First Battle

“You were the one who told me about it. That’s why I want to go outside.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

A well-known bait and switch that serves as a second hook, and properly establishes the show as one that will twist in unexpected ways (even if this one is an about-face that falsely convinces many that this is a show that will unceremoniously kill off main characters).

The introduction of Pyxis shows his status among the interior royals. It’s another scene that hints at the more widespread corruption. Marquis Bart wants Pyxis to finish his game of chess with him in spite of the crisis in Trost. He makes the claim that Pyxis’ presence won’t sway the tide of battle. It’s Pyxis that later saves Eren’s life and wins their victory in Trost.

Pyxis is a really entertaining character, a straight-man amongst the faction commanders. Erwin is insanely cunning and ruthless. Nile is ignorant and passive. Zachary is a secret lunatic that creates torture devices. Pyxis comes from a much more neutral perspective, yet stands for what he believes in (unlike Nile) and takes action when necessary. Even as a routine heavy drinker, he’s the most practical of the commanders. Also, who can’t love the way everyone screams his name? “PICKSHEESHUH!!!”

In the face of imminent danger, before his group is sent to the front lines, Eren displays a perverse recklessness that, while not unusual for an anime or a fantastical world, will continue to be expanded upon in this story as, what I would best describe as, “not normal.” All he seems to care about is killing and moving up the ranks. Just on the eve of graduation, their inexperience reveals itself as they are all decimated by the enemy. Eren, charging in with absolute rage, immediately loses his limbs to a more tactical, unforgiving foe.

Even as dark as the show gets, I would make the argument that this is one of two particularly depressing episodes this season in terms of it’s styling as a fantastical survival horror (which later changes). Having spent four episodes watching Eren assert his belief in their ability, and sympathizing with his desire for revenge for the death of his mother, we get the build up of a typical YA shonen revenge story. Then we’re forced to watch our would-be hero in denial of his oncoming doom before having his limbs torn off and getting swallowed by a titan, as his best friend Armin watches in horror. It’s a great jolt to the system after three episodes of world building.

All rage, with no experience, and no strategy will get you killed. The inexperienced are sent to the front lines while the veterans are more protected. Like a chess game, mass swaths of pawns are statistically sacrificed to dent the enemy in war.

Fun Notes:
– Although Eren is eaten, this does not go against later established rules of transference of titan power, as Eren is not killed and his spinal fluid is not digested (which is the key point).

– Likewise, a lot of fans like to bring up the Colossal Titan’s disappearance as a ‘plot hole’ or ask for deeper explanation. Sure, the narrative is expecting some suspension of disbelief, as other titan corpses take a longer time to evaporate. However, we know the Colossal can change the degree with which it consumes it’s body to disappear as well as how much heat it produces. I always figured Bert just used it all in one go so he could easily sneak back amongst the Scouts.

– Eren’s initial attack against the Colossal gets a great visual callback when he finally defeats it in the battle to retake Wall Maria. Especially given his later revealed titan powers, it’s made more effective by the fact that Eren beats him as a human.

– Jean comments that he would’ve been joining the Military Police the next day had it not been for the attack. Although there are other reasons, one can suspect that Bert and Reiner decided to attack so they could kill their fellow trainee’s before they were assigned to a faction. It’d certainly make it easier for them, mentally, to have their ‘comrades’ be killed by titans.

– The titans seen in Trost here, killing Eren’s comrades, are members of the Eldian Restorationists that we later see when they’re initially transformed into titans in ‘That Day,’ who were Grisha’s comrades. See the photo below.

The titans seen in Trost here are many of the titans seen in the season 3 episode, 'That Day,' made up of Eldian Restorationists, comrades of Eren's father, Grisha

Thematic Beats:
– Let us be bluntly honest about the reality this episode presents in the greater context. If Eren was normal, if he was not gifted fantastical powers, he would be dead. There is no glory. He would be a boy who lost his mother to an enemy, joined the war out of rage, and was swiftly killed. There are several of his comrades, and supporting characters, who will suffer this fate throughout the series. No amount of rage or nationalism or numbers will help you. You either have the power and smarts to defeat the enemy or you don’t. This episode presents a world in which you face an enemy and there are no magic powers to save you.

Favorite Scene:
– As much as the final scene is iconic and shocking, my vote has to go to the immediate flashback before the last moments. This is the basis of Armin and Eren’s motives from which all other themes spring. There is a wall. They want to go outside. Why? What do walls represent in politics and history? How do their desires differ? Understand this is before the death of his mother, before the death of Armin’s parents and grandfather and Eren already had an intense desire to leave. The difference between them will continue to be more and more significant.

– I want to give major shoutouts to Armin’s Japanese voice actor, Marina Inoue. I find Armin’s scream, her performance, at the end of this episode to be very haunting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s