After four longs years Attack on Titan is back and if this first episode is any indication it could be a treat. While it is no secret my views on the upcoming material are mixed to say the least and I’m approaching this season with trepidation, the strong first outing has allayed those fears somewhat. Furthermore at only a single 12 episode cour the pacing issues that plagued the first season may be abetted somewhat. Furthermore while the manga material (I’ll refrain from spoilers) may be mixed from a narrative perspective Wit Studio’s adaptation has always been top notch, I would argue it actually surpasses the original.

This looks to be the case once more as Attack on Titan is gorgeous. I recently rewatched the first season and while a good looking anime it does not compare to the gorgeous animation present with its return. There were parts of this episode where I astonished by the level of polish on the animation. While it is clear not all 12 Episodes will be of such high caliber its also clear there is some serious talent behind this season as the new director Masashi Koizuka brings the same visual flare he employed in his previous series Seraph of the End. However lets get going with Episode 26 “Beast Titan”.

Please refrain from any manga spoilers in the discussions, this is an Anime only write up. Manga spoilers will be deleted.

What is clear right from the get go this show will not be holding your hand and easing you back into the world of Attack on Titan. Picking up immediately at the end of the previous season Annie the Female Titan has been defeated after her and Eren’s no holds barred knock em out fight. As she is taken away the inner Wall has been damaged by their encounter and it reveals a shocking truth.

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That the Titan’s themselves make up the wall that protects humanity. A Priest of the Cult of the Wall demands that the Survey Corp. quickly cover up the Titan’s face before the sun wakes it. This helps move a theory that Titan’s (at least non-irregular Titans) are somehow powered by the sunlight as we saw in season one with Hange’s pet Titans.

The revelation that the Cult of the Wall seems to know of the potential danger and never told anyone sends Hange into a rage. Where shedding her (She is a she right, has that ever been confirmed? Well for these write ups we will go with female) more calm and care free attitude she demands Pastor Nick tell them everything he knows about the Titan’s that make up the walls. Even threatening to send him off the wall to meet his maker.

When he doesn’t talk Hange throws him back from the edge revealing she never did intend to end the ass hats life. Though she does still expect to get answers from him in time. This is of special importance due to the discovery of the Human form Titan’s that have infiltrated their society.

As we move away from the aftermath of the Titan smack down, the focus shifts to a Survey Corp Outpost where the 104th Trainees are stationed. As some reminisce about their homes that are close by an ominous conversation considering the series it is revealed that Titan’s have breached Wall Rose. Incoming from the south it is up to the 104th to warn everybody, of course no surprise the South is where Connies village is located.

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As the 104th moves out on horseback without their gear they decide to split into four groups to notify the rest of the people outside of the inner walls. However as they do this the Titan’s push into a sprint forcing a change in plans. Mike one of the senior and most skilled members of the Survey Corp. who also happens to be geared up decides to buy some time for everyone else and jumps into the breach alone.

The ensuing battle between the lone Mike and the hoard of Titans is everything that made Attack on Titan so popular. A lone warrior cutting his way through the enemy soaring as he cuts a path for himself and his friends. It is a scene that looks cool in the manga but one that positively explodes in animated form, which is why so many feel this series works so much better on the screen rather then the page.

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As Mike gets the upper hand though and prepares to make his escape, proving the idea he is second in skill only to Captain Levi (the best character in Attack on titan) he is interrupted by a surprising figure. The titular Beast Titan makes it’s triumphant entrance and quickly dispatches the over matched Mike. In the biggest surprise of the episode the Beast Titan speaks, an ability not shown by previous Titan even the human form abnormals like Eren and Annie.

Showing curiosity and intelligence previously unseen the Beast Titan inquires about the High Maneuverability Gear that allows a human to fight a Titan. Mike remains tight lipped during the whole interrogation angering the Beast Titan. Who is voiced by Takehito Koyasu famed for playing Dio Brando among others, the voice acting is suitably crude and menacing all at the same time. With his almost kind and thoughtful but undeniably dangerous the Beast Titan is an enemy unlike any we have seen in the series.

Knowing he’ll get nothing from the tight lipped Squad Leader, the Beast Titan gives the order that its okay for the other Titans to kill him ending the life of humanities second strongest. This action shows a level of control over the other Titans that even the Abnormals have not shown. Mike is then graphically ripped to shreds as the Titans devour him showing a level of bodily horror that is rare among such popular anime. For fans of the series worried if any of the deaths present in the manga will be watered down in the anime, this is a sure sign that no they wont be.

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As the episode comes to a close and we look forward to the next 11 I was pleasantly surprised. Narratively tight and well put together there was no scene that seemed to linger past its best before date unlike in the first season. The animation was all around top notch and the action visceral, while as I mentioned I have issues with the upcoming manga material if the anime continues to be this well made that may be a small gripe. Needless to say I’m excited. Can’t wait until next week.

How we can do an Attack on Titan without talking about the opening just wouldn’t be right. As the OPs and EDs have been so intrinsic to the success of the series. While I really do enjoy the song and Linked Horizon has done a good job of capturing the spirit of the original OPs nearly half a decade later. I do think it’ll go down as the worst OP of the series, though that is a relative term as this song rocks. Personally I’m waiting for the full version to make a final judgement by Jiyuu no Tsubasa and Guren no Yumiya were just too amazing.