Gargantia finale, Railgun and Giant Hairballs 13

Suisei no Gargantia 13 is a good finale to a good series. And if some of it seemed too inexplicable or even nutty, well, much of the series was, and I ignored (or laughed at) those things because what the show succeeded in other ways.

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We start with an interesting debate between Chamber and Striker, two robots, while Ledo the human can only gawk. I had thought that the metalheads would wind up somehow in collusion, but Chamber points out the flawed reasoning behind Striker’s conclusion. Striker is working with Kugel’s mission goals and has taken his take on them to a logical end, but it’s working with flawed goals to begin with, because Kugel could never get out of that cockpit. Ledo lived with the people and had his worldview changed by them, thus giving him more humane goals, which Chamber, who exists to support his pilot, follows. Sounds boring to have it written down like this. Hearing Chamber, in that voice, deny Striker, was an emotional thrill, and made me sad to see how he wound up. I wonder if the destruction of both robots was the creators way of saying such devices of a militaristic society have no place on this world.

Amy?!  What the fuck are you doing?  Get out of there!
Amy?! What the fuck are you doing? Get out of there!

The rest of the episode was mainly battling, and it got kind of messy. We have Pinion deciding not to abandon the treasure-trove he found, which would put him on which side of the battle? Why Rackage rescued him is anyone’s guess, unless they’re hinting at a romance between them–a little late for that. Then there was that neuro connection that was supposed to give Ledo/Chamber amazing powers until he died … which is promptly forgotten a minute later when Amy flutters into his battle on her frail skimmer-thing. I suppose she was helping to target the stairway to heaven ray gun, but for all the hype, all that thing did was blow up a lot of things that were not Striker, the only real threat the bad guys have. Flange has a nice moment when he decides to fight Gargantia for (for him) logical reasons, but then orders the non-combatants to evacuate, something his new leaders wouldn’t have considered. But then we never see him again. At least, I didn’t.

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On the other hand, the action is great throughout all this, though it gets so busy that I lost track of who was firing at whom. It all takes so long that all the afterwards scenes are shoved into the closing credits. On the other hand, there was little more to add. Ledo has become fully human by realizing his affection for Amy (and thus getting ejected out of Chamber by Chamber itself, who almost seems to be snickering). The sides are reunited, Ledo’s found a way to get stuff out of the water without pissing off the whalesquid, and it’s sunny again. Man, I was tired of that damn fog. A good series. Not great; the Gargantia society was full of stereotypes about colorful, happy poor people, and I won’t even go into that religious society, but with its handling of Ledo in this strange environment, using Chamber as an explainer and commenter, it avoided a lot of other cliches. And with things like Chamber and Striker’s machine logic the show could actually get pretty smart. As I said, a good series.

Is she mad?  Does she even know?  How human is she?
Is she mad? Does she even know? How human is she?

Now that Touma’s been formally introduced to Toaru Tagaku no Railgun S, I suppose the creators have no intention of pulling out of the way until the inevitable confrontation. So we continue to watch his story along side Misaka’s. The latter, after an understandable dream about her mother taking all the unhappiness away, wakes up to do it herself and winds up easily infiltrating the Tree Diagram conduit on Earth, only to find it’s been destroyed already. That’s an interesting mystery. I forget who did the damage in the Index series, if anyone. As for Touma meeting another sister and a cat, it goes as expected. The point to it being there is, as I said, because he’s part of the story, and maybe to increase the pathos level a little more by having the sister interact with a cute little kitty, well, that and a Sister experiencing heart palpitations and asking questions about meeting your clone. Maybe the horror of it all is sinking into their group mind. I did appreciate the shout-out to the nun and the shrine maiden, though.

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Shingeki no Kyojin 13 brings us all the exciting stuff everyone was expecting last week. Was it worth all that dallying? No. But it did give us what the show is capable of doing. Eren finally snaps out of it and does exactly what he’s supposed to do. But it took so long for him to do that much of the legion sent to protect him and distract giants has been killed. The few remaining fight for their lives while we listen to Eren’s rage-filled thoughts. There’s even an insert song! And while watching Eren do his thing was great to look at, for me Mikasa’s takedown of the final giant was the actual highlight.

