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Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 11, 12, 13 Musings: The Complexities of Being a Soldier and a Human Being

Episode eleven is where the struggle for Trost truly begins as the commander finagles an interesting plan to seal a giant hole in the wall using Emo-Titan’s strength, and of course, people go chaotic at the idea of it all.

The action is more subdued here to help build story and character foundation, as well as to toss scraps of questionable titan history out to the watchers. When the commander made comments about how titans were rumoured to have been brought about because humans couldn’t stop fighting with each other over stupid nonsensical shite (i.e.: race, religion, etc.), I laughed out loud. Humans will never ever stop fighting over nonsensical shite. Their arses can be on fire and they will die burning whilst shouting indignities at one another’s right to exist or to even have basic rights based solely on whether they are brown, black, yellow, red, purple, green, or white. That is the fundamental nature of being human; a motif that I am sure shall get further blatantly obvious as the series continues.

Even so, it did get me thinking—which this series tends to do—about the characters themselves. We have three young, impressionable trainees who are essentially going to influence the future of titan and human relations. We see them as heroes in the making because that is how they’re presented in these early episodes. Watching Eren’s self-righteous hatred for titans fuelling his impeccable yearning for all of their deaths, coupled with Mikasa’s single-minded focus on Eren’s existence, and Armin’s internal inadequacy issues as they pertain to intellect versus physical prowess allows the audience to think that they know how the story shall unfold eventually. But what amazes me about this is how much prefiguring we continue to see in their personalities as to what shall take shape in the later, final seasons, and how vastly different they are than what was originally portrayed or presumed.

Towards the middle to second half of episode eleven, the commander gives an inspiring and blunt speech to help encourage the troops to fight for the sake of humanity and their loved ones rather than turning around and chasing tail out of town. Again, this speech made me scoff because that moment of togetherness shall be as fleeting as the desire to do something selfless without gain. For humans, it’s simply not a concept that enables survival. We are feeble-minded animals of a sort all our own, merely capable of envisioning the next five minutes of life and creating brash decisions based on that. We stand up and choose to fight now at 9:05, but then 9:10 comes around the corner and it’s “Fuck you, every man for themselves.”

There’s a quote that gets mentioned passingly (I’ve screen-grabbed it below) and it is one that has really stuck with me since I’ve heard it. On the surface it seems like such a minute thing to contemplate or talk about. But if we delve deeper into this one sentence we can see that it correlates to all sorts of scenarios, character types, and situations (explicitly with Attack on Titan) and how revealing it is with respect to Eren’s progress and development. The passion for doing the right thing and fighting for unity becomes the dreadful basis of who he is and who he will become. With going back and re-watching these segments, being keenly aware of the future facts, it rather reminds me of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, but the manga/anime version, via these few questions:

How well can we know our favourite characters? How do we define the outlines of a hero? Where is the fine line between good and evil when both of those are relative societal constructs as a whole with ever-evolving moralities and ethics? And finally, why is the idea of unity so black and white versus actually being diversely inclusive and actually unified?

As Eren transforms into his Emo-Titan self and approaches the boulder, these are the questions that I have weighing heavily in my mind as I go into the next two segments. Hell, these questions haven’t been far from my mind since I began re-watching the damned thing. Yet they get curiouser and curiouser the more I dive into the thick of it all.

Episode twelve is entirely devoted to watching troops struggling to stay alive in the midst of a potentially failed plan to close that gaping hole of death. Meanwhile, Emo-Eren loses himself to his titan form.

This is the kind of episode that always gives me mixed feelings about the military. My family and I were brutalised by the military in Fiji Islands, and I remember growing up with a fear and great sense of suspicion for them wherever we went. Then I met a cool dude at Uni, who has since become one of my close friends, and he was in the military for a bit. Talking to him really opened my eyes to how much crap soldiers have to endure. If they are ordered to kill innocent people and then choose not to, directly disobeying an order, they’re then sentenced for committing the crime of treason (depending on the situation, this is an extreme example, at the very least it’s considered to be dishonourable). Is killing a child really necessary to protect one’s country? Especially if that kid is four-years-old and just trying to have dinner with their family?

