WARNING: Contains spoilers. Written from the POV of a manga reader, so anime-only viewers please beware.
Oh boy, what an episode! For a manga reader like me, everything felt so rushed, given the almost three weighty chapters condensed into only twenty five minutes of anime. Let’s see how Director Hayashi and his crew fared this time around.
Warriors in All Their Glory
We meet the warriors once again, this time with formal assessment from Magat himself. I absolutely love the way they animated this section of the manga’s Chapter 95. The photos that look like mugshots and the sheets with detailed drawings that look like design specifications are absolutely fantastic. I live for the rare moments when an adaptation is better than the original, and this is one clear instance where the animators truly outdid themselves. Aren’t the drawings wonderful? Bravo to the MAPPA artists!
I’m loving it, the anime-only images inspiring me to make one collage after another. I’ll post what I’ve made in a separate article.
An Apple from the Secret Royal
The warrior candidates are having a chat that would soon turn into a Porco vs Reiner argument, and we see an anime-only scene of young Zeke biting into an apple before tossing it to his fellow warriors. I wonder what that apple symbolizes? In Krista’s picture book we saw a scene of Founder Ymir in human form handing an apple to the devil. I feel the apple is associated with the Founder and this is the anime’s way of saying her blood runs through Zeke’s veins.
In a ticker tape parade the newly-minted warriors are proudly waving to a cheering crowd, and here is another anime-only scene that I simply love:
Isn’t this birds-eye-view (or drone view for us 21st-century humans) just breathtaking? I love all the details that went into the background scenery. It looks like a lovely old Italian town, and especially because COVID-19 restrictions don’t allow for travel, I am thankful for this beautiful scene for providing a moment of escapism. Two thumbs up!
Toxic Mother, Toxic Father
Next to Historia’s mum, Karina Braun gets the Never Mother of the Year award, and here we see her deluding herself and her son into believing that their becoming honorary Marleyans would make Reiner’s Marleyan father want to live together as a family. So the bastard son takes it upon himself to realise his mother’s dream, futile though it may be. He gets to confront his father who rejects them both outright, and the way the scene is voiced and acted in the anime makes the encounter truly heartbreaking.
With this scene we are reminded once again of how tragic Reiner’s life is. Tragedy is an almost guaranteed result when a child is forced to live a parent’s dream instead of his own, and in this episode we see Reiner breaking down before our eyes, bowed by the weight of his failure to live up to expectations, both external and self-imposed. Poor Reiner. He soon remembers past events and they are all clothed in tragedy.
Marcel confessing to Reiner about what he did to save Porco, and then saving Reiner from Ymir and dying in the process, is so well-animated. The haunting music is perfect, and so are the colors of the sky as it transitions from night to dawn. I expected to hear Marcel’s screams while he was being devoured, but I also like the still-type way they illustrated the incident.
This event would haunt Reiner for the rest of his life, and it’s so hard to blame him for wanting to end it all, as we shall see later in the episode.
Annie Says It Honestly
The way Annie savages Reiner after what happened is shown in its full brutality. We see her blinded with rage, kicking him again and again and saying what she really thinks about the stupidity of the entire world and the meaninglessness of whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. It’s Annie in her rawest and most merciless, forecast by her stomping on that grasshopper earlier in the episode. We know that later on she’ll stomp on Original Squad Levi in the forest as well as other Scouts, but first it is her own comrade who is the receiving end of her fury.
Poor Reiner. This episode is all about his story, and next to Zeke’s it is perhaps the most tragic amongst the warriors. This portion of the manga is perfectly animated, no holds barred, even if they took out the manga panel of him flashing back to his mother telling her biggest lie.
Room Full of Survivors
Don’t you just love the scene below?
Classic RBA. Reiner promises to do better, Bert closes his eyes, Annie still looks pissed. The Wall Rosé hall housing the survivors is beautifully lit with natural light from outside.
An entire portion of Chapter 96 has been passed over in the anime: Well-muscled Reiner without a shirt on uprooting trees, with Annie and Bert discussing what little they’ve accomplished so far in the past two years. They’ve gathered a bit of classified information, and Annie wants to run with what they have and go home. She can’t think of anything else they could do, as getting hired as a servant by the powers that be is impossible, and she says she doesn’t have what it takes to entice one of their men into becoming lovers. Bert objects, very adorably.
I was waiting for this scene to be animated, but alas! The whole convo was chopped off, never to see the anime light of day. At least they did include the village man who hanged himself out of guilt for abandoning his kids when the titans came calling.
Annie Leonhart vs Kenny Ackermann
This scene was so promising at first: the dialogue follows the manga almost in its entirety, Annie looks fab in her color coordinated outfit, and Kenny is being our amazing Kenny. Annie’s roundhouse kick is so cool that we are reminded once again why she is Best Girl.
What disappointed me, however, was their removal of the sewer scene. In the manga (Chapter 97), Annie escapes via a tiny manhole and into the city’s sewage network. It’s a single panel but very compelling: a petite girl gagging at the rotten smell of the place. With that one panel we are made to understand all the trouble Annie goes through as a spy, and when she complains to Reiner that she’s had enough, we are sympathetic because we’ve gone down the sewer with her. It was truly unfortunate how they didn’t include this panel in the anime.
