Continuing on from season 1 after the fight with Annie, the scouts are trying to investigate when reports of titans inside the walls come in. Then we spend a lot of time running around and screaming. It is attack on titan afterall. I reviewed individual episodes of this while it was airing so if you are interested in my thoughts on the episodes click here.
This season was very much like season one for me in that I really loved the first half and let myself get swept away with it, and then in the second half the nagging feeling that this show can’t remember that it is actually supposed to have a plot started kicking in. The difference being that season one started with that incredible titan attack sequence that just blew me away and sucked me straight into the story whereas season two’s first episode, while it had its own charm, just isn’t going to stack up. The other major difference being with half as many episodes, things derailed a bit faster this time round then last time.
Before I get into the positives, of which there are many given despite my complaints I’m still watching this show and still actually hopeful season 3 will come out next year as announced, I am going to go through my major issues with this season.
The first is the pacing and the way plot points are introduced and dealt with. Attack on Titan does not have good pacing. It didn’t in season 1 and it hasn’t fixed the issue in season 2. The Beast Titan makes an appearance early on, we get one other appearance and then he vanishes until the tease right at the end of the series. Delaying information is a fine tactic for building suspense when done right. Something like ACCA did it very well. But in this instance we don’t have any clues or ideas and there’s no reminders of this particular plot point. It just kind of appears and then goes and nobody even seems to mention it thereafter. Much like the titans in the walls who seem important only no one seems to be in much of a rush to deal with that issue. Or what happened to Annie? Or the key from last season? And when did Eren actually become the hope for humanity? Stuff happens or is said but nothing is built on.
Another problem, the first half of this season deals almost entirely with the side cast as each seems to get an episode focus and then once they are reunited the focus shifts entirely onto Eren and Reiner. And while some of these episodes are very good (more on that when I get to the positives), there isn’t really a lot of cohesion between these stories and when we eventually slam all these characters together only a few actually survive all these plots being crammed together to have any further relevance. It kind of feels like most of those episodes exist only so you stop calling Sasha ‘potato girl’ and can actually distinguish characters from the support cast if you have never read the manga.
Honestly, the show really only knows how to deal with one thing at a time. There’s never any subtlety in the presentation and as a direct result when we are investigating the titans in the wall, that’s all we’re doing. When we are learning about Ymir’s back story, that’s all we’re doing. While some shows might get away with that, Attack on Titan has created the problem of far too many ideas, and if it is only dealing with one at a time that means it has shelved everything else and the audience is just left waiting. I think Eren’s basement got mentioned once in this second season. Season 1 it seemed like a big deal but apparently it isn’t a big enough deal that we actually need to mention it or even seem to remember it. More importantly, once the action starts, all of the ideas kind of get tossed and instead we just get to see this show be cool action.
Of course my final major issue is our supposed protagonist, Eren. He says it himself that he hasn’t changed at all and while he might have said that in the midst of understandable depression and desperation, it really rang far too true. He hasn’t changed. He’s the same angry little kid shouting at the world and just kind of demanding that it fix itself in a way that benefits him. While he has had some development over the two seasons, he’s still just plain unlikable. The fact that the other scouts seems to realise he is the single most irritating person in the world doesn’t help. It isn’t exactly surprising that his return to the main group at mid-season marked the down-turn in my enjoyment of the show.
So now that it sounds like I hate the show, I’m going to turn this around and tell you why you should probably watch this season anyway (if you haven’t already).
For all its faults with story and character, Attack on Titan gets one thing right every single time. It gets into the audience’s head and it moves the audience. Whether it is the visual spectacle and tragedy of Mike getting torn apart at the start of the season, the horrified expressions on the young scouts faces as they realise that the older scouts (the only ones with weapons) have finally lost and are being eaten alive by titans, Reiner’s casual but show stopping declaration that he was the armoured titan, of the final episode of this season where they mirrored the death of Eren’s mother right in front of him yet again, this show manages to make you sit up and take notice. It might be shock, it might be sadness, it might be anger, but while watching you feel these emotions surging through you and these images and the sounds stick in your head after the episodes are done. Plus, the titan tossingmoment in the final battle was kind of fantastic. This season is worth watching just for the touching Eren/Mikasa moment in the final episode. As much as I dislike both of those characters, that was one excellently handled emotional point.
Part of this is due to the artwork. The world, the titans, and the characters while not beautiful (not the right descriptor) are perfectly suited to the story they are telling. There’s an enormous focus on character reactions to the horror surrounding them and this is told largely through their eyes and they are impressively expressive. The titans this season no longer had the surprise factor that season one gave them, but they still managed to make them suitably creepy and devastating. Even the smaller titans were made incredibly terrifying, particularly when Sasha was facing off with one without and gear. There’s a few moments where the animation might be off, but this show is still incredibly impressive from a visual point of view.
The music also remains on point. It took nearly half the season before the theme song grew on me but it certainly did and while I still don’t understand the point of some of the visuals in that opening, I actually began looking forward to it as it framed the episode nicely. However, it is the music and sound-effects throughout the episodes that will really just drag you in. They aren’t intrusive but rather add to an immersive viewing experience. The show also makes fairly affective use of silence in the final episode which was a pretty excellent choice.
So pretty much if you are going to sit a pick faults with the storyline, you will most definitely find them. If you want to pull characters apart and look at whether they seem like real people or have real motivations or any kind of normal reaction to situations, you will probably find it fairly easy to fault this season. If you think too hard about all the story threads that seem to get pulled into the spot light for a brief moment and then tossed aside, you will absolutely be disappointed. However, if you strap in and just watch, you will probably get swept away by the grandeur of the moment and watch some pretty cool fights and some really tragic deaths.
My review of season 1 finished like this:
It’s beautiful, fast paced, and dramatic and when it is at its best it truly shines and those moments will carry you over the slower bits. If we actually get a continuation that matches the feel and quality of season 1 then this could be a very memorable anime. Otherwise I think it is one of those ones that had its moment in the sun but without finishing won’t have staying power.
My thoughts have changed a little as season 2 was far better during the first half when it did finally focus on some of the more interesting characters. However, it still suffers from a lack of ending and without knowing where all these conspiracies and plot threads are going there’s little other than a wait and see mind set when thinking about how I feel overall about this show.
That said, I’d love to know your thoughts on season 2 if you’ve finished watching it. I know some of the bloggers out there loved this season a lot more than I did but some have been more critical please feel free to share your stance now that it has concluded.
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