I usually struggle to enjoy or empathize with single arc villains. They can have a good role, they can be well done. But, in anime especially, I usually only appreciate an antagonist within the specific context that they were active in a series. This episode showcased Kenny in a way that radically enhanced him as a character. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling either. Fans were shown some incredibly impactful characterization that made one thing quite clear: unlike in a lot of other series, ATTACK ON TITAN takes motive seriously. It’s not simply a matter of someone wanting to destroy the world. Even a serial killer like Kenny has ambition that, while relatively simple, is deep. His motivations are just like those of the Scouts when taken to their basic roots. Drawing those parallels made the episode great. Substantiating them made things even better.
Beyond that, this episode was a clear sign that the arc is coming to a close. The closing scene with Reiner and Bertholdt facing off against the mysterious man controlling the Beast Titan is a strong sign of combat to come. Given what we’ve seen, it seems likely that two things are in order. First, Eren needs to repair the walls using his new hardening ability and regain access to the lost territory. This will allow humanity to recover from the Colossal and Armored Titans’ attack. More importantly, it means ATTACK ON TITAN anime viewers will finally learn what’s in Eren and his family’s damn basement.
After that, movement beyond the walls and fights with the “warriors” beyond them are both inevitable. This episode, while only in a few minutes, did solid work front lining that aspect of the plot. Consequently, we got to see a fantastic segment of ATTACK ON TITAN even without combat.
Kenny’s background gave us a very intimate look at something we haven’t seen in a while: reaction to power. Seeing as how everyone and their mother is a Titan nowadays, it can be easy to forget these. Seeing a human transform into a man-eating monster for the first time is a terrifying thing. For Kenny, this was coupled with a hidden, powerful king bowing down before him. In an instant, he realized that it was possible to live a life more complex than survival. At this point, he knew that all people lived for goals, but he suddenly discovered he could escape that need. His life became a search for sufficient power to not be enslaved by ideology, authority, or need.
As we saw in this episode, Kenny’s goal was misguided. All humans create goals that enslave them. Even those who claim to not care about how they find power are clinging to something. This improves somewhat upon some loose ideas from early in the season. The civilians of ATTACK ON TITAN find themselves unable to live properly without a king to acquiesce toward. The soldiers need their resolve and goals of truth to move toward. Even Kenny, someone who was ostensibly a villain, was striving toward something, despite being a killer.
Like the Scouts when they first joined the military, the ultimate goal of all of these people is survival. By humanizing Kenny, we got another well-presented layer of what that survival really means. We also saw even more background for how the first king’s memories affected those who inherit the Coordinate. It’ll be interesting to see how it manifests itself in Eren moving forward.
The Next Chapter
All hail the new Queen! We finally got to see Historia officially crowned, and the public reaction. Just as planned, the foundation of her rule was tangible. Citizens had to witness her saving them from present danger to trust her in the future. The existence of a shadow government implied for them that things they couldn’t see occurred a lot. So, it makes sense that the public would then prefer things that occur in front of their eyes. There were several nice touches in these scenes of the episode. Particularly nice was the presence of several characters from early in the coup. This luckily included the news media, now free to write honest stories of their choosing.
Beyond that, this is a cool setup for the rest of the series. Now, ATTACK ON TITAN has the excellent opportunity to move forward plotwise. The internal strife is hopefully over. On top of that, it’s likely that Eren’s access to the basement and his father’s memories will be incredibly useful. And, revelations about the nature of Levi and Mikasa’s strange Ackerman abilities were exciting too. This arc brought up surprisingly wholesome bonding between nearly every character. Like Kenny said, while ironic, it is this sort of dangerous and risky warfare that forges bonds. Even while connections are severed on the surface, their deeper context lingers. Even Kenny, who abandoned Levi to avoid the burden of fatherhood, maintained love. These relationships matter.
Bringing the Fight in ATTACK ON TITAN!
The next arcs of ATTACK ON TITAN are gonna be some of the wildest and active yet. Now, we have not just a couple, but four Titan Shifters to look at. And the newest, the Beast Titan, is apparently strong enough to body Reiner without too much effort. Plus, he seems to be eerily smart and much more confident than his teenage comrades.
As this season slowly wraps up, we’re certainly going to see a lot of hope. Humanity, for the first time in the series, is moving forward, not backward. This is big in terms of plot, but it’s also nice to see the Scouts win for once. Even Levi is smiling! If that’s not enough of a treat for fans, I don’t know what is.
Featured image from Crunchyroll.