The Price of Smiles plunges us headfirst into the war this week. While learning that Joshua has been deliberately keeping the Princess in the dark we also see the lengths he will go to in order to see her smile. And yet…
There just seems to be a small hole in the whole plan here. Given the military are currently losing the war against the empire you would think sooner or later the Princess is going to notice pieces of her kingdom getting overrun. Not to mention the costs associated with maintaining all those units and the death and injury of the soldiers. Joshua is just a little misguided and what worries me more is that everyone else in the entire Kingdom seems to be playing along with it.
Though, because of this, the end of the episode didn’t hit with anywhere near the impact it should have. It seemed obvious this set up was flawed and couldn’t be maintained and if you thought about how the cruellest way would be to make the Princess aware of the situation you could probably nail the end of this episode. It still works and it still sets up a dramatic turning point, but emotionally you were more waiting for it to happen rather than shocked by it.
That said, we do get a brief moment at the very end where the second character who is dancing about the opening sequence finally shows up. It will be interesting to see where this story chooses to go next week now that we’ve thoroughly broken the Princess’ smile. Or will she just bravely soldier on with her usual cheeriness because people expect it of her? So many possibilities and we might just cut to the other group altogether.
I’m honestly not hugely into this show and yet at the same time I am intrigued by the possibilities so they’ve managed to get me very interested even if the execution and characters have so far been just okay (there really isn’t much to criticise it just doesn’t really grab me either).
There’s been a lot of dark magical girl stories in recent times and we continue to move further and further away from the pink sparkly heroines of the 90’s where danger came in the form of cackling villains and light effects that seldom had any real impact. Though, outside of Madoka, I can’t say I’ve been a fan of most of these stories. Not that I object to dark stories with murderous plots and carnage, but just I find the premise somewhat thin and it is more a case of can we get these characters to kill each other rather than thinking through the why.
I will admit, I didn’t actually expect anything from Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. I hadn’t watched a PV or read any kind of synopsis I just saw militaristic magical girls on the thumb-nail and figured we’d be getting something along the lines of Strike Witches. Which is probably why this first episode had so much impact. It literally came out of nowhere for me.
The big bad magical threat is defeated. Asuka and the magical girls who survived long enough took out the big bad boss and restored peace to the world. We see this pretty much at the start of the episode as we see that this story isn’t kidding with its threats as of the nine magical girl who were working with the military for the operation, four died before ever making it to that final battle. Points to the anime for not showing us each of the deaths of character we didn’t know just for the sake of splashing some magical girl blood about the screen and instead we simply hear one soldier talk about the fact that there are nine girls, we then see five and one of them is holding the dog-tags of those who didn’t make it. Far more affective given we haven’t had time enough to care for anyone in this story.
Then we transition to a normal high school setting (because this is an anime and of course our heroine is going to transfer into a class). Still, this section of her making friends within the class, her dealing with memories she’d rather not have, slowly opening up and joining a club, is handled well and I actually found myself really hoping that she’d be left alone to live that life (though even before the scarred military guy shows up you know that isn’t going to happen).
Where the anime really shines though is in dealing with Asuka’s clear trauma from the war. She fought a war while in middle-school. Just seeing a mascot character handing out balloons causes disturbing flashes and later we see the fate of her parents (and here we have an anime character without parents where it seems to be more than plot convenience but actually a valid emotional note for the protagonist). These dark and disturbing images, and they are disturbing, are incredibly solid at establishing why Asuka is traumatised, how real the threat was, and that this is not going to be a light and frothy story of a magical girl fighting cackling villains but a world in which the threats are very, very real.
But what are those threats? Given the war is over, though I guess there is still room for another invasion. Turns out humans are more than capable of carnage and misery without the assistance of fluffy invaders from another world. When Asuka’s classmate is caught up in an attempted jail-break, Asuka is forced back onto the scene.
It’s a solid first episode and one that has me wanting to know where they’ll go next. This one has a lot of potential and hopefully it knows how to use it.
Yuuki is a young Princess with dead parents but she’s bubbly and sweet and determined to make everyone smile (so typical anime character really). She’s aided by Joshua, the standard childhood friend who also happens to be in the military, and some cliche stern looking woman whose name I didn’t catch. Realistically, this one has pretty standard written all over it.
That said, there’s something fairly enthusiastic about this first episode and the way it commits to following Yuuki and Joshua around in their daily life before dropping the reveal of what is going on outside of the kingdom after the credits definitely deserves some attention. Not to mention, while I made fun of each of the characters for being pretty standard tropes, they are at least fun ones who work well together.
I went into The Price of Smiles with practically no information and really I was pleasantly surprised. While Yuuki might get a bit tiresome, I’m kind of hoping her eyes are going to get open to reality at some point and that will be something to see. Meanwhile the rest of the cast could all potentially be pretty interesting and the training robot fight we had in this episode was certainly entertaining enough.
