Attack on Titan – 82 – Wanting to Go Home

Eren’s Rumbling army hasn’t even left earshot and his great plan to save Paradis is already going sideways. Turns out destroying the rest of the world will only result in the Eldians on the island splitting off into pro- and anti-Eren factions. It’s already starting in Trost where Hitch is stationed.

Of course, the main reason we’re back with Hitch is because she was assigned to watch Annie, who surprises her in a dark room but is too weak to hurt Hitch or even transform into a Titan. We also learn that Annie has been conscious these last four years, listening to Hitch talk about terrible men while in what felt like a hazy dream.

With Annie awake and sure to transform and wreak fresh havoc once she’s recovered her strength, Hitch puts her on a horse and rides as far away from the city as she can. Annie recounts her life up to that point, noting how she was forced to listen to Hitch talk about herself for four years; turnabout is fair play.

It’s both darkly comic (in an episode that needed a little comedy) and provides fresh insight into Annie’s current attitude, she’s no longer the nihilist she once was. Instead, all she wants is to go home to the imperfect father who turned her into a weapon, but was also the only one who didn’t abandon her. Even if the only thing waiting for her back home is death and destruction.

As Eldians around the world panic over their shared dream and their non-Eldian oppressors don’t believe them (and Annie’s father is among those shot on the spot for “conspiracy”), Shadis and his trainees are cornered by the Jaegerists, whom he’s certain will take control of the island. Shadis is too old to keep playing suck-up to his enemies, and would rather welcome his impending death, but insists the kids get in line and do as the Jaegerists say, for the time to rise up will come, and they’ll know it when it does.

One of the more tragically hapless and rudderless characters in this whole mess Eren created is poor, poor Mikasa. It’s bad enough Eren said those horrible things to her, but now she finds herself being abandoned not just by him, but by Armin, who is going to Rakago to convince (or if necessary force) Connie to give up Falco.

Mikasa asks Armin what they’re going to do about Eren, and Armin, who usually has an answer, tells her to think for herself for once. He’s juggling too many things he has a chance of doing, and the Eren situation is something he feels is frustratingly outside his control. After chewing her out, Armin says Erwin wouldn’t have done so, and the wrong person died.

The Braus family bids Gabi a warm farewell. Even Kaya tells her to take care, and while Gabi gives her her real name, Kaya prefers Mia. In a world full of increasingly shrinking populations splitting off into warring factions, Kaya and Gabi’s rapprochement is one of the few beacons of hope that remains. It’s too late for old men like Shadis, and probably even younger soldiers like Armin and Mikasa, but not for Gabi, Kaya, and Falco, which is why Armin has to save the latter. If Gabi loses him, like that, that faint glimmer of hope could fizzle out.

The case against Armin’s generation is the fact that zealots like Floch seem poised to inherit control over the island. Floch encourages the Marleyan volunteers to bent the knee to him. He’s drunk with power, and considers himself almost equal to Eren in that Eren is taking care of the outside world while he takes command the island.

He doesn’t hesitate to kill a defiant volunteer, hoping the others will fall in line, or else. He tries to assure Jean, who does not like what he’s watching unfold, that essentially “it’s over”, and “the good guys won.” He can take it easy in the military police like he wanted to years ago. But Floch is ill-informed; that’s not who Jean is anymore, and Jean would probably make a better leader, precisely because he has doubts about the direction things are headed.

Pieck and Magath managed to escape Shiganshima in one piece, and watch as the airships speed home to at least warn Marley of what’s coming (and confirm what the interned Eldians there already know). But the two agree that Marley is probably hosed, and they’re out of options…or are they? Hange sidles up to them unarmed, bearing a wagon with Levi, who is somehow still alive. While I’m not sure what if anything this meeting of four people can accomplish, I’m excited by the wild-card vibes it invokes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 81 – The Devil in All of Us

Last week we learned the profoundly sad story of the Founder Ymir and Eren made his move, and by doing so has condemned all Eldians not living on Paradis to the same fate as non-Eldians.

This week the ramifications begin, and we watch it unfold both on the ground and from the rooftops. Gabi finds her injured uncle and stashes him in a house to rest, then continues her search for Falco. happens to be in the custody of Mikasa, Armin, Jean, and Connie.

Being Eldians, all of them were briefly transported to the Coordinate and heard Eren’s plans, and none of them feel particularly great about benefiting from mass genocide. That said, Conie wants to feed Falco to his immobile mom in Rakago in hopes of restoring her.

Armin doesn’t want to kill Falco, but when the Pure Titans start going on a rampage, Connie uses the ensuing chaso to escape with Falco—and I can’t blame him for wanting to save his mother.

Among those fleeing for their lives from the Pure Titans (whose rampage is a nice bit of symmetry from the terrifying first episode of the series) are the Braus family and Colt. Kaya hits her head and falls behind, and is about to be eaten by a Titan when she’s saved…by Gabi and her trusty anti-titan rifle.

When soldiers arrive and recognize Gabi, Kaya returns the favor by saying they’re all one family, just trying to get away from the Titans, while Colt says he fired the gun. Neither Kaya nor Gabi quite know why they saved each other, but the fact that they did matters, and is a good sign for the future.

