Review: Attack on Titan Part 2 (Ep. 14-25)

attack on titan vol 2Director: Tetsurō Araki
Writer: Yasuko Kobayashi
English publisher: Funimation (USA)
Genre: Shonen, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic
Recommended for: Mature teens aged 17+ and adults
Release date: September 23, 2014 (DVD release)
Price: $30.00-$60.00

Known as Shingeki no Kyojin in Japan, Attack on Titan first rocked the entertainment scene with its debut in the Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine. Since the initial release of its critically-acclaimed manga, the series has launched into numerous outlets, including light novels, additional manga spinoffs, and even a potential live-action drama.

In 2013, Attack on Titan premiered its animated adaptation to Japanese audiences. A successful reception later, the series found itself online for streaming with subtitles available. Now that the English dub has been recorded and released, Attack on Titan is on sale in DVD format to American, European, and Australian audiences.

Let’s delve into part two of this nightmarish, adrenaline-laced tale of survival and brutality. Does Attack on Titan’s second half improve upon its titanic predecessor, or does it fall prey to plot-telling pitfalls? And how does it hold up to a Christian audience?

Storyline

Having vowed to wipe out the creatures that killed his mother, Eren Yeager is horrified to discover that he’s one of them. Despite the titan-sized advantage he now affords to humanity, Eren soon finds himself treated as a monster—putting him on the receiving end of uneasy looks and threats of execution. When he’s taken to court, his life lies in a precarious balance, and only his accusers and supporters can determine what he truly is—a monster who needs to be eradicated or a man with the power to be humankind’s savior.

With the timely intervention of the Survey Corps, Eren’s life is saved, and he finds himself closely guarded by the regiment’s best—General Levi Ackerman, a man with a face as cold as his titan-slaying steel blades; Hanji Zoe, a semi-psychotic scientist with a disturbing attraction to experimentation and titans; and a host of other high-class misfits. Among the swarm of bold viewpoints and quirky personalities, Eren feels as though, perhaps, he’s finally found where he belongs.

But when Eren and a regiment of the Survey Corps set out to retake Wall Maria, they uncover an unimaginable threat—an intelligent, female titan. Putting life and limb on the line, the Scouts must discover her true identity and unmask the titan-shifting perpetrator who’s managed to infiltrate their military ranks.

Content Guide

Positive Elements
57th_Expedition_Beyond_WallsOvercoming fear and finding courage is still at the heart of Attack on Titan. When it comes down to the nit and grit, nearly all of the top-ranking military graduates elect to join the Survey Corps, shunning the easier, safer life in the ranks of the Military Police. Among the first to make that decision is Jean, a character who—in the show’s first half—self-acknowledged his own incompetency and cowardice. As he stands at Marco’s funeral pyre, Jean finds himself reflecting on his deceased friend’s words and ultimately finds the courage to join the Scouts. When asked if he’s afraid, Jean answers with an honest, “Of course I’m scared.” When asked why he’s joining the Corps, regardless, he replies, “Because I am scared of the titans. I want to do something about it.”

There’s an incredibly moving scene where the military graduates are assembled en masse and those who are choosing not to join the Scouts are told to leave. Standing isolated in the midst of a sea of retreating figures—Jean and his fellow graduates tremble in fear and consider the simplicity of merely joining in the retreat, walking away from the terrors that await them in the Survey Corps. In the end, though, they stand resolute, determined to put their lives on the line and make a difference for the future of humanity.

Trust—it seems—is what holds humanity’s best and brightest together. It’s this single word that creates unity amidst Levi’s personal regiment, and, even when his orders seem dangerous or blind, his group loyally puts their trust in him (and vice versa). For Eren, learning (and earning) this trust is a painful growing process, as his induction into the Survey Corps is treated delicately. When he accidentally self-initiates his titan form, and his regiment draws their blades and threaten to kill him, Levi doesn’t hesitate to step well within Eren’s striking range and order them all to stand down. Later, we see the shamed-faced troops bite into their own hands in an effort to put themselves in Eren’s shoes, admiring the pain he subjects himself to in order to enact his titan abilities. “We were scared. That’s no excuse,” says Petra in apology. “We’re doomed if we can’t trust one another.” General Levi doesn’t hesitate to tell Eren that he sees no “evil” in him, just because he can take on titan form.

