They say that home is where the heart is and, as is made painfully clear, our poor Ymir has been homeless for quite some time. From a traumatic past, to a terrifying adolescence, this 104th cadet has the makings of a protagonist in her backstory. However, as always, Eren is on the scene to scream and remind us that he is the core of our story…at least until he gets knocked unconscious and tied to somebody’s back.
Continuing from where we left off, newly revealed traitors of humanity Reiner and Bertholdt discuss their options as a troop runs ever closer to rescue Ymir and Eren. Their obvious panic aside, this was the first time I actually felt as if the two secret Shifters were actually characters of their own. With a quick check that Reiner was still a warrior, Bertholdt showed a more apparent sense of concern and reservation, rather than the quiet terror stares he has subsisted on in the past few episodes. Reiner’s assessment of the situation, and clarification that the true him cares for Christa’s safety as much as his soldier persona, showcased that he is more than grandiose postulation and identity issues. Of course much of the duo’s motivation still remains a mystery, but their secret conversation noted that Eren himself was their target due to his potential as the Coordinate. Though immediately followed up by stating they are not sure if Eren is indeed this Coordinate, it at least shows some facsimile of an end goal. Which is more than we’ve had.
However, it is not the traitors who take centre stage this episode, but rather Ymir…which is somewhat unexpected. Though she has received far more characterisation than ever before, I was not expecting an entire origin story to appear and steal the show. With a poor (and/or homeless) childhood, Ymir was apparently saved when a religious group took her in, placing her on a literal throne and treating her as the embodiment of their Lady…I’m sure you can already see how this turns out poorly. So the cult gets discovered and the head priest/minister/jerkbag pins everything on Ymir, claiming her as a corrupting influence on the poor innocent believers. As well as being a total jerk move, this moment also confirms for us all that, despite her callous attitude, Ymir is still a kind person, purposefully assuming the blame in an attempt to save those who showed her even a superficial kindness. Unfortunately, this fails and we are witness to one of our suspicions and fears confirmed: Titans are humans. Worse: Titans were purposefully made.
As an apparent punishment for their religious crimes, The Cult of Ymir was placed high atop a wall, injected with a mysterious syringe and kicked off, with a flash of Titan Shifting light following closely. Now, whilst a truly horrifying sequence of events, one question pushes its way to the front of my mind: Why? Why would anybody purposefully make Titans? How many did they make? We learn that Ymir wandered as a Titan for 60 years, so how many more Titans were made in the interim? How many of the monsters we have seen slaughtered thus far were citizens of her town? Is her town still alive and well? Where is her town? Why is the entirety of this world terrible? So many questions…so many questions. At least we learn a new truth about the Titan Shifters to (somewhat) balance things out. With 60 years of nightmarish Titan wandering behind her, Ymir was returned to human form upon devouring Marcel, Reiner and Bertholdt’s friend and assumed Shifter. Thus it seems to become a Titan Shifter, one must first be a Titan, then eat a Shifter. Though if that is the case, it begs the question: Who did Eren eat?
Further questioning aside, the focus of this episode is most certainly Ymir, past and present, as we see her apparently eat Christa and turn against the 104th. Obviously this is not the case and she is simply stealing the love of her life away, selfishly hoping she will return her feelings in kind. Which is a surprisingly big them in this series, as dark as it is. Moreover, this idea of absolute, unshakeable devotion seems to exist as a limiter for the true powerhouses of humanity. Just as with Mikasa, Ymir’s love ties her to humanity, filtering her decisions through the effect they will have on another. That being said, I feel as if their is a little more viability to Ymir and Christa’s relationship than with Mikasa and Eren’s. Though Christa’s safety took absolute precedence with Ymir, to the point she would kill Bertholdt, Reiner, Eren and possibly Christa herself, I still found myself feeling more warmth from this than Mikasa’s blind charges to save Eren. Though this may sound oddly dark, I think it spawns from the simple fact that I believe Christa holds knowledge of Ymir’s feelings and returns them at least somewhat. Eren, on the other hand, strangely seems to carry the Shonen protagonist obliviousness, or perhaps even worse simply does not care. I may be taking my assumptions a little far on that last one, but the series is yet to prove me wrong.
So yeah, an interesting and unexpected divergence this week that continues to see Ymir climb the ranks of interesting and compelling characters. Conversely, Eren has seemingly been reduced to a parody of himself, spending one scene chomping on the end of his still growing arm in an attempt to Shift…okay, it was pretty funny, but still, not all that helpful. I was also surprisingly interested in Reiner describing his Titan form as, “Not all that fast.” Though a simple observation, it is really one of the first times that a Titan Shifter has been objectively judged, their weakness note and understood by their own self. One of the benefits of knowing you were a Shifter from a young age I suppose. Though why were three kids Shifters in the first place? And why were they the best bet a mysterious outer force had against those in the Walls? I guess it kind of worked out for them, but still…