While this one isn’t an instant ‘must watch’ it certainly has enough potential. I’m fairly curious as to what is going on with the military side of this story and I would like to see Yuuki’s development over the course of the series so I’m looking forward to sticking this one out. After I watched the episode I read the MAL synopsis and apparently we have another character coming that I don’t think we’ve seen yet so I wonder what they’ll add to the mix. While I’m not saying rush out and watch it, this first episode has promise and I guess we’ll see how it goes.
Less Shouting, More Plot, Still Great Action – Yes!
It’s taken awhile for me to get to this review and it isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the anime or that I didn’t have a strong opinion. It was more that the anime ended at a weird time of season and I’d already finished drafting my Summer anime reviews and scheduled them but I hadn’t yet gotten in to my backlog of anime to review and so Attack on Titan season 3 went on the list to catch up on at a future time and then I got busy.
But, now that I’m writing about this anime again, the only thing I can really think is ‘wow, I really had a lot of fun with season 3’. If you recall my pre-season thoughts, I was pretty pessimistic about Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). Season one started great but meandered. Season two did whatever it did. I guess we did get an amazing reveal but it really felt like the plot was lost and we spent a lot of time just kind of reacting to things or rushing from action show piece to action show piece. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were cool, but it felt like the plot was lost or stalled.
Well, season three has come along and it has brought us some wondrous things. Levi getting into the action as Kenny attacks his squad in the early stages of the season is a solid and exhilarating beginning to season 3.One that captures the adventurous spirit as well as the danger and idea of life being pretty cheap very well and reignites enthusiasm for the series in a way that was badly needed (at least in my case).
Sure the fight across rooftops and through the streets of the district is over the top and from a physics point of view highly improbably(how dead is Levi if he actually attempted those stunts), but it is beautiful,fast paced, the sound perfectly complements it, and everything about the sequence just works from a raw emotional point of view. And it opens up the characters of Attack on Titan to us in a way we’ve never really had the chance to explore before.
From Eren and Historia, to the Ackerman’s, the false King, Eren’s father, Kenny, all of the cast get some life breathed back into them as we take a break from riding around on horses and fighting and actually look at what is behind all the mystery and intrigue. Do we get all the answers? Well, it is Attack on Titan so not really, but it brings together a lot of the plot threads, the half hints and ideas, and it seems to throw them back into forward motion in a way that ends up being immensely satisfying.
While I’m at it, I’ll mention that the OP this season is fantastic. I get that when you first hear it, or if you hear it without watching the show you will be wondering what that song is doing attached to Attack on Titan, but the opening perfectly captures what this season aimed for and ultimately accomplished. We see that the characters have grown up but that their pasts haven’t disappeared. Who they were and what they have been through has shaped them and continues to have an influence over their lives even as they try to find their own paths. The song and the visuals that go with it capture that, as well as the relationships these characters have formed. It really works and there’s a reason it ended up on my list of favourite OP’s for the year.
However, while the world and characters are being fleshed out there is a trade off. If you are after continuous bouts with Titans you may find season 3 a little bit of a disappointment. For me though, they more than made up for the lack of number of Titans early on by the sheer grotesqueness of the titan they fight just after the mid-season. And of course, by the end of the season we are back to many titans.
Still, the greatest accomplishment of season 3 is that it finally made me appreciate Eren as a character rather than merely tolerating him. As a shouting protagonist type, one of my least favourites, Eren has always been a sore point for me with Attack on Titan. While I joked early on in this season that gagging Eren helped immensely, when the gag came off, I found that Eren had finally moved forward as a character. Sure, there are still some stupid moments with him, such as his fist-fight with Jean, but Eren managed whole moments of character introspective later in the season without a single shouted line and with thoughts that I felt I could relate to and understand.This was quite the break through moment for him.
There are negatives of course. As I mentioned, there are less fight sequences this time around and so there are a lot of scenes of people standing or sitting around talking. There’s also a lot of characters from the political groups and military that you probably won’t be all that attached to getting a lot of screen time. And some of these moments could have been trimmed a little, though mostly I enjoyed it. The other thing of course is that we are still unfinished so now we’re back to waiting yet again.
Attack on Titan really does like to keep us waiting.
Overall though, I’d definitely recommend continuing with season three if you made it through one and two. In my view, this was the best Titan has offered us so far and I’m looking forward to see where they go from here.
Well, once I found out this season was going to be split in two, any hope for an actual resolution of any sort this time around when out the window so I guess I’m not actually disappointed. And despite last week being a bit of a snooze fest and this week just plunging us into a cliff-hanger with a during end-credits tease, season three has still become my favourite Attack on Titan season yet, though I’ll get more into that when I do a whole season (half-season?) review.
