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Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan): Episode 2 Review

Updated on May 22, 2013

A few shows I tried to watch but eventually gave up on:

Episode 2: That Day - The Fall of Zhiganshina (2)

The cold opening gives us some more of the show's back-story. More than a hundred years ago, the humans constructed not just one wall to protect themselves from the Titans, but three in concentric rings. Sina housed the government, Rose housed most of the people, and Maria the first line of defense. Since defending the entire Maria Wall would be impractical, protruding districts were built to draw Titans to specific locations that could be easily defended, of which Zhiganshina is one.

The episode picks up right where the previous one left, with Eren devastated by the death of his mother. Consumed by guilt because of the fact that his last conversation with his mother was a stupid argument about the fact that he wanted to join the Survey Corps, Eren makes a vow to kill all of the Titans. One would think he's being a foolish child, but since this is an anime series and he's the main character, I think we know what is going to end up happening at some point.

Eren, Mikasa, and their friend, Armin, manage to escape from Zhiganshina via a boat that takes them into Maria proper, but the appearance of another new Titan continues to make their lives miserable. This Titan, while nowhere near the size of the skinless one from the first episode, towers above the regular Downs Syndrome Titans (sorry) and his appearance is a mixture of skin and visible musculature. He's also a beast of incredible strength, able to simply run through Maria like a locomotive and let all of his younger brethren into the first ring of civilization.

Flash forward a year and Eren is having nightmares about someone injecting him with something. He's also told that he has to get "there," which I would surmise is a reference to whatever secret his father told him about in the basement of their former home. Upon waking, we learn that the loss of Maria has forced refugees into Rose and there is a serious food shortage. In order to try to prevent riots, the government organizes an "army" of 250,000 people, approximately 20% of the population, to go out and try to reclaim the outer wall. Since the army is made up of all sorts of people (as opposed to trained soldiers), only 100 people survive. Even with that incredible loss, however, food is still scarce. The episode ends with Eren and Armin enlisting in the Survey Corps, with Mikasa tagging along to make sure that Eren doesn't get himself killed.

Attack on Titan raises some very interesting ideas about what it means to be strong, specifically as it relates to a child like Eren. At the beginning of the episode, Hannes apologizes to Eren and Mikasa because he was unwilling to take on the Titan from the previous episode and try to save Eren's mother. Hannes explains that while he possesses strength and skills that Eren does not, being both an adult and someone purportedly trained in how one can fight a Titan, he didn't have the strength or courage necessary to go up against a beast that could literally swallow him whole if it wanted. Being told that he's strong by an adult gives Eren a false level of confidence as far as his own abilities go, allowing him to make his vow to kill all of the Titans when even a single one would be outside his capacity at this point. This further manifests itself when Eren picks a fight with a member of the army for being insensitive about how horrible it is to have to deal with refugees. Eren thinks everyone around him is weak for not fighting back and Mikasa has to put him in his place by knocking him on his ass to show him that he is just as weak as everyone else.

The thing is that Eren isn't necessarily weak, however. True, he's just a kid and he has none of the training necessary to fight a Titan (the series hasn't shown us in the episodes themselves that Titans can actually be fought and killed, but the opening credits has, and it wouldn't be much of a show if the opponents were legitimately invincible), but he does have internal strength. It's going to be interesting to see how that internal strength translates into physical strength as he grows up. The episode ends with Eren enlisting under Keith Shadis, a seemingly crazy member of the army who refers to his recruits as cattle during the three year training period necessary to fight Titans, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.


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