Having caught up with Attack on Titan I am still amazed by its look, but I’m beginning to get worried about the story.
Episode two brings us part two of the collapse of Shiganshina, and it’s mostly fascinating stuff, not only for the sheer terror that the giants provide but for how the people react to it, but part of it strikes me as artificial. Different factions of the city, the religious nuts, the ruling class, all strike me as generic examples that you can find in any fictional city, all going through their predictable roles and sometimes getting eaten for it. Same with the scenes where some people manage to evacuate on those weird boats they use, though it could have been worse–I expected more desperate people jumping onto that boat and capsizing it, dooming them all. On the other hand, terror is universal, and the episode’s best scenes come when these generic city role-players are confronted with the giants, like in the gate scene. In these moments the animation and visuals kick in and it’s great to watch.
Episode three has some of the same problems. We’re given the usual basic training moments, the drill sergeant, and also we got Eren’s inability to balance in the harness, his big challenge (which becomes a disappointing anticlimax). We meet this series’ possible Kai Shiden, also Sasha Braus (potato girl), who will provide comic relief in a show that desperately needs it, and a few others who help Eren with his harness struggles and are given names, thus becoming regular members of the series. I felt vaguely let down by all of this. This story’s concept is so strong that I don’t want it to become another “young hero goes off to prove himself” story, or “young man joins the army” story. Working in the show’s favor is Eren’s rage, and the utter mystery of Mikasa, who really ought to do more than look after Eren. Armin, on the other hand, is little more than a mouthpiece right now. On the other hand the giants are fascinating, especially the really big ones that do all that damage. Where have they been all this time? Where did they come from? Will we ever get an answer? And if we do, will they become less interesting?
Suisei no gargantia is also in danger of lazy worldbuilding, but like Titan it hasn’t quite fallen into that trap yet, in spite of its Waterworld setting and culture clashes. While I still have questions about how such an enormous floating city manages to sustain itself, the place feels natural enough that I don’t worry too much. In episode 2 we get a lot of talk. Everyone has settled down into a stalemate and Amy has made tentative steps toward communicating with Ledo and his bot. Amy is an interesting choice for this since she was Ledo’s hostage in episode one, but I guess the butt-touching didn’t bother her too much. Why she’s doing it at all is another question. Her kid brother Bevel is one reason, but on the other hand Ledo is a strange guy with technology she and everyone else can only dream of. Oh, well, I guess she’s the trusting type. This talk scene felt good, no false notes, just two people who don’t want to fight trying to figure each other out. The stuff after that, the pirate attack, is more problematic. We see the pirates blowing up an allied ship, so we know they are bloodthirsty, but everyone on the allied side is appalled by Ledo’s countermeasures. I know the show would have to bring up moral grey areas, but I was (and still am) afraid it’s going to lead to a lot more, duller, talk.
And we DO get some of that in a nice chat between Ledo and Bellows, of the “You say killing is immoral yet you eat meat” variety. Fortunately they wrap it up quick and get on with the consequences of vaporizing those raiders, namely, Rackage and the unified pirate fleet coming at them for revenge. I had a lot of trouble figuring out who the good and bad guys were, that is, until Rackage (Is her name supposed to be a pun?) joins in and the show nearly accomplishes the impossible. We know Gargantia has a super-weapon and we’re all waiting for Ledo to turn it loose, but for a couple of minutes it looks like the pirates might actually pull off the upset anyway. And when Ledo actually does turn it loose I felt relieved, but also a pang of guilt that my side had cheated somehow. I have a feeling the consequences of having Ledo on your ship have only started.