With a discombobulated splurge of infodumps and perpetually gloomy characters, Shingeki no Kyojin is the same as ever—bleak, grim, and downright melodramatic.
I was hoping for a time skip of at least several years, where Eren, Mikasa, and Armin join the military, our knowledge of the world slowly accumulates, and the overall pace becomes more…subdued. Sadly, the first is merely set up, the second clumsily interrupts the story, and the third is entirely ignored. Preferences aside, this seems like a waste of an episode honestly. There’s no need to dilute the worldbuilding with more needless drama, as the premiere already had a fair share of it (and that’s an understatement). Having the second episode compound angst upon angst is like watching a hypocrite guzzle down a salad ladled with ranch dressing. Just…please stop.
On a positive note, we’re offered a stronger sense of the world through the intermittent expositions. However, they’re poorly handled in that they don’t cohesively mingle with the story’s narrative style. This is a problem with infodumps by design, as they throw away the normal perspective and place you into a powerpoint presentation with noisy diagrammatics. In most situations, what’s typically done (and better) is to permeate such information into a continuously moving narrative, e.g., having said information flushed into conversations with the background characters and main cast. Shifting from narrative, to powerpoint, to narrative, to powerpoint, and so on, is plain awkward and clumsy. Moreover, the mere fact that we learn something is likely the only achievement I can praise this episode for.
There are plot holes riddled in the story which are used only to bloat the grim atmosphere. For instance, no explanation is given to why the humans need to close the gate to Wall Maria. If anything, it’s like a mouse hole, in that the giants being their gargantuan selves won’t be able to fit through anyways. The only answer I can formulate is if they could somehow use that small hole as leverage to break open the wall. But coming from what we’ve seen of the giants, they’re a rather primitive bunch of dudes who have no need for tools. So…that’s not going to happen. Exacerbated to this is the fact that the giants manage to break open the wall anyways. Uh, what the heck? If they can so easily fracture Wall Maria, what prevents them from rupturing the other walls? Height isn’t the issue nor is volume. Nothing prohibits the giants from ramming the next wall a few more times, especially if they golfed a hole-in-one for Wall Maria. If those laughable cannons can’t even make a dent onto the giants, are there deadlier weapons within the other walls in place?
As for characterization, Eren continues to be his dreadful self (no pun intended). We can look forward to how he acts through his stubbornness for revenge, but this gimmick ultimately makes him predictable. Countering Eren’s disposition is Mikasa, who is without a doubt the strongest character so far. Her laconic disposition leaves most of her characterization subtle(r), while she is able to calmly deal with the trio’s desolation. Her stolid behavior is complemented by Armin, who also has a more level-headed attitude than most of his age. Unlike Eren, he’s a competent mix of bleak depression and rational fortitude. Unfortunately, however, I can’t see him do much in the story, seeing how he plays an awfully supportive role to Eren and Mikasa. I can only anticipate cowardice, and possibly a potential death scene to continue fueling Eren’s vengeance. (Let’s hope I’m wrong!)
Still, the show isn’t all bad. The action—albeit inconsequential with the story—has kept me entertained so far, and there are many open questions that keep the mystifying show an intriguing one. If all of humanity has been trapped into this diminutive hole, exactly how many Titans exist in the world? If humans are only eaten for pleasure, what food do the Titans rely upon? How did the Titans suddenly come about? Are they intelligent? Do they farm agriculture? Do they enjoy watching re-runs of Star Trek? I look forward to all of these answers, and I might consider picking up the manga to see how this
awful story plays out.