This is going to be a bit strange, as the moment I’ll be sharing is not from the first few episodes of the show like a hook typically is. I was already interested, albeit not fully invested, in Attack on Titan well before this hook, evidenced by the fact that this hook starts 17 episodes into the series. By this point I was casually interested in seeing what was next in the series but it was exactly that, casual. That’s not to say the show wasn’t good up until episode 17, quite the opposite. It’s mainly that my enjoyment of the show was more surface level, it was something extremely entertaining but didn’t really challenge or ask anything of me as a viewer.
With all this in mind, and you will read this all the time in these posts, you deserve the opportunity to experience this feeling for yourself authentically by watching the show if you haven’t already. Even the most eloquently stated descriptors can’t do the real experience justice regardless of what we’re talking about. I couldn’t describe to you how delicious a pie is, and expect you to get as much out of reading my words as simply eating that food yourself; this is no different. An extra point in favor of convincing you to watch Attack on Titan is that the manga it is adapted from has already concluded, and the anime will be wrapping up some time in 2023. Many long-running series have a feeling of infinitude to them, with no obvious goal post to help the audience understand how close the show is to ending. Each episode feels entirely self contained, and there’s a sense that the author/creator could keep the show going forever if they really wanted to. Attack on Titan doesn’t share this. The series is framed with an understanding of what would lead to the show’s conclusion. While that ‘goal post’ does move as the plot progresses and more of the story is understood, it always remains within sight and it feels like we are constantly moving closer and closer to it.
All preamble aside, to truly appreciate any scene we first must understand its setup. Attack on Titan is a show where massive man-eating Titans appeared and pushed mankind to the brink of extinction. These Titans range from 3 to 15 meters in height, possess massive strength, and can regenerate missing body parts and damage. Even blowing their heads off wasn’t enough to kill them, with the only weakness being a small section on the nape of the neck that will kill Titans if destroyed. The remaining survivors built three massive walls to keep them out and hid behind them peacefully for 100 years.
That peace was broken when a massive titan appeared and destroyed the outermost wall and ushered in a wave of titans into the city. Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, our main trio (with Eren being the main character), are children in the city during this. They managed to flee the city via boat and Eren swears a hateful vow to kill every last Titan. All cities between the outer and middle wall are forced to flee behind the second wall. The main cast joins the military, and after 3 years of training they join the Survey Corps, more frequently referred to as the Scouts. The mission of the Scouts is to venture beyond the walls to learn more about the Titans and expand humanities borders, and encountering the Titans more than any other branch of the military. Their symbol is the Wings of Freedom, and they greatly symbolize the hope for humanity, as without them they are doomed to remain behind the walls to the last of their days.
As they are celebrating graduation, the massive Titan from before appears again and kicks a massive hole in the second wall. This time the main cast is older and capable of fighting back, having received training for special gear known as ‘3D-Maneuvering Gear’, which uses grappling hooks and gas coupled with large blades, to let them traverse their environment and fight back against the Titans. Through a string of extremely unfortunate events, including being eaten by a Titan, Eren is somehow able to transform into one himself, and goes on a rampage killing dozens of them and ultimately resealing the hole. If Eren can learn to control this power, it means humanity has a significantly greater chance of fighting back and even retaking the first wall that was destroyed. This changes everything for humanity, as this knowledge makes them question everything they know about the enemy. It begs the question of how many others can transform into Titans. Is the massive one that keeps destroying the walls a shifter as well? If it is, then why is it trying to kill what’s left of humanity?
Flash forward a few months and the main crew is all well initiated into the Survey Corps and prepares to head out on their first excursion outside the walls. The purpose of this expedition is to plot a route to the 1st wall so they can begin preparations to retake it. The government was worried about the implications and possible threat Eren possesses, and Eren was only allowed to join the Scouts under the supervision of Levi Ackerman, humanity’s strongest soldier. Levi was responsible for killing Eren if he went berserk, and there was no question he was capable of doing so. Eren was also under the supervision of ‘Levi Squad’, a group of 4 of the most elite soldiers in all of the scout regiment and boasting a combined Titan kill rate of over 200. While the Scouts prepared for an expedition, Eren also was training (rather unsuccessfully) in how to use his Titan form properly and learning the basics of the expedition plan. The Scouts travel on horseback and use smoke guns with different color smoke signals to direct the regiment away from Titans, using strategies that emphasize avoiding engagements with them at all costs in order to minimize losses.
