Attack On Titan last night had a very memorable episode for me. It made the correct decision to entirely focus on the group stuck at the castle and therefore, because none of them are entirely essential characters it means that they are in danger and even at the end of the episode they are all still in danger. Episodes that don’t focus on the main characters, have an entire lack of plot armour in the cast that you nevertheless care about, and deliver on that with important revelations are exactly the sort of story that this show thrives on and Soldier gave me that every step of the way. You might guess that this is going to be a positive review. It should be, I bloody loved this week’s episode, even more than I loved the previous three. There will be spoilers for the anime of course.
It starts with some pretty great Titan bashing from the Scouts. I’ll dedicate the first paragraph to their exploits. The four of them were obviously set up to die in favour of allowing at least some of the 104th to survive the episode but that didn’t stop me enjoying their company throughout the episode, they were all competent fighters, it was tragic when the first two got taken out by the Beast Titan’s rock, even though they were fighters, they were killed by something completely beyond their control, a monkey throwing rocks from an absurdly high wall. They’d had lines and everything, at least the woman who died there did. But worse was Gelgar and Nanaba, Gelgar wanted to die with a drink on his lips but even when Nanaba sacrificed herself to save him and he found the bottle, it was empty in a remarkably cruel twist of fate, and then he died anyway. And Nanaba, a very cool, competent and attractive soldier, eyes closed after taking down titans, taking down multiple in this episode, lost her life by using her last bit of a gas to try and save Gelgar, and then we had to listen to her screams to her father as she was devoured. Disturbing stuff and the show at its greatest. I cared about Nanaba, I knew she was likely doomed but I wanted her to make it, I wanted her to somehow escape death. Sometimes that happens with these characters and they do make it out, like with Sasha in the second episode, but more often with Attack On Titan, you end up with this outcome. And the five members of the 104th are far from safe yet.
Let’s get to their half of the episode. Inside the tower, they were talking about the possibility of Titans turning into humans, at least Conny was thinking that might have been the case, showing his intelligence. And then Ymir laughed it off and tried to make him look stupid, a bit harshly. I hadn’t been picking up on all of the clues and realised only what was actually going on there on the next clue, but that was some nice story marking. The next clue was Reiner discovering that Ymir could read some old writing. And a possible confirmation that both are LGBT and have the hots for Krista – despite the logic inherent in that sentence, although Reiner may just be asexual or only romantically interested in relationships given the line was ‘not much interest’ and ‘gotta marry her’. I’m reading too deep into this. Who continued to shine in this episode, she’s cute and competent and a rare beacon of light in the Attack On Titan universe. It’ll suck when she inevitably dies (reminder, I am not a manga reader, this is not a spoiler if she has died in that medium). And then, at the end, Ymir at first seems pretty dangerous, I was almost worried she’d go beserk and stab Krista or Connie (still always thinking Connie’s going to die), but it turns out she’s gone heroic and is turning into a titan to buy time for the other four. Minor plot problem though, she might have been the titan that killed Reiner’s friend when he was younger, they certainly look about the same. That’s something I’ll have to wait for next week to see, but the relationship between Reiner and Ymir has definitely come to the fore as something I’d like to see more of. They’re good foils for each other.
The sequence in the tower where the team were facing off against small Titans indoors was the most full of tension in the entire episode. As I don’t know who’s going to live and die out of these characters from the 104th, any of them could die at any moment and Reiner barrelling ahead is both stupid and a bit of a death flag. Connie turning away from the door as a second titan comes through is a huge death flag, Reiner stepping in to save him and having a plot relevant flashback is the biggest death flag of them all, and yet, this beautiful manly man manages to carry a titan up the stairs while the titan bites into his arm and breaks it. That was entirely awesome from a character who made it through the first season (from what I remember, it could do with a rewatch) not doing that much of note. By the time they are all at the top of the tower they seem in grave peril and though the cavalry may reach them in time, I’m not sure all five will survive this. Come on guys, I’m really invested in you now. I definitely can’t wait for next week and that has surely got to be the main selling point of this. Reminder that I finished the first season of this in a week when I was first getting into anime, this sort of thing is meant to be binged and I am struggling to survive on these little tidbits of goodness.