“The Mission’s Conditions of Victory” — SnK 74

It’s hoodie season again, so I’ve been wearing my Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan Survey Corps sweatshirt around town.  At the doughnut shop yesterday, I got the usual little nod at the insignia and a, “I like your shirt.” I replied, “Oh, are you a fan?” When he says he is, I ask, “Anime or manga?”  He looks bashful and says, “Oh, I just watch it.”

“No,” I tell him in utter sincerity.  “Smart move.”

Yet, I continue on reading.  Chapter 74 is out. If you’ve stuck with the manga thus far, this chapter is a must-read.

SPOILERS

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01

The chapter starts dramatically, sort of.  That is, Eren swings into action.  If you recall, one of the reasons our heroes have arrived back where they started was to plug the hole in the wall of Maria.  Eren has been practicing the much snicker-worthy Titan power of “getting hard.”

Good news, ladies and gentlemen.  Eren has achieved hardness.

06

…And quite literally stuck his a$$ through the hole.  I haven’t checked in yet, but I’m sure what remains of the Titan fandom is cracking very wise about this whole giant, awkward innuendo.

In other extremely important news, Eren’s “hard” hair seems to be a lot longer. I wonder if that will be true of his regular fighting Titan form?  Because what matters to me?  That’s right: Anime hair.  (I have, after all, already confessed to finding Eren’s Titan form weirdly attractive.)

Our stalwart crew waste several panels being fairly amazed that they managed a thing.  Did we do the thing?  Yeah, I think we actually did the thing! Whoa, are you sure we did it?

In fact, it’s actually so strange to them to have pulled off a mission that they immediately start looking for trouble.  The dumbest part to me is that they already know there’s an ambush planned because Armin discovered signs of an abandoned camp.  He even goes to Commander Eyebrows (a.k.a. Erwin Smith) and says, “Dude, they’re hiding somewhere around here.  We should bail.”  Actually, that might be a paraphrase and maybe he wasn’t quite smart enough to suggesting retreat, but I would have.  I would have said, “Okay, for some reason they know we’re here and are not attacking.  Let’s hit Eren’s basement and make a break for it.  In fact, let’s get the majority of the fighting force out, and have a small elite party investigate the basement. Pronto. Go. Stat. Run. No more panels of discussion. Go to the basement now.”

Because in my mind, the basement should be the next priority.

But, for reasons known only to the eyebrows, our heroes decide that the smartest thing is to poke around until they drive the hornets from their nests. And guess what? It works. They get stung.

But, what drives me crazy is that there are dozens of pages of this search.  There’s the whole debate about whether or not it’s a good idea, there’s a weird little speech from Eyebrows about how a solider’s only job is to secure victory (presumably at whatever cost), and some back and forth in which Armin attempts to be a commander with a lot of ‘please’s and ‘thank you’s. (We also find out that the Commander is sporting a prosthetic arm which is capable of firing a gun, which makes me wonder, if they had this kind of technology available why Levi was in such a snit that Erwin not go on this mission?)  But, mostly there is a lot of Armin thinking really hard about where Reiner and Berholdt could be hiding.

Finally, they flush Reiner from his bolt hole in the wall.

28

And… Levi runs him through.

I stared at this panel for several long sad moments and seriously debated whether or not it was worthwhile for me to turn the page… or any pages after that.

Reiner is my favorite character.  Full stop.

As was pointed out to me by a friend, what is equally sad about this moment is the change it represents.  When the Survey Corps last faced a Titan on a wall, it was Annie.  What they wanted then, at all costs, was NOT to kill her.  They wanted the information they felt she had about who the shifters were and what their agenda is.  Now, there’s no attempt to capture alive or even parlay.  Now the mission is, simply:

Kill them, kill them all.

Kill them, kill them all.

The only good news that, despite Levi stabbing him in the throat, releasing that blade, and stabbing him in the stomach for good measure, Reiner doesn’t die.  Apparently, when you’re the Armored Titan, you can recover from what should be two mortal wounds.

