We’ve finally reached the peak of ATTACK ON TITAN’s weeks-long buildup. Up till now, things have been somewhat slow and steady. The season mainly opened up with some outstanding animation and quick skirmishes. That was meant to introduce the combative asymmetries between Scouts and Interior Police. Unlike before, the enemy being fought is not a Titan or even Titan Shifter. Rather, it is a massive two-front war between political ideologies and soldiers. The soldiers on both sides of the conflict have different goals than the royal establishment who started things. All the while, we’re learning a lot more about the true history of ATTACK ON TITAN and the origins of Titans in general.
Now that the Scouts have discovered the location of Rod Reiss’ secret little cavern, all sides have converged. This meant that we got to see an amazing fight between the old but seasoned Scouts and the Military Police’s new technology. Plus, it’s the first time we’ve really seen two Ackermans, Levi and Kenny, fight. While the animation wasn’t quite as god level as the opening episode of the season, it was still impressive. Beyond that, the fight was bookended by some impressive characterization of both Historia and Eren.
And this is where Episode 44 “Wish” really carves its niche for the season. The combination of careful, precise animation and constant revelation of secrets produces two things. One, the methods of communication create implications for the broader story. And two, characters’ reactions to these new truths are a sight to behold. Throwing in the in-depth strategic style by which the Scouts and Kenny’s squad fight makes this a superb episode.
Strategy Trumps All
ATTACK ON TITAN has proven time and time again that their bar for combat is high. Even against mostly motionless Titans, the Scouts used complex maneuvers to fight creatively. Now that they’re fighting new technology, they have a new obstacle: range. This isn’t an entirely unforeseeable problem. During the fight against the Beast Titan late last season, we saw that a Titan with long reach makes it much harder to properly use the omnidirectional movement gear. And, since the only way to kill a Titan is to slice its neck, the Scouts need close combat. The fighters of ATTACK ON TITAN explored their new weakness in a delightfully logical way.
What’s important about their strategy this episode is that it focused not on improving their own capabilities, but on minimizing those of their opponents. The slowness of past weeks’ information gathering was important. Because of it, Armin was able to deduce a way to outdo newer technology. Since all fighters have the same maneuverability, but only the Interior Police have legitimate ammunition restrictions, it’s clever to force close combat. Plus, since these guns can only fire in the directions that anchors shoot, flanking is a surefire route to victory.
The fight itself was beautiful both in terms of animation, strategy, and reaction. For a lot of the Scouts, these were there first human kills. It was brief, but we got to see how painful and destructive the moment before taking a life was. Animation with that degree of facial detail is rare, but ATTACK ON TITAN managed to pull it off.
Capping off the fight and making up the bulk of the episode were the exchanges between Rod Reiss, Historia, and Eren. For the latter two, it revealed a common sort of struggle that they both possess and detest. Both Eren and Historia have destinies that are preordained and impossible to fulfill. For Historia, she has felt disconnected from her true self for her entire life. To finally be given a chance to see her father and remember her sister must have made a lot resurface. Combining that with some heavy gaslighting from her father makes it reasonable that she was prepared to eat Eren. And for Eren, he has the power to make a change but the inability to stop the carnage it brings.
In ATTACK ON TITAN, the end results are all woefully vague and unclear. Characters don’t know everything about the world, so there is always uncertainty about whether any path of action is the correct one. While this creates satisfying depth and thematic leanings for us viewers, it’s hard on characters within the anime itself. What tends to make a difference this season is the motivation of the parties involved. During Erwin’s trial, Pixis chose to ally with the Scouts because he knew the nobility only cared about their wealth.
This episode was similar. In the absence of certainty regarding outcomes, the characters of ATTACK ON TITAN have to align themselves based on motivations. Thankfully, Historia realized her father’s motivations were selfish and logically inconsistent.
Legacies Clash in ATTACK ON TITAN!
Next week we’ll see how the Scouts deal with Rod Reiss’ Titan form and manage to escape from the cave. For now, we have a lot of new information to process too. We don’t know what everything was in that bag Historia grabbed from the cavern. We know that her and Eren touching allows him some limited access to the real powers of his Titan. And, we have complete verification of Erwin’s theory that the royal family created the walls, modified humanity’s memories, and has kept the power to do so for a century. They say it was for protection. The question is, from what?
Next week is sure to continue the amazing action of this week with a fight against what appears to be a massive Titan. Until then, we’ve got some secrets to ruminate over and an amazing fight to rewatch. This season is proving to be the best yet!
Featured image from Crunchyroll.