Attack on Titan ep19: trust in your comrades or your abilities?
Oh how I hate it when intense action and drama is interrupted, for back story. Though, I’m also a fan of knowledge, and I’ll put up with such a set up if I learn something. Do I actually learn something though? Not quite.
With the female titan bearing down on them with the might of a thousand angry tornadoes, Levi’s squad continues to hoof it (literally) with all their might through the forest. But the female titan isn’t their only problem at the moment. The squad is starting to panic without a defined plan from Levi, who just tells them to keep charging forward as fast as they can. The only thing he’s done so far was fire a sound flare. Eren feels the panic and sees the female titan charging at them and is just as panicked as anyone else. The problem with this is obvious. Eren has the ability to tranform into a titan, though doing so would go against whatever orders the team has been given. So while Eren puts his hand up to his mouth to start the transformation, his squadmates are begging him to not go through with it and follow orders.
Levi interrupts telling Eren to actually do what he feels is right, what he’ll least regret. And his contemplation at this moment leads us into a flashback from before they headed out beyond the gate. Here we see Levi going over an alternate way to subdue Eren with him and the rest of the squad. It’s the only way they know of to subdue Eren without killing him, and that’s to cut Eren’s body out of the nape of the neck of his titan. This involves cutting off portions of Eren’s arms and legs, which Levi says is no big deal since Eren regrows limbs like a lizard. Though I can certainly understand Eren’s reservations. So this is when Hanji steps in to the situation.
Hanji has a plan for an experiment with Eren and his titan form. She wants to study Eren’s titan under a controlled condition, and to do this she places Eren at the bottom of a well. This means that when Eren transforms, the narrow dry well will end up trapping the rampaging monster, and allow them to test out Levi’s technique of surgically removing Eren.
The plan is surprisingly an utter failure. No matter how many times Eren bites himself at the bottom of the well, he can’t transform. He’s a pitiful bloody mess by the time they pull him out. And to make matters worse, and more confusing, his regenerative abilities aren’t kicking in. Levi orders Eren to figure things out (ha, because that’s a simple task), and his squadmates try to offer him some verbal support while they sit down for a meal. Eren drops his spoon on the grass, and because of his injuries has trouble reaching it….
Suddenly, Eren starts a partial transformation! Only bone and muscle for part of a torso and his right arm appear, but the act alone is enough to send everyone around him into a panic! Levi steps in to try to calm his squad down, but they’ve all but completely tuned him out. All of them yelling at Eren, threatening him to prove that he wasn’t trying to hurt them. It actually takes Hanji’s appearance to defuse the situation.
Like the maniac she is, Hanji is almost orgasmic with joy over seeing the freshly grown titan appendages. She’s so excited about the them even, that she grabs one and nearly burns herself on the scalding hot titan flesh. Eren though, tired of the attention and the yelling and the angry stares pull his attached hand out of the titan construct, leaving it to fade away.
Poor Hanji. I fear her next step may have been to lick that thing. Ew!
Later that evening, they go over the situation inside the castle. Hanji believes strongly that the spoon Eren tried to pick up was the trigger for his transformation. She believes that Eren has to have some sort of purpose to transform, though beyond that, nothing new can be hypothesized.
With this new news, the squad asks Eren if he transformed on purpose, to which Eren denies. They all then bite their hands much to Hanji and Eren’s surprise, and Levi’s ambivalence. It’s done to confirm the commitment needed to go into his transformation. it’s not easy for him to bite through the skin to do it. Realizing this, they apologize for their actions and tell Eren that they trust him, and are depending on him.
Remembering this story, Eren yells to Levi that he’ll trust the squad instead of his own abilities, and go along with the plan. And it’s a good thing, too. As the titan tires of jogging and decides to push make a decisive push for Eren, everyone finally sees why Levi chose to charge ahead as fast and straight as he could. Erwin has set up a massive trap for the female titan, blasting her with spears attached to cables to impale, immobilize, and eventually capture her! With probably over fifty extremely powerful cables attached to her from almost all directions, she’s completely stuck!
End of episode.
I’ve “overheard” some complaints that this episode was a bit boring, but I found it to be an important step in showing how the squad is bonding, especially since the past two episodes have spent nearly no time on them. I believe the action was there enough, in the beginning, where viewers got a chance to get caught up on the action that closed the previous episodes. And at the end, where this episode got completely in a neat and clean fashion. The show showed off character development right in the middle of a big action scene in a way that added weight to what the characters were experiencing while adding suspense while we waited for Eren’s decision, though it was an obvious one to make.
I really appreciated this effort to take time out to flesh out (no gruesome pun intended) the characters and their relationships a bit more. Seeing how the squad, who just seconds before was calmly talking and encouraging Eren, could just turn on him at the slightest surprise was an eye opener. Even those closest and most responsible for Eren, still had a deep seeded fear and distrust of the guy. And it’s all a very viable set of reactions and emotions that are streaming from them. Every death is a trauma in their world, and gruesome trauma. There’s no peaceful or dignified deaths for these soldiers. There’s hardly and chance for an open casket funeral. When a titan kills you, you are annihilated in such a way that you’re less than human. Some people are literally turned to paste, some die horrible deaths cooked to death and evacuated from the bowels of a big dumb titan. Any reaction is a viable one, because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to die they way they do in combat. I think it says something that they’re able to understand Eren after all that and put their trust in him. So while I’m sure there are still some reservations towards him, I think the fact that they’re consciously trying to overcome that in front of Eren speaks volumes.
Something that does irk me, and this is in regards to anime as a whole, is how it seems so difficult for soldiers to follow orders in these stories. Much like how I thought it was pretty clear why Erwin lead his soldiers into the forest, I thought it quite clear what the soldiers should be expecting and hoping for as they flee the female titan. The only way to stop the female titan was by ambush, she’d become so adept at protecting herself and killing soldiers, that I’m not sure Levi’s squad could have defeated her, and if they did I was willing to guarantee some deaths. The reason for sound flare was also a clear giveaway as well. A colored smoke flare would be useless in this massive and dense forest. The sound flare was the only effective choice to communicate with those out of sight, or far away. And the number one reason for this action would be an ambush. When it comes to military tactics, there’s no more effective way to defeat an opponent, especially a superior one in firepower or size, than ambush. It makes me wonder how well trained and informed some of these soldiers are. Then again, with the female titan likely being controlled by a human being, maybe it’s a good thing that the overall intelligence of the people in this story isn’t very high.
Aside from that annoyance, I’m very satisfied with how this episode has played out. Progress has been made, the pacing was decent and most importantly I was entertained and intrigued but what the show had to offer me. It will be interesting moving forward to see what becomes of this female titan, what her identity turns out to be, and what benefits and new surprises her very presence will bring.