Attack on Titan, Season Three, Episode Fifteen, Descent Review: Fantastic Animation vs Bad Animation.

4 stars

Spoiler Free Review:

Attack on Titan went all out with some of the animation in its latest episode, “Descent.”
There is some absolutely fantastic explosion animation this episode that will leave the viewers’ jaws on the floor.
However, going all out comes with a cost because, for every brilliant shot of animation this episode, there is another that pulled me out of the moment.
Let’s start with the Colossal Titan.
When I first saw him in the new opening, I was very concerned because of how terrible the CGI for him was.
And, while I will say that thankfully the Colossal Titan does not look as disastrous as in that opening, he still sticks out like a sour thumb.
This is especially worrying because the Colossal Titan is going to be an essential part of the coming episodes, which will adapt some of my favourite chapters in the manga.
I am very concerned that the Colossal Titan will look bad in those episodes and draw me out of the climactic scenes.
Speaking of being drawn out of the moment, there is one scene in “Descent” that does exactly this because of how jarring it is.
This is from a scene of the Beast Titan, where the animation has literally been lifted right from season two, episode one.
The two shots are practically identical.
All of this has me thinking that because they have put so much effort into some of the animation they have to lessen the quality of others to fit their budget, which is worrying coming into the next episodes.
It is a shame that there is a lot of questionable animation in these shots because the episode itself is very enjoyable.
There is great action, great suspense, great character development.
Bertholdt is the standout of the episode by far, having really grown since his last appearance.
Armin continues to stand out as well with his brains and Mikasa continues to be as awesome as ever.
Then there is the music of “Descent”, which, in typical Attack on Titan fashion, is stellar and adds so much tension to the already great scenes.
Overall, “Descent” is probably the best episode of this second half so far, even if my main take away is the animation problems.

Spoiler Review:

Much like the fantastic episode “Historia” from season two, “Descent” starts off with a flashback.
Usually, this would be a bad thing because it would break the tension set-up by the previous episode.
However, just like “Historia”, “Descent” more than earns this starting flashback because of the interesting character development it presents.
In this opening flashback, we see what Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie were doing when Eren was sealing the hole in Trost District, all the way back in the first arc.
When talking out loud about their plans, Reiner and Bertholdt are overheard by Marco, forcing them to take action.
Reiner holds Marco down while Annie steals his ODM gear, before the three abandon him to be devoured by a Titan.
This led to Reiner developing his split personality, which we saw in season two, with him wondering why Marco is being eaten.
Now, while this scene was also hinted at in that two, in my opinion it did not take away from the intensity of the scene.
From this scene, it is clear that, even though the three warriors are ruthless killers, they are not completely heartless because they all feel horrified by their actions and deal with it in different ways.
After this, we get a scene with Reiner and Bertholdt talking with the Beast Titan, before the Scouts arrive.
The Titan with the backpack arrives to inform them of the incoming force and calls the Beast Titan “war chief Zeke”, which is the first time his name has been revealed.
Then we see Reiner telling Bertholdt he needs to take action himself without relying on anyone in this battle, and then going on to say they will save Annie and Christa.
This leads to him mentioning Ymir, making me curious as to how they will reveal where she is, because I think that is going to be slightly changed from the manga.
We then cut back from the flashback into the present, with the official introduction of Reiner’s plot Armoured Titan.
In all seriousness though, how Reiner survived getting his head blown off is just as contrived as in the manga, although Reiner is such a great character and does so much later that I am willing to let it slide.
But then there is the censorship again, which is just ridiculous, especially given that an even worst shot of Reiner regrowing his head is shown at the end of the episode in full view.
Anyway, this goes into the scene where Bertholdt is thrown over the wall by Zeke, and this is where the shot of the Beast Titan is repeated from season two.
The reason I have such a problem with this is because in that shot the Beast Titan is throwing at a low angle, and yet he somehow he manages to chuck Bertholdt over the wall.
It may have been a small moment, but is was enough to temporarily draw me out of the moment.
Following this, we have the big confrontation between Bertholdt and Armin, where Bertholdt really shines as a character.
We can see just how much more ruthless he has become since season two, with Mikasa commenting that he seemed like a completely different person.
This comment comes after she attacks Bertholdt in a thrilling scene of combat, with great music, that eventually leads to Bertholdt transforming into the Colossal Titan in an epic explosion with stellar animation.
Scarily though, there is the question of whether Hange and Moblit were caught up in the explosion.
However, this fear of what may have happened to them is quickly undercut by the appearance of the CGI Colossal Titan, which is very distracting.
Hopefully it will get better in the next few episodes.
And, with this, the episode quickly begins to draw to a close.
“Descent” is another great episode of Attack on Titan.
Despite the problems I have with the animation, everything else about it is great from the character development to the action.
If it had not been for that animation I would definitely have given it half a mark higher.

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