Given the nature of today’s media consumption, rarely does anything ‘stick’ unless constant updates are provided to keep out attention. Wit Studio’s faltering in releasing the second season of AoT has resulted in the series’s current lack of attention, which is a shame because it’s only gotten better since its first season.
Our story continues in humanity’s fight against the titans, bringing us back within the walls of Shingeki no Kyojin (or Attack on Titan, I just prefer the Japanese titles) where instead of a mass slaughter/operation to fight the brainless naked people, we’re given character moments, backstories, lore dumps, a lot of exposition, more lore dumps, dear god how many lore dumps are there?!
Harking back to the kind of tone that was established in Season 2, a lot of what Season 3 has to offer comes to expanding the cramped world of SNK outward by giving us an astronomical amount of lore and related content that gives a few answers and many, many questions which lead to said answers. A lot of the focus this time is centered around Historia, who got a major upgrade from her role as the background ‘cute girl’ that she was established in way back in Season 1, expanding her role as a character and the significance she holds after the events in Season 2. This, combined with a lot of retrospective moments that make the struggle of sustaining a population with limited space really helps set the alarming and desperate situation that the characters are in and gives a lot of motive as to why the Scouts give a damn to ‘take back Wall Maria’, as they’ve been saying for basically three seasons by this point.
While a nice (and beneficial) change of tone is good and all, the problem with the way this is presented is simply by how much of it there is. Factors like explaining the royal family, who Historia is, facts about Eren’s dad, the origin story of Eren’s dad, introducing an entirely new character who serves as an extension of Levi, bringing back an old face that appeared for like three episodes in Season 1, the list can goes on and on. This overload of information makes it extremely difficult to pace out correctly and ended up making the series disjointed and clunky in its presentation because all kinds of different information was being presented, especially in the latter half of the series where we get several episodes which were one-off episode backstories. The information is good and helpful, but the place for them was certainly less than ideal.
There’s also the issue of Wit Studio saying they’re ‘taking a break’ and split the originally 2-cour season into season part one and two. (J.C. Staff, don’t you laugh, you’re guilty of this too. You too Diomedia.) It’s one of those emerging practices that I’m not a fan of. Yes, studios need a break and a bigger time window so the animators can breathe a little bit, but the place that they ended on was such a big hype moment with a massive cliffhanger that it’s infuriating as the audience to have to wait several seasons before it can be released. Especially when the last few episodes of the ‘season’ just sort of meander without any real point to it since they can’t go farther risking an unsatisfactory stopping point. That’s one of the major reasons you lost a lot of viewership and attention here in the west after all, Wit.
+ Good tonal shift
+ Lots of worldbuilding and character moments
– Too much of it was jam packed together
– Ended right when things were getting fucking good. (You’re blueballin’ us here. And not in the good way.)
On the note of characters, the theme with SNK seems to be “Do everyone but the main characters”. While Eren certainly didn’t get the spotlight in Season 2 which was a nice breath of fresh air from his teenage vengeance boner, him being a more important part of Season 3 yet not really getting anything to himself aside from moments of reflection add, but don’t do his character any favor. He broods around so much that he does indeed seem he’s growing, but does it so much that it kinda gets annoying. A shame too considering a lot of his reflection does his character a lot of good. I just wish it was done more subtly and wasn’t so frequent.
Historia on the other hand gets so much attention that she might as well be the main character this time around. The entire season is centered around her character and her family history, which ties into the overall lore of the series. What we see is a dramatic growth in character that builds her from the meek and shy girl she was before to one worthy to pay heed to. It’s good growth that catalyzes a lot of organic action and motive, and was definitely one of the highlight moments of the season.
Unfortunately, much can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Levi gets his own mini area to himself, but it’s not nearly as developed as Historia and feels sloppily made cause it’s not HIS backstory; he’s just part of it. (That and the setting for it comes outta nowhere. We were literally never told that there’s an ‘underground’ before.) Armin and Mikasa are even worse off. They don’t really do anything aside from move where the plot demands them be. Even if they’re pushed to the side, they’re still protagonists, and should facilitate the plot in some way, but they don’t. The same could be said for any of the remaining scouts, where Jean just serves as a character foil to Eren and having a split relationship with Marco, and miscellaneous characters/cannon fodder who by this point you really shouldn’t care about cause their impact quite literally lasts for 10 minutes at most.
+ Historia’s growth
+/- Eren’s self reflection
– Everyone else kinda meanders
It’s been 5 years since the release of the first season, and Wit has drastically reduced the thickness of the black outline of the characters. The art is essentially the same, but higher quality, with some very nice choice animation sequences that stand out amazingly. The introduction of new areas also aid to make the world a lot prettier as their involvement expand the world and provide the animators something new to draw instead of fields and buildings.
The usage of CGI is also pretty prevalent this time but doesn’t stand out due to the series using it sparingly and only during wide or distance shots, which look amazing when they happen. It’s rare that I see CGI usage not bog down the show, so this is a case where I have to give Wit congratulations on a job well done.
Like the tonal shift, the music we get is a lot more somber and isn’t so high energy and firing at all cylinders like previous seasons. “Red Swan” by X JAPAN and HYDE is more focused on the vocals and has a smoother sound to it. Using a lot of piano and a lot less repetition like its OP predecessors, this song sticks out to me not only for that fact, but just how much it ties into the season with its themes of self reflection and perspective.
Similarly, “Akatsuki no Requiem” by Linked Horizon is kinda like a less intense version of Season 2’s ‘Sasageyo’, being more focused on having a smoother sound and sounding more like something you’d hear sung by a choir than a battle cry. Again, it’s one of those changes that I’m a fan of, expanding the potential of the series and the apparently complicated lore that it has.
The ‘Shonen’ genre has had three ages up till this point. The first age was the Big 3: Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece dominating the space with HunterxHunter lagging behind with a somewhat smaller but strong base behind it. The second age expanded with an explosion of popularity in the west: SAO and SNK being the forefront of that movement, both of which sitting mostly in memoriam but still have an existing following behind them. Currently we sit in the third age with Black Clover and especially Boku no Hero Academia, but we’re focusing mostly on the second age here.
Having followed the adaptation since the birth of the ‘second age’, I found Season 3 to be not as strong as Season 2 in terms of execution, and sort of as an equivalent to Season 1 if Season 1 focused more on trying to build the world instead of insane violence against both humans and titans alike. It’s still a positive change however, and gives the show a stronger footing in the overall story it’s trying to present, even if the lore delivery was pretty messy getting towards the end. Had the season not been split into two, I feel like it could’ve done a lot better overall since easy lead-ins would benefit the story more instead of NEEDING to end on a massive cliffhanger in order to keep people interested (which for the most part only angers your audience) and I would have more time to catch up instead of marathoning a fourth of the series in one sitting.
If you want more SNK, watch it. Honestly I’d vouch for this series to be seen by more people because it’s good, but hardly anyone cares about it because the landscape of anime is extremely unforgiving due to the seasonal schedules and the consumer’s need to consume things and quickly forget them once the season’s over. It’s a shame that Wit only found their footing to easily release more episodes of the series three years after the hype had truly died down, but for what it’s worth, it’s much easier to get into the series without fanatics memeing the fuck out of it so you can actually sit down and enjoy the goddamn thing without interruptions. It’s nice, if not a bit tragic.