Attack on Titan’s Season 2 was probably the most anticipated anime series return of the last decade. With the unexpected roaring success of the first season, the three-year wait that intervened only helped to build up the hype around a title that was already extremely popular with viewers around the world. At least now, we only have to wait a few seasons until Season 3.
I have to admit that when the release date for Season 2 was finally announced, I was a little less interested in watching how humanity was doing in their battle against the Titans than when the first one had finished. It felt like it wouldn’t live up to the expectations, especially since I could recall a few episodes in Season 1 being unnecessarily slow, delaying the development of the plot. Naturally, I was worried that the producers would have done a half-assed job, relying on the audience’s hype and the show’s popularity. I was pleasantly surprised; the series was delivering better and better episodes, with the pinnacle of its quality being Episode 31. It excelled in terms of animation, music, cinematography, and climax.
Attack on Titan Episode 31 Review: Warrior
*Spoilers and numerous annoying speculations to follow, read at your own risk! Bear in mind that this is an analysis as the viewers would perceive the episode without having any knowledge of the plot other than what the anime has provided them with.*
Having not read the manga, I have recently invested quite a bit of time following the plot and speculating, trying to figure out as much as I can about how the story is going to evolve and how the background of the mystery behind the Titan’s appearance in the human world and the motivation behind it are going to be revealed. But before starting to make assumptions, let us have a close look at the way the directors, Tetsurou Araki (a key figure in the production of Death Note) and Masashi Koizuka, have structured this episode.
PART I: THE BUILDUP
Following a very unnerving episode with a constantly increasing pace and some dramatic battle scenes, the characters find themselves looking back to the events that came to occur: those trapped in the tower have just escaped certain death. Even though the walls seem to be made of the very thing humanity is trying to escape from, under an almost eerie silence the Scouts are regrouping on the very top of Wall Rose. An intense low frequency percussion plays in the background. A soldier tells Eren that if Ymir was normal, she would be dead by now. Eren repeats this sentence, possibly shifting his thoughts not only to himself, but to the suspects near him, Reiner and Berthold. Of course, what they are is not yet known at the moment. He rushes to help Reiner, and all the information we have is that they are still the comrades they were all along; the situation, however, is the exact opposite; they are both dishonest to each other, with Eren being suspicious in the light of recent revelations, and Reiner staying true to his role as the loyal fatherly figure and friend. The director carefully chooses the timing in which this revelation happens. He does, however, leave hints of the cautious behavior from Eren’s side. The shot of their hands meeting and pulling lasts one moment too long, and Eren’s expression immediately changes from the kind smile he was wearing before to a skeptical pause, as Reiner probably looks away outside the shot.
Historia speaks with Hanji, defending Ymir for risking her life to save them. At this point, a question comes to play: did she know? In the previous episode, we saw a scene in which Ymir was about to reveal her secret to Historia, but not the actual revelation. So did she do it? Did she tell her she was a Titan? As Historia tries to convince Hanji of Ymir’s noble sacrifice, she may be trying to also convince her of her own ignorance about Ymir’s true identity. Hanji stares skeptically, and as the shot changes to that of a dead scout’s shirt resting on the rubble of what used to be a tower, an interesting play in focus takes place; a skeleton turns to smoke in the foreground. For a second, I try to remember whether the bricks on the tower in the last episode were large or small. After a quick comparison, I assume the skeleton probably belongs to a Titan but its placing next to the jacket in the foreground makes it look convincingly human, possibly leaving another hint on the human nature of Titans, like the scene of the paralyzed female Titan on top of Conny’s house.
Hanji, a rather pleasant and playful persona, remains cold and rigid, aggravating the heavy tone of the already set mood. She mentions that despite Ymir’s personality, she worries about the fact that the world around her becomes increasingly confusing, probably bearing in mind the fact that earlier that day some of the noblest characters of the story turned out to be suspicious – another interesting manipulation of time.
The conversation then drifts around Historia, reminding the viewer that despite the crisis, another mystery is being unraveled: the wide-eyed and innocent Krista is actually the illegitimate child of a nobleman. How will this later complicate and affect the story? Even though Hanji’s face remains the same, Romi Park (who, in case you didn’t know, also voiced Edward Elric, and many, many more) chooses to change the tone of speech. As she welcomes her, Hanji momentarily becomes warmer, creating a sort of ‘safety’ around HIstoria’s presence.
Ymir is being packed up and ready to be transported to Trost, building an eager expectation for the viewer. She is recovering, and she knows. She has the knowledge we have been craving for since the beginning of the show. An expectation that is of course about to be shattered, as Reiner and Berthold decide to take matters (as well as Ymir and Eren) into their own hands. This is a technique that is being repeated consistently in show, as well as in this episode; the expectation is built up only to be unfulfilled later.
Hearing nothing but the wind, we see a wide shot of wall Rose: enormous in size, and as we already know, perfectly intact. It is fascinating how time works here, one more time, thanks to the limitation of communication in the world: news can be delayed and revealed at convenient times, making the plot’s progress slow and in unruly fragments. Actually, everything in Season 2 of Attack on Titan happened in two days. Back to Eren and Reiner. Eren stares at him in disbelief in the background, as he worries about dying. Surprisingly enough, he mentions the time where he almost died in Annie’s hands. Even though, to us, he is just recalling the experience, to Eren and Armin, he is either a very skillful liar, or, hopefully, innocent.
‘A soldier’s spirit breaks down before their body,’ Reiner says. Berthold looks at him, fixated. He then goes on to mention the target of their mission. Is he aware of what is happening at this point? Is he a part of this Titan attack? Is he just lying, playing his role, or does he genuinely believe there is a hole in the walls? Then, Eren uses the keyword that will be unlocking the whole episode: ‘hometown’. Why did he choose to say that at this very moment? To trigger Reiner, of course. Knowing the only common ground Annie, Reiner, and Berthold had, Eren decides to try his luck and see Reiner’s reaction. Even though all he gets is heavy breathing, Berthold bites the bait and shouts at Reiner… pleading to go home. And this is how we move to the second segment of the episode, with the constant sound of nothing but a cold wind blowing.
PART II: THE TENSION =>