It has been said, more times than anyone can hope to count, that the calm comes before the storm. What fewer proclaim, however, is what comes after. Not to sound too depressing, but it usually isn’t good. In fact, it’s generally horrible, though, if you’re really unlucky, it’s specifically horrible. Such is the perpetual fate of anyone who dwells within Walls Maria, Rose and Sina. And spoiler alert, that specificity relates directly to the secret of the Titans.
Having taken their former comrade down in a blaze of glory, rage and veins made of fire, the 104th is experiencing an understandable dip in morale and motivation. This is not aided by the overall suspicion that surrounds our protagonistic group, what with two of their members being Titan Shifters and all. Still, even such frightening doubts are washed away by that oh so haunting face that has been staring into our souls since the credits ran on the first season. The Wall Titan, herald of bad news and a glaring reminder that the world isn’t as bad as you think only because you haven’t thought of everything. That being said, the religion/cult that worships the Walls always did seem a little off, if not for their piety, then their irreverence to any who do not share their creed. Even putting a name and face into the spotlight does little to assuage our fears of secretive and evil people, as Pastor Nick is an all around vague jerk. He just so happens to also be a powerful reminder that, as terrifying as the Titans can be, humanity has some truly powerful enemies lurking within.
With the resolution of mysteries playing such a large factor in multiple character’s motivations, this season takes leaps and bounds in progressing both the saga of the world and the individual tales of those who live within. For starters, Eren takes a fairly back seat role for a fair portion of this season, allowing us to witness a few new backstories and learn of the motivations that drive the 104th forward. Though fairly in line with what you’d imagine from this crapsack world, each character is handled with enough tact to still leave a genuine impact. Of course, the more unique tales take precedence, but it’s still pretty sobering to remember that there are plenty of soldiers who still have a home to go back to and a family who wonders whether their son, or daughter, or brother, or sister, or husband, or wife will ever get the chance to do so. Although, if you are feeling particularly, wholeheartedly positive, even a chance is a breath of fresh air and a sign that light hasn’t truly faded from the world and that darkness that clouded your vision was just the temporary blocking of the sun…by a horse.
Because apparently we’re doing this now. If the Female Titan wasn’t dangerous enough, this season throws more enemies at us than we can count and yes I mean that both figuratively and literally because how often do you get the chance to mean those both at the same time? At least twice by Attack on Titan standards. These two moments do, however, speak to the embracing of the unexpected and the variation of what constitutes and action sequence. Though the ODM Gear is still an amazing weapon, both visually and conceptually, we have had a whole season to grow accustomed to acrobatic antics and not allow their mere presence to distract us from the ins and outs of combat. Thus, this season keeps us guessing with more than a few battles that consistently pivot and keep us on our toes. Let’s just say that sometimes the best offense is a good defensive outpost. Still, environmental ingenuity pales in comparison to the knock-down-drag-out between Eren and the Armoured Titan. It’s not everyday you see somebody triangle choke a being who near single-handedly fractured one of humanity’s last lines of defence, let alone transition into an armbar.
Having already run through this season once before, and breaking down each episode one-by-one, I was most interested this time around by the English dub. Though admittedly a fan of a good ol’ dub, I do maintain that this is a pretty damn fun one, the far from depressing description of which I will now explain. Though the series itself is doom, gloom and everything else evil that rhymes (or doesn’t), the performances of each character are far and away the greatest hope spots we are given. From Ymir mocking Connie in an attempt to dissuade his tortured thoughts, to Sasha finding resolution in the defending of others, the voices that carry these messages are what allow us to connect, care and continue onward. I mean, think about the compounding misery of a monologue about hopelessness and a bland performance. Then, once you pull yourself out of that spiral, take a listen to the scenes where Eren is literally devolving into growling. Is it frightening? Yes. Is it also a little bit awesome? Most definitely. Does it also make you stifle a smile? It did for me and I have to believe that means the answer to this question is the same as the last two, because I am not ready for what this says about me if it isn’t.
Following off of one of the most unexpected and fervently cosplayed anime in recent history, this season is a solid continuation of the Attack on Titan mythos. With some of our questions finally receiving answers and webs of deception we didn’t even know were woven being unraveled, this morsel is a particular juicy one, even with the complex narrative flavour profile. Enemies are friends, friends are enemies, a few are both and at least one is neither. It’s so much to devour, that we didn’t even manage to get through it all, leaving that tasty morsel we saw first to grow cold on the plate because we were trying to save the best for last. And even if you don’t agree with my spontaneous food metaphor, I’ll be damned if you don’t at least recognise the impact of a giant sasquatch that can hold a conversation and practices fastballs with the equine…and then explain to me what it is.