Okay, so it's been shortened to that day. The much shorter title puts emphasis on the long title from the previous episode. This one wants to tell more of a story and be less of an address. It's less didactic, more formulaic.
True to this prediction, it opens with a voice-over. One hundred years ago, the powerful giant titans appeared, humanity was immediately pushed to the brink of extinction, so they created three walls. They were safe, until--
OPENING. Kill me now.
The episode title screens, by the way, are done in the style of cave paintings, but with white chalk. The implication is that this is an archaic record of events for even further in the future. If humanity has no future, why bother keeping a record? These are the questions we're meant to ask.
A crow feasts on the crushed arm of a dead human. Crows are images of dire portend. Or whatever.
Another religious guy is preaching against avarice. I gather the titans are culling humanity of greed. As he goes, people are screaming and being consumed around him. He pauses when he sees a titan staring at him. As the titan picks him up, be begins repeating the last part of his speech, even though he has dropped his scripture.
Titans themselves are creatures of avarice since they do not require human flesh to survive. They just eat people and regurgitate them once they're done, as they have no digestive organs. I can see where they're going with this speech.
Back to Eren. He's in shock, slung over Hannes' back, but he quickly snaps out of it and begins punching his savior. He's angry because he insists they were close to saving his mother. Hannes tells him "Eren, you couldn't save your mother because you didn't have the strength." Eren gets pissed, and Hannes catches his punch, supporting his assessment. "I didn't fight the titan because I lacked the courage."
This blatant honesty and accountability, I guess, surprises Eren, and he drops his hand. Hannes apologizes. It seems that heroes need two things at least, so far: strength and courage. These things do not necessarily go together.
At the end of the scene, we see a faint glimpse of blood and death from Mikasa's past. She tells herself "Ah, it's happening again."
More shots of carnage. Then a man calls everyone to get aboard the ships at the pier to head for the inner gate. Exposit time.
At the outside of each wall, there are small, densely populated districts protruding from each cardinal direction. These have their own walls. They draw the Titans to them, making it less costly to defend all of humanity by having only those three outposts with so many people. Zhiganshina is one of them, and it's to the south, just outside Wall Maria. Once the titans breach Zhiganshina's walls, humans can evacuate only through one gate to the inside of Wall Maria.
Armin is on one of the ships. He waves to Eren and Mikasa as they board, but Eren looks traumatized, so the man sitting beside Armin tells him he shouldn't talk to them just yet, and it must have been bad.
Hannes and the other guards are readying the cannons to aim at the vacant titans and distract them while the ships make it through the gates.
The ships are full, and they let up the draw bridges. Many people left behind try to jump for it or beg them to at least take their children. The gate leading to the inner wall begins to close, and the guards start to abandon their cannons, fearing they will be left behind. Hannes begs them to not close the gate just yet, but the man in charge argues they will lose more than a single city if the titans get through Wall Maria.
Hannes tries to fight them, but he's restrained. In the district, meanwhile, the giant titan appears, followed by one decked in layers of brown armor. He charges at the gate. Cannon shells go off and simply bounce from his hide. He charges through the gate, creating a hole where the wall is weak. We get our first glimpse inside Wall Maria. A windmill turns. Everything is quiet.
The government officials in Wall Sina discuss whether or not it's possible Wall Maria has been breached. No one has an answer until a guard runs in to announce that Wall Maria has indeed been lost. This scene, I guess, is supposed to illustrate how comfortable the officials have gotten. They don't want to accept the weakness of the walls.
Meanwhile, on the boat, Eren resolves to wipe every last titan off the face of this earth. He refuses to believe that humans are so weak that all they can do is cry. Armin and Mikasa just watch on, dumbfounded. So the question now is how naive is Eren?
The narrator informs us that over the next five years, the central government fell back within Wall Rose. During this time, the titans consumed 10,000 people.
Eren's father is desperately driving a carriage. He begs for Eren, Karla, and Mikasa to be okay. Then the scene switches to him holding Eren down and injecting something into him while Eren begs him not to, stating that he lost it after mom died. Eren's father tells him to remember the key, he must get there, but until then...
Lots of purple. The past is purple? Trauma is purple? Science is purple?
It's strange to me that they show this sequence of events, which take place over the next five years, before they show the next day. It's possible that, despite Eren's insistence that his father changed after his mother's death, these circumstances were ongoing before the wall was breached. In fact, I am trying to remember, but I think at one point Eren insists he did not see his father after That Day.
