meidos: (misc * i got shot)
mあddy ([personal profile] meidos) wrote2013-07-22 06:42 pm

how is she even doing that: a critique on shingeki no kyojin

apologies for possible grammar errors or misspellings in this as my brain is currently curdling itself in my head? um. not really sure why but i'll try and be as coherent as I can...



oBVIOSULY THERE ARE SPOILERS SO KEEP THAT IN MIND OR DONT READ IF YOURE NOT UP TO DATE IN THE MANGA...

snk irritates me because of its horrible storytelling and introduction of events. most of the story seems like a very long stream of conscious written by isayama. while there are absolutely things that you can go back and say "oh!" about, too much is introduced suddenly and with little to no forewarning. this is the biggest sign of weak storytelling.

the mystery of titans is something the reader and humans are meant to share, and that works well. we come in much like eren, knowing very little about the world outside the walls, and are introduced bit by bit by others, especially the scouting legion, arguably the most important storytellers in the series. as they're the ones in direct contact with titans on a regular basis, ignoring them would have been such a loss, so i'm happy isayama eluded to their importance as early as he did with eren's fascination (which was easily passed onto the reader with the promise of escaping the walls).

however, so much of the story is un-eluded to, meant to be displayed as a mystery, but nothing in read-throughs gives you warnings. Eren's ability to turn into a titan is a great shock and a wonderful storytelling tool in that it mixes two groups that we're told from the start are in complete opposites. humans are smart, built themselves a walled city, technology, live in groups, all that. titans are dumb, cannot speak, act based on id, and do not work together. the appearance of the colossal titan is a somewhat lost moment in the series, actually - it's "colossal," but it's also the first titan we really see, and sets our expectation for everything else. it's terrifying and inhuman and just downright unsettling. the small head works very well here, in fact. more titans pour in, and we begin to see what the titans normally look like and it's... so disappointing. they look stupid and hilarious and, most of all, non-threatening. maybe I'm spoiled because I watched the anime first and that had such better art, but seriously, how is this frightening? it's disturbing, sure, but it's also a bit... well, hilarious. this could of course be due to isayama's art, but even later displays of titans are artistically better and yet just as non-threatening. when the main villain of the story is somewhat laughable, it's not the best method of storytelling, and makes it a bit head-scratchingly confusing why humans are constantly dying to them.
anyway. bertoldt and reiner's reveals are actually a bit well-done, so i'll talk about that. bertoldt is painted as a nervous, sweaty guy who doesn't really say all that much, but when he does, it's a bit disturbing and close-minded. bigger, stronger reiner is a power-house, speaks his mind, is expressive if not critical, and an older brother figure to much of the younger cast. their friendship is never questioned due to them being from the same village. the reveal that they're the colossal and armored titan frustrated me so strongly at first because they had no discernible reason to have been so violent, nor had we seen any hatred for humans even in passing, simple comments when they were human. but then, I realized, bertoldt being the colossal titan was a bit of a non-shock: the colossal titan never killed anyone itself, rather it destroyed technology. it allowed others to enter the walls and do things for him; because of this, his humanity is maintained. the same can generally be said for reiner/armored titan, but his more... direct contact makes it a little harder to "forgive" him. their mutual non-caring attitude towards what happened is interesting though.
GOD THIS IS THE MAJOR ISSUE I HAVE: snk introduces so many interesting characters but the narrative is so poor that they're hardly explored.

alright. let's talk about the main theme of the story, namely, "you can't win unless you fight" and "you'll certainly lose if you don't even try." it's a great theme. i'm fond of it. i think it's an important thing to teach people to try and act and do things instead of surrendering with the thought "it's pointless, I'll lose anyway." props to snk for introducing this theme with such a grand metaphor as the ongoing war between humans and titans.
what I have issue with is its introduction - namely, mikasa's backstory. I'm not going to get into how eye-rollingly deviant art "mikasa is the last asian" is, nor how two young children murdering three full-grown adult men is even worse and something i think every 12 year old who joined deviantart has included in an original character bio. instead, i'll detail my frustration from a literary and storytelling point of view.
the introduction of backstory is important for two reasons: it shows events that shaped a character insofar as they are still affected by them today, and it gives evidence of life before the story, and thus a timeline of events. both of these points are failed so awfully in shingeki no kyojin. to summarize the backstory introduced: mikasa is kidnapped and is to be sold as a slave. eren enters and murders 2 of the men in cold blood, and while being strangled by the third, urges mikasa to fight, and that she must if she wants to live - you can't win if you don't try. this motivates mikasa and makes her "snap" enough to allow her to kill the third man. both children are free, and 2 things are gained from the story: mikasa's hero worship of eren, and our understanding of eren as a boy willing to do whatever it takes to survive. "wait," you say haltingly, "two eight year olds just murdered some adults... shouldn't we be more suspicious of their mental state?" isayama's response to this through his storytelling is a resounding no. while it would be incredibly interesting to explore this scene as a wake-up call to eren's family and friend (only one friend, eren) that maybe eren is Not Quite Right In The Head, the event is brought up only one other time - the trial scene. there, the military police says they discovered evidence that eren and mikasa murdered the three men, and use it as evidence to prove his instability and that he should be executed. call-backs are good, it can be said, but the big issue with this is that the military police are the bad guys. their announcement of the event is met with a resounding "oh goddamn it" by eren, who's more frustrated that what he and mikasa did is out in the open than he is that he was just reminded of what should have been a major traumatic event for such a young child. in a story like shingeki no kyojin that has constant fantasy/sci fi elements, this can be justified in that eren is a heroic character and thus his actions have no effect on his psyche - this is a world filled with weird-looking titans, after all. i call bullshit on this. it's horrible, horrible storytelling to so easily write off something as horrific as the murder of humans, especially in a story that constantly emphasizes this brutality. being killed by titans? fucked up. being killed by humans? what the fucked up. this is pretty much how the story flows, and the fact that no one but the "villains" care about this urges the reader to do the same. it makes eren an unbelievable character, which is a stupid thing to do with your main protagonist.

