Episodes fourteen through sixteen are a bit tough to talk about because there is so much to take away from each segment individually. Yet when you put them together, the dimensions of humanhood just stack up so high that dissecting it all can feel somewhat overwhelming, which is where I’m at right this moment.
Fourteen takes place in the courtroom where a trial for Eren Jaeger’s custody (or execution) is being held. When he tries to raise his voice against the cowards who wish to do nothing to help humanity, he inevitably gets his pretty youthful mug kicked in by the sexy and sassy Captain Levi (have I mentioned how much I love this man?). Fifteen show us the Survey Corps getting settled in an old abandoned safe house as they plan their next course of action with a new strategic tool to utilise, and sixteen shows us the heart-wrenching process of choosing which branch of the military to join up.
My favourite element of this is the hypocrisy that continues to undermine humanity’s survival in the midst of a devastating period of decimation. Doing something questionable or downright wrong for the right reasons can get a soldier punished or worse, while doing something right for the absolutely total fucking wrong reasons wins medals. It’s part of military culture that I shall never understand, to be honest. Where is the honour in condemning a hero versus celebrating a criminal?
With Eren’s latest abilities being revealed, there is a whole other aspect to being a solider that the teens are confronted with that made me incredibly emotional during these trio of episodes. The first is having to square away what being a real soldier actually entails. A lot of patriotic folx get this fabulously fantastical notion in their heads that they’re going to kick arse like the heroes in books and films they see, but upon joining and surviving boot camp, the reality of pain, dying, death, and surviving became an extremely hefty burden to carry around on one’s shoulders, particularly when the idealised fantasy is revealed as the hoax and horror that it is.
Eren’s co-operation and willingness to assist the Survey Corps in better understanding and defeating titans—as well as helping humanity—was a colossal source of encouragement for so many of these kids. But then you have people like Jean, who have witnessed the irrelevant deaths that take place, the unknown losses of loved ones and the assumptions that everything is okay rather than bleak and bloodied, and how that news can be fully immobilising, which is the second tough lesson that these youngens learned when a friend’s body is found in the carnage days later.
The third aspect that really drives home the fact that being a simple soldier is never ever merely a simple task of obedience, smacks everyone in the heart when Erwin Smith gives his speech in an effort to recruit more members for the Survey Corps. He doesn’t bullshit anyone. He tells everyone how many of them have a chance of dying and just how unlucky they will be when facing titans head on. In the silence that follows, within the wicking sounds of the enflamed torches, all I could hear (metaphorically) was the fast-paced beating of these kids’ hearts and the fear that had gripped them. They joined up to make a positive difference but going beyond the cushy confines of the walls into the throes of certain death was never supposed to be a part of it. After witnessing the terrifying assaults that titans are capable of inflicting on humans, even before eating them, how could anyone willingly stand-up and choose that path for their life? Isn’t it the same thing as succumbing to self-death or an agonising form of suicide? It would be better if they all committed seppuku for their cowardice right there and then, rather than actually letting the titans do the brutal killing, no?
But then it’s stated that choosing to fight for humanity, no matter the slim chance in hell, doesn’t mean that one is absolving themselves of fear or admitting that this is what they want to do. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s shouting at the top of your lungs that you are so fucking frightened of what will happen and who may die due to your own mistakes, it’s screaming in tears that you never ever wanted to be a part of something so disturbing yet choosing to do it anyway because you know that you’re the last hope. If you don’t do it, who will? If someone doesn’t stand the fuck up and stand before the titans, what’s to keep them from wholly decimating the rest of humanity? It’s already been proven that the walls don’t really mean a goddamned thing, right?
Between the funeral of their mate’s death, Erwin’s brutally visceral speech, and the haunting look of hopelessness as the vast majority of these kids step up to help each other via the Survey Corps, it was nigh impossible to maintain dry eyes during segment sixteen. I can joke about the memes (sassy Levi’s sexy sadistic kick to Eren’s goober face, for example) and I poke fun at how stupid some of the characters are. Even so, at the end of the day, they’re human beings who are just as fucking scared of losing something or someone as the common citizen. The difference? They stand up so the common citizen doesn’t have to.
Erwin smiles at the kids that choose to stay and acknowledges the profound amount of respect he has for them, while most of them are crying. Mourning not only the loss of their friends, but the loss of their youth and their lives. It’s only inevitably after all, as all of life is.
But I’m not going to end this post on a sad note. Rather, I’m going to give you five moments that made me outrageously laugh my arse off because even in tragedies there’s a spot of comedy!
- Levi threatening to kill Eren right there in courtroom—after kicking all the blood outta his face—to prove a point to the snobbish, chickenshite arseholes who were making illogical hoopla about Eren being a traitor (I laughed so much here because meta knowledge of future seasons, BWHAHAHAHA)
- Levi threatening to kill everyone because they don’t know how to clean worth a goddamn (that’s me to a fucking tee and I love it.)
- Hange going on and on and on and on so excitedly about her experiments on titans and how eager she is to get her mad scientist paws on Jaeger (she’s one of my two favourite sadists in this show, can you guess the second? 😏)
- Mikasa vowing to hurt the short guy for touching her precious little Jägermeister
- Annie’s comments about being a soldier and why she was set on joining the Military Police Brigade. PAY ATTENTION, KIDS!
Anyhoo, the next handful of episodes centres on the upcoming Scouting Mission and it also has one of my favourite fisticuff events in the entirely of this first season, so you can expect some serious fanhumaning delight in the next post!
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
Attack on Titan Season 1, Episodes 11, 12, 13
Source: Manga by Hajime Isayama
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Season: Spring 2013 (Season 1)
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