Shingeki no Kyojin #04.
「解散式の夜 ―人類の再起②―」 (Kaisan Shiki no Yoru ―Jinrui no Saiki ②―)
Night of Disbanding ―Restoration of Mankind Pt. 2―
Production I.G. is one of the most established studios in the anime industry, having a wide history of series similarly as shonen as Shingeki no Kyojin as well as series completely polar. But as to not let their reputation precede them, Production I.G. presents again with every episode of Shingeki that it can throw out just as many punches as other studios bolstering anime adaptations of popular shonen series, and maybe even just a bit harder. Production I.G. takes an innovation in this adaptation by forming a whole Shingeki no Kyojin Team more formally known as Wit Studio, and even tweeting a portal for staff applications. It’s no doubt that they are already accomplishing greatness and to only want to continue doing so or even improving upon that deserves nothing but favorable impressions. Moving into the content of the episode, there’s a heap of shonen conventions presented all throughout, but something about its presentation just makes it feel fresh enough to be amazed about.
Two years have passed since enlistment and Instructor Keith Shadis is evaluating the trainees, pointing out their respective strengths and weaknesses as they undergo another field exercise, this one prominently important because it affects their rankings.
During hand-to-hand combat, the collective of trainees are either putting in a half-assed effort or trying to ditch practice entirely. We find out that the reason being that hand-to-hand combat doesn’t actually count towards the overall assessment of the trainees. In this scenario, the characters Eren, Annie, and Reiner show their colors in a concurrently tense and hilarious confrontation. Annie expresses her contempt towards the idea that humanity is only learning to combat the titans so that it can further flee from them. This revelation leaves an impression on Eren, but not before Annie delivers a brutal ass-kicking to Eren and Reiner, who himself revealed his integrity as a soldier and belief that there are some obstacles in which a soldier can absolutely not back down from, a belief which is wholly responsible for his ass getting handed to him in this particular moment.
After practice, Eren and Jean are in each other’s face once again at the dining hall, but this time, Eren is able to understand his fellow trainee more sympathetically. This however does not stop Eren from teaching Jean a lesson by borrowing both a physical and philosophical teaching of Annie’s. Eren reiterates what Annie had previously rebuked Eren and Reiner for, for everyone else to hear and also borrows Annie’s (who in turn learned from her father) move to put the beatdown on Jean. This scene is definitely a highlight in showing Eren’s great growth as character, as well as some lesser growths from the other characters. Also, another plus ten points go to Mikasa for fabricating a story of Sasha’s bowel movements matching the sheer noise of Eren slamming Jean into the ground and subsequently shoving a hot, steamy potato into her mouth while Eren and Jean make more brotherly tension with their eyes. No homo. No yuri. No yaoi.
Skip forward, and we are now witnessing our favored characters becoming graduates. Unsurprisingly, our main cast of characters persevered their way to the elite ten graduates out of a squad of two-hundred and eighteen trainees. Additionally, a sort of hierarchy is introduced: members of the Garrison are stationed at the walls and defend the city, members of the Recon Corps put their lives on the line fighting Titans in their own territory, and members of the Military Police Brigade, only accessed by the top ten graduate, serve the King by controlling the crowds and protecting order. This is all, of course, accompanied by a fine-ass background music track, and all in all, it feels very shonen-esque. (I couldn’t help but relate to it to the episode of Fairy Tail in which the guild members worthy of taking the S-Class Mage Promotion Exam were being announced, and of course, the music usually reserved for the most epic of moments was being played.)
Again is another dining scene, in which the trainees are celebrating their graduation. Thomas pleads for Eren to change his mind about joining the Recon Corps, but our protagonist rejects and delivers a powerful speech (of sorts) that inspires some of our more minor characters and possibly riles other characters such as Jean, but Eren runs off in his mixed emotional state of embarrassed and angry before anyone can object. This in turn sets up a heart-warming scene amongst Eren, Armin, and Mikasa, in which we are reminded that these three were and are still the three main characters and friends of the series.
In the morning, we are treated with another scene of the graduates becoming closer friends. Sasha steals a slab of meat and while the rest of the newly-inducted Recon Corps members initially chastise her, the group eventually makes a joint resolution. They agree to eat the meat together for lunch as a sign and early reward for their future duty of defeating the Titans and re-taking of the world where humanity can cultivate for meat again. Just as they are embracing the sincerity of each other’s friendship, sweetness turns bitter when perhaps the greatest recent entrance and provocation in anime history occurs.
The sudden lightning appearance of a colossal Titan shocks the soldiers so much that they stand helpless as it impales the wall they stand on, sending them into a deadly descent. Samuel is unable to hinder his own fall and is additionally injured when Sasha is forced to pierce his leg in order to save his life. Here, the combined atmosphere and tension rebuild the feelings of despair and desolation from the first episode. But it is undeniable that the promise these characters had made just seconds before was completely whole-hearted. They resolved to eat the meat together because they knew the enormity of what was at stake. As proof, most of them are able to come to their senses and show the results of their training in a much more calm and collected than we saw from the Recon Corps of episode one. Eren, who too was first in a state of disarray, stays true to the growth he had experienced these past four episodes (and multiple years in the story’s time-line). This unprecedented and sudden face-off is exactly what was needed to truly test Eren. In a way, this is much more effective than Eren’s first experience against a Titan being a preemptive strike. We didn’t need Eren to be fighting his fears as he approached the enemy for combat. That very fight or flight mechanism was already portrayed in episode one. We needed Eren to be thrown into the fray of danger without so much as a warning. Consequently, in what is a pivotal point of character development and bad-assery, Eren exceptionally takes charge of the group, commanding the others and conclusively charging his way right in front of the enemy Titan, ready for the most epic of clash this side of the wall has since in hundreds of years.
Hello there, it’s been five years, hasn’t it?
(Definitely compared this last part to the last part of One Piece #474. in which Luffy makes one of the greatest entrances of all time, fearlessly defying the wrath of three admirals. As Luffy’s bad-assery supersedes the laws of nature and makes water gloriously and beautifully splish and splash around him and his enemies, Eren’s does with smoke. We don’t even have to mention how both of their entrances was an aerial move, how there was a upward-pan starting from their feet to their hell-bent enraged visage, how they are posed in visually the same way, and how it closes with a bad-ass antagonistic statement.)