Attack on Titan (Season 2)
The Scouts, who protect their walled territory from Titan attacks, are dismayed by new revelations about their opponents, even as traitors in their midst- Titans in human form- plot to abduct two of their fellow Scouts.
"Sorry for eating you like that. I bet you're mad at me."
I would bet the being-eaten part was bad enough, but I suspect the being-regurgitated part was no picnic either. OK, the quote is sans context, but this dialogue is only slightly less ludicrous IN context, and it's followed by comments from the same individual that would be ridiculous and embarrassing in ANY context, to the point that even the party hearing them complains that they don't make any sense. This season of Attack On Titan amply demonstrates the truth of the adage "familiarity breeds contempt" - as it tries to literally humanize the Titans, it makes them less a menace and more figures to be ridiculed; it is apparently aiming at making them sympathetic, but in my opinion somewhat misses this mark (or maybe just shoots past it?)
I'd also note that Captain Levi, one of the more interesting characters introduced in First Season, is not in the field in this one (you WILL see him, though), which might be just as well, considering how Second Season treats the field commanders: whenever they get some attention in the plot- when someone praises their prowess, say, or when we get a bit of their past in flashbacks- they're usually eaten a few scenes later. Their mortality rate here is so high that in terms of increasing their longevity they might really be better off going into politics in Game of Thrones' Westeros.
Attack On Titan has always kept its major secrets close, and deliberately (and infuriatingly) tantalized us by withholding the one thing that would, we're told, give us all the answers- a trip to Eren's parents' basement- by always throwing big distractions (Titans) in Eren's path. There were also other, more minor, mysteries from Season One that weren't explained- one that bugged me no end was why Annie was so...GENEROUS with Armin, since there really didn't seem to be any other evidence of an especially close relationship between them. (In fact, there IS someone- NOT Armin- who IS interested in Annie; you'll find out who this season.) But this comparatively meager season of the show (12 episodes, versus 25 in Season One) basically seems to be centered on a certain revelation, which must have ALREADY occurred to someone in command, apparently- when this season opens, our cast are informal detainees, apparently because there are suspected to be some "untrustworthy" individuals among them. (Which proved absolutely correct; there are three of them, and they'll show their true colors later.)
Besides this surprise (which really should have been no surprise anyway, given what our cast knows of Eren), Season Two is built around a couple of key events- a humungous wrestling match, and an extended chase (over several episodes)- and on one relationship, a close, if somewhat odd, one between two of the women. One of the women is Christa, a small, quiet blonde who I always thought of as a female version of Armin (well, with more fighter in her than Armin.) The other is Ymir, a cynical, sullen woman who will actually remind you quite a bit of Annie Leonhart. We'll get tantalizing bits of their respective pasts, Ymir's in particular, but given this show's usual habits you might not be given quite enough pieces to put that entire puzzle together.
We'll also get a few new variations on Titans. Titans tend to fall into one of two general types: the predominant ones are stumbling and shambling, often grotesque - but sometimes looking more or less like normal (if oversized) humans- that don't seem especially sentient or even purpose-driven (aside from wanting to eat humans, of course.) The other general classification is the Abnormals, who DON'T behave in this aimless manner, and among THEM are certain ones like Eren (in his Titan form), as well as their most formidable opponent in the First Season- powerful, purposeful, and sentient, though often just as grotesque as the others. We learn that some in this second class are capable of simple speech; and at least one can manage pretty sophisticated speech, reasoning, and comprehension- if his knowledge of the Scouts seems curiously lacking; he's enormously tall, with a simian appearance- overly long limbs and body fur. The Scouts end up calling him the "Beast Titan"; I would have gone with "Bigfoot Titan", except that ALL the Titans, by definition, have rather large feet. Oh, and we also learn how humans were able to save on construction costs for their walls. It's obvious that the humans have lost much of their history, though one group of humans DOES seem to have many of the answers- and does not wish to reveal them, even on pain of death.
The opening theme song this time is of the same sort as the First Season's- a triumphal fanfare a la O Fortuna! (these "epic" shows ALWAYS seem to use something similar to Carmina Burana's O Fortuna!, if not the actual song itself) melded with a "heroic" ballad. In this case, though, I felt an overwhelming urge to MST3K what the lyrics SOUNDED like, and found myself singing "Pistachio! Pistachio!" until I had to slap myself to make me stop.
Let me be clear here: I did NOT really hate Season Two. Its virtues include a larger role for Commander Hange, who I've liked ever since she, and her determination to investigate the Titans, were introduced in Season One. And, rather late in this Second Season, we have Eren confronting his frustration with his own inadequacies- it seems like Mikasa always had to bail him out when he tried to confront the bad guys as a child, and even being able to turn into a Titan doesn't seem enough this time, but he DOES discover a new ability that MIGHT give him an edge in the end. And the show's bizarre Titan character art is- well, if not ENDEARING, at least as interesting as it was last time.
Middle chapters of sagas CAN be dramatically stronger than either the beginning or the end- think The Empire Strikes Back- but the more usual pattern is they're not, and that seems the case here. The fact that the cast is so slow to catch on to something that is obvious to the audience is annoying, and I felt the show's more absurd dialogue ruined the show's earnest effort to drum up some sympathy for the character saying it. And the show STILL prefers to pile on complications rather than start explaining things (and as Ricky Ricardo would say, it's got a LOT of 'splainin' to do.) All of which left me feeling a bit exasperated. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Profanity and extreme violence; the Titans, it turns out, don't just have that annoying affection for human flesh- in a pinch, one of their own will do as well. Better for 15+.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Attack on Titan (Season 2) © 2017 WIT Studio/Production I.G.
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