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 – 58 – The…Attack Titan

The entire flashback with Grisha being rescued by the Owl, Eren Kruger, is being retold by Eren as Armin writes it down and Mikasa listens in an adjacent cell. Eren is able to provide this information from many years ago thanks to his coordinate status.

Among the things he learns is that once given the powers of a Titan, a subject of Ymir will only live 13 years, something Mikasa dismisses out of hand, as she’s probably committed to making sure her beloved Eren lives to at least 100.

Kruger doesn’t have any comfort or solace to give to Grisha, because he was never given any himself. He’s only been able to survive as an Eldian spy within Marley by actually acting the way a Marleyan would; injecting his countrymen and casting them over the wall one after the other. By the same token, he deems Grisha so suited to save Eldia because he has already set that path into motion by leaving the gates of the ghetto with his sister.

Leave it to Titan to break up all that dourness with a couple moments of levity, such as when Eren seems to pose when he repeats what Eren Kruger called his Titan: the Attack Titan. This is funny on several levels, as Levi waves it off as latent chuunibyou on the teenage Eren’s part, while the older Hange is ignorant about such things. More than that, though, Eren finally gets to say the title line—a title that in English perhaps never should have had that confusing “on” in it…

There’s also the suggestion that for the duration of their imprisonment, Mikasa only ate the bare minimum to stay alive, and thus was literally wasting away without Eren by her side. But their sentences are commuted and they’re free to go, seeing as how they’re heroes of humanity and all.

“Free to go” is relative, however. They’re out of the stockade and back in uniform, but they are ordered to attend an audience with none other than Queen Historia, who feels a connection to Ymir’s letter similar to Eren’s with the books and photo they found in the Basement.

While the words of the letter seem to be not much more than the “love letter” they appear to be, it’s clear Ymir sent it in its form in order to deliver far more and different information to Tory; she’s just not sure what to do with it, or even whom to tell. She’s just glad to see Eren, Mikasa and Armin, and embarrassed when they all bow before her.

At the hearing, Hange delivers the report full of revelations provided by Eren and recorded by Armin, all about the reality that their kingdom within the walls being but a tiny sliver of the real world, and that the vast majority of that world is dedicated to their destruction.

As he listens to the testimony with everyone else, the new memories provided by Grisha continue to swirl in his head. He notes that the Titan into which Dina Fritz transformed was the same Titan who ate his mother and Hannes. When he met that Titan later and touched it, a similar surge of information suddenly flowed into him.

Now he knows why, and he almost blurts it out, but thankfully Hange can sense why he ends up holding his tongue, and chalks it up to his chuuni phase to the assembled bigwigs. What Eren now knows is that it’s possible for him to gain the vaunted powers of the Founding Titan—the main mission Kruger gave Grisha when he sent him to the walls—by touching Historia while she is a Titan.

He’s loath to bring this up because he doesn’t want to see Historia suffer any more than she already has. But what if, like Grisha and Kruger and so many other subjects of Ymir before them, he’ll have to sacrifice something important in order to gain that which will restore Eldia.

Or perhaps not; perhaps Eren is supposed to break that cycle. After all, another part of Kruger’s mission to Grisha was for him to fall in love with someone in the walls, raise a family, and love them. Now there are people Eren loves, and perhaps there are lines he won’t cross, even for the sake of saving the world.

Attack on Titan – 46 – Playing to the Crowd

The Rob Reiss Big-Ass Titan is coming; there’s no getting around it. And it’s attracted to huge groups of people, so it’s avoiding villages and going straight for the densely populated Orvud District, which Erwin keeps UN-evacuated.

Using the citizens of bait may at first seem to run counter to their first mission to protect the people, but if Orvud is emptied the Titan will head to the main wall and possibly break all the way through to Mitras.

I assumed we’d get some kind of Battle of Helm’s Deep-style all-nighter siege, but dawn arrives far quicker than I expected, but both the wall defenses and the Scouts are as prepared as they’re going to be.

They’ve got a plan. Historia isn’t sitting on the sidelines to let her future subjects bear the brunt of the battle; she’s on the front lines, against Erwin’s urging. She muses that if she’s to be accepted as the new ruler, she must earnit with deeds, not simply lean on her name.

In a nice nod to the opening, which IMO is the best of any Titan season, Eren notices a trio of kids not unlike him, Mikasa and Armin back in episode one, on a similarly lovely day, before the Colossal Titan attacked.

Showing Eren looking behind his back and seeing who he must protect is a nice move, and the three kids are the first citizens who I actually want them to protect (a bunch of others are annoyed they have to carry out an evacuation drill).