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We also get too much of Jean somehow surviving and others mourning the dead. Oh, giants cough up hairballs of people! Anger and heroism walk alongside the bloody and gross in this series, with silliness trying to keep up. Next week it looks to be a recap, the perfect opportunity for me to watch some new shows, and then some fresh story arcs.

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Gargantia and Titan 12

Suisei no Gargantia 12 moved a lot faster than I thought it would. I wonder if this was a good thing.

Slowly it's getting through to Pinion.
Slowly it’s getting through to Pinion.

The first half is full of moments of disillusionment for just about everyone. Not much to it. The more Flange, Pinion, and Melty see of this enlightened theocracy the less they like it. Flange, of course, never bought it from the start, and Melty didn’t need much encouragement. Pinion, distracted as he is by shiny things, especially when they can blow stuff up, takes a little longer. The clincher, the sacrifice/execution of people into the water (falling in a ripple like they were synchronized swimmers) is too much for even him. Having one of them look vaguely like Bevel was a cheap shot, but Pinion isn’t the most sophisticated thinker in the world and needs all the help he can get.

Rackage dance.
Rackage dance.

After everyone’s made up their mind things get a little ridiculous. Melty is sent off in her little craft to warn Gargantia. I thought nothing of this at the time, but then when she’s in sight of home she suddenly does a nose dive. Turns out the flight was dangerously long, but we had no clue about the dangers. Instead I just thought “What’s she doing that for?” Then they talk about that key, a “stairway to heaven,” and I worried that there would be a Deus ex machina while wondering what Led Zeppelin had to do with anything, but it’s not mentioned again. Later, after Gargantia has decided not to run away, we get the big battle. The Ledo/Kugel one is good, and it comes as no surprise when Pinion helps out by firing his toys from the deck, though at the speed the robots are going how he can manage so many near-hits, well, its not believable. But it IS fun. What’s really unbelievable is that Gargantia is able to mount such a well-coordinated attack on Kugel’s army. Rackage raising hell I can understand, but not the Gargantia fleet. Again, fun, but not believable.

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As for the big reveal, I half-called it. I suspected that Striker was calling the shots, but I thought Kugel acted too naturally for him to be fake. But then we open the cockpit and … what is it with Urobuchi and heads, anyway? This moment, alas, was marred, too, by the damaged Striker repeating Kugel’s earlier lines. It was a good tip-off dramatically, but I don’t think AIs would behave that way. I was also wrong about Chamber refusing Ledo’s orders, but it’s fully understandable that he remained loyal to Ledo. I’ll take my batting average as it stands. Anyway, ridiculous as it all was, it was still a fun episode with a lot of good moments, and it sets us up nicely for the finale next week.

Shingeki no Kyojin 12 is ridiculous, too, but in a more “Will they get on with it?” way.

The plan isn't going well.
The plan isn’t going well.

The big question on everyone’s mind this week is “Why did it take a swing at Mikasa?” Okay, no one knows, that’s actually a good answer. Who knows what goes inside those things’ heads, especially when they’re actually real people inside? So, after it injures itself going after Mikasa (in a way that in any other series would be a comic moment), the question is what to do now. We spend way too much time watching decisions being made, discussed, argued over, endless lines about sacrifice, and meanwhile the time ticks away and it becomes clear that we’re not going to get much farther than that this episode.

Eren's brain.
Inside Eren’s brain.

The closest thing to progress is Armin getting up to Eren’s giant and trying talk through the neck to him. The trouble is, Eren’s in a happy dreamland and doesn’t want to do anything. So we switch to Jean agonizing about being responsible for more deaths even while he’s running for his life, and just like last time I don’t really care. They haven’t done enough to make me. Get back to Armin and Eren, damn it! And when they finally do, and Armin’s gotten through to him, boom, episode’s over. I feel like I could have just skipped this episode and not missed anything but a few good action scenes.

