There is without a doubt that the anime “Attack on Titan” was an enormous hit not only for anime fans but also for those outside the fandom as well. Visceral, violent, and action-packed, this shounen anime prompted lots of cosplay, along with several live-action movies, video games, and other merchandise. But this was several years ago, and its heyday has passed, with hardcore fans instead turning to the manga to continue where the first season had left off. It would be several years before the anime’s second season would premier on television, and this standby period was a time when I had decided to take a break. The series suffered quite a bit from overexposure, but it was also a philosophy that shounen anime is best experienced in animated form, not in paper form. Once the series was announced, however, there was one glaring issue.
But before I get into that bit, let’s start with the good parts. It is extremely easy to jump right back in where the first season had left off, and all the characters are the same as before and easily identifiable. It is still a cluster of bizarre and idiosyncratic personalities, but with the characters having been comrades for a while now, the feelings are less of prickly hostility and more of melancholy and teamwork. This second season continues with the investigation into the background of the titans themselves, and focuses on the back stories of several side characters, including Krista, Sasha, and Connie. Much is revealed regarding the identities of several other side characters, including Rainer and Bertholdt. This shift in focus allows everyone to gel as a group more effectively and fleshes out characters who may have previously been regulated to second tier status. The animation is still just as sharp and complex as the first season, though there is a larger emphasis here on secondary tactics to fight titans rather than usage of the 3D Maneuver Gear. Motions are fluid and realistic, to give a raw and heightened sense of suspense, as fight scenes are not about whether one can target the back of a titan’s neck. Of course, the trope of “we hardly knew ye” is still very much alive and well, especially with recently introduced characters who are portrayed as competent fighters and manage to kill off a few titans before succumbing to fear when they are trapped and decapitated by an enemy. The musical score is still very good in the second season, with heavy usage of brass instruments, though there is much less music than in the first season, and the placement of songs in certain scenes just isn’t executed as well in this season. The second season’s color palate still skews towards the warm spectrum with plenty of oranges, browns, and yellows during the daytime, and is most prominent when the lighting sweeps into the scene and scatters the color throughout the frame. Then, akin to a desert environment, night falls and the browns and oranges give way to very saturated deep blues, and the contrast is absolutely stunning.
Now of course this is all fine and dandy, as the second season merely just has to keep what the first season did well and fans will just line up behind the show. Well, not really. See, this merely means the second season will lie in the shadows of the first, since it will be afflicted with the “more of the same” syndrome. Unfortunately, there are some changes in the second season which cause issues, many of which stem from the biggest issue: the series’ inherent structure. See, 13 episodes is not nearly enough to finish the entire series and had me wondering the entire time how the series would conclude. There were just too many unanswered questions for everything to be wrapped up, and sure enough, the story gets awkwardly and ungracefully lopped off with a giant cleaver at the end of the series. This is despite the other issue of the series rushing and moving too quickly, desperately trying to finish as much as possible. Season two proceeds at a much faster clip than season one, so secondary storylines and character interactions only start to get developed and don’t have enough time to gel. These new secondary storylines and character interactions also come at a price, as there is much lesser emphasis on the Eren-Armin-Mikasa trifecta of main characters, especially Mikasa. Armin doesn’t drive the story as much, and Eren’s titan transformation has become even more erratic and mysterious, but little, if anything, is revealed, so the entire scenario is still an enigma. But perhaps the biggest glaring omission is the extreme deemphasis of Levi. In this season, he has traded in his 3D Maneuver Gear for a nice suit and cravat and does not do any fighting at all. In fact, though his tone of voice remains the same, his dialogue is hopeless as it seems to exist just so he can brood and be featured in the series.
So where does that leave the second season of “Attack on Titan?” It is still a very good show, but even if the second season had been just as good as the first, it would have been deemed inferior. Instead, the second season has flaws and omissions that make it worse than the first. However, had the series been a full 25 or 26 episodes instead of 13, there is a chance that many of its issues could have been resolved. I say chance because structural changes would not have resolved the deemphasis of several characters but instead given more of an opportunity to focus on them. Nonetheless, for those who wish to see how “Attack on Titan” progresses, it is a necessary to watch, and thankfully the series still does many things correct and allows for an enjoyable time. Now about that sequel…