Attack on Titan – 78 – Dropping the Ball

The incremental struggle of the two Yeager Brothers continues, with Eren stoving in Porco’s head before continuing to grapple with Reiner and Zeke finding himself wounded and on the ground. The two are so close and yet so far, and the Marleyan Eldians are doing everything they can to stop them from coming together.

But Pieck was right: they didn’t hit Zeke hard enough to keep him from letting out a roar if that’s what he wanted to do. Colt rushes to him with the news Falco had injested some of Zeke’s spinal fluid, asking for nothing more than to let Gabi take him and ride a horse far enough out that Falco won’t be affected by the roar. He has Zeke’s sympathies, saying it’s a “shame”, but Zeke lets out a roar anyway.

As a result, hundreds of soldiers who drank the wine with Zeke’s spinal fluid are transformed into pure Titans, including Falco. Colt holds him tight the whole time, and gets burned to death as a result, leaving Gabi all alone to watch in horror as the Falco Titan gnaws at Reiner’s nape. Pieck gets another shot off despite being harassed by Mikasa and Armin, but Zeke is only faking his death.

Eren senses this, crystalizes his Titan body to restrain Reiner, pops out, and continues to rush towards the still-alive Zeke hiding under the Beast’s skeleton. But what had been a short distance for a Titan to cover becomes a much farther distance for Eren on foot. Before he can close that distance, Gabi gets ahold of an anti-Titan rifle…and blows Eren’s head off.

That’s a hell of a midway point to an episode that already featured the deaths of a great many secondary and tertiary characters in short order, but it was clear this wasn’t the end for Eren. We’re taken back to when he was in the Marleyan hospital, where Zeke met with him and appears to agree to Zeke’s plan for euthanization. However, when Zeke tosses him the baseball, he fails to catch it; it lands on the ground behind him.

2001: A Space Odyssey-style trippy montage ensues, returning us to the present and then to a place outside of normal time and space altogether: the “Paths” of which Zeke reported dreaming in the first episode. There, Zeke is chained to the sand as a solitary figure approaches Eren, who can move freely. The figure is the founder Ymir, source of the power to achieve their dreams.

It’s only here, where he believes Zeke needs his cooperation in order to proceed and is thus at his mercy, where Eren finally tells us what Armin convinced himself into believing, and tried to convince Mikasa and the others as well: Eren was only going along with Zeke. He has no intention of carrying out the Eldian euthanization. But in revealing his true feelings, Eren screws himself over, because Ymir gives him the cold shoulder.

Eren may be free to move about this uncanny land of the Paths, but he has no authority or dominion over Ymir because he lacks the blood of the royal family whom she obeys. Zeke does, and over the “mind-numbing” time he spent in the paths, figured out a way to do away with his bloodline’s vow renouncing war. Zeke’s chains were only an illusion; they crumble at his command, and Eren is shackled by another.

Zeke doesn’t blame Eren for his Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal, but rather their horrible father for brainwashing him and involving the two brothers in this whole horrible business. But with involvement comes terrible purpose. Eren was the key to Zeke gaining the power of Ymir. He played himself into quite a predicament…but something tells me Zeke shouldn’t celebrate his victory quite yet…

Attack on Titan – 77 – A Game of Inches

Despite having been beaten up by Eren, Armin still believes their best and only move is to back him, in hopes the Rumbling can protect Paradis from being destroyed by Marley. The others eventually go along with him; though some like Connie just want the chance to slug him. As for Mikasa, she decides not to wear the red scarf into battle for the first time…well, ever.

Reiner thinks he has Eren beaten, but he should’ve remembered…this is Eren, who will only give up when he’s dead. Their wrestling match is interrupted by the arrival of Zeke as the Beast on the top of the wall, using his baseball tosses to take out the airships, Reiner, and Porco. Even Pieck and Magath can’t get a clear shot at Zeke as he rains stone projectiles their way.