This theme of trust is one of the pivotal ideals explored throughout Attack on Titan part two. Eren’s squad-mates swear loyalty to him, providing he can prove it. “We’re asking you to make us believe that you’re worth dying for. If you can do that, then we’re with you all the way,” says one. Elsewhere, humanity grows divided over Eren’s existence—some viewing him as a savior, others as a threat. Earning trust—and loyally keeping your word—are prominent anthems echoed frequently during these twelve episodes.

tumblr_inline_msu48ymTs91qz4rgpSacrifice and love are key players as well. Despite his cold exterior, Levi greatly cares for his men—and for human lives in general—and, as a viewer, you get the idea that he sacrifices a lot of his own emotional stability in order to preserve humanity. Even when he loses someone he greatly cares about, Levi doesn’t allow himself to mourn in front of his men, and even goes so far as to leave behind the bodies of his companions in order to ensure additional lives are not lost. When a solider rebels and returns to the forest in a failed attempt to retrieve his friend’s body (unintentionally leading a duo of titans back to the main group), Levi doesn’t rebuke the man. Instead, he steps aside to privately console him about his loss and presents him with (what Levi claims) is the man’s deceased friend’s military patch. It’s implied that this patch actually belongs to one of Levi’s deceased companions, but he gives it up none-the-less in order to offer the bereaved solider some comfort.

“Levi, stay here. Pointless death doesn’t suit you,” orders the general’s commanding officer. “No, I doubt it would,” responds Levi. “Any more than it suits anyone else.”

Heroic characters advocate just change and sacrifice for the good of their friends and family. It’s especially heart-wrenching to see these war heroes returning to the walls—having lost companions and friends in the battles beyond—only to be mocked in the streets by those they fight to protect. Elsewhere, members of the military discuss their willingness to fight and die to save others. Many of them prove that actions speak louder than words and offer up their lives during battle. Even within the corruption of the Military Police, at least one brave soul speaks out against a duo of law-breaking officers… and gains a few bloodied bruises for his trouble.

Erwin's_mysterious_questionWhen he finally comes face-to-face with the traitorous, female titan-shifter—even while enwrapped within his own titanic rage—Eren finds himself unable to finish her and offers her mercy. “What are you fighting for?” he shrieks. “What could possibly be worth all this death and destruction?” When asked why he let her live, Eren responds, “I just couldn’t help it. When I saw her face, I just froze.”

Seemingly less-heroic sacrifice is also explored in the case of men like Commander Erwin Smith—men who force themselves to bear the brunt of humanity’s hatred when lives are lost… or even sacrificed. “Genuine harbingers of change must be able to do what others won’t dare—sacrifice their heart, accept the burden of doing the unspeakable,” comments Armin, when Erwin opts to sacrifice the lives of one hundred soldiers, rather than lose all of them to the titans.

Early on, Armin comes to the conclusion that, “To rise above monsters, we must abandon our humanity.” And when Eren—following this “fight fire with fire” mentality—uses cold rage to fuel his titan form in a climatic final battle, the results are effective, but spine-chilling. “For a moment it was just like… I wanted to die,” he later confesses to Mikasa during recovery. Outside, Jean comments to Armin, “Fighting fire with fire… Is that the only option we’ve got? If it’s that easy for the fight to turn us all into monsters, then maybe we don’t deserve to win.”

Spiritual Content
The Wall Cult (read: religious zealots who worship the walls as a gift from “on high”) gets a lot more attention in this half of the show; albeit, they’re still far from being the focus.

During Eren’s trial, one follower speaks about the sacredness of the walls as a divine gift from on high, heralding Eren as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” meant to deceive them. Later, we hear one talking about the three goddesses who defend the gates (and who are named after them).

