Monday, September 10, 2018

Attack on Titan: Historia Choosing Her Fate

First, this post has spoilers for Attack on Titan Episode 45 "Outside the Walls of Orvud District," which aired yesterday, so if you haven't seen it yet, go watch it before coming back here, because I'm going to talk about something that happens at the end of the episode.

I've mentioned before that there were a number of changes from the manga to the story arc for Season 3 of the anime. This was mostly to punch up the pacing, but as a result, some scenes were removed entirely, resulting in lost motivations and smaller details that would have made later scenes (which were kept!) more effective.

One of those removed scenes was when Historia finds out that part of Erwin's plan is to install her as the new queen. Originally, this happens shortly after the team tortures the Interior Military Police and learns that the Reiss family is the true royal family. Once Erwin learns this, he realizes the military can use Historia to overthrow the current government, which is currently using a false king as a figurehead. With Historia, they can spin their coup as restoring power to the true royal family.

Levi, Historia's captain, receives Erwin's instructions and tells Historia that she's going to become queen. And if you know Levi, he's a bit of a jerk, and doesn't bother sugarcoating anything, so he has zero sympathy when she hesitates in the face of this understandably enormous responsibility. He get that it is a lot to take in, but he doesn't have the time, and this results in him physically grabbing and shaking her to get her to make up her mind. Though he stops short of immediately ordering her, he essentially gives her a few seconds to either get the hell out or he's going to make her queen whether she wants to or not.

Historia agrees, but it's not from a position of strength, as she's obviously rattled and looks at it as just another role to play. She's pretended to be a kind of person she wasn't before, so this is no different.

The anime initially removed this scene. Historia is not at the cabin when they learn the truth about the Reiss family because she has already been kidnapped. Thus she is in the dark about Erwin's plan to make her queen until she is eventually rescued several episodes later, and during this time, she has a fair bit of character development and finally figures out the kind of person she wants to be.

As the Survey Corps prepares to face the largest titan yet, Levi informs Historia that she is to become queen on Erwin's orders and her fellow squad members protest about forcing her into that kind of role. I was surprised to see this scene here, because Historia is now a different person at this point in the story, and Levi shaking her would undermine everything she's gone though.

Fortunately, the scene has been rewritten--for the better!

Historia meets Levi's order on her own terms and agrees to become queen, with the admonition to her squadmates that it is up to her to decide whether or not this role has been forced on her. Moreover, she places a condition on her agreement, which as manga readers can guess, it's that she will participate in the upcoming battle.

The following scene has Historia striding into the strategy room, fully geared for combat, to take her place by her squadmates, to a sweeping and inspiring theme by composer Hiroyuki Sawano, and all I really wanted to do was root for this girl. She's come a long way, and it's even better having her so proactively choose this fate for herself.

Most of Season 3 I feel like the manga did better, but this was extremely well done and the best change I've seen so far.