This is what segment twelve shows us: some of the many shades of grey between right and wrong, order and morality, sacrifice and compromise, wilful ignorance and systemic naivety, amid a lot of other things. It makes it all the more harrowing to see when we take into consideration that these are just teens or folx barely into adulthood. They wanted to make an impact, a positive difference, so they joined up with high, heroic fantasies of splendour in some form or another. But when death is 13-metres tall and staring you in the face with an open maw, where is the positive difference there?

There were so many characters yelling and shouting with tear-filled-eyes about how they didn’t want to die and they don’t want die “for nothing.” This then raises the question: when is death truly acceptable and warranted? When does death equal “positive difference?”

Most of the time my instinct was to shout back that if you didn’t want to partake in violence or end up dead at a young age, maybe you shouldn’t have joined the fricking military! But what the hell do I know, really? Family circumstances may have driven these individuals towards a path they didn’t want. The ones who joined with the hopes of a free ride into lazy living, well, excuse me for being heartless, but they deserve to be at the front lines and witnessing the horrors that they are okay with thrusting upon their colleagues as they sit in luxury, sipping frosted beers, and nipping peanuts (I don’t know if soldiers nip peanuts, but I’ve heard nuts and beer go together so… there ya go).

My favourite part was watching Mikasa have absolutely no effect on Eren as he tried to kill her in titan form. Not because I’m a sadist (okay, maybe partially because of that), but because it highlights the relationship dynamics between Eren and Mikasa, and then Eren and Armin in some fascinatingly fun ways. Eren saved Mikasa, and although she’s constantly got his back, Armin is always the one saving Eren, not Mikasa. I’m so fucking giddy to see how this shall reflect in the final season. It also shows us that Armin is definitely the über underdog of Attack on Titan,  and we assume it’s solely because of his intellect. But nigh, I disagree.

Going into the next segment, I was expecting to watch Eren gain his consciousness whilst deep inside the titan (yesss, I know how I said it, mwahahaha) and Chris Redfield the hell out of that fucking boulder. (Which begs another question, if one works with the boulder, in a sense, while the other beats the fuck out of it, does that mean that Redfield is the worser of the soldiers? Hmmm. 👀) When that’s exactly what happened, I felt relieved. Although the end of episode thirteen has Eren wanting to join the Survey Corps to kick serious titan ass-cheeks, while Levi volunteers to be responsible for him (not because he trusts Eren but because he wants to be the one to kill the traitor when Eren goes rogue), I felt that this was when the real story was about to begin. Everything prior to this moment was a mere prologue to the beast that becomes Attack on Titan.

As I move into the next set of episodes (14-16), I feel it’s rather easy to presume what’s going to happen. With Eren being in custody, it makes sense for the military folx and scientist folx to experiment on him so they can ascertain new weaknesses and potential battle tactics for defeating them, maybe even learn a bit about what the heck the titans actually are. I am definitely looking forward to it because who knows what kinds of thoughts it shall stir up in my grey matter whilst watching. The best part, aside from witnessing the miniscule morsels of foreshadowing that’s sprinkled in from season one, would have to be the many allegories that Attack on Titan makes me ponder about, such as what it really means to be a soldier, a refugee, an outsider, ignorant and naïve, or even the fiercest and most determined. It’s never ever as straightforward as we like to believe, and that is the mark of remarkable character building coupled with brilliant storytelling, don’t ya think?

Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 3 & 4
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 5, 6, 7
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 8, 9, 10

Native: 進撃の巨人
Source: Manga by Hajime Isayama
Demographic: Shōnen
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Season: Spring 2013 (Season 1)
Episodes: 25
Studio(s): WIT Studio
Director: Tetsurō Araki
Content Warnings: Strong violence. Graphic blood, gore, and dismemberment including consumption of humans. Intense depiction of displacement and refugee experiences. Brief depiction of oppression and starvation, and alcohol consumption. Brief scene of physical violence against kids. Food consumption. Death of animals. Some strong language. Racism and xenophobia.
AniList: Shingeki no Kyojin
Streaming: CrunchyRoll, Funimation, Hulu, Netflix, Tubi, Adult Swim

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