1-To You, in 2000 Years
Gigantic humanoid creatures called Titans roam the earth and have pushed humanity back to a tiny city for over a thousand years. We are introduced to these Titans in the opening sequence when a group called the Scout Regiment attack one of these Titans outside the walls. It’s a terrible introduction. For one, it fails to establish the evil nature of the Titans so it just seems like a random attack on a hapless creature. It also doesn’t do a good job of explaining why they are attacking a Titan. It’s not until the end of the episode that things start falling into place.
Eren (Yuki Kaji) is a boy who lives close to the outer wall and has a desire to see the world beyond the walls. His sister, Mikasa (Yui Ishikawa), tries her best to keep him out of trouble as he tends to pick fights with people who have become complacent with the state of affairs. Trouble ends up finding the city when a gigantic Titan shows up and tears down the wall. In the scramble to leave the city, their mother is left to die.
As an opening episode, there are some issues here. The Titans don’t come across as monsters until the end of the episode, which is something the show should have done in the opening scene. Also, Eren’s drive feels like it’s putting the cart before the horse as it’s his mother’s death that is going to launch his drive for the show. Instead, his mother’s death isn’t so much a catalyst for his actions, but simply an affirmation of the drive he already has, which is far less interesting.
The animation here leaves something to be desired. In the average scene it’s perfectly passable. There’s not much in the way that makes it exemplary, but it’s not bad, either. Where the show gets in trouble is in trying to take on this large-scale approach that results in a lot of static images being drawn to convey the scope of the action. Honestly, most of the times this isn’t necessary and sometimes diminishes the scale of the Titans by giving us a bird’s eye view.
Fleeing the city, Eren and Mikasa end up seeing the fall of the next wall as humanity is squeezed even farther back into the interior city. Eren and Mikasa end up with the refugees who are fed small rations from a quickly dwindling food supply. A year later, a large group of the refugees are ordered to try to take back the outer wall, but are slaughtered. This leaves Eren to vow that he will join the army, a vow Mikasa and friend Armin (Marina Inoue) takes as well.
This episode demonstrates the level of world-building in the show. As the government is faced with population that outstrips the food supply, they scramble for a solution. It would have been interesting if the episode had given us a bit more of a glimpse into the bureaucracy of the city and perhaps the struggle to make the decision to send the refugees on an assault, but most of the episode is content to focus on Eren.
And focusing on Eren isn’t the best trait of this episode. He can be a bit of a hothead and is often an aggressive character. While it’s good to have a character with flaws, his flaws come off as more childish than anything else. And for a show so violent in content, it feels a bit strange to be seeing it all through a child’s perspective. Perhaps he’ll become more tolerable of a character later, but he’s annoying right now.
3-A Dim Light Amid Despair
Years pass and Eren, Mikasa and Armin have joined up the army. As the drill sergeant screams at the new recruits, he’s faced with something he cannot fathom: a girl eating a potato. She’s dubbed “Potato Girl” and sent to run laps around the camp. Meanwhile, Eren struggles with the Omni-directional Mobility Gear, a harness with cables that soldiers use to gain mobility. He eventually succeeds only to find out the gear he was using was faulty, impressing everyone.
The delight of this episode is obviously Potato Girl. Her nonchalant, casual attitude runs against the disciplined attitude of the recruits. Her pragmatism for eating a potato is built out of the simple logic that it was a hot potato and it would be a waste to let it go cold. Later on, when a fellow recruit provides her with food, she asks if this recruit is a god. Potato Girl has her life priorities in order, a true inspiration.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing