Comparisons to Evangelion have been bandied about recently in conversations related to Shingeki no Kyojin, at least when those conversations don’t just devolve into people shouting at each other over the merits of the frequent use of stills to save on the budget, and over whether Eren is the most annoying protagonist since ever. Actually, the lapses into frugal animation go back to Evangelion as well, so I guess Shingeki no Kyojin is looking to channel Anno’s animated psychological cross-section and add in a few Central European names to make it stand apart from its mecha-toting cohort.
Contrary to what that opening paragraph might imply, this isn’t going to be a post on how Shingeki no Kyojin is totally ripping off Evangelion—despite some noticeable similarities, Kyojin is lacking Anno’s trademark deep hatred toward the audience, his own creation, and most of all, himself. It may be many things, but it’s hardly an exercise in misanthropy and tedium. To scrape a few rotting morsels off the very bottom of the comparison bucket would be doing a grave disservice to both shows by disregarding the elements that make them so unique. However, there is one shared plot development that’s worth a mention for being absolutely insufferable in Eva, while actually being used to decent effect in Kyojin. Unfortunately, it’s just the way the two protagonists retreat inside themselves mentally, and doesn’t point toward Eren’s titan form actually being his mother that he may or may not lust after.
While Eva decided to dedicate an overly long time toward Shinji whinging (try saying that five times fast) at an angel while trapped in a manifestation of his insecurities, Kyojin opts to have Eren mentally revert to his last state of contentment, surrounded by his family back home. Yet, despite being in a familiar home with his loved ones, everyone around him is completely static; it’s a case where the limited budget of a scene really gives it some oomph. It may be the home that he remembers, but it doesn’t hold warmth and love for him anymore, only bitter memories and an apparent predisposition to erupting in flames. All he can do is burn his longing to return to childhood to the triumph of an orchestral swell, and continue his stint as a hulking, green-eyed abomination with the ability to carry huge fucking rocks.
Having Armin constantly provide an outside voice to draw Eren out of his delusion serves well to shift the audience between Eren’s bubble, and the titan-overrun reality. It acts as the lifeline tethering Eren and his emotional instability to a world that still needs him, and develops Eren further into somebody integral to the plot by going a ways toward resolving his desire to mentally withdraw from the surrounding chaos. And by focusing his thoughts into scenes only a few minutes long, interjected with fellow soldiers trying to recover him, the episode kept the pace at a good clip without sacrificing the importance of Eren’s development.
Kyojin may have slowed down, but it continues to make the most of its slightly more deliberate pacing to flesh out its characters a bit, and I find that fantastic.