As Eren limps towards Zeke, which would result in all the conditions necessary to cause the Rumbling to be fulfilled, Yelena revels in the destruction of the Marleyan airships and scattering of their forces. When Armin, Mikasa, and the others make it to her, she looks down on Armin like a hawk ready to swoop in for the kill, only to change to a tearful smile, deciding to trust that Armin’s on her side.

Colt and Gabi are running through the city when they find Falco held prisoner by Eldians. Both Nile and Falco spot them, and Nile decides to take Falco around the corner to reunite him with Colt and Gabi, declaring that this battle is no place for kids and that they should go home. While hiding, Gabi and Falco overhear their fake Paradis family talking about them.

Falco confesses that he unwittingly sent Eren’s letters to his allies, resulting in the raid on Liberio. Oh, and that he’s in love with Gabi and wanted to marry her and live happily ever after. Gabi briefly blushes, but doesn’t dignify his confession with an answer. It’s just good to hear her say the people of Paradis aren’t the monsters she was programmed to believe they were…they’re just people.

Armin, Mikasa & Co. are pinned down along the rooftops, unable to get close to Eren, while other Eldians fall for the trap of a skeleton Cart Titan, which they assume means they defeated it. Pieck is right as rain under the skeleton, while Magath is still strapped into the turret. Before Zeke can react, he puts a shot right into the Beast Titan’s neck, sending him plummeting off the wall to the ground.

Of course, that might have inadvertently helped Zeke, as he’s now that much closer to Eren, and ending all of this. The question is, is Armin right that Eren is playing some kind of long game and merely playing along with Yelena and Zeke, even going so far as to pretend to disown his two best friends? If he isn’t, what is his plan?

Attack on Titan – 61 (S4 E02) – One Last Gasp

They’ve emerged from four years of war the nominal victor, but Marley can’t rest on its laurels. The generals are in consensus that their strategic advantage of the Titans hangs by a thread. Of particular concern is the quickly advancing aviation industry. They’re on the wrong end of history, and the entire episode is suffused with that bleakness and weariness.

Reiner actually survived the naval bombardment, but it’s just a taste of what the future will bring. We also meet his comrades Galliard (Jaws, who inherited his Titan from the imprisoned Ymir) and Pieck (Cart). Interestingly Pieck has trouble walking on two feet as a human since her Cart is a quadruped.

Back on his feet, Reiner tracks down Gabi and the other three Titan candidates, much to Gabi’s elation. When the funnel of a passing ship suddenly covers them in shadow, he briefly sees four of his comrades from back when he was their age, including Bertholdt and Annie.

Our quartet of kids consist of two goers-with-the-flow (Udo and Zofia), a True Believer in Gabi, and a Skeptic in Falco. On the train home to Liberio, Gabi is all too happy to accept praise for her prowess in battle and looks forward to being the next Armored. Falco take on that mantle in her place, but not for glory. You see, he simply wants Gabi to live past age twenty-seven. Braun isn’t altogether dismissive of Falco’s attitude.

Earlier in the episode we’re reminded that even decorated Eldians like Zeke and Reiner are still considered Less Than by their non-Eldian leaders, and as such they are not entitled to privacy. When we arrive in the ironically-named Liberio, the Eldian soldiers reunite with their families—one by one we see moments of unbridled love and joy (RABUJOI!)—from people who can use any and all such moments they can get.

Again, Falco zags while Gabi and everyone else zigs. Before joining his family, he checks in on a group of Eldian soldiers who are suffering severe PTSD. The supposed doctor even mimics the sound of a bomb to freak them all out, and only Falco tries to calm them down.

At the Braun family dinner, more praise than food is heaped upon Gabi’s plate, but when Reiner is asked about his time on Paradis with the descendants of the “evil” Eldians who fled there, his response becomes a rant in which he suggests there were “all kinds” of people there, not just monsters. The matriarch quickly insists that the Eldians on Paradis are the source of all “good” Eldians’ problems, and must be wiped off the earth.

