Monday 23 July 2018

First Impressions: Attack on Titan Season 3

Attack on Titan season 3
Attack on Titan season 3 is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll 

If there's one mistake the phenomenally popular Attack on Titan anime adaptation has made since its debut all the way back in 2013, it's probably the five hiatus there was between the first and second seasons. And then if there's two mistakes the show has made, the other would be the decision to cut that second season short at a mere 12 episodes (compared to the first's 25 episodes). It seems that Studio Wit are well aware of this fact, as not only does Titan's third season arrive just a year later than its predecessor but has already been guaranteed to run for a far more agreeable total of 24 episodes. After the big revelations that took place at the end of the previous season, what will this batch of episodes have in store for Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi and the rest of the Survey Corps?

The story enters a brand new chapter in episode 38 of the series overall, entitled "Smoke Signal". Captain Levi's chosen squad is camping out in a cottage to protect both Eren and Historia, while Hange carries out experiments on Eren's Titan form to test his hardening abilities. But following the murder of Pastor Nick, the Survey Corps become an enemy of the government. Upon reaching Trost both Historia and Eren are quickly targeted, while Levi comes face to face with a figure from his past.

Now that we're 38 episodes into the series it's clear by now that Attack on Titan can do away with the shock value of its season premieres, as anyone still watching at this point has already been sufficiently grabbed by the story and is here to see where it's headed next. So while "Smoke Signal" is still very much Attack on Titan, it's not quite the season opener you might expect. This is an episode free from any Titan action whatsoever (Eren's brief moment of experimentation notwithstanding), instead focusing on how the characters are recovering from the revelations of the previous season as well as the human factor in the show's conflict. This is an episode of political intrigue, focusing on elements that have always been a part of Attack on Titan but only now seem to properly be taking centre stage for the first time.

Following Bertolt and Reiner's reveal as Titans and the emergence of something much larger at play, it's no surprise to see the military fractured and our heroes reflecting on these revelations. Their cottage hideaway manages to sneak in a few moments of humour with Sasha's food stealing and Levi's strict nature when it comes to cleanliness, but otherwise it's a fairly sombre affair. The lack of enemy Titans doesn't mean the episode doesn't have the odd bit of gore though, as the "Eren Experiment" doesn't quite go to plan and Eren comes out of his Titan form a little worse for wear. Hange's usual mad scientist schtick injects a little more dark humour into things, but after that it's a pretty straight-faced affair.

Pastor Nick has been murdered after relaying information to the Survey Corps in the previous season, an act carried out and then covered up by the First Interior Squad. The Survey Corps are now being hunted by the military, and the team return to Trost where they flush out the seemingly amateur kidnappers with a fake Eren and Historia. Mikasa gets to show off her usual badass self here, but it's what's going on outside with Levi that's really interesting as the show introduces a completely human antagonist in the form of Kenny the Ripper. Viewers who haven't dived into the manga at any point will be completely in the dark about just who Kenny is, but he certainly doesn't waste time making his presence felt. He's a serial killer said to have killed over 100 people, and with the way he quickly takes out poor Nifa that body count is probably going to go up over the next few episodes. "Smoke Signal" is an episode of mostly reflection and setup but these last few minutes come bring back that Attack on Titan action we all know and love - complete with those wonderful 3D gear visuals so much of the second season lacked.

So while it might not be the Attack on Titan season three premiere some might have expected, this episode battens down the hatches as it sets a clear direction for the story going forward as well as proving it has far more to tell than just nightmarish giants eating people. With so much story left to tell this will hopefully be the place where the show is able to push forward properly without immediately doubling back to exposition, but when it's Attack on Titan who really knows. Will 2018 be the the year we finally get to see what's down in Eren's basement? You'll have to keep watching and find out...


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