In Attack on Titan “Soldier,” 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.
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