mikasa is an entire other story and I'm not sure I can really do my rage with her character justice, but let's just say i'm disgusted that such a character is celebrated so readily when, narratively, her only (seriously, only, aside from maybe armin) motivation is protecting eren. when she thinks eren is dead, she goes ballistic in a way only mikasa can and more or less attempts to kill herself. this is such awful storytelling and such awful, awful characterization. mikasa's hero worship of eren is frustrating at times and maddening at others. we're still given such little view into eren's "strength" - the closest we get is "wowwwww he can stay upright on 3dmg that didnt even fit him!" (gag me) eren is constantly shown to be an idiot, elitist, quick to anger, and faster to act. almost every shit eren steps in is directly his fault. there is little reason given to see eren as a hero. rather, eren is a tool - and i don't mean that in the slang way. eren is a literal tool that the scouting legion desires to use in order to save the human species. this is all eren is. he isn't a hero, he isn't a martyr, he isn't a person to be worshipped. he's a tool that others desire to use to become heroes themselves, and it's frequently lampshaded in the series itself. doesn't stop isayama from trying to prove eren is a hero, though.

this leads me to my other frustration - the main fight is between humans and titans. this is exciting and exhilarating. watching small humans fling themselves at giants, aiming for a small sliver of skin, is artistically and narratively wonderful. it didnt' surprise me at all that it became such a photo fad in japan. but then, as more antagonists are introduced, the less humans have any say in things. eren is simply there, being a titan, being inhuman, and winning. it's seriously frustrating. the excitement of watching humans triumph over inhuman beasts is drowned out by watching two titans clash at each other. it's even worse when you start to realize that it's two humans clashing, disguised as titans. the fight with annie was almost unbearable, given the previous fight in the forest and the insane loss of human life that she caused. having humans win against her instead of eren's rage would have been great! but no, eren has to be proven as a hero, humanity's savior, jesus, whatever. it's seriously frustrating. the fight against reiner and bertoldt was even worse, as they're technically the embodiment of humanity's rage against titans - they both caused the most destruction of the human race, and seeing humans actually win against them would have been refreshing as hell. instead, we got an uncomfortable battle with eren losing his mind and kind of sucking. god i hated that fight scene.

you know what I hated more? the reveal of the other titan shifters, and especially armin's role in those reveals narratively. isayama does something uncomfortable in that he reveals the roles of characters while flashing to other characters, often far away, often armin, nodding along and saying "yep, called it, remember when i called it? oh. well i did. here's a flashback about it." it's literally the worst form of storytelling imaginable and makes characters like armin seem stupid and unbelievable. i think annie's reveal is the most blunt in this sort of reveal. the trio and her are running thru the city, eren (and we, the reader, therefore) clueless as to who she really is. as they're about to enter the underground and eren urges her to follow, she declines, and it's revealed they've been followed by people the whole way - our people, not her's. annie is revealed as the female titan to eren, who reacts surprisingly realistically for once, and a bit later, armin says "oh sure i knew. she had marco's gear. so i figured she killed soney and bean." this has never before been brought up, as we, the reader, and eren, as established by erwin asking him what he knew, had no indication or clues about who had killed them aside from their known possession of 3dmg. armin is revealed to have known all along, having told other officials (erwin? i don't remember) and they decided to lay low and not act until she did. this is revealed to the reader at the same time as annie's main reveal is, and it's infuriating. there's no notice of armin knowing these things, no sign of him acting differently around those he suspects, no notice of him having gone to meet those officials of what he suspected. it's just brought up suddenly at the same time to show that armin is the Smart One. it fails in this, and instead makes things frustrating and leaves the reader feeling left-out. it's lazy storytelling and makes it seem like isayama wasn't entirely sure who was going to end up having been the one to kill soney and bean, or be revaled as the female type titan, or anything. it's been shown this isn't quite true, but every now and then, i really question how much isayama knows about his own story.

i could go on but my head is literally killing me. i might add more later, but there are my main issues written out i guess. if you'd like to argue with me or whatever, comment below and i'd be happy to discuss things because i find this trashpit of a series as fascinating as a car wreck.

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