This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 2 Episode 4 Review: Soldier
Today’s Attack on Titan episode is another reminder to me of how different Japanese anime is compared to Western television in that 1) a whole episode went by without a single member core main characters—Eren, Mikasa, Armin—making an appearance, and 2) all twenty-some minutes of it took place in one location, following one continuous over-arching storyline. Shifting the narrative away from your main characters to peripheral ones completely isn’t a bad thing. Rather, it’s a pretty interesting break from the kind of formulaic TV story-telling method that I, and a large portion of the American population, have been subjected to since the invention of the half and hour-long series.
“Soldier” is all about Christa, Ymir, and the rest of the Corps members surveying the wall trying, and failing devastatingly, to survive the night at Utgard Castle. It concludes with a very, very unexpected final twist that left me screaming in frustration when the ending card popped up immediately after, telling me that I’d have to wait a whole other week to see what happens.
What’s Up With Ymir
Ymir has always been a pretty weird character, from her over-the-top abrasive personality to her unexplained intense dedication to Christa, both of which got somewhat explained this week.
We first got a sense that something’s not right with Ymir from her overreaction to Connie explaining how the immobile Titan found on top of the ruins of his home reminded him of his mother. Then we found out that she can read a language no one else can. And the big final reveal turns out to be that she’s a Titan-shifter all along. Not only that, she also happens to be the same Titan that ate Reiner’s friend (I’ll get into that bizarre flashback in a bit).
It’s not well-explained so far how this whole Titan-shifter thing works, or more importantly, why people like her and Annie, who seem to know they can shift, were hiding themselves. Even between her and Annie, though, I got the sense that their stories are different. Annie seems to be working for someone, or at least, for a purpose. Ymir was just hiding. So why? And how much about the Titans does she know?
While last week’s episode revealed that Christa has a big hidden family secret, by this junction, I don’t feel like Ymir stuck with her for said big family secret. Maybe it’s just the romantic in me, but Ymir genuinely seems to have a crush on Christa:
– “And it doesn’t seem like you have interest in guys either,” said Reiner to Ymir
– Ymir getting jealous when Christa tends to Reiner’s wound
– Ymir jokingly asking Christa to marry her at one point in season 1
Y’know, just gals being pals stuff… Right?
However one-sided this relationship is seems to be up for debate, but it’d be pretty nice to have a canon gay couple in Attack on Titan.
What’s Up With Reiner
Seriously, what is up with that guy?
Let me say from the top that I found Reiner in season 1 to be extraordinarily forgettable, and didn’t know why he was necessary to the story. He was just… there, the definition of a peripheral character—one that has enough of a personality to sustain a couple of spoken lines, but not enough to make the audience truly care. That all changes this season.
His flashback brought up a number of questions:
– When was this? It was certainly before he and Bertolt joined the Training Corps because there was a third guy there that got eaten by a Titan (Ymir).
– Where was this? Why were they in an area with Titans? How did they even get there?
– Who was the third guy?
– Is this flashback Reiner’s origin story of how he became a jerk?
– That last one was a joke.
Unlike Ymir, the question of what’s up with Reiner isn’t answered this episode. What is awesome about him in “Soldier” (He seems to be the titular soldier too? “Reiner was more of a warrior. Unlike now,” said Bertolt about Reiner. What’s up with that?) that I have to talk about is the scene where he shoved Connie aside to fend off an oncoming Titan himself, and carried that giant creature all the way up the stairs to jump out the window with it. Luckily, Connie was smart with his knife and saves Reiner’s life. Sadly, Ymir ended up stealing Reiner’s thunder when she roundhouse kicked the Titan out of the tower.
The Deaths of the Veteran Survey Corps Members
Obviously, I can’t review this episode without talking about the veteran Survey Corps member who gave their lives this week. Rest in peace, Nanaba, Gelgar, Henning, and Lynne, all of who, like everyone else who’s died so far, deserve better.
As far as deaths go, Henning and Lynne being struck by the Beast Titan’s boulders is a pretty merciful end. They may have had it brutal, but at least it was instant.
The same cannot be said for Gelgar, who just wanted a goddamn drink before he goes. Watching him realize that even his last wish is stolen from him moments before his death, is… Wow. Ugh. Words have escaped me. At least he hit his head on the way out when the Titan grabbed him, so he didn’t have to feel himself getting drawn and quartered.
I thought Gelgar’s death was bad until we got to Nanaba. Her dying moment was so short, but it spoke more about her character than all of her screen time combined. It broke my heart to watch her lose it in her final minute, reverting back to her abusive childhood years with her father; no matter where her mind retreated to, it couldn’t find sanctuary to help her pass on. I need a new box of tissue.
“There’s barely any Titans around.” – GELGAR, YOU FOOL, YOU JINXED IT