During the battle with the female titan, we see a group of religious worshippers gathered in a circle within a chapel. A pastor recites a prayer over the congregation: “Brothers and sisters, let us pray for the continued strength of Saints Maria, Rose, and Sina. Their grace is a manifestation of our good faith. We give thanks to the light of the divine architect. He whose wisdom is the mortar, whose sublime love for his creation is the steadfast stone. He and he alone protects us from the titan’s scourge in proportion to our worship.”

Violence
Red is still this show’s favorite color. Blood flows in a wave-like stream any time a sword strikes into titan flesh, a human gets squashed, or somebody bites their tongue (*cough* Oluo Bozado *cough*). And this time around, those first two are rather frequent.

Levi_beats_up_ErenTitans are dispatched by slicing out a triangular portion from the back of their necks. Chunks of titan flesh, along with streams of blood, go air-born on a regular basis. Members of the Survey Corps talk about slicing titan spines and Achilles tendons in order to stop them; we see this in practice several times.

While the first portion of Attack on Titan showcased a mass of hopeless souls being chomped and devoured, this second half seems to favor squashing as the ideal way to go. While two or three unlucky soldiers do wind up as titan chow, the overwhelming majority end up crushed to bloody pulps within titan fists, swatted like flies, or smashed against trees and buildings by giant legs, feet, hands, and shoulders. One unfortunate is bit in half and spat out; we see his legless upper body lying amidst a bloody patch of grass. Another is splattered against a tree with her body angled unnaturally upward—evidence of a snapped spine. Still others are swung through the air until their spines snap, or slashed and killed with blades.

Not to be outdone by all that squashing, debris gets into the action as well. Several humans are crushed beneath giant boulders and rocks, leaving behind bloody spatters and protruding carcasses (dismembered or otherwise). One character, crushed in the avalanche of a crumbling building, finds himself impaled on a thick, wooden rod. Blood spurts from around the injury as he tries to force his way out.

shingeki-no-kyojin-titanTitans, it turns out, are rather self-sufficient when it comes to re-growing lost things—arms, legs, fingers, heads, eyes, and the like. As you can imagine, this offers plenty of opportunity for mid-battle dismembering. Titans are blinded by bloody blade-to-the-eye gouges. Arms, legs, and hands are punched and ripped off. Giant heads roll on at least three occasions, accompanied by generous, mid-air trails of blood and slow-motion animation. One titan bites flesh out of another’s neck with its teeth to similar, visceral effect. Enormous fingers are sliced off at the knuckle when the plot demands it (which is more often than you might think). During titan-on-titan battles, the barrage of blows is especially brutal, with titans striking each other repeatedly in the face and drawing lots of blood (or simply dismembering various body parts with a single, powerful blow). There’s one particularly graphic moment where a titan crushes another’s face with his hand, creating a tsunami of blood.

A handful of panoramic shots reveal the carcasses of horses and soldiers lying (intact or otherwise) amidst pools of blood. Human carcasses are wrapped in bloodied bundles at the battle’s end. Horses are kicked through the air and crushed underfoot as well, making the equine causalities quite noteworthy, especially since they’re a novelty to the show and may upset sensitive animal lovers.

A swarm of titans attack another and devour it alive. Two others are killed while in captivity. We see protruding bones and stripped flesh in both instances.

Along with the oft-times stomach-churning visuals comes some auditory carnage. Violent screaming, crying, and animalistic roaring is frequent, especially during titan-on-titan battles. As Eren brutally bites into his hands to draw blood (growing more desperate as his attempts fail), we hear wet sounds of tearing flesh.

attack-on-titan-24Titans are captured by driving enormous nails through their bodies or piercing them through with giant, serrated hook-lines. It’s bloodless, but there’s a lot of piercing going on all-the-while.

Characters make rather real threats and oft-times gory comments. “His entrails were stuck to the bottom of her foot,” screams one. Another goes into detail about the cuisine of cannibals, detailing the use of blood clots, intestines, stomachs, and the like for making sausage and strew. Levi mocks the female titan by talking about cutting off her human arms and legs, and Mikasa makes death threats about carving out titan innards. Despite all that talk of entrails though, none are ever shown.

Occasionally human characters pummel each other with fists, feet, and rifle butts. Blows are hard and cringe-worthy, resulting in bruises, blood, and an airborn molar.