As for Eren punching himself until the weak, ineffectual, useless brat within him is “gone for good”, that doesn’t work quite as well, but I like the fact that he’s inspired by Historia’s transformation into one of the strongest among them.

When the Rob Titan reaches the wall, no amount of artillery bombardment does much good, and he puts his hands on he top of the wall and stands up, revealing his face and half of his head has been sheared away.

The Scouts shoot more gunpowder into him, and Eren transforms into a Titan to personally deliver another load of powder directly into the very large and open head cavity, thus destroying the core from the inside.

This is where the wheel is broken and history doesn’t repeat itself; the three kids are scared, but their homes and families are spared the cruel, gruesome fates of Eren’s, Mikasa’s and Armin’s.

Even more significant, the fates conspire to make Historia, not Eren, the public savior of the day, as the assembled masses watch in awe as she delivers the killing blow to the Titan core high over the city, before landing in a wagon.

Little do they know she just had her first—and last—fight with her dad. And she won.

When she rises from her fall, she promptly tells all within earshot her name, Historia Reiss, and her position: their ruler. It’s yet another badass moment in perhaps the best character arc Titan has yet delivered. She achieved what she set out to achieve: gain credibility with the people and legitimize her claim to the throne though great heroic deeds.

Meanwhile, Kenny bleeds out against a tree not far from the destroyed Reiss caverns, his entire team destroyed in the fracas the night before. Levi arrives to confront and possibly arrest him, but takes a look at Kenny’s burns and wounds and declares him beyond healing. Kenny isn’t so sure, and presents a syringe of…something. Is that Titan serum? Whatever it is, Levi needs to be on guard.

Attack on Titan – 45 – Her Next Duty

The bad news? Rob Reiss transforms into an utterly massive Titan, far larger even than the Colossal. The good news? He’s no immediate threat to anyone in particular, just the structural integrity of the cavern and the chapel above it.

While neither of those two things survives the episode, everybody who set out to rescue Eren and Historia does. All the damage he causes allows Levi & Co. to escape Kenny’s trap and access the chamber where Eren and Historia are.

Even while free, Eren is lost. He was fully prepared to be eaten by Historia (and we later learn Historia momentarily considered transforming him and eating him so as not to be hated by her Dad). Between his antics and the sins of his father, Eren initially just sobs about being so worthless. His friends aren’t enthused. They risked their necks to get to him; the least he can do is not want to die, rendering their efforts in vain.

So Eren bucks up a bit, and bites down on a vial labeled “Armor.” The result of ingesting the serum within allows the Eren Titan to use the same Titan Hardening ability as the Armored Titan, building an avant-garde yet sturdy cage around his friends in order to save them from the growing Rob-Titan, which Levi dubs the “Big-Ass Titan.” It’s accurate!

Once they free Eren from his still fully-hardened Titan (sorry if that sounds a bit dirty), Levi & Co. take him and Historia and ge tthe hell out of there. As Armin and Moblit got the injured but stable Hange to safety earlier, the Scouts suffer no fatalities.

But there is that tricky matter of the Big-Ass Titan, which is a sight to behold; like something out of a Miyazaki film (Nausicaä, to be precise), yet like those Giant Warriors, not quite complete, and so it crawls awkwardly on its belly. Still, it’s so damn huge even in its current state it will reach the wall by dawn—and likely incinerate it.

When the initial plan to let Eren feed himself to Rob is shot down (there’s no guarantee Rob will return to being a human even if he eats Eren), the plan becomes “Stop the Big-Ass Titan at all costs.” Since Eren now has the Hardening Ability, there’s now a decent shot of repairing Wall Maria, but no repairs can take place until Rob is dealt with.

However, we do learn that Rob’s story about Eren’s father was naturally biased; in reality, Dr. Yaeger was trying to save humanity by destroying the line of the First King and the Reiss reliance on brainwashing. There’s also fresh mentions of the secrets in Eren’s basement, so there’s that.

Levi adds to Historia’s burdens by informing her that Erwin has insisted that once the latest battle is over, she will have to take up the mantle of Queen in order to give the regiment coup legitimacy and appease the public. Both Connie and Jean rightly pipe up that that shit ain’t fair, Historia has only just turned the page and gained as sense of individuality, only to be thrust into yet another duty.

I’ve really enjoyed Tori’s rise to prominence since her true identity was revealed; she’s basically a co-protagonist alongside Eren, and watching her decide her course in life in a world where such a thing’s a great luxury, has been a delight.  She’s grateful for their defense, but she agrees without complaint…but with one request: If she’s to be queen, she’s going to give it all she’s got in the battle that proceeds her coronation.

