A Note on Attack on Titan’s unexpected adaptation – When is changing the source a good thing?

We’ve talked about adaptations in a previous podcast episode, but since then, Attack on Titan season 2 has taken some liberties with how they adapted certain scenes. For the manga readers, the changes they made were quite an interesting choice and for anime only followers, it slips through unnoticed or perhaps introduced even more questions. I never reread chapters before or after an episode of the anime, but episode 35 caused me to look back at the source and ponder if the change they made was worth it or not.

Major Spoilers for both the anime and the manga ahead. Especially the manga and some future anime episodes.

PTSD

Let’s start with the more minor alteration just in case you ignored the spoiler warning. Episode 34 adapts chapter 46 almost perfectly. During the tree talk, Reiner has a PTSD flashback involving Marco’s death back in the battle of Trost. The flashback depicts Reiner pinning Marco down, then flashes to the reactions of Bertholt, Annie, and Reiner watching Marco get eaten and Reiner asking, with tears in his eyes, why is Marco being eaten. This flashback is actually an adaptation of a scene in chapter 77, a chapter from long after several reveals were made.

So what does this add to the scene? Absolutely nothing! Well, not really. It makes Reiner a little bit more human and is an attempt at making the viewer sympathize with Reiner. It also clears the air for what, for the most part, happened to Marco. Though, was this really necessary? Not entirely. Yes, adding more human qualities to this now exposed murderer and kidnapper help us understand his struggle to keep to his mission, but if they had not added this scene, things would not have changed much.

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Now for the major spoiler within episode 35. Episode 35 adapted all of chapter 47 and the story of Ymir’s childhood which happens in chapter 89 in the form of a letter to Krista, which is no longer the case in the anime. The flashback includes a significant amount of details about the world that is still unknown to viewers of the anime. In the manga, it made sense considering all those details were revealed gradually through the 42 chapters leading up to it. Details in the eye-catch flat out confirm there are other settlements outside the walls. Those that are good at seeing details in scenes can further solidify any theory they may have about the titans or any other still unknown element.

ymir

While all these spoiler heavy scenes were shown, I strongly believe they did a good thing including the flashback. All spoilers aside, the flashback fleshes out Ymir’s character a lot. In the manga (future anime spoiler warning!), Ymir goes with Reiner and Bertholt and we never hear from or about her until the letter gets sent to Krista. What was once a swan song now became a tool that showed us the characters motivations and her sole reasons for living the life she did. If we consider the possibility of never getting chapter 89 animated, the way this was adapted was more than perfect to fit the situation. This, to me, is an excellent example of adapting something out of order to improve the story being told.

ymir arms open

Going in to this season, I was aware we were going to have both dull character moments mixed in with heavy action. The out of order adaptation was unexpected, but it achieved something I did not think of until I went back and re-read the chapters that were adapted in these episodes. While the scenes taken from chapters 77 and 89 are taken out of context and reworked to fit into the current situation, they fit flawlessly and actually make the tree talk scenes less boring than they were in the manga.

Changing the source material can be pretty terrible in some cases (see: Fuuka). In some cases, changes can be used to improve the story if properly executed. Adapting chapters, parts of chapters or just tiny scenes out of order to add depth to a key character can be a welcomed addition. In the end, adaptations don’t need to be 100% accurate to the source to be good, and as long as the adaptation is molded to fit the current context and flow without disrupting too much it has potential to be better.

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