With all this, we have set the stage for the hook. The expedition begins, with Eren traveling with Captain Levi and Levi Squad. Things go well for a time, avoiding any casualties for a good length as they use the smoke signals to their fullest extent. But suddenly a black smoke signal is fired from one of the rear flanks of the formation, which means there is an emergency of some kind. A female Titan has somehow gotten a horde of Titans to follow it to the rear flank and annihilated the entire group. Stranger still, this Titan has knowledge of how the 3D-Maneuver gear works, and is slaughtering scouts that try to kill it as if they were flies. The emergence of the ‘female Titan’ immediately piqued my interest; every single scene it is in is absolutely terrifying and it seems completely unstoppable. This is also the first time that we’ve ever seen a Titan kill Scouts simply for the sake of killing rather than eating. High ranking Scouts and recruits alike are all getting massacred and the female Titan is moving with unknown yet clear purpose and intent. The audience and the characters immediately suspect that this is another ‘Titan Shifter’, and believe that they are after Eren. Eventually the Titan reaches Levi Squad and Eren and begins chasing them in an attempt to capture Eren, but rather than try and engage it in a fight Levi orders his squad to press on atop their horses as it chases them without looking back. As they ride away, more Scouts constantly show up and are slaughtered by the Titan, and Eren keeps wanting to join the fray to save them, but the Captain and Levi Squad both tell him no. This greatly confuses both Eren and the audience since Levi and his squad are the strongest members of the Scouts, so if they won’t fight it who will?
Eventually we learn the truth behind their questionable actions as they lead the female Titan to an ambush full of harpoons that immobilize her. Levi Squad is tasked with taking Eren away from the area while Levi regroups with the Commander of the Scouts to try and uncover who the female Titan is. This plan ultimately fails as she screams to attract a large hoard of Titans that then feasts on her flesh. The scouts incorrectly believe she did this as a form of suicide to keep information out of their hands, but in actuality she uses the chaos to slip away and pursue Eren. Using 3D gear, she ambushes Levi squad and kills one of its members before transforming back into her Titan form.
Once again, Eren wants to transform and fight her, but the remaining members of Levi Squad convince him to trust them to take her down without him since her goal is to capture him and his powers add unknown variables into the mix, which he ultimately accepts and agrees to. Whilst overall the entire Female Titan arc served as a hook of sorts, this next scene was what truly reeled me in. To this day it remains within my top 5 scenes in all of anime that I’ve seen. Levi Squad vs the female Titan. This whole time we’ve been told that Levi Squad is badass, but this scene shows us. Up until now the female Titan has completely outclassed everyone that attacked her, but Levi Squad, whilst down a member, manage to show their skill and got an advantage over her. They manage to blind her and shear the muscles in her arms so she can’t protect her nape. It truly seems like they will triumph, but then the music shifts. Eren remembers cautionary words of Levi and fears for his comrades. He turns back and sees the battle shift. The female Titan focuses all her regeneration on one eye and blind-sides them (no pun intended). She bites into one of them as they go in for another hit, and the shock of this kill wins her the momentum to crush the rest of them in brutal fashion, much to Eren’s horror. Not only is the imagery of the scene spectacular, but the sound design is impeccable as well. The sound effects, the music, the voice acting, the moments of silence to emphasize importance. It’s all just so mwah! *Chefs kiss*
There are three things about this scene that I find so refreshing. Firstly, a lot of the times when shows try to make someone look badass, they do so by making their opponent look incompetent as they completely dominate them. This is not the case at all here, Levi Squad is ambushed by the female Titan and loses a member right out the gate, yet they coordinate and immediately put it on the backfoot and appear to have a legitimate shot at winning. It’s only due to their lack of knowledge and the female Titans ingenuity combined with overcoming their emotions that leads to their defeat. This is the only time we really got to see the squad in action, and it immediately reinforced their reputation, even if they ultimately all died. Secondly there is a trope in anime that at this point is practically a meme, that the power of friendship can overcome everything. This scene completely circumvents that and reminds the audience that anyone can die and that those tropes don’t apply here. Thirdly it is one of the first instances of the show ‘evolving’, which it constantly does throughout its run time. I could write pages and pages on this show and how it evolves, but that’s a topic for another article (one which I plan to write when the show wraps up). All these story elements, in addition to the perfection of the scene from a technical standpoint, hooked me into this show and sold me on the idea that there was so much more to this series than meets the eye. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and until next time stay healthy!