Railgun 10, Gargantia 11, and a pointless Yuyushiki screenshot

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Suisei no gargantia 11 is a head-scratcher. Not for the social commentary the episode offers, with Kugel trying to be the man who would be king. That part’s heavy-handed and obvious, though still interesting. Kugel and Ledo talk for maybe one minute about the whole Hideaze-are-people thing in between talking about turning the heathens to whatever religion Kugel’s managed to concoct. That was happy chance to have to stay in the cockpit and thus make his presence fearsome. It certainly worked, but I wonder if that virus or whatever isn’t a ruse of some kind. He doesn’t appear to be an AI, but I wonder if he’s there, really in control, or if Striker hasn’t got something going on, and sharing it with Chamber. Hmm.

Fortunately, we can't hear what Flange is thinking.
Fortunately, we can’t hear what Flange is thinking.

But it’s ridiculous that the people suddenly turned into religious nuts because of his big robot, even if they were some sort of worshippers like we saw on the old footage Ledo saw two episodes ago. It’s even more ridiculous that Flange’s fleet gets taken over without a shot. Flange knows they’re outgunned, you can see that he believes they should surrender, but the crew barely raise an objection. And this talk about rations doled out by the person’s value doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows, either. This is a common problem with SF, and I’ve seen it before in Anime shows, where the mass of people making up a community work as a single mass with no individual personalities, doing blindly whatever their bosses say. It’s one of the things that sank Fractale and No. 6.

Finally, some color in the fog.
Finally, some color in the fog.

You could argue that they’re making a comment about religious theocracies compared to the more vibrant life aboard Gargantia, but many of these are the same people! Therefore, I’m delighted that they brought Rackage back, one of the only free thinkers left in the series. I’m looking forward to her causing some trouble. As for Ledo’s upcoming crisis of conscience, that’s just bad plotting. I know he was overwhelmed by Kugel’s return, not to mention his old life, but I can’t believe he didn’t raise more of an objection or even think deeply about things until he saw Amy on the scanner. Bah.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S 10 finally gets out of the dark factory maintenance corridors and catwalks and into the sunlight, but not until we have another battle between Misaka and Mugino.

Level 4 facial distortion.  Therestina's a level 5.
Level 4 facial distortion. Therestina’s a level 5.

It’s not bad. Mugino tries to take advantage of Misaka’s exhaustion by overpowering her with meltdowny rays, while Misaka responds with just enough brute force and guile to survive. And if you wonder how Misaka found the time to recover all of Frenda’s bombs, and how she managed to carry them around, not to mention hiding a few to take Mugino by surprise (bonk!), you let it pass because this is the way this franchise likes to work. Or you don’t. Who cares? It looks cool.

Misaka's one moment of trash-talking.
Misaka’s one moment of trash-talking.

Meanwhile, the database is destroyed, we get one more showdown, making it a draw, and potential for a later confrontation. Misaka doesn’t know if the project is over with yet, though we do. But even we’re not sure if Shinobou was able to make a change in that one Sister before getting caught. Something has to drive Misaka back into this mess, and we don’t quite know what it is, yet. Never mind. After nearly three episodes of intense battling, it’s nice to get out in the sun and just mull over things for a bit. Hey! It’s Touma! Misaka’s greatest comic foil. Just what we need!

Whoops, wrong show.
Whoops, wrong show.

Tens: Gargantia, Attack on Titan

Suisei no gargantia 10 is basically celebration, moping, and some weird philosophizing by a machine.

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Pinion’s great future fleet of doom, I mean, excavation party, starts to uncover all sorts of juicy items from the whalesquid’s nest, and so we now have another area of conflict to work with. He figures since he (meaning Ledo and Chamber) drove out the whalesquids that everything down there is his. This drives a wedge between him and Flange, who objects to the message he sends to anyone in range, “We got the treasure, hahaha, and if you come around for any we’ll destroy you!” Flange was for eliminating the whalesquids but his goal is to lift mankind up through cooperation. Not only him, but everyone around Pinion seems taken aback from the man’s sudden greed. And we got maybe a future plot point when his fleet defeats a pirate group but lets those who want to help with the excavation and increase his forces. Let’s see how loyal they turn out to be.