The OP shows a lot of vague, violent images: characters covered in dripping blood, veins, arteries, tearing flesh, red texturizers, bloodstains, spatters, and so on.

Language/Crude Humor
Fifty-six uses of d***, thirty-eight uses of h*** (used as a swear word), thirteen uses of bast***, six uses of sh**, five uses each of a** and p***, four uses each of the word bit** and the phrase “son of a bit**,” and one use each of biga** and bada**.

In the not-quite swearing category we have two “son of a—” left unfinished, one mention of the phrase “BS,” and the word “hell” used five times in reference to hell itself (as in “This is hell”). God’s name is exclaimed three times, usually in the context of, “Oh God!” or “For the love of God!”

The Survey Corps jokes about the fact that Petra peed her pants during her first mission outside the walls. The jokes mount from there, with Eren asking if it sprayed on everyone else.

Sexual Content
tumblr_inline_mrqv0r37H11qz4rgpAll titans are, in essence, nude. They have very human-like bodies with bare buttocks on their backsides, but (as stated in the show) they lack reproductive organs so nothing of that nature is ever shown. That being said, the titan-shifters (humans with the ability to transform into a titan) have more aesthetic physiques. The female titan does have muscled breasts, but they’re no more detailed than a Barbie doll’s. Even so, she’s quite curvy and a bit more sexualized than her titan brethren, leading one soldier to comment, “Nice a** for a [titan], you gotta admit.”

A couple scenes show Eren (in titan form) straddling the female titan in an effort to hold her down and defeat her. While it’s clearly not meant to be sexual, the camera angles (and nude titan bodies) more or less suggest that it could be interpreted that way. Seeing a screenshot or snippet of one of these scenes out-of-context could easily lead to that misinterpretation.

“If you intend to hound me like a wife, there’s rather more of me you need to be acquainted with before laying claim to the privilege,” one Scout tells his female peer.

A member of the Military Police tries to bribe a subordinate with a gold coin, “Go spend it on a girl,” he says. “She’ll help you unwind.”

“I like the brass balls,” Levi tells Jean. “But try not to swing ’em so hard or they’ll get you killed.”

The OP shows a female character in workout clothes that reveal some cleavage.

It’s suggested that General Levi has romantic interest in one of his squad members (and vice versa). The relationship is never fully expanded upon, but her father is clearly concerned about her full dedication to Levi (and their differences in age).

Drug/Alcohol Reference
Some talk of drinking.

Other Negative Content
shingeki_no_kyojin-18-eren-fear-scared-startled-looking_back-emotionAttack on Titan is a psychologically dark show. A feeling of dread hangs over the characters and their world, and the story is merciless enough to make no character “off limits” for the death toll. Lots of recognizable faces meet graphic deaths, and some un-doings are painful to watch.

A central theme of this half of Attack on Titan is “overcoming monsters.” This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but the show seems to advocate conquering monsters by becoming a monster yourself. In other words, abandon your humanity to achieve better ends. Eren uses this train of thought to fuel his titan-sized rage and transform; it’s a frightening and animalistic experience, as he uses revenge to achieve his goals, “I will kill them! Every last one!” he growls like a possessed monster. “Consequences be d*****! It is a cruel world!” And while it’s hinted that this “fight-fire-with-fire” mentality will later give way to something truly effective and moral, the show does nothing to bring up an alternative solution.

Presentation

As a Christian viewer, I found this second half of Attack on Titan utterly intriguing—not because of the characters’ new developments, the female titan’s advent, or Levi’s neat-freak cleaning habits (though those are all noteworthy in-and-of-themselves)—but because of the interesting parallels to Scripture. Now that I have all of you scratching your heads, allow me to expound upon that thought for a moment.

The opening episode details the contention that Eren has created among the citizens behind the walls. With Eren’s titan-shifting powers revealed, the population is divided on whether to hail him a monster come to destroy them, or a man with the means of being their savior. “His existence creates a rebellion,” says a member of the military, while a member of the Wall Cult hails him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” In the midst of this controversy, Eren is dragged to court where it is to be decided whether he lives or dies. Here, the Wall Cult speaks out against Eren, saying that he advocates going beyond the sacred walls and inciting rebellion. The trial climaxes with Eren screaming, “Just shut up and put all your faith in me!” Then, Levi intervenes. I won’t spoil that part for you.