No one in Paradis can do anything about Eren or the Rumbling, so they stick to what they can do: kick some Pure Titan ass. As Commander Shadis organizes the frightened trainees inside the fort, Jean takes command of the soldiers outside, gathering all the lightning spears they have and raining destruction upon the Titans, many of whom were their mentors and comrades, like Pyxis.

When the dust settles, the Marleyan army has been all but wiped out and the Pure Titans have been exterminated. Floch, who is still alive, arrests Yelena, who has been out of it for a while now, and orders her to assemble the volunteers. Things in the city have calmed down, but always in the background ring the booming steps of those Colossal Titans representing Eren’s uncompromising will.

Gabi and the Brauses end up meeting up with Mikasa and Armin, which is how Gabi learns that Connie has Falco and is planning to feed him to his mom. When Gabi reports that the hardening of Reiner’s Armored Titan shattered, Armin asks a very important question: when exactly that happened.

Turns out it was the precise moment the walls fell, which means Eren undid all of the hardening in the world at once. That means Annie Leonhart, who has been “on ice” for quite some time, is now officially back on the board.

Did Eren simply forget about her, is she part of his plan, or is it moot since the Founder can command all other Titans? I for one am glad that the show at least didn’t forget about Annie. The fact her awakening is the cliffhanger almost assures she’ll play a crucial role in the remaining episodes.

Attack on Titan – 80 – When the Walls Fell

Eren thanks his older bother for taking him into their Dad’s memories…it’s how he was able to push Grisha into fighting the King of the Walls. Eren saw his future when he kissed Historia’s hand, but Zeke still thinks he has Eren in check. After all, Eren didn’t know he couldn’t use the Founder’s power in the Paths. What Zeke didn’t know is that Eren would rip off his own thumbs to escape his bonds and stop Ymir from obeying Zeke’s command.

What follows is the long, sad story of Founder Ymir, from back when she was just an ordinary girl delivering water to those who needed it. One day, her world was set ablaze by a raiding army, and her life of selfless service became one of brutal servitude. When a pig escapes the barn, all the other slaves point their finger at Ymir, as if confirming that she is the one to bear all of the pain and suffering of this world.

Ymir is “freed”, but only so her captors can hunt her. Run through by two arrows, she collapses at the foot of a massive tree, with a hollow that leads to a massive underground lake. There, she encounters…“something”. Be it an alien, parasite, or god, it imbues Ymir with the power to transform into the first Titan—the Founding Titan.

The King of Eldia uses Ymir as a weapon with which to create a massive empire and conquer Marley; he also claims her as his consort. She bears three daughters—Maria, Rose, and Sina—and when an assassin tries to kill the King, Ymir takes a staff through the chest. In one of the more graphic scenes of the whole show, he eventually chops Ymir up and forces his daughters to eat her so the Titan power can be carried on.

Ymir’s daughters procreate, then their offspring procreates, each time creating a new branch on the tree of life in the Paths. Meanwhile Ymir returns to the form of a young girl walking slowly across the endless sands, up and down ramps, building Titans one bucket at a time. Even after death, she could not escape servitude, nor the responsibility that came with her chance encounter with “something.”

That is, until 2,000 years later, when Eren arrives, and instead of ordering to end the Eldians forever, he gives her a hug and tells her she’s neither a slave nor a god, and never was. She’s just a person; a person who has been waiting for someone like him. For the first time, Ymir’s empty eyes come to life and shed tears, and she makes the same face Eren made when he saw his future four years ago.

I don’t know if it’s Ymir, the “something” within her, or both who decide to side with Eren, but it is the “something” we see connecting his head to his neck even though Gabi just blew it off. Thanks to them, Eren is still alive, and the Rumbling commences.

And let me tell you, it is something to see. The walls begin to crumble—not just Maria, but all three—and out of their ruins, a terrifying legion of Colossal Titans. But even they are dwarfed by Eren’s latest and possibly final form, an intricate construction of ribs and spines. There are now three different orders of scale—Mikasa and Armin, the Colossal Titans, and whatever Eren has become.

Fortunately for Mikasa and Armin, they are not crushed or obliterated in the clouds of debris the Rumbling creates. Armin is proven half-correct, in that Eren was their ally all along, and looking after the people behind the walls. I say only half-right because Armin did not imagine Eren would bring all three walls down. Doing so means he has far larger designs than merely crushing the Marley alliance.

Eren confirms those greater ambitions in a telepathic communication that reaches every single Subject of Ymir, both on Paradis Island and the rest of the world. He’s sick of the world trying to annihilate his people, so instead he and his army of Wall Titans will annihilate the rest of the world. He won’t stop until every enemy city, town, and village, and every non-Eldian life, is extinguished. I don’t see how anyone can stand in his way.

Attack on Titan – 79 – Days of Future Past

The Paths are a place where past, present, and future intersect, but Zeke is content to use a trip down memory lane to show his little brother how their father Grisha “brainwashed” him into becoming a Restorationist. But things don’t go how Zeke plans, as he ends up learning more about Grisha that complicates his long-standing feelings of resentment stemming from his dad abandoning him and starting a new family.

