Author Archives: John Pepper

Attack on Titan S2E29 “Soldier” Review and Analysis

In Attack on TitanSoldier,” we’re thrown back into The Seige of Castle Utgard already in progress. Watching “Soldier,” I can’t help but admire every minute detail that the writers and animators are placing throughout this season. Every aspect of the anime is densely packed with symbolism and hints for what’s to come in the following episodes.

As the episode starts we watch as the Titans surround Castle Utgard, and we get a flashback to two hours prior as the 9 Scout Corps members settle in. While the Scout Corps members are discussing the oddities of Castle Utgard, namely it’s bizarre location and the liquor with a foreign label, the 104th cadets try to grapple with where this surge of Titans came from. Connie tries to grapple with whether or not the Titan that crushed his house is really his mother, but Ymir is quick to snap Connie out of his negative thoughts in a big-sister kind of way. Ymir’s interactions with the rest of the cadets in this episode does a great job at fleshing out a character who before Season Two was all but non-existent.

This episode ramps up the reveal of Ymir as our next Titan Shifter. As Ymir finds a can of herring, Reiner asks to look at it. When Ymir hands the herring to Reiner, he realizes that it’s canned food and that the label is in a foreign language. Just as Reiner is coming to his own conclusions about Ymir, they get called by Nanaba warning that the Titans were attacking. The most interesting part of this exchange is the animation choices for Ymir’s faces. Just as Reiner is confronting Ymir, she’s in almost the exact same pose and expression as Annie Lionheart when she was confronted by Armin, Eren, and Mikasa for being the Female Titan.

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As the cadets continue to fight off Titans from within the towers, Reiner almost loses his arm trying to protect Connie. While he’s fighting off the Titan, he has a flashback to one of his friends getting devoured by a Titan and rediscovers his will to survive. After defenestrating the second Titan, the cadets retreat to safer territory up above. The following conversation between Connie, Bertholt, and Reiner is the namesake for the episode, but ends up being more cryptic than revealing. As Connie praises Reiner for being brave and saving his life, Reiner has more flashbacks to his friend protecting him and in turn getting devoured by a Titan. Reiner says that “it’s the normal thing to do because we’re soldiers.” Connie looks to Bertholt to back him up in praising Reiner’s actions, instead, Bertholt says that “in the past, Reiner was more of a Warrior. Unlike now.” This whole conversation seems to foreshadow Ymir’s actions at the end of the episode as she jumps into the arms of the Titans in order to protect Christa and the other cadets. This conversation, however, seems to imply a second meaning between Bertholt and Reiner that doesn’t make much sense in any context we know so far.

This conversation is interrupted by the four Scout Corp members killing scores of Titans. But just as it seems like they’re going to pull out the win in the bottom of the 9th inning, all-star pitching icon: the Beast Titan, comes into secure the save and win. The Beast Titan hurdles several handfuls of rocks at Castle Utgard killing their horses and two out of four of the Scouts. Nanaba and Gelgar both come to the realization that they’re out of gas and that their end is near. As both Nanaba and Gelgar get torn apart limb by limb, Ymir tries to reason with Christa that dying a hero isn’t a heroic act if you don’t value your own life. Ymir pleads with Christa to remember the promise they made to each other as Ymir jumps off the tower and reveals herself to be a Titan Shifter all along.

Castle Utgard is one of the most iconic scenes from the Manga and this episode really brought out the best moments in terrifying brilliance. “Soldier” captures the brilliance of Attack on Titan as it displays a density in the details packed tightly into twenty-four minutes that’s rarely seen in an animated format. As Castle Utgard should be the catalyst for the remaining episodes in Season Two, any fan of the Anime will find themselves watching “Soldier” over and over again to find the hidden subtleties laid out throughout the episode.

Overall Rating: 9.25

Attack on Titan S2E28 “Southwestward” Review and Analysis

In Attack on Titan’s Southwestward,” we get a build-up to what should be one of the defining battles of the second season: The Siege at Utgard Castle. This episode seems to work as more of a build for the next couple of episodes to come. Without much to lean on story-wise, this episode builds up the anticipation of what’s about to happen.

