In any case, ummm. No forward.
Well, that's the most uplifting title we've had in a while. Let's check it out.
According to the opening, humanity lost 20% of the population and a third of its territory. That drawing is not to scale.
Did I mention the opening has running chains around the title? Yeah. Chains. Running. Why? Why have such a beautiful source material and mess it up with that kind of opening?
It appears the trainees are engaged in some sort of exam as they run through the forest. A bunch of them have pack and are running with the instructor wearing their green outer wear. Armin is falling behind the group, and the instructor informs him he would be titan food. He taunts him, asking him if he will be the only one to remove his pack. Reiner falls back with Armin and takes his pack. Armin tells him he will also lose points if he does that, but Reiner doesn't want to slow the group down. The leader begins to analyze the group with Reiner Braun, a strong soldier physically and mentally, and trusted by his comrades. Such glowing marks! Not suspicious at all.
Armin takes his pack from Reiner and runs forward, determined not to slow the rest down. The instructor declares Armin Arlert to be weak physically, but to have immense aptitude for his studies.
And I guess we're adding angry girl music to our repertoire, though it's probably the most appropriate use of music yet.
Three recruits strike a titan dummy made of wood with a pad at the nape of its neck. Annie Leonhardt, the instructor tells us, has a flawless striking form, but she isolates herself and doesn't work well in a team. Bertholdt Hoover--LOL his name is Fubar in the manga scans--has potential, but lacks initiative. Jean Kirschstein, who made the shallowest cut, is a master of the maneuver gear, but his brash personality causes friction.
Jean splits off from Bertholdt and Annie, saying he must find titans first since he cannot strike as hard as them. MANEUVER GEAR CLOSE UP. Why? It doesn't even look that cool.
As Jean is about to strike first, Connie cuts in and thanks him, saying he was right to follow Jean. But just as he goes to make his strike, someone else beats him. He is shocked to see Sasha celebrating. The instructor tells us she has unconventional, good instincts, but that makes her unfit for a team environment. Connie Springer is physically agile, but not mentally so.
They save Eren and Mikasa for last. Mikasa takes out almost half of the pad, and Eren barely dents it by comparison. He curses that Mikasa has beat him again in strike depth. Mikasa Ackerman is a master of all subjects and considered one of the best in their history. Eren Jaeger has no outstanding talents, but he's worked harder than anyone and is more motivated.
This was kind of fun. I always like assessment clips. I'm boring. We don't get Ymir and Christa though. Or Marco. Shame. It is, however, worth noting that, by and large, the tainees are too individualistic for a team setting. Only Tryhard Trio--Eren, Mikasa, and Armin--and Team Immersion's boys--Bertholdt and Reiner--are not dismissed in this regard. Bertholdt and Reiner are tryhards in their own right.
In this scene, we meet Annie. Reiner and Eren are partnered for the hand to hand combat exercise in which one must be a bandit armed with a wooden knife and one must be soldier trying to stop him. Eren gets the best of Reiner the bandit and then wonders what the point of the exercise is. Only idiots fight a man with a weapon when they have no weapon. We see a brief glimpse of child!Eren standing over a dead man. Reiner says that is the responsibility of a soldier. Sometimes one cannot retreat; it is his duty. Eren is in awe. Then Reiner spots Annie skulking through the crowd without a partner. Reiner and Eren say they should teach the slacker a lesson. Reiner confronts her, and Eren goes after her with the fake knife, but she kicks him in the shin, knocking him over. Reiner says the exercise isn't over until she disarms him. So she ends up flipping Eren over and taking his knife. Eren says Reiner must teach Annie the lesson, but it's facetious. Reiner says "yes, sometimes a soldier cannot retreat," and in the next frame, he is also on the ground with his legs over his head.
Eren wants Annie to teach him those moves, but Annie makes fun of him, saying that exercise won't improve his marks. The only ones who take it seriously are idiots like him who do what they're told. She then points out that only the top ten in titan killing exercises have a chance to make the military police. It seems contradictory that those who can kill titans best will never have to fight them, she says, but isn't that the way humans really are. At this moment, I notices she also has blue eyes, but they're ice blue, while Eren's are more of a turquoise. Then Annie stalks off, leaving Eren to think about his new information.
Armin explains to Eren that they set up the system so that knowledge of how to use the maneuver gear would be retained, as fighting the titans seemed arrogant and less important than actually remembering how until five years ago. While Armin explains this, Jean is loudly giving tips on how to master the gear a table over. Marco says he would love to join the Military Police because it would be an honor to serve the king. Jean disrupts his drinking, getting beer over his face, and urges Marco to tell the truth and say he just wants the safety of the inner wall. Marco argues, but Eren spares his defense by interrupting with "Five years ago, this was considered deep inside the walls." Jean asks what his point is. Eren tells him he's gone soft enough in the head; he doesn't need the interior walls. Well, we never expect Eren's insults to be that intelligent. I'm surprised he said something as insightful as his first comment. Eren brings up the point Annie made to Jean, and Jean says, for his sake, he hopes they keep that system. Eren moves to fight Jean, but Mikasa stops him with a hand on his arm. Eren is about to sit down, but Jean goes for him, his jealousy showing. At that moment, Eren realizes that Jean is like he used to be--whether or not he's actually changed is something to reserve judgment on, but we'll let him have it--a ranting idiot with no control. Then he uses the move Annie used on him to send Jean to the ground while Annie looks on, shocked. Eren explains that's what he learned while Jean was taking it easy, and he taunts him with, "And you call yourself a soldier?" It's clear this message is for Annie as well.
Then the instructor barges in, wondering what the commotion is. Eren and Jean resume their seats, and Mikasa explains that Sasha farted. The instructor tells her to learn control and leaves to Sasha's protests.
