Sorry, Mikasa, but your refreshing self-sufficiency and levelheaded demeanor pale in comparison to the new best character in the show. And all it took was a woman who had the good fortune to eat a potato in front of a drill sergeant to completely usurp your position as the only person with charisma.
For its first two episodes, Shingeki no Kyojin has been a notably nihilistic piece of work, bent on crushing everything remotely associated with hope into a bitter, gelatinous mass, slammed down the gullet of any character unfortunate enough to be a fixture of its cast. If it didn’t have some lighter elements thrown in, the grimdark would have been overwhelming almost to the point of parody. And thus, we got Potato Girl, and the levity that she brought illuminated the darkness like the foil surrounding a baked potato.
Shingeki no Kyojin knows that a nihilistic celebration of mankind’s demise needs to occasionally be tempered with a lighter tone, otherwise it risks blending together, one supposedly distinct moment inseparable from others. In that regard, this episode succeeds. It serves as a necessary reminder that joy isn’t a foreign concept just yet, and there’s more to life than fleeing from lumbering sunburn victims—like mauling helpless lumps of carbohydrates. While the comic element isn’t always effective (at least when not involving Potato Girl), it at least succeeded in making things feel more organic, and less a depression-addled haze of corpses and ominous, impeccably clean smiles.
I can’t say that I’m all that won over with the way that the episode developed Eren, since it would’ve been refreshing to have an anime protagonist not quite up to snuff for once, but at least it is believable that he’s as competent as the rest of the recruits, and simply mistook failing to adjust to a broken harness for lacking equilibrium; a bit contrived, maybe, but it led to a conflict between Eren and his own very relatable insecurities that’ll assuredly make his future ass-kicking all the better for the struggle to get to that point. The fact that it was tempered by the actions of Potato Girl only made it better.
If there’s one complaint that I have, it’s that aside from Eren, nobody in the cast really feels all that necessary to the goings on. People seem to be all over Mikasa, but she has little use at this point past keeping Eren in check—something that’ll undoubtedly change, but for now doesn’t sell her enough. Still, it’s an incredibly minor gripe (for now) for an altogether satisfactory episode that does its job well, hopefully making the upcoming carnage and Spiderman-ing all the more distinct for its buildup here. I’m actually looking forward to the next episode, where we’ll hopefully see the Spiderman belts in action, with oodles of either stunningly fluid or hilariously jerky animation to make the experience fun to watch.