Attack on Titan Season 2 is Spring 2017’s most eagerly anticipated series by miles, and quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated sequel in anime history. Four years, two live action movies, two spin-off series and a video game later, the franchise that took the world by storm in 2013 doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down.
After the battle against the Female Titan in Stohess, the truth about the walls is discovered. Elsewhere, members of the 104th Division are held captive by the Survey Corps, suspecting a Titan spy within their ranks. Titans appear inside Wall Rose, so everyone moves out to defend against the new threat. The Titans seem to be led by the Beast Titan: an Abnormal covered in fur and able to speak. After several battles, several members reunite at Wall Rose, where the identities of the Colossal and Armored Titan are revealed. Eren transforms to fight the Armored Titan but he is overpowered and both he and Ymir are kidnapped. Erwin quickly rides for Wall Rose to lead the rescue mission.
One thing I noticed early on is just how much better the animation quality is this time around. After the first episode came out, I realised just how much I missed Attack on Titan so I started rewatching it from the beginning. Seeing the two seasons together only emphasised the difference. This makes a lot of sense because Isayama’s art itself has steadily improved over the last eight years. Little details from the manga have found their way into the anime, like the lines used to create shadows, but the distinct art style of the first season stays relatively consistent. The improvements add up, so while it definitely feels like the old Attack on Titan, it’s much nicer to look at.
And with a worldwide audience, there are more people to impress. I’m assuming that Wit Studio have invested more money into the series now they know it’s popular, and with more eyes watching than your average seasonal anime there’s bound to be more pressure to make everything right.
But it’s paid off.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything has been copied exactly as it is in the manga. Certain scenes have been moved around – the most noticeable of which is Ymir’s backstory. The current story arc was released in manga format five years ago, but the chapter talking about her life beyond the walls was only released five months ago. This actually works, and helps correct my main issue with the manga at the moment. Over the last couple of arcs it’s seemed like Isayama is trying to fit in as much information as he can, which makes it difficult to read sometimes. Moving some scenes around fixes the pacing and means that the upcoming arcs don’t get too confusing.
Doing that makes a lot of sense, seeing as Isayama suggested in an interview that the anime was “the definitive version” of the story (source, p.44). That’s one of the advantages of having two adaptations of the same thing; being able to change things that didn’t work perfectly the first time.
Although, while the pacing was much better; there were a couple of moments that slowed the story down. The entire first half seemed to be steadily picking up momentum, with a final sprint that culminated in the big Titan reveal at the end of episode 31. Yes, the way they were revealed was very calm to start with, but by downplaying the drama it flipped the audience’s expectations. They quietly lit the fuse, giving us just enough time to have that “Wait, what?” moment before the bomb exploded. This worked so well that the following episodes didn’t seem to be able to live up to the new standard.
The battle between Eren and the Armored Titan was technically brilliant and used realistic fighting, but the flashbacks made it feel a bit slow. However, it was necessary to show Annie’s influence. Episode 33 felt like a filler episode with Hannes, Armin and Mikasa reminiscing about life in Shiganshina, and while I can see why they included it, it just didn’t seem like the story was going anywhere. Thankfully, the pace sped up again towards the end of the season.
Another thing I noticed was that the music this season has been absolutely phenomenal. While Season 1 had a soundtrack that perfectly fit the dramatic atmosphere, those songs have been reused and reinvented for the new story arc and it’s definitely paid off. From the use of Counterattack Mankind at the end of episode 37 to the new version of Call Your Name in the flashback to Ymir’s past, they’ve kept the familiar music but changed it enough to feel fresh again. Even the full version of the opening theme samples the first two openings. But the standout example of this is the reworking of Vogel im Kafig in episode 31. In my opinion, Vogel im Kafig has always been one of the best tracks on the OST but now it’s even better. Combining more prominent drum beats and new additions to the vocals, it feels so much more intense and really reflects the raw emotion.
Overall, it’s been a very strong season, arguably even better than the first. Cutting it short has only done it a favour, focusing on quality rather than quantity. Here’s hoping that Season 3 keeps up the standard, but judging by the preview clip, there should be 25 episodes again. Some of the manga panels in the preview are very recent, and there wouldn’t be enough time to cover all of it in a single 12 episode run.
Either way, Attack on Titan has consistently proved that it deserves the hype.
What was your favourite moment of the season? Let me know in the comments!
You can find the rest of my Attack on Titan posts here (caution, there will be manga spoilers).