Attack On Titan’s Season 3 Premiere Takes An Unexpected New Direction

Attack on Titan

Cultured Vultures spoilers

Season 3 is finally here. Well, almost. The premiere episode airs on July 22, but it was shown in theaters nationwide right after a special Season 2 compilation movie on July 10 and 11. And you can bet that I went to see it. How could I not? At long last, fans of the anime who haven’t read the manga (like myself) will get answers to all those questions we’ve had over the years: what exactly are Titans? Where do Reiner, Bertholt, and Annie come from, and why did they attack humanity? What’s in Eren’s dad’s basement? Will Ymir ever confess her undying love for Historia? (That last one’s a personal question of mine, but I want to know, darn it.)

Okay, obviously the premiere doesn’t reveal all the secrets that have been building up since the beginning, and I never expected or necessarily wanted it to. However, it did go in a direction I certainly wasn’t anticipating, and I think only time will tell if that’s a good thing or not.

The biggest change from the Season 2 finale is the massive tonal shift. The Season 3 premiere is full of humorous moments almost immediately. I watched it in a theater full of Attack on Titan fans, and there was more laughter throughout one twenty-minute episode than there was throughout the two-hour Season 2 compilation movie. Honestly, it was a bit strange for me.

Attack on Titan is not without humor, but overall it is a very serious, violent, often heart-wrenching show. The Season 2 finale is especially tragic due to Hannes’s death (until I rewatched it in the theater I’d forgotten how gut wrenching it is: Eren nearly chewing his own hand off trying to save Hannes from the very same Titan that killed Eren’s mother, then Eren screaming about how worthless and useless he is after the Titan eats Hannes). But the Season 3 premiere opens with the remaining members of 104 doing a bit of spring cleaning for Captain Levi, the series’ main heartthrob, whose obsession with cleanliness is a running joke throughout the show. We get more Sasha eating when she shouldn’t jokes, more Hange being quirky and weird, and most bizarrely, a very, very strange and slightly uncomfortable scene where Armin, disguised as Historia, is fondled by a creepy old man. (The theater audience I saw the premiere with all laughed at this part, but it was the kind of awkward laughing you do when you don’t know how else to react.) Even Mikasa, whom I love with all my heart but, let’s face it, isn’t exactly a huge source of humor, gets a laugh now and then. It almost makes you forget she was tearfully pouring her heart out to Eren after watching Hannes get eaten only a few days before.

It was certainly odd to see all these humorous moments fresh off the emotional grittiness of Season 2, but like I said, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, it’s okay to give your poor audience’s hearts a break from the pain every once in a while, and I enjoyed seeing characters who’ve suffered so much act more lighthearted for a change. Plus, it’s not like everything is sunshine and roses. Historia is no longer her cheery, optimistic, kind self; she now seems disillusioned and almost bitter after Ymir’s departure (why did you have to leave, Ymir?). Eren even tells her he thinks it’s more natural for her to be solemn, which I think would sound like an insult coming from anybody but Eren, the Boy-Lord of Rage.

What worries me more than the humor is the direction the story seems to be going – namely, the introduction of a new villain named Kenny. All we know about Kenny is that he’s a mass murderer, the leader of a group of cowboy-esque bandits, and that Levi knows him (we don’t yet know how). What makes me a little uncertain about this new plot element is that we’ve already just revealed three characters – Reiner, Bertholt, and Annie – as not only enemies and traitors, but Titans. Titans have always been the main antagonists, and there’s still so much the characters – not to mention the viewers -need to learn about them. So why introduce a new, non-Titan villain now? It feels like a distraction. Even multiple plot threads in seasons 1 and 2 were in some sense Titan-related, but this seems very out-of-the-blue. I also noticed fan-favorite Levi is taking a much larger role, and though I like him as a character, I’m not sure how I feel about him taking center stage. It almost seems (dare I say it) like fan service.

Still, it’s too early to tell. I realize the series is based on a manga, which I haven’t read, and I always attributed Attack on Titan’s story smoothness to this fact. But even if this new plot development is in the manga, I wonder why they’ve decided to make it a main focus of the season. After all, there’s no guarantee of a Season 4, and I’ve heard conflicting reports on how long this season’s run will be. If there is only one season left, shouldn’t Attack on Titan’s focus be…on the Titans?

In reality, though, I’m not too worried about it. Attack on Titan’s biggest strength is its ability to get better and better and better, and whether that’s a product of the writers, the manga, or both, I’m fairly confident we’re still going to get an excellent (and gut wrenching) story, in one way or another.

And hey, at least we didn’t have to wait four years.

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