Unfortunately, nothing in this episode reached the creepy heights of psychotically grinning long-haired titan, but fire-breathing colossus comes close. One of the commenters in the last post brought up the fact that the titans seem to be almost more like machines than organic creatures, caring for little aside from property damage and eating people for the sake of eating them. I thought that it was a good comparison, but I didn’t realize that the show itself would back up the titans being an unholy amalgamation of sunburned nudists and flamethrowers.
But the unstoppable, wholly unnatural nature of the titans only plays into the larger theme of hopelessness that’s hammered into the audience’s skulls throughout the entire episode, and to its credit, it does a damn fine job of showing how one-sided the struggle to keep Wall Maria standing is; it’s a struggle in the same sense that the demolition of a flimsy wooden shack is a struggle between moldy boards of wood and a heaping amount of TNT. The military has trouble holding off the normal, lumbering, vaguely human, non-fire breathing titans as is, but the appearance of running fire-breathing colossus, and the way that it shrugs off cannon fire like flakes of snow, shows that no matter their preparation, they wouldn’t have stood a chance against the onslaught. They could have had the entire population militarized and manning the walls, but that titan’s speed and strength, coupled with the numbers of the smaller ones, would have rendered the effort moot.
And, naturally, the effortless penetration (ehehe) of the wall not only manages to crush what fighting spirit could be mustered, but the sheer depressing weight of the situation brings out some unpleasantness in damn near everybody. Guards reluctantly hand out scant rations to refugees, the government dooms the vast majority to a painful slaughter in a half-assed reclamation effort, and all Eren and his friends can do is sit by and watch the remnants of their friends and family be eaten by the bushel by the eating machines that they have no conceivable chance against. While not quite humanity at its worst, it is nonetheless painful to see people that know nothing but peace have their lives shattered by a violent external force, before being carelessly tossed aside by those in power like scraps of hungry paper. Yet it manages not to bog itself down in melodrama, opting instead to only have Mikasa tell Eren to stop throwing tantrums every ten seconds before moving on.
Helping to bring all these moments together into a cohesive package is some fantastic pacing; while actually seeing some scenes from the reclamation effort would’ve been nice, they wouldn’t have added anything, only serving to blur the weighty action of the beginning into an indistinct mass. The action at the beginning is punchy and memorable specifically because the rest of the episode is about the aftermath, and it puts the actions of the victims and those forced to help them into perspective. Due to both halves having a similar tone but an entirely different pace, they complement each other wonderfully and make each other more memorable.
With next week being a training episode, and most likely the start of Eren’s conversion from whiny traumatized kid to whiny traumatized teenager with a degree of military training, it’ll be good to develop our cast a bit more and flesh out their desires to make them into more than reactionary elements. At the very least I want a way to remember who Mikasa is without subconsciously thinking of shitty puns like “Mikasa es Tsukasa” that don’t even make sense. Just imagine it: Shingeki no Kyojin might just be the first show ever to make me not think of shitty puns while watching.