We learn that Grisha found the Reiss family’s underground chapel years earlier than we thought, but chose instead to delay his mission so Eren could have a normal childhood. It’s here, in Grisha’s basement, where Zeke learns his dad didn’t forget him, keeping a photo of him and his mother close by. It’s also where we learn Zeke and Eren aren’t merely invisible observers, as Grisha senses Zeke’s presence but assumes he’s only dreaming.

As Eren stands by patiently, Zeke learns that Eren was never actually brainwashed. When Eren saved Mikasa and killed the monsters in human skin, he was being the same Eren Yeager he always was: neither a weak nor convenient little brother Zeke could use to facilitate his plans or share his scars. Even so, Zeke is determined to “save” Eren (i.e. get him to come around to his thinking) before he saves the world, which he says he can do at any time.

The harrowing incident Eren experienced with Mikasa eventually led to him telling her he wanted to join the Scout Regiment, which Mikasa relays to their parents. Eren doesn’t just want to protect those he loves, but wants to know what lies beyond the walls. Carla pleads with Grisha to discourage their son from taking this path, but Grisha knows there’s no stopping “human curiosity.”

In a return to the truly creepy underground chapel, Zeke and Eren watch Grisha try to convince Frieda to let him use the power of the Founder to protect the people in the walls from the Titans beyond it. Grisha even tells Frieda something she doesn’t know: that the Attack Titan within him can see into the future by having access to the memories of its future inheritors. But when it’s time for Grisha to eat Frieda and kill her family, he can’t do it. At least not until Eren whispers into his ear, reminding him what he’s come to do … and why.

Zeke may have the Founder Titan, but like Frieda, he’s unable to see the future like Eren can. This is why Grisha, after he kills the Reisses and gains the Founder, warns Zeke that things are ultimately going to go Eren’s way, not Zeke’s. He knows this because he’s already seen Eren’s memories of that future. All he can offer Zeke is a hug, his tears, and the affirmation Zeke always sought deep down: that he was loved and not forgotten by Grisha.

Following that cathartic embrace, Eren and Zeke return to the uncanny land of the Paths, and while Eren is still chained to the ground, he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned. Why would he? He knows the future, and if Eren has anything to say about it, it won’t involve the euthanization of the Eldians.

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 – 76 (S4, E17) – The Paths Not Taken

The drip-drip-drip trickle of Titan’s final season resumes, and while Part 2 leaves open the possibility of a Part 3 down the road, I’m just going to assume the anime will be wrapped up sooner rather than later. That said, while this episode picks up where last March’s Part 1 finale left off…not a ton of movement actually happens this week. Instead, the episode establishes where we are and sets the table for what comes next.

It’s confirmed Zeke is very much alive and in play (his “dream” about being rebuilt from sand in “The Paths” had a haunting beauty to it), while Hange manages to slip away from Floch with the still barely-alive Levi. As for the big Marleyan strike against Eren, he’s not particularly impressed, considering their tactics “desperate”.  That said, he ignores Yelena’s plea for him to revert to human form and hide, preferring to do battle on the surface. Eren may be ostensibly on Zeke’s side, but he’s mostly on his own side.

This results in him having to battle both Porco in the Jaw and Reiner in the Armored Titans, though with the power of the War Hammer he acquits himself well. The problem is, while he’s mocking Marley for not having enough information about what he is capable of, he and the Jaegerists fall into yet another Marleyan trap.

Pieck transforms into the Cart Titan and takes Gabi to relative safety where General Magath is staging his forces. His men help her mount a new-and-improved turret, and while Reiner and Porco keep Eren distracted, Pieck gets off not one but two headshots that shut down the Founding Titan’s motor skills, leaving Eren immobile and vulnerable to being eaten.

After quite a bit of thrilling action, the final act is a lot of standing around and talking in the citadel’s stockade. Onyankopon, who insists he and the other volunteers didn’t know about Zeke’s Eldian euthanization plan, begs Eren’s former friends to help him help Eren avoid being eaten. Connie in particular has had it with his comrades betraying him, but it warrants discussion as anything is preferable to being kept imprisoned.

For her part, Mikasa wants to help Eren, but for the first time in her life, considers that merely a factor of her Ackerman blood. Armin, despite what Eren said and did to them, believes Eren lied about that, in order to maintain his uneasy alliance with Yelena and Zeke. As long as they think he’s their ally, he can move and act far more freely, even if it meant being awful to his friends. But is that really the case? Barring further extensions, we’ll find out soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 75 – Piecking Sides

Zeke barely survived the Thunder Spear explosion, but believes he may be soon pushing daisies until a Pure Titan arrives, cuts open its belly, and places Zeke inside; presumably to facilitate healing. Levi’s gambit failed and his fate remains unknown.

To the last, Attack on Titan is to tense, unpleasant meal scenes as Yuru Camp is to relaxing, pleasant ones, as Pyxis is forced to dine while soldiers wearing the same uniform hold a gun to his back.

