“I’m starting to hate humanity!”
Attack on Titan has reached its Gurren Lagann moment–after a sincere amount of buildup, everything is starting to pay off in the latest episode “Wish,” and the satisfaction that comes with its “Who the hell do you think I am” moment is delightfully uncharacteristic for the series.
If you’re not already caught up, we suggest turning back now. Full spoilers for “Wish” are ahead.
The previous episode, “Sin,” was good in the way it provided context and clarified more of this season’s overarching narrative, but it was lackluster in its animation and drama. It was an episode meant to merely prep us for the next one, and in a series that has done so much set up, it was a bit of a slog to get through in comparison to rest of this season. “Wish” is the culmination of all that build up; good lord does it deliver, and there’s a whole heck of a lot to unpack.
To put it very simply, this episode is just miserable. Not miserable as in cringey, but miserable in the sense that it hurts to see these characters that we’ve come to love (or hate) be put through the wringer once again. We got to see the reality of Eren’s past and how he became a shifter in the last episode, and in “Wish,” we’re seeing him legitimately mourn that he cannot atone for the sins his father committed not only against people he loved, but humanity as a whole. This is a sad and painful episode to get through, but not so oppressively sad that it’s masochistic; there’s a reward for the emotional rigor it puts you through.
“Wish” almost feels like if Eren, Historia, Rod, and Kenny were at a the end of a bar fight, and each of them would be holding a gun to each other’s heads. It’s deliciously melodramatic, and in its misery, the come to Jesus moment is when Historia turns the tables on the man she wanted to protect. In flashbacks, we see her reflect on her love and admiration for Ymir, and its those flickers from Season 2 that are what ultimately turn the tide.
Where “Wish” could have improved is in the opening half. While the battle scenes between the Scouts and Kenny’s goons were impressive, they paled in comparison to other intense action sequences that we’ve seen before. The quality of the animation didn’t seem quite up to par as it seemed in the season’s second episode, “Pain,” during the chase between Levi and Kenny–which remains to be one of the most impressive and beautiful sequences to me. We’re almost at the end of this season and I still think about how awesome it was! Nothing in this particular bit of animation and action really stuck out to me, aside from the emotional pang of Hange’s potential fate.
This episode’s strength is in its latter half.
The other place it could have improved is within the explanation of its lore. We saw our first glimpses of the titan serum in “Sin,” but it’s not really explained or explored in that episode or in “Wish.” A title card clearly defines what this serum is and why it’s important between scenes in “Wish,” and its real purpose is more indirectly explained in the context of the events that unfold. Leaving a crucial part of the narrative that can be so easily missed is a strange and rather uninspiring storytelling decision.
This episode’s strength is in its latter half. It’s wonderful to see a vulnerable side of a leading male character in a shonen anime. Instead of the intense, obnoxious screaming we’ve always seen Eren react with throughout the series, he’s filled with an immense amount of regret and sadness as he realizes he can’t make amends for his father’s mistakes. It’s good to see more complex emotion beyond angsty rage pour out of a character like him because it defies the genre’s stereotype of a completely indomitable leading male. It’s ok to cry, and it’s good to see anime boys further normalizing that, especially when they’re experiencing trauma as Eren does in this situation.
It’s also so satisfying to see Historia discover herself. She’s been regularly painted as a relatively waifish kind of character, but she’s grows even further as she kicks the living snot out of her father and defies the burden he so desperately wants her to undertake. Female protagonists who take their lives into their own hands always ices the cake for me, and the way Historia completely demolishes Rod is just so satisfying. This episode does a great job of building the tension between Eren and Historia, and to see her flip her father’s ideals right back on his dumb, manipulative face is the reward I’ve been waiting for from the entire series. We need more anime girls that kick righteous ass.