Shingeki no Kyoujin Episode 3: A Soldier’s Rite of Passage
To stand up is to defy lying down and letting others decide your fate.
The new recruits are subject to the entrance hazing of having to state their name, hometown, and reasons for being here. The responses vary, from fighting for the King and wanting to live an easy life in the “interior.” There are several recruits that exempt, which are all people who have come from the districts lost to the giants. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa begin training. Eren is unexpectedly popular at first, having seen the giants up close, but his bluster soon disappears as he fails the most basic of training – the balancing on the rappel gear. After asking from help from everyone, and making friends with several of the other recruits, he finally stands based on determination. It is discovered that his equipment was damaged from the beginning, and he should have never been able to stand in the first place.
Eren certainly has distinguished himself as someone who runs on “guts.” While Mikasa would be considered by some as a “natural” or a “genius” (which somehow diminishes her abilities as if she doesn’t try, but I’ll get to that in a second), Eren is very much the protagonist in this series as the “every man.” The new recruits that aren’t hazed by the commander are questioned about their past, and they discover that they all had come from the districts that were lost when the wall fell. Whether they say the titans directly or indirectly, Eren stood out.
Eren is an example of those that have seen the titans, and are not interested in retreating. I suspect that some of the soldiers here want to live a safe life in training and hope to never have to see battle, and graduate into a safe life afterwards. There is also the concept of status for the corps, as they are treated a little better than most people. Mikasa may have been through the same things are Eren, but her taciturn nature doesn’t make her particularly easy to befriend (and out of everyone, it’s probably the potato-girl that gets to be her first friend?). Eren almost choked when asked about the “normal” sized titans, as the memories from that day that his mother died is still fresh in his mind. Standing out is probably one of the ways to get picked on, and colliding ideologies will make teamwork hard.
In terms of Mikasa, she’s pretty quiet, but from her interactions with everyone, or lack of it, is definitely one of her drawbacks. While Eren draws in with his gutso and loud words, Mikasa is very quiet, and stands out because of her Asian descent. While Eren commented that her hair was too long, she immediately cut it. While a sign that she might not be thinking about appearances, it shows that she almost exclusively responds to Eren, no matter how bullheaded he is. A lot of people will judge her based on her appearances, but she is definitely a force to contend with. I dislike terming it as something that she gained naturally, as it implies no effort on her part.
The strong vs weak mentality is shown by the people carted back for failing training. If you can’t even survive the beginning training, the worst thing that can happen is not to cause your own death in the battlefield, but the deaths of others. The potato-girl may not be the brightest, but you can’t deny she certainly does have strength to make up for it, shown when she ran non-stop for 5 hours, and didn’t stop. It was pretty funny when she asked Mikasa for bread, and Mikasa just ate it, with no remorse. XD
Eren does make friends, and here, he meets Reiner Braun, who has a similar reason for wanting to become a soldier. Reiner had lived in a village in the forest in the lost district, but unlike the main districts, they did not receive word of the fallen wall until they were attacked. The wish to return home is a simple one, but in a place where humans have to fight for every inch, this is the strongest wish.
The hierarchy shows through, and I hope they touch on this a little more in the show than the manga. The enemy is not necessarily on the outside, as the politics from within the wall is mostly likely what attributed to the now-seen-as suicidal mission to retake the wall. I suspect more than a single team has been sent to certain death for the sake of morale or public opinion.
The episode ends with the team training in the trees using the rappel gear, and Eren has mastered it. This significantly speeds up the storyline, and we’ll have to see where they take the story next week.