Attack on Titan dominated the fan scene three years ago. Conventions were filled wall to wall with its cosplay, and it was one of the few anime projects breaking out into the mainstream. Garnering attention for its fresh take on post-apocalyptic media, this bleak series was a giant success. Then the anime production went on hiatus for three years.
It’s yet to be seen whether or not the hiatus was good for the second season’s production, but after watching the first two episodes it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. To be gone for so long just to come back and assume it’s business as usual is presumptuous and will definitely mark this series going forward.
It’s got a good opening theme though.
As Attack on Titan‘s second season will most likely stick to the manga (as the first two episodes imply), the extended hiatus is already a major problem. It presumes we’ve cared about the story enough to remember how the first season ended three years ago, and it jumps right back into the proceedings without a primer (no, a brief one-minute summary doesn’t count). Unlike Western productions that treat season premieres as a reintroduction, anime series don’t get that luxury from season to season. Usually it’s not a problem because they’re separated a year or so apart, but this big of a gap has yet to be tested on as large of a following as Attack on Titan had.
Well, with that out of the way, what of the premiere? After the events of the first season revealed a titan hidden in the wall, Pastor Nick (an unfortunate name) cries about how it needs to be hidden from the sun. Before anyone can get any concrete answers, however, Titans break through Wall Rose. Jumping to 12 hours earlier, a group of soldiers are seen dealing with the oncoming titans as one covered in fur reveals an intelligence and ability to speak not seen in the others. The second episode is Sasha-focused (Potato Girl), and builds her character slightly but is mainly notable because it shows two types of different titans: a smaller, skinner one and one with tiny arms and legs that couldn’t have moved on its own.
So what’s the main takeaway from this first new hour of Attack on Titan? Well, if you actually enjoyed the story from the first season then there might be some depth to be found here. Since we’ve already learned people can become titans, it’s now a matter of finding out who’s becoming these special titans like the furry guy, the Brock Lesnar one, and the marquee one from the first episode. If you’re in my camp, however, then, uh, you’re out of luck. Attack is as hollow as it always was, but I suppose the benefit from the hiatus is in its production value. It was always a good-looking anime, which is why I began watching it in the first place, and there’s been a bump in either its budget or framing. Either way, the animation seems to move a lot more smoothly than the first season already.
The first season generally saved its great animation for the action scenes, but in these first episodes it’s used sparingly but to good effect. Great animation in spurts helps highlight particularly important moments (such as when a soldier got his head ripped off) and gives them more impact. It’s especially notable in the second episode where Sasha uses a technique she once used on her father to escape the grip of a titan. If season two can continue this trend of using slick production value to emphasize important story beats rather than just blow the budget on yet another fight scene, it could be successful. Rather than not care when anyone died like in the first season, if Attack demonstrates why some deaths are more important than others then it’ll get my attention.
If it sounds like I’m being unreasonably harsh with Attack on Titan, it’s because I am. It’s arguably the biggest anime series this season, so I’m going to watch it with more scrutiny. Any series thinking it can take three years off and just reappear assuming folks will still care about it needs to deliver.
Here’s hoping it still can.
[You can now watch Attack on Titan season two on Crunchyroll, Funimation Now, and Hulu, and catch more of the latest anime and J-game coverage at Japanator!]