At the next meeting of Zeke, Reiner, Galliard, Pieck and Colt (Zeke’s eventual replacement), Zeke announces that they’ll be launching a new offensive on Paradis, with the goal of conquering the island for Marley within a year—which is all Zeke has left in the Beast Titan. Their meeting is being monitored by non-Eldian Marley officials, who pick up on Zeke’s offhand “not in this room.”

As Reiner watches the young candidates spar, he dreads returning to the “pure hell” that was Paradis. But considering how he described Sasha stealing a potato to eat way back when (I believe that’s what he was on about), and his comment to Falco about taking over for him instead of Gabi, what he says to his family and what he believes may be very different. He’s just aware that those who weren’t on that island wouldn’t understand.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 60 (S4 E01) – This One’s For All the Marbles

If you’re looking for Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha and the Scouts picking up where they left off on that beach, you won’t find them here, in the first episode of Attack on Titan’s final season, also the first by Studio MAPPA. But oddly enough, there’s a crew of young Marley soldiers who remind you of those main players: Falco, Gabi, Udo and Zofia.

Their armbands not only identify them as Eldians, but as Warrior (i.e. Titan pilot) candidates. Other Eldians aren’t so lucky, serving as cannon fodder or straight-up suicide bombers. Most look like they’re in this battle against their will, but their choice is between this and execution or worse.

Falco & Co., as well as the older Colt, have more freedom and privileges, and have fully bought into the idea that they can make a difference. The confident-bordering-on-arrogant Gabi (Ayane Sakura) even believes she can prove that “not all Eldians are bad”, even though their non-Eldian commanders refer to them as “spawn of the devil.”

Gabi strips down to her slip to pose as a surrendering civilian so she can get close enough to an enemy armored train to blow it up with a cluster of grenades. It works perfectly, but it’s also reckless as hell, as she ends up under heavy machine gun fire in no-mans-land. Falco exposes himself to that fire to rescue her, but she doesn’t really need rescuing because she’s so badass. Or lucky. Maybe both?

They’re both saved by “Jaw”, a super-quick Titan piloted by a guy named Galliard. Gabi struck me as a Mikasa analogue, albeit one driven by personal ambition and not devotion to a person (i.e. Eren). Falco gives off a lot of early ineffectual Eren vibes, as he tries to tend the wounds of a maimed enemy soldier only for that soldier to insist he not touch him. You know, devil’s spawn and everything.

As Falco and Gabi stand by in the trenches, the second phase of the assault on Fort Slava commences with the drop of dozens of paratroopers who look like they’d rather be anywhere else. With one shout from Zeke Yeager, they all transform into lesser Titans, and those that survive the drop eat everyone in sight.

With the Titan version of cannon fodder unleashed and the fort sufficiently softened up, the two Heavies of the operation spring into action: Reiner Braun AKA the Armored Titan, and Zeke Yeager AKA the Beast Titan. Braun jumps first and quickly learns the enemy has ordinance powerful enough to pierce his armor, as well as a second armored train.

He wastes the train and most of the cannon but not before losing a hand. That’s when Zeke drops in as Beast, picks up a handful of shells, and lobs them baseball-style at the enemy fleet just offshore. The fleet manages to let off a salvo in his and Braun’s direction before getting decimated by the rain of fire.

Colt, Gabi, Falco, Udo, and Zofia watch in awe as their senpais and nation’s greatest weapons do what they do. The enemy is defeated and the fort is taken, but at great cost: the fleet’s final salvo seemingly killed the Armored Titan. If Reiner died too, that means one of the kids will succeed him. Gabi thinks that should be her. It might end up being her. But that’s a story for another episode.

The main takeaway from this episode, meanwhile, is that as previous Titan seasons have successively done, it aims to reinvent itself by further expanding the world far beyond the confines of the Walls of Paradis. Marley wins the day and remains power in this world, but a decidedly fading one due to the steadily crumbling advantage the Titans provide.

