Another two-parter. It either covers the training or the intro bit after the training the way the manga did. I would prefer the latter, but the preview at the end of the last episode suggests that this will be about the training.
I said I would analyze the opening on the third episode, but I just can't. It's so one-dimensional, it's painful. The music is slow and foreboding, seems like it might actually be good. The wall breaks. The main characters are all looking around, shattered behind a grey filter in a baron land. Then it picks up and everyone is spinning around on 3d gear. The music is upbeat. The colors are yellow-tinged. The animation is unbelievably choppy. Titans are dying. OH MY GOD THE OVERLAYS. I don't even know what's going on here, but clearly it's fantastic because it's moving so fast. Manga scans! Everyone loves manga.
And then it ends with the main characters looking up at the Sun shining in the sky.
Obama campaign ad on Crunchyroll. Dude, you've already been re-elected. Calm the fuck down.
The drill instructor is going through the lines, yelling at new recruits. He gets to Armin, tells him he has a bad name, and Armin says his grandfather named him. He asks him what he is doing here, and Armin says to serve the people. He says "I see, you will make an excellent sacrifice." He continues to go down the line, confronting recruits we don't really care about while some men on the sidelines explain what the purpose of the exercise is. He is confronting people to explain to them that they are nothing so they will listen to him in order to become more than nothing. This exercise is only done on the ones whose eyes do not look like they have already been through Hell, hence why we don't see him screaming at Mikasa and Eren--the latter would probably benefit. The camera also pans over Annie and Ymir in this instance.
After explaining to a girl that she is less than swine, she is the flies who buzz around the pig's ass, we get to see some main characters. Marco says he will give his body to protect the king, but the instructor explains the king doesn't want his body. Jean wants to join the Military Police, to be safe inside Wall Sina. The instructor headbutts him, and he falls. The instructor tells him if he cannot take that, he will never make the Police. He is confronting Connie, but not for long, as he sees Sasha eating a boiled potato. He asks her what she is doing.
She says the kitchen just finished a fresh batch, and she wanted to eat them. The instructor says she stole it and wonders why she would eat it now. She tells him that it would be a waste if it got cold. He then says he still does not understand. And she responds "Would you like me to explain why people eat potatoes?" The instructor is in stunned silence. Sasha grudgingly hands him half of her potato.
This scene shows us that pretty much everyone is an outcast in some way. They have either been through Hell, or they wish to be selfish and comfortable, or they're here for the food, or they're naive. All very well.
Eren, Marco, Armin, and Connie watch Sasha, dubbed "Potato Girl" run for five hours. The instructor told her she must run until she drops, but she was more distraught because that meant she would miss dinner. Behind her, a caravan of dropouts leaves the compound. I am guessing Drill Instructor hurt their feelings.
They say Dauper, where Sasha is from is a small hunting village. Then they ask Eren where he is from. He says "Zhiganshina, same as him" and puts his hand on Armin's shoulder. Marco and Connie are in awe, and they ask him if he saw the giant titan.
The next scene introduces the rivalry between Jean and Eren, which continues the constant hammering of the opposing viewpoints; Survey Corps are stupid vs brave. The recruits are gathered around Eren, asking him to describe the Colossal Titan, saying that they heard it could step over the wall. Eren says it could not. They ask him to describe the Armored Titan, which broke the wall. Eren says it looked just like any titan to him. Someone asks what a normal titan looks like, and Eren is waylaid by a flashback of his mother being killed. He covers his mouth and looks like he's about to throw up his dinner. Connie apologizes, saying they should not ask and bring up bad memories, but Eren says no, and begins attacking his dinner with vehemence. "Titans aren't that strong, once we learn the 3d gear, we'll destroy them. I'm just excited I finally get to learn how."
So it looks like Eren isn't completely crazy. He has some fear. We just don't get to see it much.
Jean interrupts and tells him he's crazy if he wants to join the Corps. Eren says he is okay with dying. A bell rings, and both of them relax. Jean says "I didn't want to say that would be a good thing, so call a truce?" They agree not to argue anymore, and Eren leaves the mess. Mikasa follows after him, and Jean is immediately smitten. He says "You don't look like the rest of us"--again, referring to her asian heritage--"Your hair is very beautiful." She says "Thanks" and runs after Eren. Jean is momentarily shocked, and by the time he chases her, she's gone.
I'm going to say, straight up, that Jean is my favorite character. So I'll talk more about him when he makes his final choice at the end of training. The bells are interesting. They are constantly used to dispel tension. We have now seen them four times. It'll be interesting to see how they're used going forward.
Coincidentally, Eren tells Mikasa to cut her hair because it will get in the way when she uses the maneuver gear. She says "Very well, how short shall I cut it?" Jean is watching, and the anger is all over him. Connie walks by, and Jean wipes his hand on his back. "What did you wipe on me?" And Jean says "My trust."
I don't know why I like that exchange so much. Probably because trust is seen as something as easily given as mess is wiped on someone else. Maybe because it portrays trust in a negative light, as something to be wiped on people derisively.
We meet Ymir and Christa next. Sasha finally collapses after running all day, and Christa approaches her with bread and water she stole from the mess for her. Sasha leaps at her, asking if she's God, just as Ymir approaches. More on how that's funny later. Ymir asks Christa if helping Sasha was worth the effort of stealing from the mess and then lifts Sasha up, explaining that she wants Sasha to owe her. Christa wants to be seen as selfless, while Ymir wants to be seen as self-serving, but really it's the reverse. Christa did this deed so Sasha would think highly of her, calling her God. Ymir did what she did to help Christa, ultimately. We'll see more of that looking forward.
