So guys, it’s that time of year again. That time of year when we get new anime. Or in this case, continuing anime in the form of “Attack on Titan: Season 3 Part 2” (“Shingeki no Kyojin” / 進撃の巨人).
With the first chapter of the series first published in September of 2009 (yes, nearly 10 years ago) in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, mangaka Hajime Isayama introduced readers to a world in which humanity was on the brink of extinction, forced to retreat behind 50 meter high walls to protect themselves from monstrous man-eating giants. In April of 2013, a first season of the hit anime was released with a total of 25 episodes and what soon followed as a result of its popularity were numerous books, video games, spin-off manga, and two live-action movies (the latter of which were regrettably horrible, don’t bother watching them).
Later in April 2017, the series would experience a semi-revived interest with the long-anticipated release of Season 2 of the anime (for the creator’s sake, it’s a good thing it didn’t get dragged out any longer), but to its detriment, it was a short season. On the plus side, in July of 2018, Season 3 Part 1 released, improving upon the next arcs of the story hinted at in Season 2. With currently 27 volumes of the manga published and the series still ongoing, series fans are now in the midst of the anticipation waiting game as the days become numbered until Season 3 Part 2 is released on April 29th, 2019.
But what is it about “Attack on Titan” that has allowed it to survive its pitfalls over the last 10 years? Years of hiatus does hurt a series and when your live-actions bomb so badly, it’s always hard to recover. Not to mention the more political nature that the story has taken on has lead to a bit of a slow reading in currently being released chapters. Even cosplayers got fed up with it for a while, leading to a drop in AOT/SNK cosplays over the years (though to be fair that 3DM Gear is heinous to both put together and put on). So then with all of this working against it… what exactly has allowed “Attack on Titan” to survive and why should you be excited for Season 3 Part 2? Let’s start by looking at the story so far, where it is now, and what we can expect from Part 2.
***Warning: Spoilers Follow***
The Rise, Fall, Rise, and Anticipation
To be honest, when I first heard that Season 3 would be released in 2018 almost immediately after the release of the shortened Season 2 in 2017 (seriously, anyone have a good reason why we were forced to wait for 4 YEARS IN HIATUS for Season 2??), I was ecstatic. It almost made up for the fact that Season 2 was only 12 episodes long (don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most every minute of it, but it was so short…) and left so much to be desired. The real factor, though, to my excitement could be summarized with my first reaction to the previews I saw, which was essentially the following:
“Guys, guys, guys.
Kenny. Kenny’s in this one guys.”
It may seem that I was overly excited for Season 3 of Hajime Isayama’s manga adaptation for the sole reason that the character of Kenny Ackerman is in it (and to be fair, I was seriously excited for it), but let me assure you there was good reason for it, most of which derives from what Season 2 actually accomplished both for the series and the story, as well as what it seemed to lack in.
In a series that has had an unfortunate wane in popularity over recent years (especially after an exciting first season), back in 2017, “Attack on Titan” received a slight surge in popularity with the release of Season 2 of the hit anime series. That is, until we all realized that there were only going to be half of the number of episodes we expected there to be after 4 YEARS OF HIATUS (not bitter about that at all)…. so no, fans were not all that pleased about that.
But they WERE pleased with the quality of Season 2 and they were even more excited to hear that they weren’t going to be left hanging for another 5 years before the release of Season 3. Additionally, while Season 2 was definitely a wait after an exciting and dark fantasy-driven first season, it was stunningly beautiful and thickened the plot, thus keeping a promise to fans that the story would continue on in an anime format. But in the meantime, there was a downfall. Season 2, while once again displaying outstanding animation, if not horrific like new encounters with the monsters called Titans, had a “flaw” that wasn’t linked to timing and more related to the story.
The drawback? Beloved characters like Eren Jaeger, Levi Ackerman, and Hanji Zoe had next to no screen time. Don’t believe me? Go on, tell me, what did Eren do during the whole of the season? He “screamed”? He killed ONE titan by himself? Maybe two? He fought the Armored Titan and lost?? The short answer is that he accomplished next to… nothing. Meanwhile, Levi did even less than Hanji, who did all of analyze a crystal and threaten Pastor Nick’s life.
I’m being a little facetious here – they did do a little more than that. Hanji did lead attacks on the Colossal Titan. Eren did learn he had some ‘unknown’ power (albeit by chance). But Levi… Levi really didn’t do anything (remember, he was injured the whole time). Rather, the whole season was an event in which characters experienced betrayal. Regardless of the major plot development, it still didn’t change the ultimate goals of the characters, nor did it tell us much more about what drives them that we didn’t know already. In other words, it lacked superior character growth for our main players (for the record though, yes, other characters, side characters, did receive a good amount of attention). In short however, the main characters’ participation was almost less than nominal – leaving an open hole in the hearts of those who became attached to said characters during Season 1.
Enter Character Development and Attachment
Now, this isn’t a criticism of Season 2, though it does sound that way, I’m sure. The season itself had a great plot and delved into the psyche of the Titan shifters, a group of assailants upon humanity. For the purposes of the plot, it was a needed arc line, though due to the limited number of episodes, it seemingly was cut off, leaving for more to be desired. (Again, thank goodness for Season 3).
