19 CommentsShingeki no Kyojin / By Inushinde /

Shingeki no Kyojin Episode 14: Some Glaring Issues

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Okay yeah, this title’s a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t not use this for the header image. I’m willing to sacrifice a good pun for a terrible one if it means using shots like this.

More relevantly, new season of anime means two things for Kyojin: A cheesy new opening that even the amazingly flamboyant Rhapsody would think too fruity, and a new set of problems related to the series’ world-building that could have been easily avoided if ambition weren’t diligently tempered with laziness.

As somebody that thinks Shingeki no Kyojin’s wall-bound society has the potential to become a somewhat unique exploration of what would happen to an entirely isolated mid-19th Century entity if it were invaded by titan versions of Chevy Chase, I haven’t seen Kyojin make the most of this scenario. The effort that has been made to give Kyojin’s society some semblance of life and vibrancy is hollow and token, barely touching on its unique problems in anything more than needlessly exposition-laden dialogue.

The most glaring example immediately follows the opening, where guards discuss their worries related to Eren’s titan form. Before long, they come to the logical conclusion that, instead of pursuing his single-minded goal of killing every titan ever, Eren’s going to harness his newfound power to kill bourgeois ass in Wall Sina. Barring a pointless scene with a stereotypical aristocrat several episodes back, there’s nothing that’s hinted at the working class harboring any sort of resentment toward the rich, nor have the rich been shown to be dickish enough to warrant the Rose inhabitants turning their attention inward. The discontent of the working class seems to be an important enough point to warrant the intervention of the Military Police in a military tribunal, but it’s not explored in anything remotely approaching depth, instead being used solely as context for the MP’s involvement. Even then, it’s ignored so Levi could beat the shit out of Eren—though, granted, there are worse reasons.

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And then there are the politics surrounding Eren’s military tribunal, where the Military Police and the Recon Corps try to plead their case to gain possession of Eren—for execution and for utilization, respectively. While they aren’t dutifully ignored like the class issues are, they tie back to a few of the neglected points brought up earlier. The MP is pleading their case, not in the interest of humanity’s safety, but in the interest of the rich who supposedly are invested in keeping the status quo, despite nothing really showing that so far. Just panning by a group reading a newspaper is not enough to convey this point in a way that gets the audience invested.

The Recon Corps’ argument is much more persuasive, because we’ve seen the plight of the poor and displaced over the course of several episodes. Their interest in reclaiming Maria is tangible, and has been shown by many of the displaced joining the military, or even being willing to go on what they know will be a suicide mission. It’s interesting to have the two branches represent the two most disparate strata, and I’d definitely like to see more, but it’s not fleshed out enough to do what it wants. By painting one side in sympathetic strokes while ignoring the other, Kyojin isn’t creating the world of grey morality that it seems to be aiming for. There’s a clear right and a clear wrong here, and the only argument leveled in the defense of the Sina inhabitants is the potential for a food shortage if Rose should be lost. Knowing that, you’d think that they would help fund the push for reclaiming Maria in order to keep their tenuous positions intact.

In the end, this is a complaint that ties back to the pacing of the last few episodes, and the show’s decidedly small focus. While the Trost arc is perfectly fine on its own, very little of it benefits the big picture that the series occasionally has to pay lip service to. As if to spite its involvement of creatures the size of houses, it’s chosen to maintain a decidedly small scope when dealing with its characters. Very little outside of Eren and his immediate group are of importance to the story, beyond the nebulous goal of reclaiming Wall Maria. This is all fine, this all works, and it could exist in a narrative vacuum entirely separated from the world at large, not having to pay any attention to the plight of the civilians. Some hurdles aside, the current plot is more than strong enough to stand on its own, free of frivolous side details. The never-ending parade of earnestly goofy faces also helps.

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The problem that this episode unintentionally brings up is that Kyojin chooses not to have its characters exist in a vacuum, or a titan-themed amusement park ride, or inside the head of a bored Eren slumped at a school desk, waiting for his lecture on the merits of nepotism to come to an end.

