and a greater focus on the psychological aspects of fighting for survival against such indomitable foes. The story remains consistently engaging, building the tension and drama with each twist and turn while remaining true to its fantasy premise.
However some might be disappointed by the lack of definite conclusion in the final episode – fear not because the post credits coda suggests there is plenty more to come, which I am certain is a hint which will be welcomed with open arms.
A genuine “total package” show, Attack On Titan is an unequivocal front runner for “Anime of the Year”!
Dolby True HD: English Language 5.1 Surround
Dolby True HD: Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 14 Commentary
Eye Catch Gallery
Attack On Titan at Anime Expo
Textless Opening Song “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”
Textless Closing Song “Great Escape”
Chibi Theatre: Fly, Cadets, Fly! Days 14-25.
Rating – *****
Man In Black