Shingeki no Kyojin #61 – A Review

We just can’t catch a break, it seems, in terms of timing.  Shingeki no Kyojin #61 showed up yesterday evening….

(Go Read, I’ll wait)

SPOILERS

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A quick recap, when we last left our intrepid heroes, their plot to overthrow the government seemed to be heading down the crapper. Hange was randomly threatening the free press, a piggish company man asked the people to trade one group of thugs for another, and this guy, our stalwart commander Erwin Smith, had gotten himself arrested for the treason he had, in point of fact, committed.

This chapter starts in the throne room where the bored-looking king is watching the proceedings with half-closed eyes–or, possibly, straight-up napping.

Erwin makes his case for the Survey Corps.  He suggests that passive defense against the Titans is kind of what got Humanity into this mess.  He says the Survey Corps is the only weapon the kingdom has–its spear, as it were.

This makes a certain amount of sense.  Though upon reflection, this is a kind of telling moment for Erwin’s character.  It’s easy not to remember half what’s been going on since the Titan was discovered inside the wall (back in chapter 30-something and the end of the anime).  Since then (and these are big-ass spoilers if you’ve only watched the anime!), we’ve met several other ‘shifters’ beyond Annie.  We’ve also had the encounter in the village with the short-limbed Titan that called Connie by name and whom ‘reminded’ him strongly of his OWN MOTHER.

So, keeping all that in mind, Erwin’s speech becomes distinctly DARKER.

He knows full well that going out against Titans means killing other human beings.  Similarly then, it seems disingenous when Erwin looks shocked to hear the Levi has been on a murderous rampage, because, really, what’s the difference?  Erwin KNOWS that Titan-killing = Human-killing–or, he really SHOULD remember this because it’s central to the mystery of Annie and the other ‘Abnormals’/Shifters.

Regardless, during this ‘spear’ speech, Erwin asks what the king’s cohorts have planned should another wall fall, like what if the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan attacked X wall right now?? Huh?  What then, smarty-pants???.  Erwin also points out that escaping deeper inside the walls is a fine plan so long as you don’t mind all the civil unrest that comes with the overcrowding and drain on resources.

The king’s counsel is unmoved.

Just when it looks like Erwin is headed for the scaffold after all, a soldier burst in with the news that EVERYTHING HAS HAPPENED JUST EXACTLY AS ERWIN PREDICTED, OH NOZ. IT IS THE COLOSSAL AND ARMORED TITAN AT THE WALLS OF X!!

Now, me?  I’d have been suspicious right at this point, but, no, the king’s cohorts show their true colors and greed by basically saying, “Yeah, let the Titans eat ’em, them commoners we care nothing for, and close the doors to any refugees.  We need to protect our own food stores, etc., because we are greedy bastards with no souls!!”

As they continue to confess their evil intentions, tah-dah!  They’ve been watched by other military commanders who are suddenly awakened to the evil of the inner circle.

Meanwhile, completely coincidentally, Hange’s newspaper propaganda TRUTH hits the streets and all the people have the blinders removed from their eyes and are totally on board with this whole bloodless coup thing!

As the title says, “The End.”

Yeah… okay, as is perhaps obvious from the tone of my review, I have some mixed feelings about this chapter.

I’m EXTREMELY glad 1) that Erwin had an actual plan that, FOR ONCE, actually seemed to work, and 2) that we now might be done with this annoying political plot and might finally return to the stuff that interests me–like the story of the shifters, what the bloody bleeping heck is in Eren’s basement, what it means that Connie’s mom became a Titan (does that mean the ‘Titan virus’ that I suspect to be the core of this whole story has mutated or what)???

Those things made this chapter good for me.

But…

As I was complaining to a friend, I swear I saw Batman do something similar to this on a Very Special episode of Super Friends, back in the day. Only, that version of this “trick” was more believable to me because our hero got the villains to confess on live, broadcast TV.

My friend pointed out that being a walled city, it was okay that the news spread in a low-tech way, but the thing that bothered her was this simplistic notion that the truth is all that it takes to change the world.  If only everyone could UNDERSTAND the TRUTH… She said she felt this reduced the whole thing to black and white, to those who know the truth and those who have yet to learn it.  This kind of set-up reduces the complexity of the more realistic addition of ‘those who know the truth and still don’t give a flying crap.’

Maybe that’s a shade of gray that’s still coming–or maybe, even better, we can skip this political stuff and concentrate on the parts of the story that I think the mangaka really rocks, like the shifters and the Titan fights and all that jazz.

Moments like this, however, erode my trust in the story telling skills of the mangaka.  I start to worry that if the solution to the revolution is this simple, does this mean that I’ve already guessed the mystery of Eren’s dad and the basement? (That there was some kind of a government-sponsored Titan virus designed to herd everyone behind the walls and that the shifters are the product of scientists like Eren’s dad who wanted a ‘back door,’ a conscious Titan weapon to use against the government and shake people’s complacency?)

Because if there’s no wrinkle in that, well, I just spoiled the whole manga in a single, run-on sentence. And worse, I had guessed it by chapter 3.

Sometimes I don’t mind following along plots I’ve already figured out.  However, for me to want to do that I have to be satisfied in other ways.  It’s been a while since SnK satisfied me in those other ways.  I’ll tell you when I could care less about plot holes–it’s when this story is dealing with utterly fascinating characters like Reiner and Berholdt… and even Ymir to some extent, and the kinds of divided loyalties that shifters represent.  That stuff got my heart going.  Especially the way Reiner seemed to have had to fracture himself in order to cope–that kind of stuff is golden, you know?

As I told my friend, I haven’t stopped being a fan of SnK.  I’m worried about it, but I have a weird kind of faith that some of my issues with it will get “fixed” in the anime.  They might very well use the anime to expand on things, weave in plot points a bit less clumsily, and generally deepen the story and characters.

Fingers crossed.

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