If there’s one thing humanity can be counted on doing, it’s fight against an enemy. To unite with those of like mind, to focus negative emotions and use them as a driving force for action. However, there is one factor that causes such a system to descend into chaos: a difference in opinion. When groups based on ideals form, they possess different goals than those around them and conflict arises. Even in a world dominated by an unprecedented threat, a la the Titans, the clash of opinions is still ever present and humanity does not stand entirely united. Seriously, get it together humanity, you’ve got bigger things to worry about.
Eren Jaeger. Human. Soldier. Titan. With the rather shocking revelation of Eren’s true power dominating the first half of the series, we now find ourselves witness to a most human turmoil: the clash between fear and logic. Shown previously in the vastly opposed personalities of Pixis and one particularly cannon happy soldier, Eren comes to serve as a personification of both terror and hope. A complex mix of conflicting emotions that only serve to bolster uncertainty. It is for this very reason that the military continues to enforce whatever law they can upon Eren, attempting to placate their fear with whatever sense of order they can muster. To their credit, those who ally themselves with Eren are smart enough to follow the higher up’s authority, or at least smart enough to pretend as such. And so a precedence for secrecy is set. Seriously, this half of Titan is chock full of plans, hidden agendas and tricks. Though generally for the good of humanity, sometimes to the point of ruin, these plans often represent the turmoil that remains within the safety of the Walls. This concept is certainly aided as we witness the innermost sanctum of Wall Sina. Far removed from the threat of Titans, corruption reigns free. So I guess humans are combative in any given situation, it just makes it easier when we all have a common enemy.
Continuing from Collection 1, this second outing into the world of Titan continues right where it left off (thankfully skipping over the tiresome recap episode that was present in the original Japanese release). This simple factor allows you to fall right back into the momentum of the series, reminding you how bad you feel for some characters whilst you also learn to love and hate a whole new roster of faces. Although, you may not be entirely sure which way you lean with some characters who are…complex, to say the least. Take Levi for example, an out and out badass who can slay Titans like nobody’s business. Awesome. Also, he’s a little bit rude and pretty severely beats Eren down. Less than awesome. Also, that’s kind of an act and he’s really got a heart of gold hidden under his outward behaviour. Awesomeness redeemed. And he’s one of the simpler ones to get a handle on, don’t even get me started on the new enemy of Collection 2. With a sprinkle of flashbacks and a hint of reasoning, you really won’t know how to feel when the series comes to an end.
Speaking of not knowing how to feel, let’s talk about visuals, because they will make you feel things. Like emotion things. Owing to the nature of the series, especially the bolder combat nature of Eren’s new allies, expect to see an increase in violence and blood and pain and carnage and death and sadness and rage and violence (I know I said that one twice, there’s a lot of it). Though if you didn’t expect it, you clearly weren’t paying attention to what it means to go beyond the wall. That being said, the increase in violence lies just as much with the characters as it does the environment, namely Levi and the mysterious Female Titan. With prowess far beyond even Mikasa, Levi shows just what it means to be a threat to the Titans. Though the award for brutal choreography goes to the Female Titan. Existing well beyond the limitations of most Titans, she adds fuel to the fear fire by possessing the one thing the Titans somewhat lack: coordination. If a competent human fighter can impose terror upon an enemy, imagine what a Titan could do…or you could just watch and see for yourself. Yeah, do that one.
I also feel it necessary to point out just how brutal this series is, in case you didn’t know by now. It is raw, it is visceral and it is terrifying. Any pre-conceptions you had that humans were physically sturdy will be thrown out the window. Bones break, limbs separate…heck, sometimes people just explode into blood. It is not pleasant. Especially brawls between Eren and the Female Titan. They are violence incarnate. Though the broken bones and loss of limbs are also a factor, unlike the humans, the Titans are less inclined to die because of this. It seriously hurts me to think about it, especially the moments where Eren punches something so hard he breaks his own arm. Ouch. Look, words can only do it so much justice, you kind of have to see it for yourself. Especially the last episode, those visuals were just…damn. The violence was so grotesque and the victim so plagued with fear, that it gave rise to a mix of depression, terror, satisfaction and sadness. It was…powerful.
Though it hasn’t changed since Collection 1, I still feel that the English dub warrants attention. In a series so focused on vocalising emotion, a poor dub would have severely stunted this series. Luckily, the dub is awesome, so no worries there. Each new cast members presents a performance equally as strong as those already established and continue to build out the world of Titan with realistic and relatable character interpretations. They scream, they cry, they laugh (occasionally) and help bring life to a world largely devoid of such. Standing in direct contrast to this are of course the Titans, who merely roar and scream, expressing their monstrous nature. Though this becomes a rather haunting fact when Eren does likewise whilst transformed, forcing you to wonder just how human he remains. Though Eren’s discernibly harsher internal monologue makes it pretty clear that he is not unchanged by the experience.
So you don’t leave feeling utterly depressed or broken by the flaws of humanity, the release includes the second half of the “Fly, Cadet, Fly” chibi adventures. As with the first lot, these short animations depict the shenanigans of the 104th during their training days. From pranks, to haircuts, to good acts taken the wrong way, this bunch gets into some sticky situations…then they get eaten by a Titan. Also, if you’re in the mood for a little behind the scenes knowledge, you can check out the commentary for episodes 14 and 25. One thing I certainly noticed while listening was just how much the voice actors were into the series. Though not a major revelation, it was pretty cool hearing the voices of the characters expressing how much they love Attack on Titan, as both a part of the series and as a fan. Although it may sound simple, the inclusion of a Marathon Play feature is also a big plus of this release. Being able to sit back and set the remote aside whilst the disc skips over intros and outros and gets straight to what you want to see, helps immerse you in the series. It’s like one long, awesome episode.
And so another awesome series comes to a close…for now. Attack on Titan is just one of those anime that’ll have you wrapped up in the world it creates. Sure it’s not a nice world, heck it’s one of the worst conceivable places to live, but it is one that you want to witness. The graphic nature of the violence and the frequency with which it appears serve as constant reminders of how brutal existence can be and how hard some have to fight to survive. It also entirely strips away any notions of boundless adventure and joyous questing, from both the characters and the audience. Fighting monsters isn’t always a shonen walk in the park, it’s gruelling, it’s dangerous and all the people you know will not survive. Life is not always easy, life is not always fair, but life is. So make it what you can and keep moving forward until the end.
Learn how to Titan Shift in 3 easy steps over at Madman.