Introducing: Potato Girl.
What They Say:
Many years ago, the last remnants of humanity were forced to retreat behind the towering walls of a fortified city to escape the massive, man-eating Titans that roamed the land outside their fortress. Only the heroic members of the Scouting Legion dared to stray beyond the safety of the walls – but even those brave warriors seldom returned alive. Those within the city clung to the illusion of a peaceful existence until the day that dream was shattered, and their slim chance at survival was reduced to one horrifying choice: kill – or be devoured!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This was definitely the most laid-back episode so far. No one gets eaten, or narrowly escapes getting eaten, or is constantly living in fear of getting eaten. In contrast with the tension of the first two episodes, this one has a lot of funny moments and glimpses of everyday life. Most of the time is spent familiarizing us with a bunch of new characters, and cleverly, the drill sergeant’s orientation/yelling spree is used to introduce everyone by their full names. For this episode’s purposes, though, the main names to remember are Reiner Braun, Bertolt Huber, and Sasha Blause.
Sasha is a happy-go-lucky girl who seems entirely out of place in the military. She’s generally very relaxed and her mind wanders easily, but any mention of food will instantly energize her. She earns the nickname “Potato Girl” for eating a boiled potato during the drill sergeant’s address, then breaking off a piece to try to share with him. Basically, Sasha is the comic relief character. Let’s hope that Attack on Titan doesn’t follow horror movie logic and kill off the funniest person early on.
Sasha’s antics occur throughout the episode, but Reiner and Bertolt only become important in the latter half. Soon after arriving at the camp, Eren begins to attract the attention of the other trainees when he announces his intention to kill every last Titan. He then fails the single most basic training test the very next day. It’s an exercise based on maintaining balance: each trainee is strung up on a set of wires and told to retain an upright position. Since most Titan-fighting is done using aerial combat suits, balance control is essential. Eren goes into the test full of confidence, but after being hoisted into the air he immediately flips upside down.
Distressed at his failure, Eren asks his peers for help. He ends up receiving extra training from Reiner and Bertolt, who sympathize with him because they too witnessed a Titan attack firsthand. Many of the other trainees come from the inner reaches of human territory and have never seen the things up close, but Reiner and Bertolt’s secluded mountain village was invaded soon after the Titans broke through Wall Maria. They agree to give him extra help the night before Eren’s final evaluation.
The next day, amazingly, Eren still fails the test. He’s horrified at the idea that he’ll never get the chance to become a soldier. Then the drill sergeant notices that the belt on his equipment is faulty. After replacing it, Eren passes the test easily, and some in the crowd are impressed that he was able to maintain balance temporarily while using broken gear. Curiously, that particular piece is said to almost never break on its own. Sabotage, perhaps?
The last few minutes of the episode pack in a lot of foreshadowing. Mikasa seems even more subdued than normal, and she implies to Armin that she and Eren are going to be separated eventually. For some reason, the drill sergeant knows Eren’s mother personally (and we find out that her name is Grisha). Even the “next episode” teaser sounded pretty sinister.
In the end, I’m not actually sure if Eren learned his lesson. The moral of the story is supposed to be that willpower isn’t by itself enough to accomplish a goal, but Eren’s strength of will is the only thing he relies on once he realizes he lacks the talent he’s being tested for. Will that work to his advantage, or is his unrealistic determination going to come back to haunt him? Since this is an anime, I’m betting on option #1. It’s often more fun to watch fictional characters solve their problems emotionally since real life tends to demand that we solve ours rationally. See Gurren Lagann.
Episode 3 winds down a bit from the violence and terror of the first two episodes. Eren becomes depressed when he fails a simple test to quality for army training, but it turns out that his equipment was just malfunctioning. Several new characters are introduced and there’s even a bit of comic relief. The comedy seems a bit out of place, but that feeling might actually be intentional. Attack on Titan seems to be using its humour the same way people make jokes to ease a tense situation. There’s still that lingering awareness of the elephant in the room. If this had instead been a beach episode or something, it would have only taken away from the show’s very serious beginning. In any case, now that Eren, Mikasa and Armin have all officially begun training we can probably expect the action to pick up again soon. I’m looking forward to seeing that Deep Canvas-style background animation used for some aerial combat scenes.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Insignia 1080p TV, PS3 with Crunchyroll App; Occasionally 17” Toshiba Satellite Laptop, 2.13 GHz Core i3, 4GB RAM, Windows 7