This week we get the higher ups talking some more and recapping things for us so that we know where we’re going next and why. Other than the over use of brown in this scene it works well enough and at least we’re clearly set on a course of action for now. That’s probably the best thing they did. Even with the gap between now and April next year when part 2 is supposed to come out, this episode gives us a clear direction which is something the end of season one and two lacked.
We get an interesting scene between Erwin and Levi that might have more significance and people who have read the manga probably know what that is but for me I’ll just file that under interesting and wait until the show chooses to maybe get back to it.
However, it was the second part of the episode that really got things going as we saw Sasha at her food craziest yet before Jean and Eren get into a ridiculous fight. It was kind of nice to see a little life in Eren even if he very nearly reverted into shouting idiot Eren. I think they played this nicely with him trying to have a bit of energy but inside he’s still kind of broken. Plus, we then got a Mikasa, Armin and Eren moment that was kind of adorable and brought us back to where these three started (as the OP has been all season) and it was just kind of nice to see this again even if it felt like tragic death flags were being raised all around (or maybe that’s just me because I’m used to this show doing that to us).
So yes, this episode works and as a mid-season point it is pretty solid. As the last episode we’re going to see this year I just have to shake my head and remind myself it is Attack on Titan. This isn’t the worst thing they’ve ever done to viewers.
Well, we knew we were moving on from the previous arc but this episode felt like yet more transition and catching people up on how things fit together rather than actually moving onto anything. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the three seasons have been spread over a large period of time and we’ve recently been hit with a whole stack of revelations so the characters taking time to process and giving the audience time to process is kind of nice, even if it doesn’t make for exactly compelling viewing.
I am actually starting to like this new and subdued Eren. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t ‘snap out of it’ anytime soon because a thinking Eren who contemplates and actually tries for others rather than going off idiotically and brashly while shouting his ideas is a lot more bearable as a character (again, not quite as interesting given he doesn’t tend to do much, but there are other characters who can fill that void).
This episode gives us a brief look at Historia as a Queen who seems to be taking a very hands on approach to working with the masses which is fine and all but it does leave you wondering who is making the actual big administrative decisions while she’s doing manual labour. It does however at least give us some sort of hope that things might improve inside the walls (which is probably just so they can later dash that hope into small pieces).
We then transition to a scene with Eren and his crew eating soup very slowly and the other recruits making a bit deal of how much they’ve changed in the months since they became scouts. It took me by surprise to given for me its been years and the change seemed really slow, but I guess in the in story time it isn’t that long. This also leads Eren to figuring out that the training commander guy knew his dad so Levi, Hange, and most everyone who has remained relevant ride out to the training grounds for story time.
If I seem a little flippant about this it is because while it eats a large chunk of the episode time, we essentially don’t get much from this guy. I really quite like Hange’s reaction to his story. While I’m kind of certain that maybe something he said will later become relevant (now there’s a clear sentence), it all just felt like a very drawn out red-herring.
So yeah, I’m not overly sold on this episode even though there are some nice ideas and touches in it. Really it will depend where this goes as to whether this works or not (another case where maybe binging would improve the story – or maybe it wouldn’t, hard to know until later).
Levi talks with Kenny and we see the life Kenny had and the choices he made before they crown Historia. While not a lot actually happens this episode of Attack on Titan it is a nice pause to fill in some gaps and prepare us for what is coming next.
Kenny had a colourful past and seeing his confrontation with the true king before he became his follower was an interesting experience. While it is still hard to really understand what makes Kenny tick, that’s kind of the point because Kenny himself is confused by some of the choices he made along the way. And that makes his hesitation to use the needle make a lot of sense, that and he clearly didn’t want to become a brainless titan but also didn’t want to die.
Likewise this episode gave us some insight into Levi but there’s still so much to the character that just hasn’t been explained which keeps him interesting enough. He’s a character that has had a fairly big impact on the story but very little is really known about him from watching the anime so these small moments where we see his past are appreciated as they help to flesh out the picture a bit more.
Historia’s crowning ceremony was what you would expect and really all I wanted to know was why the people are so easily lead around. Last week they were berating the scouts and the military and being belligerent about having to evacuate and now they are singing the praises of Historia because she happened to land one blow on a titan that had already been blown apart by Eren and the other Scout’s efforts. I get what they are going for with the masses but it really is depressing to watch sometimes.
Lastly, we finally catch up with the guys who left the scouts after confessing to being titans and they’ve crossed paths with the beast titan. While a bit of context for this encounter might be nice, they do nicely set up a future obstacle for Eren and the others to face.
So all and all this episode was pretty satisfying as it wrapped up some story threads, reignited others, and more or less consolidated things that needed it so that we’re ready to move on. The question is, what will we move on to and will it be as satisfying as this last arc was?