Shingeki1603-460x298You’re probably starting to pick up on what I’m getting at here. For the Christian viewer, there are some undeniable allusions to the New Testament at work, with Eren acting as a sort of Christ figure who speaks of going beyond the walls (look at the walls as a symbol of the Old Testament law), and the Wall Cult (read: Pharisees) who cry for Eren’s death and see the walls as holy above all else. Throw in the fact that Eren ends up in a squad under the command of a man named Levi (go run some cross-references on that name) and you’ve got a rather full-circle picture.

Are these Christian allusions intentional? Almost certainly not. Then again, this anime is being directed by Tetsurō Araki—the same man who put the famous foot-washing scene in Death Note, among a slew of other biblical references—and the fact that we see Eren suspended in mid-air à la crucifix position in the ED makes me wonder if there’ll be more symbolism where that came from.

But it’s not just the literal allusions here that will speak to Christian viewers. Some of the more visually-empowering moments, where characters stand isolated amidst a crowd of retreating people, will perhaps bring to mind the Christian faith and how it often feels as though going upstream, alone against the flow, is the manner of things.

Technically-speaking Attack on Titan is still the same formula: characters find courage and inspire others to take stands, a well-known character turns out to be a titan, a handful of familiar faces meet ignoble ends, Armin gets some people out of trouble with his smarts, Mikasa continues to act like a mother hen, and Eren gets eaten… again.

200That being said, there’s an undeniable freshness about this second part of the show. Perhaps it’s because the first four episodes offer a much-needed breather, allowing us to get reoriented with the cast—both old and new. Perhaps it’s because Eren ceases to feel so much like a (allow me to quote the show here) “suicidal maniac” with anger management issues and more like a fallible, confused kid finding his way in the world. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that the show seems to have finally arrived at the story-telling point it’s supposed to. With everyone—and I literally mean everyone—joining the Survey Corps, the true challenge—and plot—looks like it’s at last beginning to emerge.

Since I’ve just mentioned it, let’s go ahead and talk about that issue: the fact that nearly everyone ends up joining the Survey Corps, regardless of other options being available and diverse personalities being present. In fact, only one of the original graduating class opts to go the Military Police route (for reasons I won’t specify) and the others are either M.I.A. or dead. The problem here is that having all remaining members of the graduating class join the Scouts seems just a tad far-fetched. It’s one of the show’s “too-good-to-be-true” moments that, unfortunately, weighs down the believability factor.

Concerning other negatives, Attack on Titan continues to be subtle with its character development… but much less subtle with its themes. The first half hammered in the “the world is cruel, but also beautiful” concept. This time around, we have themes of “trust” among companions and “fighting fire with fire” repeated a few too many times for a show of this magnitude. Perhaps this is worsened by the fact that Attack on Titan is clearly a franchise for older teenagers and adults. Having these themes echoed so frequently feels as if the series is “talking down” to its viewers, as though they can’t grasp the concepts for themselves. It’s cheesy at best and numbing at worst.

4129u+PNhFLFrom the onset, the female titan’s identity is face-slappingly obvious, but the show insists on playing dumb and keeping the viewer guessing. In its defense, though, this section of Attack on Titan is smart enough to quickly reveal other “unspoken obviousness” in a timely manner.

The animation continues to be a thing of beauty, and just when you’ve thought you’ve seen it all, the animators throw in a fresh moment of action-oriented creativity. There’s an especially unnerving heartbeat of a scene where the female titan charges out of a screen of trees, and the camera drops to a fleeing horseman’s level in order to give us a moment of slow-motion suspense. Pan-and-zoom is used to powerful effect, particularly when members of the Survey Corps are detailing effective battle formations and strategies mid-action; the camera zooms and pauses to highlight various components whilst the speaker explains them.