Specifically, with little to no Levi at all in Season 2, the fact that we were now going to be getting much more of Levi’s backstory brought to the screen through Season 3 (as confirmed with Kenny’s appearance) was enough to get me on board and counting down the days for its release as it held the promise of diving more into our characters’ pasts, desires, and motives. And after all, even though we all thought ‘Eren will be my favorite’, somehow that cold little squirt of a captain unintentionally wormed his way into our hearts so we now have to know more about him (frankly, the more Levi the better the series gets). In other words though, the association of Kenny Ackerman with character background and development clearly brings the series back to the main characters. But perhaps an even more important attribute of Season 3 Part 1 than Levi’s backstory (blasphemy, I know) was the development of Eren Jaeger’s (our actual protagonist’s) character.
Contrary to popular tropes and character types seen in a lot of today’s media, Eren breaks the mold of the ‘young hero’ because quite frankly, he almost never is able to do anything. This began to be spotted early on by readers of the series as the truth regarding the Titans began to unfold. Eren, for all intents and purposes, seemed only able to be useful on occasion, even after his Titan Shifting capabilities emerge, and more often than not, got kidnapped instead (which began to happen all the way back in Season 1). In other words, he does lose. He doesn’t do things beautifully. He wasn’t a ‘chosen one’. He was simply an average teenager put into a very difficult and tough situation in which the whole of humanity suddenly depended on him.
And Isayama did something brilliant with this. Rather than default to a ‘suddenly Eren can do anything no problem because deus ex machina magic’ result, Isayama decided to make Eren readily aware of this fact, that he was indeed ‘nothing special’ and that things just fell into his lap, a belief that becomes readily apparent at the end of Season 2 and culminates at the end of Season 3 Part 1 in which he had to overcome his fears of inability and worthlessness in order to do what he could to protect his friends and companions. And somehow, perhaps due to the nature of how he overcomes these fears, this not only worked to Eren’s character’s advantage, but to the advantage of all of the characters as well.
Was Season 3 Part 1 fast and quick paced? Yes, sometimes it was even a bit of a roller coaster in which you had to go back and think ‘wait, oh yeah, that’s what happened in the manga’ to remind yourself and set things straight. But the character growth of all of the characters, not just Eren or Levi, was spot on and seamlessly weaved into the story wonderfully, even through tiny, little details, allowing viewers to genuinely be able to connect to these characters’ situations, personalities, and troubles. In other words, we all got attached.
The Here and Now
Fast forward to now. You might think I’m sitting here once again counting down the days. But no, all I am filled with now is dread. Seemingly ironic yes, but as any good AOT/SNK fan knows, character development always comes with a price tag.
And that’s a pretty steep price tag as confirmed by that end cliffhanger at the end of Episode 12 of Season 3. And if you’ve read the manga, you know what’s coming. It’s pretty well summarized in this meme.
The Survey Corps have their work cut out for them this time as they face off against the Ape Titan, who mysteriously first appeared back in Season 2, seemingly leading the rest of the rogue Titan Shifters for… some reason (if you’ve been reading the manga though, you know why at this point). Regardless, if the Survey Corps are to reach the destroyed home of the Jaegers’ within Shiganshina District and discover the secret hidden within Grisha Jaeger’s basement (which may encompass the greatest secret about humanity), they have no choice but to march into battle, a battle that will test resolve, result in bitter betrayals, and be paid for at a high cost.
Interestingly though, Part 2, may be so earth shaking for fans to see on screen not for any high stakes battle or for spectacular animation (though we may very well get that). Rather, it might just shake us to our souls simply because it revolves around the core of what “Attack on Titan” is. It’s a war story. It’s about loss. It’s about trying to find morality and how to behave in the face of less than clear circumstances. It’s about relationships. It’s about what it truly means to be human, something our protagonist, Eren, desires perhaps more than anyone else.
“Why did I want to go (out there)? Because I was born into this world!” – Eren Jaeger
Whether Isayama will ultimately betray his fans and kill off every character (because yes, he was thinking of doing that) is yet to be known. But for now, fans will dive into the depths of the story’s core elements that make “Attack on Titan” so bone-chillingly good with Part 2 of Season 3. After all, it’s not the Titans. It’s not the blood. It’s not the corruption, mystery, or adventure.. It’s the story’s innate ability to appeal to the deepest human desires to reach out and grasp hold of life, freedom, and love, in the wake of a cruel, but beautiful world that keep us returning to this saga.
So let’s hope Season 3 Part 2 does the original justice. And brings back an opening by REVO’s Linked Horizon.
(Also, don’t forget your tissues)
PS. I have to get this out here because it’s been killing me (ha) for two years now: Who else was mad at Erwin at the end of Season 2? You know how many times he put his freakin’ arm up and yelled ‘Attack’? Because I do. And so does my roommate. And she doesn’t even watch this show (something about the stuff of nightmares). XD Ok, I vented, I’m good now. ^_____^