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Back on Gargantia everyone just mopes and sighs. Not much to say there. Meanwhile, Ledo isn’t over it yet, and we get a few shots of his imagination, where he kills cute little babies. He also mopes a lot and finds several places on the ship to do it on. Then we get a debate between Ledo and Chamber on the value of eliminating not only whalesquid, but Hideaze in general. Chamber claims that Hideaze are indeed augmented humans but that they’ve forsaken human civilization, no longer need it, really, while humanity still needs ships and all sort of gizmos just to survive out there. So we’re fighting for “the dignity of mankind.” At least, that’s what I got out of it. Never mind that none of what he says argues for the necessity of killing. Even Ledo thinks this is nutty thinking, but before the debate can continue we happily get new plot thing. I really hope that all this means humanity are the real bad guys; it’s never that simple, and here it would be a cop-out. Well, we’ll see what the big plot-thing at the end does to the discussion.

Like Gargantia, Shingeki no Kyojin 10 has no crazy action this week, but it starts with a scene as tense as many of the battles.

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We learn a lot from the first few moments. We see how Eren is somehow connected through nerves or muscles to that giant carcass he created, and that he can tear himself free of them without any evident pain. But there’s also some stress to his body. But the three heroes have no time to process that information now, as the bearded, half-crazy commander is issuing orders to blast them to pieces as soon as the smoke clears. The smoke, however, lingers. Plenty of time for the three of them to try and figure this out. Eren presents two choices, run off and spare Mikasa and Armin, or have Armin step out and try to talk the army out of killing them. Which do you choose, Armin?

Who, me?
Who, me?

There follows two scenes, both intense, one annoying, the other kind of cool. In the first, Armin despairs over how he’s useless to everyone, a coward, all those things we’ve heard too many times, and we sigh “not again, Armin.” The next thing you know, Eren and Mikasa are looking at him, waiting for his decision, while the longest “twenty seconds” of fictional time I can remember tick away, minute by minute. Never mind what their trust does to his self-esteem, what’s really great is what happens next, as Armin steps out of the smoke and, with dozens of guns and at least one cannon pointed at him, all commanded by that crazed bearded guy, delivers the most righteous speech of the current anime season.

Not least for the facial distortions.
Not least for the facial expressions.

It’s a two-parter, the first being more of an appeal to facts, and when that doesn’t work, he goes full-on patriotic salute and shouting of plans to actually re-take the city, while the soundtrack lashes out with heavy military drums and horns. Excellent moment. Say what you want about Armin’s ability to fight. He’s got as much guts as any of them. And the episode doesn’t try to top that moment, just settles into preparation for Eren’s little excursion. Hopefully it’ll bring some action. You can’t depend on a righteous speech by Armin every episode.

More catching up: Gargantia 9, Attack on Titan 9, RDG 10

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Suisei no Gargantia 9’s big revelation, “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” was hardly a surprise. I was betting on the Hideaze being evolved or mutated squid, and I was half right. The second-half flashback sequence had me scratching my head. Was this video data the only thing they could salvage? Was it arranged in chronological order by Chamber, and if so, why would he do it? Not to mention that the video blurs and pixel moments, meant to make it look realistic, were just annoying. And was it always snowing during the global cooling event? Whatever, the whole thing certainly had an effect on Ledo, and I wasn’t buying it for a second. He’s too hardwired to suddenly fall into despair upon hearing the truth. The Hideaze in space, after all, are still trying to kill humans, and vice versa. Surely his instincts as a soldier would kick in. I don’t care how cute those little baby Hideaze was, or that adult that was in more human form, a cheap attempt at invoking an instinctive human reaction out of us. Nope. I’m disappointed.

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Shingeki no Kyojin 9 dithers around for awhile before getting around to the big question: WTF happened to Eren? I think they wanted to piss us off tease us before getting to that so they showed us a little story about the elite Recon Corps, commanded by Levi, who strikes me as a male version of Mikasa, and who just happened to be out of the city during the latest attack. Honestly, what was the point of those scenes? Is this show so bad at introducing and developing characters that they feel they have to stick a chunk of new material right at the show’s most tense moment to date? … Well, yes, it is.

Mikasa and Armin are rescued by a giant anatomy model.
Mikasa and Armin are rescued by a giant anatomy model.