In terms of more quiet beauty, episode sixteen is especially note-worthy. The masterful use of colorized tints gives poignant and dramatic moments a soft, nostalgic charm. Coupled with emotional piano solos and rousing, choir-backed anthems, these unique moments hold a lot of power—power oddly absent from the first thirteen episodes of the show. In the layman’s terms, “The feels are strong.” I won’t spoil anything, but take my advice and prepare your tissues.

Voice acting is still pretty hit-and-miss. There are times when the dialogue sounds utterly natural, and yet others where melodrama and forced emotions make it decidedly otherwise.

Final Word

Fans seeking closure from this second part of Attack on Titan will inevitably be disappointed. To quote Hanji Zoe, “…[W]hat was the point of all this? We’re left with nothing but countless casualties, ruined lives, and unanswered questions. All for what?” While the consequences of this arc will no doubt bear fruit in the future, there’s no real hint of closure at the episode’s end. By the time the curtain falls, the audience is left with the same unanswered questions: Who are the titans, really? Why are some of them humans? What secrets lie in the basement of Eren’s home?

At this point, that frustration of having waited so long just to reach no answers is likely to either (1) drive viewers away or (2) get them to snatch up the manga for a look ahead. The last two seconds of the closing credits throw a rather ominous curve ball in the audience’s direction—likely a hook that the developers hope will drive home enough interest for additional seasons. With the franchise snugly sitting at number one on many “most frequently watched” lists, I think it’s safe to assume its future is looking bright.

6c94e61b8dfb3a2eab380663373e74c8-d6nva91So, are these twelve episodes a game-changer for anyone who disliked the first half? Probably not, but there is a unique freshness about part two that may make it more enticing to skeptical viewers. For starters, Eren begins to appear a lot less arrogant and a lot more humanly incompetent. Add in a slew of cool, new characters, the induction of some familiar faces into the Survey Corps, and a storyline that takes the battle to the titans, and you may just have enough of a new approach to cajole the series’ more standoffish fans into sticking around for a bit.

For the Christian viewer, Attack on Titan continues to be all blood and no guts—literally. Red is still this show’s favorite color, but entrails and innards are never a part of that bloodbath. And while fewer souls get chomped alive this time, there’s just as much carnage and death to go around—less fright factor, but more heaviness and maturity when it comes to dealing with the demise of familiar faces. In terms of language, what you see is what you get. Attack on Titan continues to clock in at a solid eleven swear words per episode, and the sexual content is just a titan’s head or so above its predecessor.

The biblical allusions, spiritual elements, and positive themes of love, trust, courage, sacrifice, and nobility are all present as well, but reaching them means wading through a slew of less pleasant things. Plenty of alternatives exist for more squeamish and spiritually conscientious viewers, providing they see this franchise as a titan-sized barrage of content issues.

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The Bottom Line

Are these twelve episodes a game-changer for anyone who disliked the first half? Probably not, but there is a unique freshness about part two that may make it more enticing to skeptical viewers. Plenty of alternatives exist for the more squeamish and spiritually conscientious, providing they see this franchise as a titan-sized barrage of content issues.

 

8.2

Casey Covel

Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

3 Comments

  1. silasgreen on October 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Great review! I actually enjoyed Part One of the series quite a bit more than Part Two, partly because there wasn’t quite as much payoff in terms of story and character, but also because Mikasa wasn’t nearly as prominent as she was in the first half of the series. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here. (I don’t read the manga, so I’m stuck waiting… maybe a long time…)

  2. Cooper D Barham on October 18, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Serious question. So when you’re watching/researching things, what do you do? Keep a pen and paper near you at all times? Jot down not only specific facts and observations, but also write out how it could sound on the page itself? Because despite this being the second part of this dual review, nothing you said sounded repetitive either within the article or in its predecessor. It’s quite impressive.

    Also, thanks for a review that does this series some justice.

    • Michael M. on October 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      I was going to ask a similar question 🙂 Cooper is right, how do you do it, because yeah, this is a seriously detailed and professionally written review.

      Great job! I saw all of AoT and am up to date on the manga (which is pretty much more than a season ahead of the anime currently) and it answers A LOT of questions, BUT leaves many more open….uhhh…typical anime.

      This second season to me was the best, it had me non-stop watching the whole thing.

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