Pyxis notes that various colored handkerchiefs adorning everyone—white for Jaegerists, red for those who found out they drank wine and forced to comply, and black for those who drank wine without knowing it—seem an awful lot like “how Marley does things”. But Yelena makes one thing clear: this isn’t about revenge.

In the jail, Connie and Jean want to know what Eren said to Mikasa that made Armin throw a punch at Eren, then get the shit beat out of him (though his Titan healing seems to be working fine). Mikasa doesn’t want to talk about it, Connie thinks it doesn’t matter; Eren is a piece of shit and now he’s gone mad; and Jean wonders if Eren is actually playing some kind of 4D chess.

Then Yelena arrives to tell the once-“heroes of Shiganshina” that they’re to sit quiet and behave until Zeke and Eren meet. When Niccolo berates Greiz for selling them out to become Yelena’s lackey, Greiz lays into Niccolo for falling in love with a “devil spawn whore”.

His words earn him a bullet to the head…from Yelena, who bows in apology and assures the others that Paradis “has no need for those who would call you devils”. She decides to come clean with Zeke and Eren’s true goal: the Eldian Euthanization Plan that will end the cycle of hatred.

Gabi, the rootable yet pitiable poster girl for that cycle throughout The Final Season, is visited by Eren, who asks her to help him if she wants her friend Falco to live, by calling for help on the radio to flush out her allies. Just as he’s making this not-a-request, one of those allies in Pieck slips right in, cuts the guard’s throat, and points her Luger at Eren, ordering Gabi to train the guard’s rifle on him.

Eren is unmoved. Pieck’s orders were to retake the Founding Titan, not kill him, otherwise he’d already be dead. He impresses upon her how both she and her family would be punished by Marley for disobeying orders. Pieck stands down and orders Gabi to do the same, declaring that her true goal is to free all Eldians—in Marley and around the world.

When Pieck asks Gabi what they are, she says “Honorary Marleyans”, but Pieck says they’re Subjects of Ymir first and foremost. Port Slava showed that the time of the Titans’ usefulness is nearing an end due to the advancement of military technology. When it does, Marley will slaughter the lot of them.

While Pieck tries to convince a still-thoroughly conditioned Gabi of their need to fight for their right to live, Yelena finishes explaining to the prisoners how the Jeager brothers’ plan will end the Eldians’ time on this earth “gracefully and peacefully”. Armin is moved to tears by the nobility of such a cause, apparently in agreement that the only way to end the cycle is to end the Titans.

Having agreed to point out her fellow Marleyan invaders to Eren from atop the Shiganshina citadel’s tower, they walk through the citadel. She waves to soldiers like an idol and is met by blushing faces…there’s no denying Pieck is extremely cute—and cool-headed to boot. But until Eren is satisfied she can be trusted, he has her shackled to Gabi so if she tries to transform into the Cart, she’ll kill her.

Just when Gabi couldn’t be feeling lower, Pieck squeezes her hand in hers and gives her a soft, kind smile. When Eren orders her to point out where the enemy is, Pieck turns around and dramatically points…right back at Eren. She’s not lying, nor is she talking about Eren, as Porco/Jaws blasts through the floor and snaps up everything below Eren’s waist.

Unfortunately he wasn’t able to snap his head off, gobble him up whole, and Eren simply transforms into the Founding Titan. But that’s apparently just what Pieck, Porco, and their compatriots want, as five Marleyan airships arrive right on time, with both Commander Magath and Reiner Braun on board. We get one last look at the Founding Titan’s glorious glutes before the cut to yet another To Be Continued.

That’s right: The Final Season isn’t over yet, only the first part. This actually came as news to me, but I’m also eternally grateful things don’t end here with some kind of “Want to find out how it ends? Read the manga!” message. As the minutes were counting down I had a feeling there simply wouldn’t be adequate time for an anime-original wrap-up of everything going on. But the endgame is certainly nigh, and this first part of the final season covered some serious ground and ended with Eren as the Big Bad.

Will he remain so in Part 2, or go against his brother’s plan to exterminate their race? Is his relationship with Mikasa and Armin been permanently destroyed, or will a chance at redemption present itself, possibly aligned with his split from Zeke? How many more twists are we in store for? Questions abound, just as they always do at the end of a cour of Shingeki no Kyojin—and as always, the next cour can’t come soon enough.

Attack on Titan – 74 – A Whole New Ballgame

First, a recap of what transpired in the final act of last week’s episode, which was cut short: We check in on the training corps, with Keith Sadies delivering another tough-love drill sergeant speech while some young trainees are muttering about why they’re even talking about fighting Titans. One of them, Surma, blurts out what a lot of them are thinking: they should align themselves with Eren and the Jeagerists in order to secure a future for Eldia.

Right on cue, Floch arrives with the captive Hange, and asks any and all trainees who wish to join them to step forward. He then orders them to prove their loyalty by beating the shit out of Sadies until he can no longer stand…and they proceed to do just that. Looks like the next generation of Eldian fighters are on board with the change of leadership.

Eren looks on from a window as his former comrades sit in a jail. We then check back in on Levi, who successfully captured Zeke. Just as he’s coming to, Levi informs him the detonator for the lightning spear lodged in his chest is connected to Zeke’s neck with a rope, so no quick movements.