As for the big questions, we get a nasty scene of Eren inside the giant’s gullet, swearing revenge for the thousandth time, and the next thing you know an arm’s popping out of the giant, followed by the rest of the giant with abs. We get the present moment, with soldiers pointing guns at Eren, Mikasa and Armin and calling them traitors. A tense scene. The commander is obviously partly out of his mind by this time and is capable of giving any order. Eren doesn’t know what’s going on and would be as surprised as the rest to learn. Armin tries negotiation and Mikasa tries intimidation. And it really doesn’t matter. The commander was going to fire no matter what Eren’s answer was. What happened next isn’t going to make him any new friends in the military either, but it’s another glorious WTF moment in this show, and another great cliffhanger. It more than makes up for the crappy characters.

Real ghosts  make a haunted house exhibit more interesting.
Real ghosts make a haunted house exhibit more interesting.

Finally, even though I wrote about Red Data Girl last time, a new episode has shown up, so I might as well take care of it now. It’s about the only show I’m managing to keep up with, god knows why. In episode 10 the school festival has started and you get the impression that various spiritual forces are jockeying for position for … damn, the show hasn’t really told us. There’s something weird going on in the haunted house, and a curse that the middle school girls are afraid of, but it mostly gets subsumed into the mundane festival activity, like people pulling off Izumiko’s headdress to reveal her adorable rolled braids. The best part was the haunted house, where actual ghosts show up to appeal to Izumiko and she’s too nice to blow them away with a defense spell, which might reflect a later chat with Mayuri who suggests that his eating of lost souls is a demonstration of compassion. Nice idea, and maybe it will have to do with the story arc, if they ever decide to pull it out of the daily routine and polish it up a little.

Eights: Gargantia, Attack on Titan

Suisei no Gargantia 8 is a quiet episode where loose ends are tied up and we begin what feels like a new story arc, or end the old one. Even though this show doesn’t really do story arcs.

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Somber times aboard Gargantia. Not only does Commodore Fairlock die in the teaser, but a lot of ships are leaving for various reasons. Ridget, appointed to succeed Fairlock, has a huge crisis on top of her sorrow, and she’s new at the job. The show demonstrates it by raising the question: will she attend Fairlock’s funeral or not? It seems like the right thing to do, but there’s lots of other stuff to do as well. There’s also the implication that some of the fleet is leaving because Fairlock is gone, which can be read as “We don’t trust the new girl to be such a good commander.” This runs through the entire episode just as Fairlock’s body runs through just about every nook and cranny of the ship in its procession (giving her plenty of time to make up her mind about showing up). It’s resolved in the only way it can, a few words from Bellows and Krown (who maybe ought to have been appointed captain but doesn’t mind in the least that he wasn’t, right there proving that this show is more thoughtful about the characters than most series), and a big speech which is more of an appeal.

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There wasn’t much connection with the other underlying story. Ledo is leaving with Pinion to go after those whalesquid. Bevel tries to talk him out of it. Amy knows better than to try. When we’re not watching Ridget try and get a grip, or seeing hands pouring sand on Fairlock’s body, we’re watching either Amy being sad or Ledo saying “Nope, I’m going” whenever anyone asks. It’s poignant, but not terribly interesting. What I DO find interesting is Chamber’s confirmation that they are stranded on Earth with no hope for return or rescue. Suddenly, Ledo has no home except Gargantia, and he’s about to leave it. It’s such a powerful revelation that I’m surprised they didn’t do more with it. Instead, it comes early in the episode, and after a quick shock Ledo seems to decide that he might as well kill Hideaze while he’s here. … Chamber has more of a soul than he does. But I think we’ll get back to it. When explaining to Bevel why he has to leave he frames his every reason in terms of Amy. Either he’s doing it because he wants to make Bevel understand, or if they’re his real, underlying reasons, we don’t know yet.

Gargantia was quiet, Attack on Titan 8 was anything but.

Armin's plan, I might add.
Armin’s plan, I might add.