Shingeki no Kyojin is framed by a world that presents oodles of opportunity for exploration. The threat alone of a titan invasion is enough to warrant the rise of a cult that venerates the walls, of social classes dedicated entirely to maintaining them, and of people who react against these two groups. The series knows this and makes an occasional attempt to breathe some life into its setting, but the end result is stiff and reactionary, melding to fit the current plot without being consistent. Shingeki no Kyojin essentially learned how to make lifelike paintings of sailboats on stormy seas, and opted to paint a gorgeous sailboat onto a crude MS Paint rendering of water.

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19 Comments

  1. gedata
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    the position Levi takes as he kicks Eren in the face on your screen-cap made me lol.

    • Inushinde
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      It was hell getting that screen cap, but I’m so glad I went through the effort.

  2. Pusswookie
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    I disagree with one statement you made during this:
    “…nor have the rich been shown to be dickish enough to warrant the Rose inhabitants turning their attention inward”
    Pffft, what? Between Pillsbury Nobleman expecting PIXISU! to protect his lovely estate instead of the rest of Trost and the leader of the Merchant’s Guild halting evacuation in order to get his tarp laden goodies to safety, I would say that the upper class has been shown to be dickish and unempathetic to a near silly degree, if anything.

    • Seppuku33
      Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:29 am | Permalink

      I agree with what you’re saying Pusswookie. Also, Titan is exploring more characters besides the main three. The Jean subplot is working out great right now as it shows the price of war / the struggles of leading a scared group. However, I want them to dig into Annie Leonhardt as she seems like she has something to say or bring to the table. It’s a bit of a tease as she says one line every so often and that’s it. They have been exploring the world, not only with the events that Puss said, but also by showing the underbelly of society as evidenced in the robbery / sex trade episode.

      Some quick comments: I had fun with the OP and I enjoyed this episode. The supreme military commander looked like Hoenheim from FMA. I don’t get the significance of the nut in the ED song. Speaking of food, I still don’t get the significance of the pomegranate during the time that Titan Eren saved Mikasa. Glassess Girl reminds me of Mari from Eva and seems just as loony, actually all of the Recon Corps soldiers are massively eccentric. That sniffing guy? What the heck!? Hahahahaha!

      • Posted July 18, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Annie you say? Stay tuned then.

    • Kurama
      Posted July 17, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      That scene is only in the anime, it isn’t canon.

      • Stef
        Posted July 17, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t in the manga. That scene is in the official anime, therefore it’s canon in the anime.

        (Though it didn’t say anything that hadn’t been already said before…)

    • Inushinde
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      Pusswookie: The merchant most likely had everything of value on his cart, and didn’t exactly want to lose his livelihood if he miraculously made it out alive. It doesn’t excuse his acting like a total dick, but he’s hardly on the upper crust, trying to keep the peasants from nipping at his wealth.

      And that was only one nobleman, who may or may not represent the interest of that strata as a whole. Maybe he was intended to do so, but his cartoonish lack of sympathy had might as well be an outlier. Even if the upper class are completely absorbed in their own lives, those inhabiting Wall Rose don’t seem all that eager to put them in their place.

      The effectiveness of implying class tension relies on action from both sides, not just from one. A case could be made for the aristocracy feeling paranoid that Eren could compromise their gig, but again, you’d think they’d want to support retaking Maria so it would make storming Sina look less tempting.

  3. DarkEnergy
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Why do you say new OP is fruity? Do you dislike it? What’s wrong with it? I quite like the new OP. Music kind of sounds like a Japanese Dragonforce with it’s blast-beat drumming and crazy guitar riffs.

    • Inushinde
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:14 am | Permalink

      And that’s exactly why. Nothing obscenely wrong with it, coming from somebody who fully enjoys Rhapsody, but it’s cheesy as fuck.

  4. Kian
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    An interesting opinion. I think you bring up some good points. This is what happens when a show tries to do too much in too little time. This sort of reminds me of the 2nd season of Code Geass. Both are trying to include world events too quickly and probably unnecessarily in what has been for the most part a character story rather than a world overview one.