He then starts hacking away at Zeke’s feet and ankles, ensuring his Titan healing will keep him from moving around too much. Zeke asks a seemingly mundane question: whether Levi happened to know what happened to his glasses. We learn the distinctive specs once belonged to a Mr. Ksaver, with whom Zeke used to play catch.

That brings us to the next episode, in which Zeke takes his mind off the pain he’s currently experiencing and looks back on his life, starting with the first day his parents took him outside the walls of Liberio. An initially friendly Marleyan janitor tosses his bucket sludge on Zeke and his parents when he spots their Eldian armbands, claiming they’re defiling the clock tower and cursing them for daring to procreate.

Marleyans shout epithets as the Yeager family walks through the streets. Turns out Zeke’s parents intended to show him that his is what it’s like on the outside world, and why Eldians need to fight so their children and children’s children won’t be thus oppressed. Their plan involves making Zeke a warrior candidate…but it doesn’t go well.

Zeke is undersized for his age and not particularly athletic, so despite his best efforts, he falls behind and risks washing out, ruining his father’s plans. Their relationship sours and Zeke falls into depression as someone shunned both by his candidate instructor and his parents. Meanwhile, his father never once just played with him; it was always about business…about the grand plan.

There was only one person in Zeke’s life who didn’t shun him for not shaping up: Tom Ksaver, who happens to be the Beast Titan. Zeke caught Ksaver’s eye when he was struggling with training, and Ksaver reached out to him with nothing but a baseball and the offer to play some catch whenever he wanted.

In Zeke, Ksaver saw a kindred soul; one not inclined for military duty but thrust into it nonetheless. While he’s the Beast Titan, he’s also a researcher, and didn’t seek glory in becoming the Beast, but answers to the mysteries of the Subjects of Ymir, which to him make all the hatred and war in the world seem trivial.

Ksaver impresses upon Zeke that there’s nothing wrong with him just because he can’t walk the path his parents laid out for him. The two of them are simply “decent people, a real rarity” in their world. And because Zeke is constantly overhearing his parents engaging in seditious activity and won’t heed his wish that they stop “doing dangerous things”, Zeke comes to Ksaver with the knowledge his folks are Restorationists.

Zeke was right to trust Ksaver, who tells no one else what he hears, but he also tells Zeke there’s no choice but to turn his parents in. If Zeke does that, he’ll save himself and maybe his grandparents. Ksaver makes it clear that it’s not Zeke’s fault; his parents chose their traitorous paths and there was no saving them. Had they acted a little more like his parents and less like operators, maybe Zeke wouldn’t have done it. But by the time he fingers them and they’re sent away, Ksaver has already been more of a father than Grisha.

That relationship continues as Zeke grows up, and he learns how Ksaver once made the mistake of trying to live his life without an armband. When his wife found out he was Eldian, she slit their son’s throat and then her own. Ksaver has been “running from his sins” ever since, all the while believing it would have been better to have never been born at all. Hearing his Ksaver’s story, and his desire to retake the Founding Titan and save the world, Zeke resolves to inherit the Beast Titan from his mentor.

Near the end of his term, Ksaver shares his findings regarding Zeke’s function as the key to the lock that can break the Eldian vow renouncing war. Before passing the Beast to Zeke, he tasks him with finding that lock: the Founding Titan. Zeke also inherits Ksaver’s distinctive glasses, which is why they were so important to him that he asked Levi about them.

Time passes, and after the scouting mission to Paradis, Reiner and Bertholdt inform Zeke of the identity of the Founding Titan—Eren Yeager, Zeke’s own half-brother. He learns Grisha wasn’t turned into a Titan upon reaching Paradis, but remarried and had another son in hopes of salvaging his plan.

More years pass, and Zeke finally meets his half-brother at the hospital in Liberio, where Eren is posing as a wounded veteran. Eren already heard the gist from Yelena previously, but Zeke reiterates his plan for Eldian euthanization, in which the Founding Titan’s power will be used to sterilize all of the Eldians in the world. If successful, within a century there will be no more Eldians for the rest of the world to hate, and no more Eldians who will have to suffer that hatred.

It’s the equivalent of taking the ball and going home, only the “ball” is their very existence as a race of people. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but history hasn’t been kind to any of the alternatives, to say the least. Eren tells Zeke how he experienced the memories of Grisha slaughtering the wall’s royal family, and could even feel the heads of the children his father killed in his hand.

But where both his father and he (at the time) were wrong is that those children were killed so that they could live. Eren, like Zeke and Ksaver, would rather Eldians didn’t live than have to suffer under the heel of the Marleyans. So he agrees to help Zeke end two millennia of Titan domination. Rather than shake hands to arouse suspicion, Zeke simply tosses Eren a baseball.

Zeke wakes up in a cart driven by Levi through the pelting rain and mutters “Eldia’s sole salvation is its euthanization”. Zeke’s final words are “Mr. Ksaver? I hope you’re watching!!” before triggering the thunder spear detonator and blowing himself up.