Eren wakes up from this bad dream, a little after the incident when the refugees are beyond the wall. Mikasa tells him they're handing out food. He tucks his basement key away. He didn't have this before they went through the wall. Weird.
We see Annie for the first time, receiving some bread in line. This part isn't in the manga. Haha. It's interesting, though, because the manga never tells you when the titan shifters started to assimilate into the population. This suggests that it occurred the day after the fall of Zhiganshina.
Armin runs over, saying that his grandfather got them each some bread. There isn't enough food, so that will be all they can eat that day. A guard starts talking shit about how the titans should have eaten more people. Eren, as pissed as ever, stomps over and kicks him in the shin. He says that he doesn't know what it looks like when the titans eat people. The guard is about to attack him for his insolence when Armin intercedes and apologizes, claiming Eren is just being rude because he's hungry, and he's very sorry. The guard tells him to be grateful for what he gets and stalks off.
This is interesting to me since, in a lot of post apocalyptic scenarios, the income disparity or food shortage isn't a focus because the population has been culled or everything is strictly regulated. Here, though the population is smaller, the land and resources are even more limited due to the confines of the wall and 100 years of uninterrupted breeding. It should be interesting to see how this becomes more important.
Eren refuses to eat the bread, claiming that they'll never defeat the titans if they depend on weaklings like the guards. Armin says they cannot defeat the titans, so they need to survive. It's all they can do for now. Eren calls him a weakling, using the cattle line again. Armin appears too shocked to respond, but then Mikasa punches Eren, saying that, if Armin is weak, so are they. They couldn't even run away from the titans on their own two feet. All they can do now is survive. Then she shoves the bread in his mouth and tells him she will not let him starve.
The most interesting moment here is that it seems Eren and Mikasa are at least aware of Armin's weakness--meaning that he hates his own lack of physical strength; the lack of physical strength is not as detrimental as his own self-hate, which is an important distinction. Eren is willing to use it against him. We also see the first glimpse of Mikasa's refusal to get involved or do anything unless Eren's life is in danger. She lives solely for him.
Eren narrates, stating that over the next years, refugees were sent to the wastes to look for food, but it didn't help. Then, in 846, 20% of the population was sent on a mission to recover Wall Maria. Only 100 people survived. This somewhat alleviated the food shortage. Armin is shown crying over his grandfather's hat.
The values in this new world are more about keeping the human race alive. Individuals no longer exist. Considering the Survey Corps is very much an organization of individuals, this is an interesting contrast.
Eren tells Armin it's all because of the titans, so he is enlisting next year to gain the power to fight them. Armin says he will as well, and Eren is shocked, though he doesn't say what's on his mind. Mikasa says she will also, to keep Eren alive. The three of them resolve to do so together.
An old bald man says he has been given the misfortune of training the 104th Trainees. He says, right now, they are less than cattle--the comparison returns!--but in three years, they will be able to face a titan. Will they still be cattle, or will they be the king's shield? Or maybe they'll slay titans.
Eren, who looks suddenly much older in a year's time, resolves that yes, he will be this last soldier. The age increase, I think, is meant to be an illusion. We expect him to be suddenly more mature, but he's the same Eren.
I like the ending sequence much better than the opening, so I'll discuss it in a couple episodes.
First things to note are the themes: greed, individual vs the whole, and strength vs will.
Greed is something everyone is suspicious of with the food shortage. If you want more than you have, which isn't even enough to live, you are greedy. I think greed is viewed as a titan trait, so it makes it all the more dangerous and suspicious, especially when it turns out that titans live among the humans.
Individual vs the whole. This one I'll talk about in more detail as I go, but it's important to note it exists. The most interesting aspect we get so far is the vague description of 20% of the population, followed by Armin, alone, nursing his grandfather's hat.
Strength vs will. This creates the dynamic that separates the three main characters. Eren is shown, time and again, to have the will to fight, but many question his strength. Mikasa, meanwhile, is considered to be, perhaps, the strongest human among her trainee squad and even the Survey Corps later, but her will is entirely obscured by Eren's. Finally, Armin at times seems to have neither of these things. He is a tactician who follows his friends and can barely pass physical fitness tests, but he has the name "warrior." It will be interesting to see who survives in the long run.
As for colors, brown and green are big. Green is associated with the outside, as the Survey Corps wears green shawls, and there is a great deal of grass outside Maria. Limited resources exist in the walls. Blue is also significant, but it's meaning alludes me.
Bells relieve tension. They're generally silver. And with that, I conclude.