Starkly contrasting the horrific pacing issues with the last two episodes, the third finally settles in with a more milquetoast attitude. Brought along with it are the prospects for a convening storyline. Yet, just when we thought things might turn for the better, it’s instantly marred by all of Shingeki‘s other unwieldy elements—soppy drama, ostentatious art style, clumsy character development, and a shallow cast. Way to dash all my hopes and dreams, Shingeki. You make me livid.
This isn’t to say that the episode’s outright terrible. For example, the introduction of new characters livens up the series. Potato Girl makes for the most polar of character designs (and hence the most hilarious of them), simply because of her audacity to break all conventions of the story. Pulling non sequitur after non sequitur, she demolishes the bleakness in the series’ ham-handed atmosphere through the most bizarre actions. It’s hilarious because it’s so opposite from the show’s clammy storytelling. What’s also noteworthy is that she’s the first person we see to display super-human abilities. This brings up some interesting questions (e.g., is Shingeki no Kyojin just a pampered retelling of Twilight?). However, the situation’s comical mood subverts the underlying mystery (I question if there even was one), and unfortunately as well, Potato Girl can’t save the show alone. With paltry cameo appearances, these new characters in general provide little to the plot so far. We’ll have to wait and see if they flesh out in future episodes. Yet, given what we’ve seen regarding Eren, Armin, and Mikasa’s developments (namely, riddled angst, nothing, and nothing respectively), things don’t look too good.
Another aspect with mixed praises is the relaxed pace, which is less a strength insofar as it is finally straying away from one of the show’s gargantuan flaws.
The setting also wields a varying amount of success. Changing scenery to barren lands, the diegetic narration style allows viewers to experience first-hand more of Shingeki‘s world. However, the architecture designs and setting are still more or less generic, with few details that offer a fixed grasp of their culture. What’s also unfortunate is that other than a scenery change, nothing else is given its just deserts—no background characters, no politics, no culture, nothing. We’re three episodes in and we still have little understanding of their society. It’s fine that the writers aim to enshroud some elements in mystery, but that deigns too much credit to the direction choice. Leaving so much unknown ruins our understanding of, say, the agriculture, which doesn’t let us know just how destitute the citizens’ food shortage is. There’s little potential for empathy when we simply don’t know what’s going on.
This is also where any of my praises come to a full stop. If you thought Aku no Hana‘s rotoscoping was bad, I also nominate Shingeki for one of the worst art implementations.
These theatrics are brimming with sensationalism, wrecking any tension from the gritty atmosphere. Eren’s archrival falling in love with Mikasa—only to see her so close to Eren—does not equate to the most dramatic of animations possible. Eren frolicking around in a hanging diaper—battling in despair to stay upright—does not equate to the most dramatic of animations possible. WHERE’S THE SUBTLETY? Other elements like the soundtrack and mundane events don’t even build up the proper mood to employ such animation effects, so I’m confounded at why the show would apply them so haphazardly. Aside from how incongruous they are, its heavy usage simply cheapens the effect upon further and further use—like a clingy girlfriend who knows nothing of personal space.
The ongoing plot does not make things better. Just when we thought Eren might have a chink in his armor (and hence some remnable characterization aside from riddled wish-fulfillment cliches), his desire to overcome his imperfections ultimately contradicts itself with an anticlimactic solution. Defective
deus ex machina equipment? Are you kidding me? Both Mikasa and Eren are both military prodigies? That’s some hackneyed storytelling you got there.
It’s great that Shingeki no Kyojin knows there’s something called “pace”—and that it’s actually possible to slow it down—but the show still needs to tone down every other element. Hopefully it learns to substitute these with what it desperately needs instead (i.e., worldbuilding, and no half-assed character development), but don’t hold your breath any time soon.