Even if Levi survived the blast, he’s probably in pretty bad shape. Meanwhile, I could just make out Zeke’s torso falling to the ground. If there’s enough of him left for the Titan healing to work its magic, and Levi is too injured to keep him restrained, then there’s no longer anyone standing between him and Eren; between the royal blood and the Founding Titan.

The question is, will Eren really carry out Zeke’s monstrous, genocidal plan to relieve Eldia of the “injustice of life?” Or does he have something else in mind? One thing’s for sure: final episode of the final season will be a busy one.

Attack on Titan – 65 – Empathy for the Devil

In last week’s big finale, Eren bursts on the scene as the Attack Titan. This week begins with Willy Tybur saying goodbye to his family, perhaps for the last time. His plan is to draw out the Titans with as many people from around the world watching in order to maximize the carnage. Commander Magath can’t promise he can protect Willy, but Willy doesn’t want protection. After all, the nations won’t unite against Paradis if he doesn’t survive.

Eren’s attack mirrors Braun and Bertoldt’s attack on Shiganshima many years ago, as we watch from the perspective of people on the ground as chaos reigns. Gabi turns to Zofia to find she’s been crushed by a giant boulder, while Udo is trampled to death. Colt keeps Gabi from suffering the same fate by holding her close against that same rock.

Of course, while Willy fully intended to sacrifice his own life on the alter of global cooperation, he also intended for whatever was left of the Marley military in the area to mount a counterattack. It is led by the Tybur family heirloom itself, the Warhammer Titan, but Willy isn’t its pilot—his younger sister Lara is.

When she transforms, the Warhammer immediately starts whaling on Eren, who can’t penetrate his foe’s hardened skin even with his hardened fists. He’s impaled on a giant spear. Meanwhile, Pieck and Porco are rescued by the Panzer Unit, whom Pieck instructed to follow them when she hugged one of them. As they emerge from the house, we hear that oh-so-familiar sound of zipping ODM gear overhead.

The Attack/Warhammer stalemate is seemingly broken when the military, led by Magath, starts firing at Eren anti-Titan rounds. He’s in trouble, so who should appear in the nick of time but his raven-haired guardian angel, Mikasa Motherfuckin’ Ackerman, sporting a new short hairdo and all-black Survey Corps uniform.

Mikasa attacks the Warhammer’s nape with a whole bunch of explosive missiles, disabling her temporarily and giving Mikasa time to ask Eren to come back home. He can’t undo what he’s done—including killing scores of innocent civilians—but he can stop continuing to kill them. Eren doesn’t seem interested in stopping what he’s started.

Despite her adoptive brother, best friend, soul mate, and one true love basically commencing his heel turn before her very eyes, Mikasa won’t leave Eren’s side or stop protecting him, as she must do when the Warhammer wakes up. But Eren noticed something fishy when the Titan constructed from the bottom-up rather than the usual nape-outward.

Colt and Gabi take Udo to the hospital, but they’re in triage mode and Udo is already dead. Gabi is still largely in shock, and doesn’t understand why Zofia and Udo just died, but decides she’s not going to run and hide, but join the military in the fighting.

Upon reaching the gate, the guards (who know and are fond of her) warn her to run, and are both shot dead…by Sasha Blouse. Sasha and Gabi lock gazes, but Sasha doesn’t kill her, instead joining Connie, Jean, Floch, and the rest of the Survey Corps in their operation.

As Mikasa distracts the Warhammer, Eren finds a hose-like extension from its feet, and locates Lara, who is encased in the same kind of extra-hard crystal as Annie Leonhart. Nevertheless, the egg-like “cockpit” is small enough for Eren to eat and thus inheret the Warhammer Titan’s powers. Before he can chow down, he’s interrupted by Jaws, piloted by Porco.

Porco, however, doesn’t have enough time to bite through Eren’s nape, because Levi swoops in and slices Porco’s nape, continuing the thrilling back and forth. Porco can only watch helplessly as dozens of Survey Corps soldiers descend upon him—mere humans not only unafraid of the fact he’s a Titan, but ready to end him. To paraphrase Magath, there are devils on both sides. There always were.

The war between Marley and Paradis has well and truly begun, and assuming enough foreign dignitaries escaped the carnage, it won’t be long before other nations answer Willy Tybur’s call. Meanwhile, Paradis has come in force to wreak havoc on Marley and, presumably, destroy its own force of Titans, while Eren may have his own, more nihilistic agenda. In any case, it’s great to see the old gang in action, looking much cooler—and more hardened—than the goofy kids we saw on the beach.

Magath ends up surviving a grenade attack, while Braun and Falco are missing for the entire episode. It will be interesting to see if Braun passes the Armored to Falco due to the fact he’s not certain Gabi survived Eren’s attack. Falco wants Gabi to live a full life, but Gabi wants revenge for Zofia, Udo, and all the other comrades and friends she’s lost.

Attack on Titan – 64 – Parting Ways with False Honor

Back when Reiner was with Bertholdt and Annie on Paradis, a man they met prefaced his eventual suicide-by-hanging by telling them a story. The three wondered if the man did so seeking forgiveness—which Annie felt they had no right to give after losing Marcel—or merely wanted to be judged.