So there’s some giant out there that’s out to kill all the other giants. That’s some good news for the soldiers left standing, but there are a lot of giants out there trying to eat people, and this renegade giant doesn’t look too bright. Besides, can you trust them? Our heroes figure they’re going to die anyway, so they concoct a plan to lure the big guy to where there are other big guys for him to kill, thus clearing the storehouse and allowing everyone to gas up again. And so we get some of the most satisfying scenes of the series yet. It’s especially gratifying because it’s Armin who not only comes up with the plan to use the giant, but comes up with a strategy to clear out the giants who got in the storehouse. Good for him! Not only that, but the soldiers managed to knock off those fuckers without this giant trump-card they’ve been handed. Good for them! And good for the show for making it all work.

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As for the giant-killer, we’re given another scene or two of it saving humans (probably without realizing it), and beating the crap out of giants, which makes me almost want to cheer, though the humans in the show understandably still have their doubts. When it finally goes down, Jean, who’s been given a lot of scenes where he doubts himself as a leader, wants to just abandon it, while the others want to study it. You probably know about the weirdness that happens next already. Eren pulls himself out of the thing’s neck, limbs intact, and kneels there staring at nothing while Misaka gets more emotional than you’ve ever seen her before. It’s sort of a nice contrast. The other soldiers are trying to figure out what just happened while Misaka runs straight for her beloved boy. Yep, it was another wild episode. Too bad we have to wait a week before we get any answers.

Sevens: Gargantia, Titan

Suisei no Gargantia 7 ramps up the conflict quickly and efficiently.

The whalesquids swim underneath without harming them ...
The whalesquids swim underneath without harming them …

Just what we needed after two episodes of Ledo bumbling around the floating city trying to make himself useful and ensuing hilarity. We start with Ledo and Chamber killing a hideaze in spite of Bellows’ shouting not to, because it’s not a hideaze, but a whalesquid. We get some conflicting information after that concerning humanity’s relationship to these new creatures. First we’re told they’re sacred, but that angle isn’t brought up again. I’m relieved. I was afraid that either the humans would have to learn something about whalesquids or that the whalesquids ARE godly and will wreak revenge like any number of overdone SF concepts. After that the talk is about not pissing off the whalesquids because they’re badass and have some ability to organize, more practical than godliness, and just as dangerous. And I haven’t talked about whether the whalesquids are indeed hideaze, the concept that even if they are they evolved on earth to coexist, like the humans are doing. This is the most likely answer as it best suits the show’s plan to reform Ledo.

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These questions work alongside the human concerns. Whatever they are, Ledo’s killing one shocks everybody, and those who know him well are shocked further that he shows absolutely no remorse. In fact, he wants to kill more. For the first time in a while we see his fixed mindset as something else than comic fodder, and it brings his relationship with Amy to a head. What’s more, Gargantia itself is turned on its head. First there’s the whole controversy, then that horde of whalesquids travel underneath the fleet in a tense scene, and then Pinion and Flange announce they’re off to do salvage work in whalesquid territory, i.e., they’re off to kill whalesquid. Pinion’s true reason for this “salvage job” feels fake; that and Fairlock’s sudden heart attack, but everything combined makes you wonder if killing that whalesquid did put a curse on Gargantia.

Attack on Titan 7 … Talk about questions …

Onward to certain death!
Onward to certain death!

The first half, after a brief and unneeded historical catch-up, was all about the soldiers stuck in front of the latest wall, running low on gas and unable to obtain more because the giants were crawling all over the place where they store the stuff (what idiot did the planning for this defense anyway?), and mainly about Mikasa trying to rally them with a “If you quit, you already lost” theme that worked great for her, but not so well on a bunch of despondent men and women who feel they’ve lost already. And she goes off on a suicide mission, which at least inspires them. We see some more of them die and more grow despondent, especially Armin, who was that way back in episode one. Then, right when Mikasa is about to be snatched up by a giant, a funny thing happens.

So were we.
So are we.

This giant who turns against the other giants, and who can fight like humans do, has a couple other differences. First, it has abs. All the other giants we’ve seen look like they ought to get out to the gym once in a while. It’s got longer hair, too, and pointed ears. Finally, it isn’t eating people. That is as remarkable as fighting the other giants. Mikasa describes it as a giantifation of humanity’s rage, and you can’t help but think of Eren. If a giant eats you do you become a giant yourself? I’m not buying it. Surely they would have noticed that by now. On the other hand, this isn’t the brightest colony of people I’ve ever encountered in fiction.