Then there’s Marley’s whole policy of enslavement and oppression of the Eldian minority at every turn. Even those Eldians who believe they’re on the right side of the war and of history, like Gabi, come off as naive and even deluded. Hers may be the last generation of Warriors to pilot Titans—assuming they even get that far. In other words, the cruel, brutal, individual-crushing pessimism that has marked most of Titan’s run remains in fine form. Welcome to the beginning of the end.

No Guns Life – 10 – Tomorrow Never Knows

From the moment he prepares to leave on his job, which turns out to be blowing up a train full of Berühren officials for Spitzbergen, Colt is prepared for this to be his final day. He’s not thinking about tomorrow for himself, only his bedridden mother and his two little sisters.

They’re slowly starving, looking as if they’ve come straight out of Grave of the Fireflies. The life in their eyes is fading, but Colt hopes to give them a future in the form of money, even if he won’t be around to enjoy it with them. It’s a simple yet powerful look into the marginalized lives Berühren grinds under its boots every day to further its own ambitions.

When Tetsuro comes to the arranged place and time, he and Mary soon learn what Colt is about to do. When Mary is almost arrested by a security bot, Tetsuro takes it over, and when they find Colt about to carry out his plan, he initially mistakes the bot as an enemy until realizing it’s Tetsuro.

Regardless, as much as Tetsuro (lawful good in this case) pleads with Colt (chaotic good) not to commit a crime that will hurt people (even lawful evil people), Colt sees this as the only option left to him that will secure a tomorrow for his family. He’s committed to being the means to and end—the end of their suffering—and nothing more.

Colt’s plan is turned on its head when a higher-level Berühren heavy shows up and tells him there are no targets on the train he means to bomb: only innocent protesters and children. Now not only will Colt not get paid, but Spitzbergen will be tagged as mindless terrorists who’ll just kill anyone.

Not about to let that happen, Colt leaps to the car where the bomb is and extracts it, but before he can toss it away, his meds give out and he can no longer move. That’s when Tetsuro ups his Harmony, giving his security bot a second wind, and tosses the bomb away, saving Colt and the innocents.

Colt took quite a bit of damage to both his cybernetic and organic parts, and all Tetsuro can do is use Harmony to help get him home. Alas, he dies of his injuries right outside that home, before he can say goodbye to his family. We also learn it’s doubtful he’ll even be paid, as the Spitzbergen contact is arrested by Juuzou and handed over to the Security Bureau’s Chief Rosso.

I worry for Colt’s mom and kids, especially as they’re only three in a city of thousands in such a hopeless situation. Will Mary, who never found out anything about Victor, bring them into Juuzou’s place? There’s only so much they can do, especially when a new danger in Pepper is waiting for Juuzou as soon as he returns to his office. It’s just one thing after another, and any one of those things could mean no more tomorrows.

No Guns Life – 09 – Bucking Colts

In what can best be described as a respite/setup episode, a lot of time is spent at Berühren HQ, where we finally see that the board of executives occupy a colossal many-faced robot/idol…thing. It’s pretty trippy. Cunningham beseeches the faces for another chance to redeem himself after a string of failures and is granted that shot.

From there we move on to Juuzou, who is back at his office, being courted by the others for some hot pot togetherness. Mary also announces she’s moving in with him, for various reasons. While undergoing routine maintenance, Tetsuro asks Mary why she became an Extension engineer.

Her reluctant answer? In short, so that she’d one day cross paths with…someone she’s been waiting for a long time. We later learn that someone is her brother, Victor.

When one of Mary’s clients, Colt, passes out outside the building, she fixes him up, and she and Tetsuro learn that the news reports about Berühren offering restitution to the families of testers killed by their latest research is B.S. As payment for her work, Colt offers her a fancy extension hand and forearm assembly that she geeks out on—turns out it was build by Victor.

But Colt also steals something of Mary’s, and Tetsuro spots it and follows him. After a brief scuffle, Colt asks Tetsuro to join him on his “job” which inevitably involves something bad. When asked if he wants to do it, Colt only replies only people with futures have stuff they want to do. Everyone else does what they have to.

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