The recruits receive their first bit of training with the maneuver gear. The onlookers from day one are back, explaining that these are basics, and if you can't do this, you can't be a soldier. Even then, you can see potential. They look at Mikasa, whose hair is already cut, and explain that she knows exactly what to do. She's steady as a rock. Sasha is also upright and steady, though she sits at an angle. Jean is upright and straight, but struggling a little. The onlookers say there is a lot of talent this year. But what about him? Yes, you might have the will, but not the talent. They are talking about Eren, who is upside down and unable to get up. He's clearly shattered.
The commercial bookend explains that it's difficult for recruits to adapt from a 2d to 3d space. It requires a lot of energy and endurance.
In the next scene, it's night, and Mikasa and Armin are with Eren, who is preparing to try to balance again. Mikasa says don't worry about excelling for now, just center yourself. Armin says "Yes, I was able to do it." He then cranks a very nervous Eren up with a great deal of effort. I like this choice better. In the manga, it's harder to show the effort Armin has to exert to do basic things, so he just says "I was able to do it, and I suck at physical stuff." Here, we see him being physically weak, so it drives the point home more than him saying it, and the line is omitted.
In either case, Eren takes a nose dive and smashes his head against the ground.
At the mess, other recruits are gossiping about how Eren talks big, but cannot even handle basics. Mikasa tells Eren there is no point in worrying. Eren calls himself pathetic and says there's no way he'll kill them all at this rate. Mikasa tells him he should give up on that idea. It isn't his choice whether he can become a soldier if he's too weak. You can see the rage behind Eren's eyes, the new determination. Mikasa knows how Eren has responded to these taunts in the past: by focusing more on his resolve instead of losing his head to rage and self-loathing. She employs them to help him get what he wants. The bell rings, and the mess clears. Eren is quick to leave, but Mikasa isn't done. She says if he returns to the frontier, she will go with him, and he will not be alone. When she looks over, Sasha is in Eren's place, asking if she can have Mikasa's bread for a little light humor. Again, the bell is relieving tension. As the mess clears, we see Mikasa eating her bread in front of a crest-fallen Sasha.
First, Eren goes to Connie and Jean for help, which I could have told him was a bad idea. Connie says he's just a genius. Then they throw his words from the previous day back at him. "If you don't have the talent, you should just go home."
Eren has heard Bertholdt and Reiner are very good at balancing, so he asks for advice. They say they cannot imagine a trick to just hanging there. Bertholdt asks Eren why he joined the soldiers when he's seen the Titans up close. Armin asks Bertholdt and Reiner where they're from; they're from a village southeast inside Wall Maria. The animals were unusually restless. They heard a rumbling, and when Bertholdt realized it was the sound of foot steps, he rushed to the window. There is a scene where he is opening a window and a Titan smiles. Reiner asks him why he is discussing this now, and Bertholdt says that Eren is not like the others. Reiner tells him not to discuss this here.
In case it isn't obvious, there's a double meaning to this conversation.
Bertholdt and Reiner take Eren and Armin outside for a walk. They carry lanterns. This walk did not occur in the anime, and I like the change. It shows a progression, and they're all discussing the progression of events that led them to train as soldiers--supposedly. Bertholdt says that most join because they receive pressure and are told only cowards become workers. But they are no different, really, since they have their sights set on the Military Police and safety in the interior wall. He says if they don't get that, they'll probably just give it all up--and return to being workers? This is unclear. Eren says he became a soldier because he has to kill them all, as he decided on that day. They tell him he's brave, and he should be fine the next day if he tries to "center himself."
I think the double meaning behind that statement is that Eren is way too gung-ho.
If I had to guess, Bertholdt, meaning "renowned leader," was named for the playwright, Bertholdt Brecht. Brecht was known for having avoided the military by taking an additional course, and he was known for saying that the challenge is not in being creative, but in imitating other people. For reasons we'll get into later, Bertholdt is probably the most iconic leader in the series, and he's taking on the challenge of "imitating other people" with a certain lack of flair, which is characteristic of Brecht's work.
Reiner's name is a combination of Old Norse and Old German, meaning "deciding warrior." This is significant later.
There is epic music. It's funny. Because he's just trying to balance on some wires. Everyone in the class watches on, and Eren psyches himself up, telling himself he may not have talent, but he has more guts than anyone. The instructor tells someone to "pull him up," and Eren is lifted off the ground. For a moment, he is able to hang there amidst cheers, but then he falls forward on his face. Eren announces he is not done yet, and the instructor tells the others to lower him. Then he tells another recruit, Wagner, to change belts with Eren.
In the next scene, Eren is hanging somewhat simply, though he appears to still be concentrating. The instructor said his fitting was damaged. He had never heard of that part of the belt being damaged, so he will have to add it to the maintenance checklist. More importantly, Eren asks him if he passes, and the instructor tells him to commence training as triumphant music begins. Eren is internally taunting Mikasa, telling her he can do it, and she doesn't have to look after him anymore. Armin says "It looks like he's telling us 'See!'" but Mikasa argues, claiming that he is relieved that they will not have to be separated. This is a departure from the translation I read, where she says he was relieved that she wouldn't be watching over him. I liked the latter, because it made her seem practical and resigned. Here she just sounds delusional.
In the next scene, Eren and Mikasa are spinning through the forest on 3d gear as triumphant music continues.
Eh, I have errands to run, so we'll discuss the ending music next time.
Well, it's pretty clear now that talent is more important than determination. Or perhaps determination creates talent. I'm sort of unclear what the point of this section was even now. I guess that, even when defeat seems imminent, Eren stays determined. Still, it just feels kind of--pointless. I'll talk more about training when it finishes in part 2.