Despite the title, and this being mostly Mikasa’s episode, I just had to include this week’s titan expression, even if it was ultimately a throwaway. No matter what, they always manage to get a laugh out of me, because I can think of at least two people that they resemble and I wonder how they’d feel knowing that somebody beautified their faces by putting them on lumbering, man-eating monstrosities.
From the six episodes that have aired so far, I’ve scrabbled together three constants of the Shingeki no Kyojin universe: Characters that talk about the future in any remotely optimistic way will end up with their blood decorating the scenery, large groups of panicked people will summon titans from the ether, and unrepentant dicks will find themselves on the business end of whatever edged weapon Mikasa has on hand at the time, or her equally sharp tongue.
In a series that focuses so heavily on the shit that the titans heap on the remnants of humanity, it’s comforting to see that they’re not the only ones who live off of human misery. To know that there are slavers who can break into homes and kidnap the occupants with little interference is scary, and it hammers in the point that things were kind of always going to shit, as they tend to do when people are crammed together with no contact outside of their little bubble. The destruction of Wall Maria by the colossal titan didn’t herald an end to idyllic days of rosy-cheeked children frolicking in meadows with butterflies.
Even when the walls acted as an impenetrable barrier between the people and the titan-eat-human outside world, there was always rampant corruption and crime, ready to hurt any unfortunate enough to be caught in its machinations. Case in point, the well-edited scene where Eren and his father discover Mikasa’s parents dead in their home, and the surprisingly straightforward aftermath where Eren straight murders two dudes and assists in the murder of a third. The fact that the guards didn’t act for some time shows that either their forces are spread thin keeping the peace, or their disregard for the boondocks is so well known that criminals know they can break, enter, and kidnap with few repercussions. It’s also an age before the telephone and vehicles, but those guards still took a long fucking time, even given the circumstances.
Mikasa hammers home the point in a mini-narration that, in a way, without the influence of any other groups of people, their society had evolved its own sort of insular ecosystem, with predators that could only survive off of the hard work and struggles of the lower-class herbivores. A trade union president who places the value of his goods above that of the people who buy them, and crooks who make a living off of selling girls into prostitution, are the results of a society where the only way to have any sort of power is to either be rich, resort to crime, or both. What’s worse is fighting back isn’t as straightforward as it is when titans are involved—children need to protect their own lives more often than not, even if it means gruesomely ending the lives of their assailants. It’s a stark depiction unflinching in its portrayal of the kind of situation that thrives in stagnation. It’s hardly a wonder that Eren and his friends want to move outside of the walls.
Most of my enjoyment for this episode came from drawing conclusions to how their society reached its current state. While this isn’t necessary to get joy out people mincing the back of the titans’ necks, or possibly take offense at how Asians are coveted and enslaved because there are so few left, it speaks volumes for the potential of a world when it gives the audience the tools to draw our own conclusions without explicitly throwing a toolset at our heads and telling us to go nuts. It leads us to believe that somebody who has yet to smile outside of a flashback is depressingly commonplace, given the circumstances that people are exposed to on a daily basis.
All in all, this was a pretty solid piece of world-building that also gave much-needed humanity to Mikasa, who before approached the concept of being a relatable character with enough hostility to slice out the back of its neck. Maybe it could have ended with Eren cutting himself out of Hagrid’s belly like an especially proactive fetus with a sword, or Sasha saving the day, but whatever, this is plenty alright.