The narrator tells us 218 students hung on until graduation--which gives you the full scope of how many people are shamed into the military--and the instructor announces that they will all be given a choice. They can join the Garrison, which will help protect the walls and maintain legal order, the Survey Corps, who fight the titans beyond the walls, or the Military Police. But only the top ten may join the Military Police. The screen flashes to an image of Christa, Sasha, Connie, Marco, Jean, then Eren, Annie, Bertholdt, Reiner, and Mikasa. This is the order of the top ten from ten to one. Eren is excited that it's his turn. Armin is in the crowd, and it's fine he didn't make top ten, it's probably lucky he even graduated with his physical aptitudes.
The commercial bookends formally state the rankings:
10) Christa Lenz
9) Sasha Blause
8) Connie Springer
7) Marco Bott
6) Jean Kirschstein
5) Eren Jaeger
4) Annie Leonhardt
3) Bertholdt Hoover (LOL)
2) Reiner Braun
1) Mikasa Ackerman
Graduates celebrate. Some of the top ten are excited about joining the Military Police and never going hungry. Jean is pissed because Eren scored higher than him. One boy seriously asks Eren why he isn't joining the Police. They say there's no way humans can beat titans. Eren says "So then we just give up? We'll learn more with each attack. We'll abandon tactics it took thousands of lives to develop and move forward instead of letting ourselves get eaten without a fight." Annie, Bertholdt, and Reiner in particular look on with interest. Eren says he will kill them all and move beyond the walls. Then he runs out when he starts to cry while Mikasa and Armin follow. Jean bitterly thinks he will join the Military Police at any cost.
Outside, Armin declares he'll join the Survey Corps. Eren says he has the best written score, so he should use that in the Garrison. Mikasa says she will also join the Survey Corps to watch after him. Eren says she's the valedictorian, so she should join the MP, but she says she refuses to lose anymore family. I don't know why it's necessary to constantly repeat the mantra that they will all join the Corps. Or why it shocks Eren each time, if it's just to illustrate that their resolve has not diminished. It is what it is.
The graduates watch the Survey Corps return without incident. Everyone is celebrating them, unlike five years ago. They see Commander Erwin and Levi, who has a reputation for being better than an entire brigade. He is annoyed by the attention. He also looks Asian. So them Asians are the best, even in the future. Goddamnit, Mikasa. It'll be interesting to see these two team up. You know it will happen.
A couple random recruits talk about how hopeful they are about the titans having gone away, and Eren tells them off. This scene is interesting since Eren is optimistic in a morbid way, and he shuns other people's thirst for safety. Hannes, my favorite minor character, shows up again. He has gone from drunk to tactician. He apologizes again for the death of Eren's mother. Eren tells him it was not his fault. Now, they know better, and he will never let anything that sad happen again. So the writer immediately contrasts the naivete of his classmates with Eren's. They're all children. Yet, as Eren runs off, Hannes says he is not sure whether or not he is glad that Eren has grown up. He pleads that Eren not die.
On the walls, Eren is surprised to find so many of his classmates have decided to join the Survey Corps, including Connie, another member of the top ten. It turns out many were inspired by his speech. Sasha shows up with stolen meat. She says they should all split it. One person objects because meat is rare. Sasha says it is okay because they will start raising cows and sheep again when they retake the land. Everyone decides they want some of the meat. Eren gets warm and fuzzy and decides their counterattack will be very strong. Just then, the face of the colossal titan appears behind them, and he immediately kicks in the wall of Trost District.
That lasted all of a second.
Many of the recruits slip off the wall, and Sasha runs down and catches the fallen Samuel. For a moment, everyone is frozen when they see the wall has been breached. Eren has a flashback from his mother's death, five years ago. His resolve is truly being tested. He climbs up the wall and tells everyone to ready the cannons. Their target is the colossal. Then, he faces the titan, and says "It's been five years."
The end credits are all about Mikasa. The camera starts on a black and white chalk aesthetic from space. Then it drifts down past the moon. Child Mikasa is running along the river as a knife spins, apparently under water. Suddenly, Mikasa is in a field of bloody knives, and the drops around the spinning knife are around her, only dark, tinged like blood. She is holding a knife, and the scarf she wore in the first episodes spins around her head and floats away as we watch her face age and her hair shorten. The color turns to sepia. Her expression hardens.
Then Mikasa is in a street inside the walls, looking up at Eren's birds from the opening, unmoved. She then sees child-like Eren walking toward her, and aging as he does so. Then she walks toward him when he stops.
This is a pretty apt analysis of Mikasa. Her childhood is essentially feeling small and running alone through a sea of knives. This made her hard, so hard she barely reacted when her second mother died. The birds that moved Eren don't touch her. But Eren moves her. He will walk a few steps toward her, but she must always follow him the rest the way. He will not wait for her.
As for the aging, you get a sense that growing up came difficult to Mikasa; she has earned her adulthood. Eren grows up quickly and easily, under the warm sepia tone. He is still a child in her eyes. He has not truly grown up yet.
That concludes the training arc.
The point of this section is obviously to introduce the other characters, then to create a sense of hope after the devastating first arc, and finally to create tension surrounding Eren's ideals so that they can have payoff in the next arc. That brief moment where he climbs the wall and takes charge validates everything he has been saying over and over. He is a broken record until he backs it up, and this promises he will. It's a very strong ending.
Introducing the face of the colossal titan brings back the powerful beginning. The bareness of the titan's face refers to human vulnerabilities. They cannot hide from him, as evidenced by the ease with which he kicked in the gate.
In any case, after so much build up, the action finally starts. It's time to get down to business