Shingeki no Kyojin enters its training arc. Now I know many of you hate the sound of that, but one can’t deny that this isn’t like any other training arc.
What was originally a flashback arc in the manga, this episode starts the training arc of the series. A wise decision on the director’s part to do this – you’ll see why if you ever decide to read the manga from page one – and most importantly, it still feels like Shingeki no Kyojin. By no means does it feel like any other shonen series.
Even with the titan attack over for the time being, we can still feel the sense of urgency and despair in the atmosphere. As we’re introduced to the new crop of recruits, the mean-looking drill sergeant makes it a point to tell them they are worthless human offerings. This did give off an odd feeling of misplaced comedy, which would be more evident later on, but for the most part it served well to reinforce the point that humanity is losing the war. The drill sergeant is most likely putting up a front – we learn later on he’s rooting for Eren because of a connection to his father – but he’s in the same boat as everyone else. How else could you describe him being able to pick out the hardened survivors from this line-up?
As entertaining as the drill sergeant was, the focus on Eren was the bigger attraction of this episode. Right now he still comes off too cocky and full of himself, so seeing him be put in his place was a a little satisfying. Eren may have a reason for saying, “the powerless don’t belong here,” and to recount his memories like it’s nothing but it doesn’t excuse him. Rather it makes him look like another selfish human being in a time of dread. Of course as the main character, he couldn’t suffer for too long and hence the quick resolution. Nevertheless, it should do as a wake-up call which our male lead was more in need of than any training; we can get to the training later, but his personality needed to be fixed first. His personal crisis also served well in introducing some of the new characters, and more importantly establishing a bond with some of them.
Eren’s development may have been the highlight, but I did find myself to be drawn to Sasha in this episode. Earlier I mentioned a feeling of misplaced comedy being present in the episode, and in Sasha’s case it was intentional. Though she may be one of the less sharp characters in the manga, I do feel as though she’s been stamped as the comic relief character for the adaptation and that in itself doesn’t bode well for me. Just by doing this, she was the only one to stand out from the new group of characters but not in a positive way or should I say, a way befitting the series. This is just my personal inseparable bias as a fan of the manga, but this is one (minor) decision I’m not too happy about and I’d be glad to hear from others if it feels out of place or not.
As I wrap up my thoughts, I must admit: episodes like these will have me troubled. It goes back to my knowledge of the source material and whilst I can appreciate the episode being well-done, I do find myself saying “just reveal it was a malfunction already.” This will probably happen once or twice more in the series, but in the grand scheme of things it’s nothing worth mulling over.