Yo, domo, konnichiwa! I’m so glad you stopped by today. Please enjoy this review of Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) Season 2.
(Warning: This post may contain spoilers for AoT seasons 2 and 3)
In comparison to Season 3 (both parts), the visuals for AoT’s second season are slightly disappointing. Even compared to what the first season was like for its day, the second season just isn’t as high-budget, creative, or detailed with art and animation. Everything just looks a little downgraded to me. But it’s only a matter of giving the visuals an 8/10 instead of 9/10 or 10/10; the art and animation are still excellent. Though, I should give a few examples of its weaknesses.
There were fewer fast and dynamic shots of soldiers and recruits flying through the air with their ODM gear and killing titans. There is more CGI used here and there. The CGI for the Colossal Titan looks terrible. The choreography of the fight scene between Eren’s Titan and the armored Titan was solid, and the intensity of the fight was captured, but it didn’t look as smooth in execution as it could have. The movements of Ymir’s Titan don’t look as fast and fluid as I imagined them when I read the manga. Also, there weren’t quite as many impressive, detailed, or varied shots of scenery and buildings.
As usual for AoT, the action sequences are still way above average and lots of fun to watch. The character designs are terrific, the face expressions are great, the backgrounds and sets are good, and the Titans are as menacing and horrifying as ever.
The music is part of what makes me love Attack on Titan to no end. My favorite tracks from the Season 2 OST are “Ape Titan,” “See You BIG GIRL,” “Eren The Coordinate,” “Yamanaiame” (all versions), “Shingeki no Kyojin Medley,” “Weight of Lives,” “AoT S2 MHoka 1,” and others that are untitled. The song “So Ist Es Immer,” is also wonderful. I love the season 2 OP, “Shinzou wo Sasageyo,” just as much as the first season’s intro! (Both are by Linked Horizon and sound similar.) The unusual ED (“Yuugure no Tori” by Shinsei Kamattechan) threw a lot of people off, but I liked it. Still, it just doesn’t compare to season 1’s ending songs, in my opinion.
I’m an enthusiastic fan of all the seiyuu playing main and supporting characters in AoT. Now with a ton more experience compared to 5 years ago, Yuki Kaji, Yui Ishikawa, and Marina Inoue returned and performed excellently. They play Eren, Mikasa, and Armin, respectively. The veterans like Daisuke Ono (Erwin), Kamiya Hiroshi (Levi), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Reiner), Romi Park (Hange) and a few others keep up their good work, giving admirable acting as usual.
The seiyuu I want to put in the spotlight for this review are Saki Fujita, voice of Ymir, Tomohisa Hashizume, voice of Bertholdt, and Shiori Mikami, voice of Historia. I was more impressed with them than any of the others in this season. I’d only heard Ymir’s seiyuu doing girly roles before (like Ayano from Yuru Yuri), but she pulled off the skeptical tough-girl so well here. All these amazing audio elements lead me to give it a score of 9/10.
The story was great, a solid 8/10, but that’s down a point compared to the score season 1 earned, and I think I’m being a little too optimistic about it. I liked the plot for this season, but it probably wasn’t amazing from other perspectives. The main problems were as follows.
1) The story was split into two arcs, and the first one feels out of place and not of as much importance compared to the second. 2) Even at its climax, the overall plot was not nearly as powerful, thrilling, or epic as that of the first season. 3) More questions were raised than answers given, in the grand scheme of things. The hints toward solving the main mysteries are very difficult; I would never have understood without reading the manga first. Arguably, the plot lacks half of its significance until the viewer understands the revelations in season 3 part 2. (So if you’ve seen season 3 by now, and haven’t gone back to rewatch season 2, definitely give it a go.)
Let me expand a little bit on that third point. There were some questions and mysteries that were easy enough to figure out in theory. For example, the people of Connie’s town were somehow turned into Titans, it’s possible for a dumb Titan to become a shapeshifter if they eat someone who already has the Titan power, and there must be some kind of civilization somewhere outside the walls. But in other cases, there’s very little chance you’d ever figure things out on your own.
Here are a few of those cases. Who is forcing Reiner and Bert to do these terrible things? If their mission is to destroy humanity, why did would they settle for taking Eren and going home? What are Eren’s real powers and why does Reiner call him “the coordinate”? What really happened to Ymir in that flashback? I had read the manga, so I already understood these things, but for anime viewers only it must have been frustrating to have so many more questions than answers. This may or may not be a valid complaint against the storytelling in Attack on Titan, but even if I consider it one, it’s a relatively minor concern.
The strong element of romance in this season is unique among all the other arcs of Attack on Titan (at least, up to chapter 118 in the manga, which is as far as I’ve read). Of course I mean the romance of Ymir and Historia, because you can’t really call it anything else but love. Related to that, there’s a powerful theme of this season that I really love: don’t live your life for other people. Live for yourself. Within reason, and the bounds of pro-social behavior, I wholeheartedly agree.
So in summary, the only major things that docked down the story score a little were a) the rough transition from Historia’s arc to the Warrior’s arc, and b) the relative lack of action, epic scale, and spectacles of destruction compared to season 1.
As with season one, the characters are memorable, likeable, relatable, and well-developed, with interesting character concepts and personality types. With a cast as big as the one in Attack on Titan, you’re bound to come across some characters being undeveloped in comparison to others. For instance, my favorite male character, Armin, got very little time in this season. But my favorite female character, Ymir, recieved ample attention and growth. Here are a few highlights of some characters’ personal victories, stories, or emotional moments.
For starters, Sasha gets almost a whole episode to herself. It’s fascinating to learn about her background and hometown, and it’s inspiring to see how she saves that village girl and kills a Titan without ODM gear. We got to see Reiner’s identity confusion and dissociation problems, which keenly piqued my interest, but also made me feel bad for him. Mikasa and Eren shared a special moment of family bonding (or romantic if you want to think if that way) when they thought they were going to be eaten by Titans. And Bertholtd’s emotional explosion in episode 11 (or ep 36) about not wanting to take lives was very revealing of his character.
It goes without saying that Ymir and Historia had many excellent character moments. I’m afraid to go into detail because I might rant for pages about their relationship, their personalities, Historia’s resolution to live for herself, Ymir’s backstory, and her choice to join Bertholdt and Reiner.
As usual, I enjoyed all the categories above: the unique, dark, and dramatic story, the well-animated action sequences, the music and voice-acting, and further development of and insights into much beloved characters. I won’t spend too much time on personal shit here, but let me quickly mention that I empathized with and related to the Historia and Ymir romance elements very strongly. Their relationship makes me think of one I had. More than that, what gets to me and makes me cry is just how similar Historia is to a person I loved in the past. Despite this being painful for me, it also added greatly to my appreciation of the season.
Scoring the Series
Visuals = 8/10. Audio = 9/10. Story = 8/10. Characters = 9/10. Enjoyment = 8/10. Take the average of these numbers to calculate overall series score.
Overall Score = 8.4/10.0 (Excellent)
Thank you for reading and have a great day!
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Image credit: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2. Dir. T Araki and M Koizuka. Wit. 2017.