The Observation Deck: Attack on Titan OADs

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Some of those reading the title right now might be a bit confused as to why I am choosing to cover the topic of this post. After all, OADs are often not important to the story, and on top of that, I rarely if ever talk about them outside of the context of reporting that they exist. In fact, I do not even watch them most of the time unless I am struggling with things to watch.

Well, apart from the fact that Crunchyroll has them conveniently listed on their website and the fact that I said I was going to cover them, I want to feel like I am getting the full-on AOT experience. Plus, it seems as though most of these are to be treated as canon, and since that is the case, I want to give them the respect they deserve as proper entries into Attack on Titan.

There is not really a convenient summary I can write since each episode, or in some cases dual episodes, cover different characters and events. It might be easiest to think of them as an extended “Tales of Ba Sing Se” only a lot darker and with completely different timestamps and contexts. In fact, the range of time in which these episodes happen spans from before the first episode to the middle of season three.

Highs and Lows

I will say that there is no bad episode among the released OADs. There is, however, one mediocre episode, which comes right at the beginning. Episode two focuses on a cooking competition between Jean and Sasha, all the while Jean is looking for every excuse not to see his mom, even going so far as to kick her out of the barracks when she comes to visit him.

Rather than outright bad, I would describe this episode as just being closer to mediocre. Everything about it feels…off for some reason. Whether it is the stakes, which are some of the lowest the series has ever seen, or maybe even the focus on Jean’s homelife which is not particularly interesting. If I had to choose one thing about it that feels the most wrong, it would be the comedy, which just feels out of place as the focus of an entire episode.

The highlight of this season is by far the episodes focused on Levi’s backstory. He has always been one of the most popular characters in the series, memes or otherwise, and these episodes cemented the justification for said popularity. These episodes also give us the origin story of Levi’s friends, and how exactly his relationship with Erwin came to be.

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Levi’s story is by far one of the most compelling in the Attack on Titan universe. Little is known about the underground city outside of the fact that those who live down there tend to stay down there. Poverty is its defining characteristic and through a major tragedy, Levi is able to make it to the surface.

In fact, I would argue that both of the two-part OADs are worth mentioning, as Annie’s is also surprisingly good. Her episode focuses on investigating the missing daughter of a wealthy elite. The job is passed on to her after she asks her roommate to report her sick for tomorrow’s Military Police work. Despite not caring that much, to begin with, she ends up solving the whole thing in a day.

It is an interesting story because Annie is one of those characters who also feels a bit underdeveloped despite how much importance she has early on. Unfortunately, I cannot say these episodes do as much in terms of properly explaining her motivations, but it does give us another side of her that makes her feel decidedly more human than even Reiner or Bertholdt. On top of that, the episode shows us yet another aspect of the seedy underworld that is human society within the wall: drugs. At first, it felt like an odd choice, but considering they have weapons that literally send them flying through the air at top speed to kill titans, it makes sense that they can cook drugs.

OADs vs Main Seasons

Outside of the aforementioned episode about Jean, all of these are above average episodes, with a lot of them focusing not just on individual characters, but the soldiers as a group. Something that feels missing from Attack on Titan is a sense of comradery which the earlier military training episodes fail to really foster. I dare say that making time for the content of, let us say, episode three would help to improve that.

Episode three showcases Eren and friends during a training mission in which the only immediate objective is to reach a checkpoint and come back. The group is attacked by black market weapon sellers at which point their gear and Krista are taken. The crew is then forced to use their better judgment to devise a plan and get her back.

Honestly, if this episode were just dropped into the middle of the original series and edited a bit for context, the series as a whole would be a fair bit better. This is not to say that right now Attack on Titan is not compelling, but it feels like if more time were spent on characters earlier on, there would be a bit more impact later on.

That could actually be said for most of the episodes here. Their division from the main series as OADs, while they may still be canon, gives them an air of unimportance. One of my biggest gripes with Annie’s episodes, for instance, is not even anything to do with the episodes themselves. Rather, it is the fact that they exist outside the preview of season one, where their inclusion would have seriously assisted her character.

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What is the Point?

Though not as narratively or technically impressive as some of the others, Mikasa’s “flashback” during the last OVA feels compelling enough to talk about. Many have argued that her character basically comes down to having strong feelings for Eren, and while I do not deny that, it is not necessarily a bad thing for a character to be solely focused on another.

During the episode, Mikasa reimagines the world with the stipulation that Eren has to die at some point, and their terrifying reality mirages itself away, replaced instead by one in which Mikasa’s parents are still alive, and Eren becomes her distant friend.

This episode appears to be in the context in which the group figures out that Eren only has a few years left to live, which makes a lot of sense. Those feelings of desperation can be hard to deal with, and yet, by the end of the episode, it all vanishes, which highlights the immediacy of their situation.

Music? Music.

Surprisingly there are actually a few cool things to say about the music in these OADs. For starters, during the intro sequence to the episode about Jean’s cooking competition, the intro for Guren no Yumiya is edited to focus more on Jean himself. While not incredibly important to the overall episode, it is a nice touch that was admittedly pretty funny.

Of course, I cannot talk about Attack on Titan music without also mentioning the man, the myth, the legend, Hiroyuki Sawano. The base soundtrack for the series is already beautiful, but the female rendition of Call Your Name which is included at the end of Annie’s episodes is absolutely phenomenal and was quickly added to my music rotation.

Conclusion

For the purposes of this review, these episodes are being judged as a sort of loosely connected mini-series, with the over-arching story coming from Attack on Titan itself and not from any internal connectivity between the episodes. Even with that being the case, they are a great addition to the overall story of AOT, and with the full context of the series now under my belt, I look forward to the final season.

83/100


Have you seen the Attack on Titan OADs? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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