    • Inushinde
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      Exactly. But I guess both shows abide by the yoloswag420noscopeblazeitlegalizeitbaylife philosophy, so I can let it slide.

  5. Anonomyous
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Thats the thing, you need to tie up what the earlier episodes said. The entire military police is made up of people who worked damn hard to AVOID the titans (the training camp episodes). As Eren pointed out, they are basically cowards. But cowards never want to hear others saying they are cowards when they are not in a position to be threatened.

    Those guys (and many of the court civilians) are in wall Sina and have never even SEEN a titan before. To them, the titans are invincible (reference Pixis saying they have never won) and the best they can do is to ensure that the status quo stays the same until they die of old age (then its not their problem).

    This sort of thinking is like the ostrich’s head in the sand. What you don’t see doesn’t exist. This is probably one of the reasons why Pixis needed a victory so badly, to break the mindset.

    Levi’s kicking was partly to work on that cowardice. He’s implying he will continue to kick until Eren changes form then he’ll kill Eren (displaying confidence and thus communicating his prowess to them and with his reputation backing it up, no one will doubt it) but before Eren gets killed, in his titan form, he’ll smash the mps and civilians. So how much were the mps and civilians willing to bet that they would survive a rampaging titan who killed 20 titans (remember these peeps have never seen a real titan) before he was brought down by Levi.

  6. Stef
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    While I think you base your criticism too much on speculation and self-projection instead of just looking at what the anime presents you, you make some good points.

    Though it is a problem that we don’t know much about life inside the wall and thus are disconnected with how the people think, the main thing to take out of this episode is that people are scared of Eren. Furthermore it has been amply shown before that those that want to go outside and change things are a minority, so none of these new elements should come as a surprise.

    On to the good points: Thankfully, they established the different groups’ positions before the actual trial, which is less disorienting than in the manga. Gosh, that’s the first thing the script improves on the original. It’s a detail, but it’s there at least.

    The direction really took a step back and restrained its habitual over-the-top style, reserving it for specific moments. Still corny at times, but far better.

  7. Grey
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    After argument by shouting this episode introduces argument by kicking in the face.
    I still don’t understand the point of that…if it was to prove the Eren wouldn’t transform, it negates the point Levi makes after.
    If it was only to say that Eren is dangerous…I think it would have sufficient to SAY that (maybe shouting).
    I suspect it was only to prove that Levi is a badass (or a sadic)…not there is nothing wrong with that :P

    • scouting legion
      Posted July 18, 2013 at 3:03 am | Permalink

      The point is to demonstrate that Levi can control/kill Eren if needed.

      Levi’s reputation as the strongest human + that demonstration + Irvin’s proposal that Eren will be beyond the walls = the entire court convinced

  8. scouting legion
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    “As somebody that thinks Shingeki no Kyojin’s wall-bound society has the potential to become a somewhat unique exploration of what would happen to an entirely isolated mid-19th Century entity if it were invaded by titan versions of Chevy Chase, I haven’t seen Kyojin make the most of this scenario.”

    That’s a fine point, but aren’t we forgetting that ultimately, SnK is shonen? The premise is simply a backdrop to get the plot/action moving forward, with only occasional reference to the society, class struggles, etc. Many things will be oversimplified and there will be nakama speeches here and there.

    Of course these limitations stop SnK from being a “great” series. But I think it’s more fruitful to judge the series based on what it’s trying to do.

    • Seppuku33
      Posted July 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’m having fun for what it is right now. Between EREN SMASH!, badass (and now moe) mikasa, PIXISUUUUUUU!!!!!!!, and conflicted Jean, I’m having a fun time.

      http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1331534

    • Inushinde
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 12:24 am | Permalink

      These criticisms, though numerous, are no indication of what the series does right: namely the action and knowing how to keep its momentum up. The only reason why this criticism of the series’ worldbuilding came out to be so long is because it’s trying to shoehorn in these elements without going through the effort of properly expounding on them.

      Ultimately though, it is a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things. Everything outside of what’s mentioned here is perfectly serviceable, if not good.

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