I’m not usually one to gripe about animation when it comes to a show, even if there are genuine grievances to be had. Sometimes compromises have to be made to get the vision across, and sometimes the budget for a less action-heavy episode will have to be saved for later. However, most shows blighted with these problems make up for it in subtle ways, like focusing on scenery while characters are talking, or having events happen off-screen, with a blood spatter shown to demonstrate that somebody just got hurt before showing their inanimate body crumpled on the floor.
But lo, like a colossal titan, Shingeki no Kyojin descended from above by means of lightning bolt and said, “Fuck that. I don’t need more than three frames at a time for animation! Particles will jerk lazily across the screen, distracting the viewer from the action! Cloaks will be buffeted by breezes into only one of three positions! Actual movement of any kind will be noticeably stilted, like the world’s worst stop-motion!” Granted, Shingeki no Kyojin has hardly been the most fluid viewing experience, but this is like visiting a good friend after a week, only to have him recollect last week’s visit while jerkily moonwalking toward a package of rat poison and licking his lips in anticipation of having massive organ failure. There’s no reason why it should have been this noticeably bad when the actual material for the episode was good.
I don’t mean that lightly; the payoff in this week’s episode has been some of the most solid, well-paced content that the show’s had in a long while, barring the five minute “on last week’s episode” segment. Though I guess it’s best that it shits its recap material out in small doses so we won’t be subjected to a full recap epi- oh wait, that’s what’s happening next week? Well fuck it, I can still be pleased with the content of an episode while disapproving of the manner in which it’s being presented.
Really, despite somebody evidently throwing this week’s episode into a washing machine for several hours, there’s a lot of material to chew on. And by “a lot of” I mean “Jean’s”. And by “material” I mean “wrestling with his doubts in a subtle, yet surprisingly impactful background role”. While I would hardly describe his portrayal as nuanced, he’s always been scurrying around in the background, adding more of a human element to the show without attracting too much attention. He’s struck the right balance by having a meaningful role that has something to contribute, but doesn’t eclipse the overarching plot.
In the aftermath of the gate being plugged, the obligatory “war is hell” segment is also more effective for Jean’s struggle being periodically checked back on during Eren’s lapse into catatonia. The dead bodies, clear signs of destruction, falling (poorly-rendered) snow, and baggy-eyed coroner are satisfactory at getting the message across on their own, but Jean having a personal connection with one of the dead soldiers elevates this segment past mere competence into a scene that shows a visceral representation of the operation’s steep cost. Jean acts as the surrogate for the entirety of the rank and file soldiers, and performs admirably in the role by keeping them from becoming just a faceless, amorphous blob to be picked apart by ravenous titans. It’s not a pretty job, but somebody has to do it—and if that somebody isn’t Sasha, I guess Jean will do.
Since next week’s recap episode coincides perfectly with Anime Expo, look forward to my first impressions of the anime that everybody’s clamoring to cover next season: Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…