One thing I really liked, however, was this anime-only perspective:
Isn’t it incredible? I adore all the efforts the animators made to immerse us in the sights and sounds of the city. Even the shop signs are lovely. MAPPA’s backdrops are simply wonderful, and I especially like that everything feels so dark and heavy and full of secrets. Such an atmosphere best captures this arc of the manga. Another two thumbs up for this one!
Heartwarming but Terrible
What comes next is what really broke my heart, and is actually the main cause of me taking so long to post this review. Let me explain.
In the manga (Chapter 97) we see a flashback scene of cadet Eren in a very bad mood, arguing with Jean, who is being his usual cocky self. They accuse each other of incompetence and come to blows. Reiner gets between them, trying to stop the fight. Floch yells, “Early in the morning and already you’re both so fucking annoying!” Annie, dark circles under her eyes, looks on unimpressed. There is this hilarious panel of smart aleck Jean, standing behind Reiner, taunting a pissed Eren who tries to strangle him.
I absolutely loved this part of Reiner’s flashback because it reminds us of so many important things: that Reiner acted his big brother role to perfection, that Eren and Jean used to fight all the time, that the words Jean says are like daggers into Eren’s heart. He cares about what Jean thinks of him, and he reacts (sometimes overreacts) to what Jean says. This is the Eren we love so much: the boy who tries very hard to do well, to become strong and skilled yet frustrated by his lack of natural talent, and also the Jean we love so much: the talented but lazy boy who tells it straight, who doesn’t mince words, and the Reiner we love so much: the boy who in spite of himself had grown to care for his islander friends, so much so that he developed a split personality because of it.
For so long I couldn’t wait for Chapter 96 to be animated because of the sweet nostalgia it gives us at this advanced stage of the story. We need this nostalgia to remind us of the way they used to be, in order to fully appreciate how much they’ve changed. But woe is me! Chop, snip, cut, bin! The entire scene was thrown out the window in the anime, and instead we get an Eren who asks Reiner how to become strong like him and Mikasa, without any mention of Jean.
I still haven’t forgiven WIT Studio for chopping off in its entirety Jean’s astounding monologue in Chapter 3 before he and Eren fight, as well as the sensational manga scene of Mikasa hoisting Eren onto her shoulder and literally taking him out of the situation. I had high hopes for MAPPA treating Jean more fairly, giving him the time of day, but alas! My hopes and dreams dashed to the ground once more.
Jean’s character gets no love from animators; even his OVA was silly, and I wonder why this is when he’s one of the best-written characters in the manga. I’m biased, of course, because I’m a Jean stan, but if you’re a manga-loving reader you’ll know exactly what I mean: Jean has the best character development amongst the 104th and it’s a total shame animators are incapable of appreciating his awesomeness.
Thus, my utter disappointment at all of the above completely sucked the writing life out of me and I spent the entirety of Monday’s lunch hour reading Jujutsu Kaisen instead of writing a review, and the evening after work watching taped anime episodes of Dorohedoro, because the other anime I love disgruntled me and I was in no mood to write a single sentence.
But it’s Tuesday now, I’ve cooled down and am back to my typing self. I’m still upset about Jean’s snubbing in this episode, but I think this can all be solved by me lowering my expectations to the point where I won’t expect anything at all when it comes to animating Jean Kirschtein.
Alright, enough ranting from me. Let’s go back to the anime and the things I liked about it.
Reiner Loses Hope
Sunlight streaming through the barred windows of a barely-lit room, haunting music, flashbacks to all his many failures and bad decisions… Our beloved Reiner is facing an existential crisis and cannot take it anymore.
Having lost all hope, he points a rifle inside his mouth, angled to blow his brains out, but just as he is about to pull the trigger, an angel saves him.
Falco is an angel, literally. The boy’s searing honesty, his touching display of weakness and vulnerability, is what saves Reiner. It’s interesting how one person’s pain becomes the wake up call for another suffering human being. Reiner realises he still has these kids who need his help, and this is what foils his suicide attempt. What a perfectly animated scene: so atmospheric, so utterly heartbreaking. With the stunning play of shadow and light on both the interior and exterior walls, this part of the manga is beautifully brought to life by the anime.
Precious Wounded Eren
A despondent Falco schlepps to town and passes by the hospital, responding to this mysterious patient who calls out to him. I’m really glad they adapted the manga dialogue in its entirety instead of condensing it. We are blessed with hearing adult Eren speak for the first time. It is VA Yuki Kaji at his finest, using his depressed, grownup voice to bring to life our incognito protagonist posing as a mental hospital patient.
The animation is impeccable, with the anime-only man banging his head over and over against the wall being particularly emotive. Pitch perfect.
Eren looks absolutely gorgeous despite (or because of?) the messy hair and bandages. His words are incredibly stirring and poignant as always. “Only the person who pushes himself through his own sheer will is able to see what lies beyond hell. Whether it is hope or more hell I cannot say, but it is only he that moves forward who is able to find out.”
Ahhhhh. How beautifully spoken, how utterly heart-rendering. Everything Eren-related makes me cry these days. The manga is deeply sad, and the anime will become sadder as the episodes go by. Is there no end to this sadness?
As an answer to that, and to end this long-winded review, here’s a screencap of our lovely, teary-eyed protagonist, back when he was still so young, that nostalgic period when he was still unaware of the absolute, corrupting power that lurked beneath his skin.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of this anime episode? Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. xoxo, hana
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