The episode starts with a cold-open on one of the most significant parts of the entire episode. We’re back with Connie Springer in his home town trying to figure out what exactly happened. As Connie tries to come to grip with what happened to all his family and friends, other members of the Survey Corp try to help Connie figure out what transpired. Lynne suggests that because there’s no carnage, all of the villagers had to have escaped unharmed. Gelgar questions Lynne’s conclusion because Titans aren’t known for ransacking anywhere other than to specifically target humans. Moreover, all of the horses remained in the stables which means that the humans would’ve had a low likelihood of reaching safety with titans on their heels.

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As they’re getting ready to move out, Connie hears the most haunting words uttered in the entire series of Attack on Titan, “Welcome Home.” Connie looks in sheer terror after seeing a Titan speak for the first time. The Titan who crushed his home and his spirit leaves Connie with more questions and no answers as to what happened to his family

The rest of the episode does an alright job of building suspense for the coming episodes while fleshing out the secondary characters. We get to see more of the relationship with Ymir and Christa who in season one were all but non-existent. The show also builds on the collective intelligence of Hanji and Armin who are able to work out that the walls were probably created by Titans still living inside of the walls. Pastor Nick finally speaks up and gives the Scout Corps some desperately needed information that Christa, a 104th Regiment Recruit, is the key to all of the Scout Corps questions. Pastor Nick says only Christa is able to reveal the answers that Hanji has been seeking, and they must find her to discover the truth. Just as this reveal happens, Sasha reports back to Hanji and Levi that they are needed at Castle Utgard.

As we skip over to Castle Utgard we find the impending doom for the remaining 9 scouts locked up in the castle tower. Titans are moving at night, somehow powered by the full moon, and the scouting group has the unfortunate luck to see the Beast Titan for the first time. As things seem dire for the Scout Regiment locked up in their tower, Hanji’s squad rides towards Castle Utgard to give some much-needed assistance.

This episode provides the viewer with a relative break in the action so that the episode can rebuild the suspense and horror that is sure to come over the next few episodes. In shows like Attack on Titan, it’s important to break up the constant slaughtering with a bit of solid foreshadowing so that the horrors of the Attack on Titan world don’t become predictable and normalized. While it’s not necessarily as exciting as the battle intensive episodes, I get why it’s needed, it just isn’t as satisfying as the episodes that came before or after.

Overall Rating: 7.20

Attack on Titan S2E27 “I’m Home” Review and Analysis

In Attack on Titan “I’m Home,” we finally get to dive into one of my favorite supporting characters of the show, Sasha Blouse. This episode serves a parallel between Sasha and her survey corps companion Connie Springer as each rush home after Titans are spotted within Wall Rose. With both Sasha and Connie unsure of how their villages and families have fared since the Titans have been spotted, they both head home in hopes of saving their loved ones before it’s too late.

It’s not very often that we get backstory to the other characters in this world whose last names don’t end in Ackerman or Jaeger, making this episode a breath of fresh air in the series. Typically when a side character in this show gets any attention it typically means they’re about to become titan fodder. While in the manga, Sasha survives past this chapter, the creator of Attack on Titan, Hajime Isayama, has said that he initially planned for Sasha to die during this chapter. As Sasha fought off the most human-like titan to date, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the anime was finally going to break in a major moment from the manga and kill off Sasha. Luckily Sasha, was spared a grizzly death as she was able to escape from the titan death hug. Managing to save a child in the process, she is able to find her father and a band of local farmers as they head out rescue other families in nearby villages.

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While Sasha’s story ends on a surprisingly positive note, the creative forces at Attack on Titan want to remind you that happiness is fleeting and pain is forever. Unlike Sasha, Connie gets to his village to find that everything is destroyed. As he walks through the ruins, he’s haunted by past memories of his family. He finally arrives at his childhood home to find a half-formed titan with useless legs and arms laying on top of the shambles of his former life. Presumably, with everyone he knew and loved crushed beneath the titan, Connie and his fellow scouts are left wondering: How did the partially-formed titan end up crushing Connie’s house?

Attack on Titan does their best world building when they’re able to step back from Eren’s personal problems and focus on the secondary characters that really help humanize life within the walls. This episode is no exception as we get to see a parallel story showing all the horrors of titans attacking the rural parts within Wall Rose.