I’m not complaining, honestly.  I want the Shifters to live.  The truth is, I want the Shifters to WIN.

A face that says: I'm coming for you Levi...

A face that says: I’m coming for you, Levi, you little sh*t.

And, then, because these morons have wasted so much time searching for and fighting Reiner, when they finally think it might be a good idea to prepare for an attack the Ape Titan thunders over the horizon with a huge army of regular Titans.  He picks up a giant boulder and flings it at the city.  It falls in such a way as to cut off the major avenue of escape.

Now you’ve got the Armored Titan on the inside (presumably also the Colossal  Titan hiding somewhere inside, as well) and a whole bloated army of Titans surrounding the city.

Good luck, kids.

I mean, I’d feel more sympathy for you all, if you hadn’t brought it on yourselves with your murderous insistence that victory could only mean finding and killing people you once called colleagues.

Not a single one of you horrible people objected, either.  No one said, “Gee, sir, I once shared a potato with Bertholdt and he taught me how to make the corners of my bedsheets nice and neat so I could pass inspection, so I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea that we don’t even try talking to the guy first, sir. You know, maybe, find out what the Shifters want?”

Probably none of you say that, because you know that Levi is perfectly capable of ripping your fingernails out one-by-one if you step out of line, and he’s already bullied the wonderfully cowardly Jean who once dared to ask if it was, in fact, NOT okay that we’re killing people, into becoming a bully himself. Also maybe you don’t say anything because you know that even just being a little selfish at a party can end with you gagged and hogtied to a pillar. Ha ha.  Good times.

Yeah, I kind of want all of you to die in fire.

It would help, too, if I felt like the new regime these folks were fighting for was worth a hill of beans.  Instead, they’re being rooted onward by the likes of that piggy tradesman’s son.  They seized the free press.  They’ve locked the former ruling class away into concentration camps.  Let us never forget there’s a guy being fed his own sh*t who they intend to parade in public once a year to remind people what happens when you f*ck with Commander Eyebrows.

Go team….?

Yeah, no, fire is too good for you people.

I hope the Shifters eat you all.

Even Jean, who I once loved for the fact that he said that he was scared to die unnoticed.  Back when I loved Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin, Jean was another one of those characters I held close to my heart because I adored the kind of desperate sadness of his desire to train and fight not to win, but so that he didn’t have an inglorious death in some back alley that no one saw. He was kind of ‘I will be good at this so I die in a blaze of NOTICEABLE glory.’  That’s kind of pathetic, but in the world of SnK, also weirdly admirable.

Constantly, Jean had been the voice of heart.  He was the one who wondered, when they had become rogue and Levi and Hange were torturing people, if it was cool that their enemies were now human beings. (And we knew, even then, that even your average Titan was/is a person.)

Then, Levi pushed Jean’s coward buttons one too many times, and then all of a sudden Jean was beating the crap out of an escapee and saying sh*t like, “We could just kill you now, no one would know.” The act of which shifted him (pardon the pun) from being tragic to just sad.

I mean, everyone breaks.  Maybe that’s part of Isayama’s message.  SnK has always been bleak, but I used to hold out hope that it would be a kind of war-is-hell-but-people-still-have-moments-of-good story. It seems to have mostly devolved into war-is-hell-and-hell-is-other-people-who-are-also-stupid-and-make-dumb-choices.

I think it’s that last bit that really gets me.  If Eyebrows would actually make the smart call ONE TIME, I might be less willing to throw them all into the fire.

If pages weren’t wasted poking the hornets nest and then being surprised when you’re stung, I might be less willing to throw them into the fire.

If even one person asked, ‘why don’t we ask the Shifters what they want before we kill them all and take their stuff?’ I would be less willing to throw them all into the fire.

As it is: fire.

SO. MUCH. FIRE.

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