Studio: Wit Studio
After a series of brutal battles and revelations at the end of its first season, Attack on Titan Season 2 picks up right where it left off but drags its heels in the process, losing a lot of forward momentum. Despite being half the length of the first season, it feels longer and much of that comes down to a Titan-sized load of exposition and set-up to get things in motion for the epic season finale.
Eren, Mikasa, and Armin are set aside for much of the first half of this season, leaving us with the secondary characters of the Expeditionary Force. They include Sasha, a country girl obsessed with eating; Christa, an angel of the battlefield that all the guys want to marry; and Ymir, who has a romantic obsession with Christa. There’s also Bertholdt and Reiner and a bevy of others – all of which play their roles in the unfolding mystery of what Titans are and why humans can become them.
These episodes are partially meant to grow otherwise two-dimensional background characters from season one, as well as put them in the places they need to be for the wheels of the plot to grind forward. The central mystery they are investigating is why Titans are appearing inside the walls (with no breach in said walls) and exactly what their “leader” is. That leader, by the way, is a hairy sasquatch Titan that can talk. This franchise walks a fine line between horror and hilarious.
As these characters grow, we jump back and forth between Eren and pals, other members of the military, and even jump around in time. The time jumps are the most questionable and sometimes offer nothing more than cursory, unnecessary explanations.
The season also suffers from feeling cheaper than the first; hard to believe given how successful season one was. CG is used in place of traditional animation for some scenes and it looks terrible. The Colossal Titan in Season 1 was drawn specifically to be frightening and the hard lines and detail of that character model made it as creepy as it was. Here, it’s like a video game enemy from a Playstation 2 title. The CG is thankfully not heavily leaned upon, but the fact it is used so heavily in what should be dramatic moments makes it all the more noticeable.
Episode 8 is where the plot stops meandering. With the heavy-handed exposition and character-building out of the way Attack on Titan finally goes back to being the epic, exciting, binge-worthy show the first season established. Those final few episodes gave me goosebumps -- they were that good. I hate using the word “epic”, I feel like it’s used to describe anything slightly exciting. But season 2’s final episodes are epic. They build up, they pay off, they have emotion and they are honestly among the best the series has had to offer so far.
There is a lot of character and story development in season 2, but the presentation is tepid, the pacing is unsteady, and it takes a bit of work to finally get the payoff for that patience. It’s nowhere near as solid as its predecessor – but it also shows glimpses of an epic third season to come. And no matter what complaints I level here, I can’t hide how excited I am for more Attack on Titan.
Attack on Titan Season 2 is available on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and home video.