Now in the present day, face-to-face with Eren Yeager for the first time in four years, it’s Reiner who wants to be judged, and as someone who witnessed his crimes firsthand in Paradis—not the propaganda Marley peddles—Eren is uniquely suited to do so.

Still, as he urges Reiner to sit down and listen to Tybur’s speech with him, he also insists Falco stay put and listen, both to the speech and to his and Reiner’s concurrent chat. Meanwhile, Porco and Pieck are told to accompany an escort for an undisclosed matter.

Tybur really went all out with the theatrical production, as his speech begins with the story the entirety of the assembled crowd already knows: how the Eldians conquered the world a hundred years ago and then turned on their own people, and how Helos and the Tyburs fought together to free the world of the Eldian hegemony.

Porco and Pieck’s escort is a non-Eldian and doesn’t wish to speak with them en route, but Pieck runs into other non-Eldians who are members of the Panzer division, i.e. soldiers whose lives depend on the Cart Titan over all other groups and thus have a soft spot in their heart for her, even though she’s an Eldian.

Pieck can’t help but think she’s seen the anti-Eldian escort before—perhaps on Paradis?—but she and Porco are led into a house and fall down a trap door into a narrow well in which they cannot transform. Clearly someone wanted them out of the way…but who?

Willy’s speech takes a sudden turn when he reveals that the story of Helps and Tybur saving Marley was nothing but a lie crafted by the Eldian King Fritz, whose plan was to flee to Paradis with as many Titans as possible and stay there, neither attacking nor being attacked by any force. We learn the tripartite walls themselves are composed of countless Colossal Titans and built with the power of the Founding Titan.

Fritz intended to fully enforce the renouncement of war with those walls and never emerge from them. We learned that he inspired the generations that came after to follow suit. But then Eren came into possession of the Founding Titan, and Fritz’s dynasty fell (when Historia rose to power). Thus even though the King had saved Marley by allowing himself to be their most hated enemy, that King’s legacy can no longer be relied on.

The Founding Titan has the ability to convert the walls back into an army of Colossal Titans who would then go on to literally trample the world. If Eren didn’t know this before, he knows it now. As his leg regenerates Falco realizes he was duped into delivering mail to Eren’s allies—who I’m guessing trapped Porco and Pieck in the well.

As they listen to Tybur, Eren asks Reiner why the walls were breached and why his mom was eaten, and Reiner, nearly mad by now with grief, replies that it was because he fucked up. The others were willing to abort the mission when Marcel died, but Reiner wanted them to press on. He doesn’t want to be forgiven for what ended up happening, he wants to be judged and executed by Eren, one of his first victims.

But Eren isn’t here to judge Reiner, any more than he’s here to judge Falco, or Porco and Pieck, or Colt, Gabi, Zofia, or Udo. They were all just kids, after all, told just like he and his friends were told that The Other Side were evil demons, when in reality both sides were mostly just regular people. Those responsible for the atrocities in Marley and elsewhere were long gone, though they were still ruled by their descendants.

So no, Eren won’t blame or judge brainwashed kids past or present for the state of his family, people, or homeland. What he will do is put the blame squarely where it belongs: on Willy Tybur, who seems to successfully unite his diverse audience into joining forces to defeat the demons across the sea once and for all. But his big shining moment is stolen by Eren, who transforms into a Titan and bursts out of the building nearest the stage.

A new war has been declared, and it seems that Tybur specifically chose the Internment Zone as its first battlefield, luring leaders from all over the world there in order to witness the ensuing carnage the Titans can cause, perhaps hoping they’ll return and sway their people into joining his cause. In seeking judgment of Tybur, Eren may have played right into his hands…

Attack on Titan – 63 – Bread and Circuses

Mister “Kruger” (*cough*-Eren-*cough*) has developed enough of a rapport with young Falco that he’s comfortable asking him to deliver mail to his family from outside the Internment Zone.

Meanwhile, Commander Magath welcomes Willy, head of the Tybur family—and thus the head of Marley’s military. He recognizes that Marley needs a new hero, in the image of Helos of a hundred years ago, and intends to make the IZ the site of a speech he’ll deliver that will change Marley’s course.

As preparations for his speech commence, planning for the invasion of Paradis continues, with the Marleyan commander dismissing Braun’s dilligent and nuanced intelligence of the island to be a waste of time. Braun, Pieck, and Porco (who is briefly freaked out by Pieck’s tendency to crawl like her Titan) watch as their young successors train.

It’s a big day for Falco, who beats Gabi in a full-kit footrace. Gabi has a blind spot when it comes to Falco’s crush on her and desire to save her from the curse of being the next Armored Titan, so when he comes right out and tells her he “cares about her”, she’s utterly confused and angry rather than touched.

Gabi is the kind of wide-eyed dreamer who believes if the Tyburs bring people from all over the world to the IZ, they’ll be able to see that the present generations of Eldians are nothing like their demonic forebears, and aren’t anyone to fear (or systematically eradicate).

Unfortunately, Gabi is ignorant not just to the true attitudes of other nations, but also the fact that most Marleyans will never accept Eldians as equals or even real humans. Tybur’s seminal speech could praise her people or it could condemn them.

