I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Reviewing Episode 6 was a tough challenge. On the one hand, we need to look in-depth at the story and how the animation presents it. On the other hand, recent issues have surfaced based on fan reactions and the backlash might be concerning in terms bringing in future viewers.
Here is how this review will play out. We will go over the story, how the animation and overall production have handled scenes and, later on, how we can properly appreciate an acquired taste like the implementation of CGI.
Humanization of Marley
The episode's starting point was yet another smart directional decision for the MAPPA staff. Willy's talk with Magath in the carriage. The placement of this scene was better done in the anime and was even used to expand Willy's character further.
The manga did not identify any of the family members but the anime confirmed that the Tybur kids were his and that he had a wife. Their presence and interaction with him humanized Willy into the more conflicted person that he was intended to be by Isayama in the story. Surprisingly, this methodology of character building was applied to most Marleyeans, such as the guards Gabi and the other candidates frequently meet, and the couple from the market who would meet their demise in this episode.
For a character with only 3 episodes of screentime, he managed to cement his place in the story as one of the most pivotal pieces of the geopolitics of the series and the plot overall.
The line uttered by Magath, who consented to Willy's plan, was also relevant to Marley's theme about identity formation in politics. Magath, like many commander-type characters throughout the story, recognizes the possible wrongs they will commit but they know that, in one way or another, it has to be done for a goal worth fighting for. In this case, they need Marley and the world to come together and Eren is the enemy they must aim their anger towards.
However, Eren's assault brought in numerous casualties from the crowd that gathered for the Declaration of War. Zofia was crushed under some concrete while Udo died as the crowd stampeded. The anime does well in showing off the mass panic, from Gabi's screams delivered well by her voice actress to the shots of the crowd stomping on Udo's body.
The intensity of this situation could not be expressed more palpably. Not to mention how ironically similar this attack was with the Colossal Titan's first appearance at the start of the series.
The Warhammer on the Attack
As it turns out, Willy was not the War Hammer but his sister, whom the anime christened "Lara". Her appearance would lead to the tide turning towards Marley. As with most Attack on Titan episodes, there is a clear three-act structure and constantly changing conditions for the battle.
The direction for the War Hammer Titan's transformation was done splendidly, from the score to the animation. Once again, the anime does not hold back on the gore, putting Eren's brutality on full display as he delivers a sudden punch on the War Hammer midway into fully transforming, to the delight of the anime community as a whole.
While this was going on, Magath assumes leadership of the military, as Willy intended, and took full advantage of Eren' sudden appearance to muster enough strength to contain the situation. In fact, he does this through a symbolic declaration of the Marleyean counterattack. This goes to show that Magath is a solid presence the Marleyeans need for this moment.
As for the fight against the War Hammer Titan, there were so many highlights to pick from. Eren did not stand a chance once the War Hammer got on its feet, releasing weapon after weapon to damage the surprisingly vulnerable Attack Titan. The War Hammer's mastery of hardening and weapon creation are some of the best power sets for the entire series. Indeed, the anime takes full advantage of such flexibility with an excellent fusion of 2D close-ups and 3D animation that take advantage of another strength of the MAPPA adaptation, the lighting. The War Hammer's white skin matches well with the dark atmosphere, which is only lit by modern lights, a sight that is not common for Attack on Titan given how much time we have spent on Paradis.
The sakuga in the Warhammer fight was pretty seamless from start to finish. From creating giant mallets to spike generation, this Titan's powers were shown in visually entertaining ways. Even the Attack Titan's CGI, while not as good, was used to full advantage, showing off the sharpness in the hardened structures formed by this Titan.
The Devils of Paradis
Mikasa was given the red carpet treatment as her entrance was shown in full detail, with the camera following her trail that led her to launch the Thunder Spears that would temporarily disable the War Hammer Titan. This scene was not the first demonstration of MAPPA's interpretation of the ODM gear scenes. Series director Hayashi has told fans to enjoy their implementation of ODM gear. Indeed, we were first treated to a few seconds of the camera moving through houses and quickly revealing the arrival of the Scout Regiment.
Some fans have noted that the Scouts were rendered with CGI as well. However, the usage of CG by the staff (and other techniques, such as rotoscoping) has helped them save time and effort while allowing the character models to move through the scenes a bit more smoothly. I would recommend watching the episode in a higher quality to capture these details.
Where the episode best exploits the production's strengths (realistic lighting at night, musical direction, implementation of CGI, and character design) was at the end with Porco. Levi's entrance was spectacular, with the shock over the strength of the Scouts dawning over Porco as he sees many humans assault the Titan without any hint of fear.
Concluding Thoughts and Fan Discourse
Overall, it was a strong action episode with displaying MAPPA's unique approaches to Titan fights and the ODM gear animation, through frequent use of CGI that is actually pretty easy on the eyes. The music and lighting were highlights that should be taken note of. The use of space is quite impressive for the season, even giving us a clearer picture of the battlefield and where people are. The anime-original content continues to expand the manga in more ways than one, even alluding to the coming events of the final few chapters.
I touched on the issues surrounding the episode. Social media has been vocally slandering on the design choice for Mikasa, which was clearly lifted from the manga. The most touchy point about the fan reactions has to be the harassment against the staff (even those without any involvement in the episode whatsoever). The majority of this backlash comes from the usage of CGI. Frankly, it is disappointing to see this happen just when the hype for Attack on Titan has returned to full glory. Let us just hope that cooler heads prevail in the coming weeks as the rest of the world braces for what the folks over at Studio MAPPA have to offer.
© 2021 Mar Louie Vincent Reyes