This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 2, Episode 10
This week’s Attack on Titanmay be the most eye-opening episode of the season. Not only do we finally know the answer to the origin of Titans, how Titan shifters came about, Ymir’s backstory, a glimpse into the “hometown” Reiner and Bertolt spoke so frequently about, et cetera, but we got answers to questions I didn’t even think to ask before—all the the backdrop of a rather exciting escape sequence.
“Children” largely dominated by Ymir’s flashback to her unusual and sad childhood as a cult figurehead. In fact, Ymir isn’t even her real name, but the name given to her upon her being picked for a life of lies as the leader of what seems like “hometown”‘s version of the Church of the Walls, where they worship the descendant of some king. A lot of it hasn’t been explained yet.
Ymir’s backstory explains her as a person very, very well. Beneath her tough facade as a selfish, rude individual, all she’s ever done throughout her life was trying to survive as a victim of her circumstance. I also think Ymir’s backstory speaks volumes about her attachment and affection for Christa, who was the first person ever to accept her for who she is despite her lies and flaws. I mean, it’s pretty clear that it’s romantic love at this point, right? Because I don’t know many people who’d feel that intensely for their friends.
The flashback did more than just increasingly flesh out Ymir as a character. It added a dimension to the plot by introducing the first look into this “hometown” Reiner spoke of, and, to be honest, things in this “hometown” don’t seem that different from things in the world within the Walls. Sure, the local militia dresses a little sharper and most Gestapo-esque, and there’s a different dominant cult, but as far as this episode goes, “hometown” is the same as the bleak, dystophic, isolated country it’s trying to destroy.
Which brings me to my next point…
What the Truth About the Titans Means For the Story
It’s pretty much confirmed during the opening scene where Moblit and the other scouts’ visit Connie’s hometown that the Titans were all once humans. Although, you can kind of gauge the truth from one of the earlier episodes this season when the Titan with the tiny limbs freaked Connie out by welcoming him home, along with the twice (or thrice?) stated facts that none of the horses in the stables were taken, and why would Titans wreck an abandoned town?
The actual visual confirmation came later during Ymir’s flashback where we see, first, one of Ymir’s worshippers being pushed off a wall and transforming off screen into a Titan, and then the same thing happening to Ymir.
On one hand, it makes a lot of sense that the Titans were turned from humans. It would take a lot of logistics legwork, what’s with the Titans’ bizarre biology, amongst other reasons, to make an Attack on Titanuniverse where Titans didn’t come from humans work. Of course a whole new race couldn’t have appeared out of nowhere overnight (unless they’re aliens, but that’s a whole other thing). Of course the Titans are man-made, because Mother Nature and evolution aren’t entities with agendas, and certainly couldn’t have been the ones to have created humanity’s greatest predator.
On the other hand, this twist does something interesting to Attack on Titanthat I’m not sure I like: It turned the primary conflict of the story from Man against “Nature”, for the lack of a better term, to Man against Man.
It would be as if halfway through Moby-Dick, Herman Melville suddenly decided that the story is no longer about Captain Ahab’s tale of revenge against the great white whale who ate his leg, but is really about Captain Ahab’s rivalry with another sea captain at the other end of the ocean who’s been remote controlling Moby Dick, who’s actually not a real whale but a ocean-faring robot disguised as a whale.
(Which would make a great steampunk B-movie now that I think about it, but I digress.)
As as fan, I was so bent on wanting to know the truth that I didn’t realize what knowing the creation of the Titans means. Attack on Titan is now a story about two warring people—the people within the Walls against the “hometown” people—and the Titans, who have been the primary antagonistic element of the story so far, are stripped of their agency as villains and reduced to, in light of this truth, victims of inhumane scientific cruelty at best, and weapons of destruction at worst.
It takes a little of the magic out of it, if I’m being honest. Monster and Titans are terrifying but safe because they’re stuff of imagination, and there’s something inherently uplifting about a story of people banding together to fight a common, outside enemy, even as that enemy brings out the worst of them. But war? Where a soldier is bound by something as convoluted and intangible as loyalty to kill another human being? Where it’s not so black and white as killing a ten-foot giant because said giant will eat you if you don’t? We know war, and it’s uncomfortably close to home. So yeah, it looks like Attack on Titanis about to get a lot more real and a whole lot uglier.
The Origin of the Titan Shifters
One of the questions we don’t get an answer to is how exactly do Titan shifters come about, but we did learn how Titans can acquire the ability—by eating a Titan shifter who’s in their human form, as we saw that Ymir was a normal Titan until she ate Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie’s teammate, Marcel.
If this is true, then who did Eren eat?
And since Titans were humans, does this mean the Survey Corps have unknowingly been killing people this entire time? Yes, yes it does. Connie could’ve killed his mom.
Does eating a human as a Titan constitute as cannibalism?
Dark things to think about.
– I can’t believe Reiner and Bertolt actually took a moment to discuss Bertolt’s crush on Annie at a time like this. As if they’re not about to be eaten by Titans, or captured/killed by the Survey Corps-Military Police rescue squad, or as if Annie isn’t still frozen and preserved in a Titan crystal.
– Ymir’s over 70 years old… Woah.
– I love that Sasha’s first reaction to danger is to cram as much food into her mouth as possible.
– There seems to be a difference between a “soldier” and a “warrior”. This is most likely a language issue going from Japanese to English, as those words are being treated almost like proper nouns when translated. I wonder what the difference is.