When Falco visits Mr. Kruger at the hospital, he now has a baseball and glove. After he leaves, an old man sits beside Kruger and introduces himself as “Dr. Yeager”. He warns Kruger not to get Falco, a promising Eldian, into trouble, and talk of lifelong regrets come up, including “that day” when his son (Grisha?) took his sister outside the walls.

While I pondered whether Eren just met his grandfather (later carried away by orderlies when he starts screaming uncontrollably), day turns to night and we’re at a fancy banquet honoring Tybur and his upcoming speech. Falco, Gabi, Udo and Zofia are put to work as waiters, underscoring their status as second class citizens no matter how hard they fight.

Things get tense when Udo overhears foreign guests lobbing slurs at them, but thankfully when he spills wine on a woman, she happens to be from Hizuru, “a country in the Orient” which may well be more tolerant of Eldians. She lies about spilling the wine on herself, sparing Udo harsh punishment.

The next day, Gabi wakes up to find the IZ has been turned into a busy, colorful festival town, and joins her mates and senpais for a day of sampling every kind of food they can. It’s a rare montage of pure fun and joy, which almost surely means it’s probably the last fun they’ll be having for a while.

That night, minutes before Tybur gives his speech, Falco asks Braun to follow him somewhere. He takes him down into a secluded basement where Mr. Kruger is waiting…only his name, as expected, isn’t Kruger. He greets Braun for the first time in four years, and Braun immediately recognizes him as Eren Yeager.

After episodes that give the “bad guys” of previous seasons more depth and illustrating how much the world sucks no matter where you live, we’re finally approaching something resembling the Attack on Titan with which we’re most familiar: Eren and Braun in the same room.

That said, who knows what Eren wants, how he lost his leg, why he’s posing as a wounded Eldian veteran, or what he intends to get out of Braun. Regardless, I remain intrigued.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 62 – Looking Past the Hell

If you like Reiner Braun, you’ll love this episode. If you’re an anime-only watcher wondering where the hell Eren, Mikasa and Armin are, well…you’ll have to settle for flashback cameos for now. When Reiner saw the latest (and possibly last) generation of Titan candidates as his own candidate circle last week, that was a prelude to the episode we get this week, in which the story of his generation of candidates unfolds.

Reiner, Annie, Bertholdt, Pieck, and the Galliard brothers Marcel and Porco make up that previous generation. Back in the day, Reiner was extremely unsure of himself and his talents, much like Falco is in the present, and was bullied by Porco. Marcel kept his bro in check, but Annie is too busy smushing grasshoppers into goo to get involved in the scraps.

Unlike Falco, Reiner towed the company line without hesitation, and the Marleyan commanders valued his loyalty. To Reiner’s shock and Porco’s outrage, Reiner ends up inheriting the Armored Titan. He and the others (minus Porco) end up in a parade, which he leaves when he spots his Marleyan dad. Unfortunately, his dad wants nothing to do with him.

The new Titan Warriors are sent by Commander Magath to Paradis, and on their first night there, Reiner learns that Marcel set things up so Reiner would get the Armored Titan instead of his brother. Like Falco intends to do with Gabi, Marcel wanted to protect his brother and give him a longer life. That morning the group is ambushed by Ymir, but Marcel saves Reiner at the cost of his own life.

When Reiner stops running later that morning, Annie and Bertholdt eventually catch up with him, and he’s a blubbering wreck. Annie has no time for his cowardice and starts to beat the shit out of him, insisting that their new priority should be to retrieve the Jaw Titan and head home.

As she beats him, Annie says both Marleyans and Eldians are a bunch of lying bastards, so who gives a shit, but Reiner rises like a creepy zombie from behind her and puts her in a chokehold. He insists they continue the mission. If they tried to go home now, they’d be fed to their successors.

After this scuffle, we know what happens: Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie attack Shiganshima as the events from Titan’s very first episode are repeated from the Titans’ POV.

The three mix with the district’s refugees and join the 104th Cadet Corps with Eren & Co. We know that story too. Fast forward five years, and Annie tracks down Kenny Ackerman, but is unable to get any info about the Founding Titan (i.e., Eren) from him, and he doesn’t buy that she’s his long-lost daughter.

Annie wants to head back to Marley, certain that the intel they’ve amassed these five years will be sufficient, but Reiner knows better: They don’t have the Founding Titan, which means their mission isn’t complete, which means they won’t be welcomed back.

As Reiner’s memories of his undercover mission on Paradis progress, we see watch present-day Reiner prepare to commit suicide by placing a rifle in his mouth. He only hesitates when he overhears Falco, probably the candidate most like him in his candidate days, discussing his problems with one of the wounded veterans at the hospital (who, judging from his black hair and green eyes, could…could be an older Eren in disguise).

Falco could be one of the last Titan warriors, and he needs all the help he can get from those who served before him. Reiner decides he won’t end his life today. His life might be hell right now, but he’s still able to look beyond that hell to, in this case, the hell that awaits Falco and his comrades. If he can stop them from reliving that hell, remaining alive will have been well worth it.

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