Overall Rating: 8.55

Attack on Titan S2E26 “Beast Titan” Review and Analysis

Attack on TitanBeast Titan” starts with a cold open recap of what happened in the series finale with a voiceover from the voice actor for Hanji, the lovable and totally insane squad leader of the 4th squad. Hanji walks us through the battle of Stohess between Annie and Eren and the aftermath they caused. For the last couple of seconds, the anime lingers on the titan hiding in the wall to remind us of the major cliffhanger we left off at the end of season one.

Just are you’re redigesting the fact that the walls are made of Titans and how utterly screwed all of humanity is, you’re kicked straight into the Opening Credits. If I have any criticism of this first episode, it’s that the opening music is not nearly as memorable as the two songs in the first season, but to be fair it’s definitely growing on me. Most of the title sequence is forgettable until we get to this image:

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WHY IS THERE A FLOATING WHALE AND A T-REX IN THE OPENING SEQUENCE? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? DO THEY KNOW SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW? I’m all for a crossover between Jurassic Park, Free Willy, and Attack on Titan, but I doubt that’s their plan here. I’m going to assume that there’s some hidden symbolism that is going way over my head because that’s the only way I’m going to be able to digest this image.

The first half of the show sets the stage and throws us right back into the action with Hanji threatening Minister Nick, a priest in the Wall Cult, to divulge information about the titan(s?) within the wall. Once he refuses even after being threatened and held off the edge of the wall, Hanji lets up. At the very least, she had determined that those within the government and the Wall Cult who know about the titans were willing to die to keep everyone else ignorant. Immediately the show introduces that there is a massive conspiracy to withhold information from the public concerning the titans which will probably be an overarching theme through the entire season.

The show then shifts gears to the 104th regiment who are holed up in a castle within Wall Rose (the second of three total walls) in order to kick us back into the main plot. Reiner and Bertolt are playing chess backwards (symbolism?) while Reiner remarks that the Scout Corps seems to be guarding them. We later find out that Reiner’s suspicions are justified, as Scout leaders like Miche mention that they’re afraid that another member of the 104th regiment is a titan. Then when Sasha collapses from boredom and lays her head on the table, she feels the distinct vibration of titans approaching their location within Wall Rose which, as Reiner nervously points out, means that the Titans have breached the second wall. A great part about this show is each character reacts very specifically to news like the titan breach of Wall Rose and you can watch as the show’s directors brilliantly lay a trail of clues for the fans.

In the second half of the show, the action ramps up extremely quickly as the show reintroduces the titans, and immediately I felt like I was watching the show for the first time. The animation of the titans is so unsettling, I immediately felt that pit in my stomach as Miche rides in to fight the titans even though he’s is vastly outnumbered. After Miche takes down multiple titans (including my favorite: The Ronaldo Titan shout out to /u/faithplate on Reddit for the great comparison), he calls for his horse, but is frozen with fear when he sees the lumbering Beast Titan. There’s something about the Beast Titan’s proportions that makes him such an unnerving foe, and as the Beast Titan hurls a horse at Miche like Randy Johnson in his prime, you realize that Miche doesn’t stand a chance. Sure enough he falls straight into the mouth of a tiny grotesque titan, but right as the mini titan is about to deal the final blow, a booming voice instructs the titan to stop chewing. Much to Miche’s horror, and the viewers, that voice is coming from the Beast Titan.

The Beast Titan then tries to question Miche about his 3D maneuver gear, but since Miche is frozen in fear, the Beast Titan removes the 3D maneuver gear and leaves Miche defenseless as the Beast Titan instructs the other titans to eat Miche. The most interesting thing about this interaction is that the Beast Titan doesn’t seem to recognize or understand what Miche was wearing and seems to be genuinely intrigued as to what the 3D maneuver gear is. Anyone who lives within the walls should know at least the basics of 3D maneuver gear, so if he’s not from within the walls, who exactly is the Beast Titan? The episode ends with one of the most gruesome things I’ve watched in recent memory and Miche’s screams are truly haunting. Just like that the episode is over and the end credits roll as you’re still trying to grapple with what you just witnessed.