That means donning the uniform of the Scout Regiment, strapping on her ODM gear, and taking her place beside her comrades—her friends—her true family—to whom she owes not only her life, but her sense of self. Rob isn’t her dad anymore; he’s the enemy. It’s time to go to work.

Attack on Titan – 44 – Eat Me, Save Humanity

As Rob Reiss prepares to instruct Historia to inject a serum that will transform her into a Titan so she can eat Eren, Hange and Levi’s team enters the cavern, sporting some unconventional tactics in order to level the playing field against Kenny and his intensively-prepared anti-personnel troops.

With a combination of surprise, gunpowder, signal flare smoke, and pure guile, Eren’s allies are able to get right on top of Kenny’s people; the hard part is having to make the decision to kill their fellow human beings for the first time.

The sequence is taut and intense, but doesn’t forget to show those tiny moments of hesitation that linger in the thoughts of Sasha, Jean, and Connie. Not surprisingly, there’s nary a shred of hesitation in either Levi or Mikasa.

Kenny himself enters the fray, and quickly finds his nephew Levi is a lot tougher than he gave him credit for, successfully wounding him in the midsection and forcing him to retreat almost as quickly as he arrives.

But his presence gives his second-in-command the opening she needs to deal a crushing blow to the Scouts: by getting the advantage over Hange Zoe and seriously wounding her. If she isn’t able to get back up, that’s a huge blow for the good guys (even if it’s been demonstrated that neither Hange nor anyone else is 100% good or bad here).

This season of Titan continues to be generous with its answers regarding what the heck is up with this world, filling in a few more of the many blanks that have lingered for nearly four dozen episodes. Rob is the source of more world history wisdom. Turns out most of society, due to the mind control of the Reiss Titans, don’t recall any history beyond 100 years…no doubt since an ignorance populace is easier to control.

The Founding Reiss Titan used its power to built the Walls that protect humanity, but also passed on all the knowledge that proceeded the boundaries of the rest of mankind; how the world as they know it was formed and how to preserve it. That is now Historia’s repsonsibility; she has to eat Eren in order to inherit Freda’s memories as well as her powers.

When an eavesdropping Kenny hears that only someone with the blood of the Reiss’ can inherit the full power and memories of their predecessor (meaning if he took the serum and ate Eren, it would be meaningless) he’s pissed.

More than having planned to betray Rob, he knew Rob knew he’d betray him one day, and even counted on it, but not until it was all but too late to do anything about it. Rob releases Kenny from his service, and Kenny in turn decides to make things interesting by removing Eren’s gag and cutting him so he’ll transform and give Historia a fight.

That would have likely been something quite awesome to behold…but something perhaps more interesting happens instead: Eren doesn’t transform. He doesn’t want to; he wants to die. He sees himself as the cause of all of the trouble they’ve been in up to this point, and more importantly, all of the people who died, who he lists in roughly the order in which they died.

With both Rob and Eren begging her to inject herself with the transformation serum and eat Eren, Historia seems stuck between a rock and a hard place…but there’s still the matter of what she, an individual, wants to do, even if her duty seems clear, while her victim is ready to die for the sake of humanity and correcting perceived wrongs, both his and those of his father.

But then she remembers Ymir, telling her whether she’s simply trying to do something “nice” (i.e. what she thinks everyone expects of her). She also rememebers that time on top of that castle, when Ymir, before transforming, tells her that all she wants is for Historia to live a life she’s proud of.

‘Tori can’t do that if she injects herself. She can’t do that if she eats Eren. She can’t do that if she exterminates the Titans. Rob calling what she’s becoming to be something akin to godhood is the last straw. She slaps the syringe out of Rob’s hands and it shatters on the ground.

Historia decides to free Eren, because she likes him a heck of a lot more than she likes the rest of humanity. As far as she’s concerned, they can all get wiped out by Titans—hell, she’ll even lend a hand, declaring herself both “humanity’s biggest enemy” and “the worst girl who ever lived”…neither of which are true. Humanity’s true worst enemy? Itself. Historia Reiss? More badass than bad.

Unfortunately, Historia is also her own worst enemy, as she breaks the syringe but then rushes to free Eren, leaving the puddle of MacGuffin transformation serum completely unprotected, ready to be lapped up by anyone. And not just anyone laps it up; Rob does, not long after telling Tori in no uncertain terms that he should never be the one to transform. We didn’t learn the reason why, but I imagine we will, very soon.