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Attack On Titan Episode 18 Review: Objectifies Women, Is Thrilling
Attack On Titan Episode 18 aired last Sunday morning: and it maintains the show’s relentless plot of harrowing adventure and plot twists.
The Recon Corps are still frantically running around inside Wall Maria trying to get to Shiganshina to find Eren’s house. Their big ole safety formation is beginning to crumble on one flank, as the crazy, probably human controlled Female Titan charges to their centre.
This episode, in a rather clever narrative one-shot for the series, follows various groups in the pre-counterattack preparations by the Recon Corps. The flares which they use to communicate in-formation function as a surprisingly clever device by which the viewer is treated to lots of little scenarios across the platoon. Witnessing green flares shot up in the distance, we swap from Armin and his posse to Levi and Eren in their central position. This allows the episode to swap narratives back and forth between several small characters, giving an impression almost of vignettes. It’s a clever effect. And in fact, it’s probably the only clever thing Attack On Titan has done thus far from a narrative standpoint.
The plot itself picks up with a stranded Reiner, Armin, and Jean. Armin’s horse is gone, and the three are stranded in the wake of the Female Titan. They send an emergency flare, and a character who is practically previously unseen, Christa, shows up to save them.
This scene pained me greatly. Alongside some wonky localisation, the treatment of Christa is an agonizingly idolised female one. As per usual, the characters rarely talk like real people, be it due to localisation or actual writing, as when they address Christa, who saves the trio: “You’re an exceptionally nice person.” But worse is that they worship Christa, who is presented as a painfully one-dimensional woman who only cares about the safety of the men. “I’m just glad you’re all alive and well,” she says, tearing up. “I’m really glad.” It’s an overly emotional, melodramatic scene, and how do the men respond?
“A godess,” Jean mutters. Says Braun: “I want to marry her.”
This isn’t good chat, and even though it’s nice, it’s pretty agonizing objectification. She displays no personality or independence, she simply saves them and swoons, loving that they’re still alive and okay. Worse, when talking about the Female Titan attacking their flank (lucky “that monster didn’t go to command up front,”) Christa then asks, “what monster?”
The men ignore the question.
So here’s a pretty brutal example of how awfully anime can handle female characters. Christa’s only purpose in the scene is to service the men: she saves them, is superficially idolised by them, then is completely ignored when action is actually taken. The men treat her like an object; she helps them, or she is ignored. No actual discussion or dialogue with her takes place.
Otherwise, the rest of the episode is remarkably strong. We witness what seems to be the gradual crumbling of Erwin’s plan to reach Shiganshina; until a surprise plan to enter the eponymous “Forest Of Giant Trees.”
Before they reach the forest, we’re treated to a fantastic scene, via a smoke-signal jump cut, where several of the Recon Corps battle the Female Titan in a nearby town. There haven’t been enough bits of full-frontal Titan combat in the series thus far, but it looks like that’s changing. This battle scene is fantastic and brutal, the men being picked off savagely and quickly by the Titan as they try to take her down. At one point she punts one of them, horse and all, into the horizon. It’s savage. But thrilling. She swings a man like a nunchuk at speeds which clearly break his body. The only minor issue in this scene is the clearly reused CGI graphic of the “3D Manoeuvre Gear” when the men spring into action.
After such a brutal scene, a welcome change of pace comes when we are reunited with the wagon full of we-don’t-know-what, transporting junk on a cart through the forest of giant trees.
Superstitiously, the men en route fear and hate the forest. Which makes me wonder about it’s origin: are we seeing a forest of trees from the same bloated, giant genome as the Titans? I have a mini-fantasy about the ending whereby the Titans are some sort of assistants, like robots, created to help humanity do stuff. Which would explain why we can control them with certain injections. Perhaps the forest of giant trees were a method of high-impact lumber sourcing.
Whether this is the fact or not, this is where the episode’s final minutes sit. The forest. Most squads are commanded to garrison in the branches of the giant trees, and the rest of the episode is just confusion: people wondering about whether they will survive or not, and questioning the authority’s enigmatic plan. That is, until the Attack On Titan Episode 18’s absolutely thrilling ending. the pace suddenly picks up, the stakes are high, everything’s intense and well designed. The music is also fantastic, and you can see where the anime for a show like this would creep ahead of the manga.
As per usual for this show, it ends on a cliffhanger. The Female Titan comes bursting onto the scene after brilliant tension, and tears apart a couple of dudes. Then Levi tells the squad, Eren in tow, to cover their ears as he fires a flare into the sky.
One of the triumphs of this show is its constant cliffhangers and compelling moments. The story never seems to let up. Works like this are few and far between. An episode has yet to go by which doesn’t have an incredibly compelling development or two, and this episode is no exception. I reckon the wagon, or perhaps a secretly placed weapon in the forest itself, is about to be used to destroy the female titan. Hence the ear-covering. Maybe a huge explosion is in order.
Speaking of which, I personally think the Female Titan is Anna. It looks like her facially and follically, and Anna was always an aloof, slightly dangerous character. Could she be villainous in some way? I can’t wait to find out.
Check back in at the end of the week for our roundup on episode 19. Jees, we must only have another few weeks of this show to go. As it is, Attack On Titan Episode 18 is one of the best episodes thus far.