Since I am an avid reader of the Manga as well as an avid watcher of the Anime, I’m going to keep the next paragraph strictly to the confines of what the anime has shown so far. I do want to point out that the end credits of the anime show images from the manga that were only recently released in the last 7 months and are gigantic spoilers if someone were to decrypt what they mean. I will do my best to objectively walk through what’s going on below, but you have been warned if you sleuth out the underlying meaning.

No time to grieve Miche because the end credits are absolutely packed with allusions to 15th century Christianity church murals. As the creepily happy music plays in the background we’re flashed with images of a devil giving an unidentifiable object to a woman, heavily invoking the bible’s temptation of Eve. We also see a gigantic woman emerging from the sea while soldiers try to attack her and a lightning rages on all around them. An interesting thing to note here, she could definitely be a titan, but has nipples- a feature which has not been included on any titan we’ve seen so far. Then the sequence moves onto an image of a king feeding three young girls what looks like parts of a corpse. This is by far the most interesting religious-styled image they show because while the other two images have been shown in the manga, this one is brand new and hasn’t appeared yet in any chapter currently released. The final image that packs a lot of future symbolism is the cracked mural depicting what looks like multiple titans all centered around a female titan that looks similar to the woman emerging from the sea. Whatever their plan is for revealing the information in the end credits, it was an extremely bold decision to hint at what’s to come for the people exclusively watching the Anime.

It has been 3 years 6 months and 9 days since I watched Attack on Titan’s season one finale. During the past three and a half years I have held 4 different jobs, adopted a new cat, and moved 1300 miles. To put it simply, it’s been a fucking long time since I’ve watched a new episode of Attack on Titan. I was afraid that I would either have grown out of the show, or that WIT Studio might’ve lost the spark that made season one a global hit. I am happy to say that the new episode is just as good as the first season and does not miss a beat in reintroducing fans as well as new viewers into the terrifying and intense world inside the confines of Wall Rose.

Overall Rating: 9.75

Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope To Bring Apocalypse Now into the Realm of Videogames

apocalypse_nowApocalypse Now – The Game’s Kickstarter went live on January 25th and has already gained $52,000 during the first day. The game is set to be in early access by 2019 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Oscar-winning film.

This would not be the first time Apocalypse Now has inspired a major videogame. In 2012 Yager Development and 2K Games released Spec Ops: The Line, the controversial third person shooter that drew heavily from Apocalypse Now. Moreover both Spec Ops: The Line and Apocalypse Now used the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as a primary source of inspiration. Similarly to Spec Ops: The Line, the developers intend for Apocalypse Now to put on full display “the unspeakable horrors of the Vietnam War” in order to highlight war isn’t a game or meant to be enjoyable. Furthermore, the player’s “reactions to each situation will result in consequences that will alter their journey as the story unfolds. Every decision matters and each player will tell their own story.”

Apocalypse Now is being developed by a new team of game industry leaders, in conjunction with American Zoetrope. The team includes: Rob Auten, a lead writer on multiple billion-dollar gaming franchises including Gears of War, Battlefield, and Far Cry; Lawrence Liberty, whose executive producer and director credits include Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher, and DC Universe Online; Montgomery Markland, who was the lead producer on two of the most successful crowdfunding titles of all time: Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera; in a special advisory capacity, Obsidian Entertainment’s Design Director Josh Sawyer, who directed Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, and many more game luminaries to come.

Francis Ford Coppola said in the press release:

Forty years ago, I set out to make a personal art picture that could hopefully influence generations of viewers for years to come. Today, I’m joined by new daredevils, a team who want to make an interactive version of Apocalypse Now, where you are Captain Benjamin Willard amidst the harsh backdrop of the Vietnam War. I’ve been watching videogames grow into a meaningful way to tell stories, and I’m excited to explore the possibilities for Apocalypse Now for a new platform and a new generation.

“We will create a game that challenges what an interactive experience can be; just as the original motion picture challenged the concept of cinema,” said Montgomery Markland, game director. “We are making a game that we are excited to play. We will deliver a greater variety of experience and interaction than is currently available within the the relatively static industry.”

The Kickstarter is set to end on February 24th and needs to meet a goal of $900,000 in order to be funded. Check out their Kickstarter page for a prototype trailer of what the game can be as well as a message from Francis Ford Coppola about his vision for the game.