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 – 68 – No Peace In Our Time

The Scout Regiment is back home on Paradis, and Armin is reminiscing on better times on a torch-lit cell, all the while with the shell he found that day on the beach in his hand. He looks back to three years ago, to when there was still a possibility things could come to a peaceful or diplomatic solution.

Thanks to Eren lifting Marleyan scout ships out of the water and dropping them on dry land, the Scout Regiment as led by Hange and Levi manage to secure the entire Marleyan crew as captives. But they have help from within: Yelena, who along with her pro-Eldian compatriots, turn on their Marleyan crewmates and accepts Hange’s somewhat kind if somewhat manic offer of a cup of tea.

Yelena and Onyankopon describe to Hange and Levi Marley’s extensive advantage in military technology. When asked why Marley hasn’t used that tech to invade Paradise, Yelena’s answer is twofold: the hordes of Pure Titans around the island meant to keep the Eldians within the walls also do a good job keeping would-be invaders away.

Secondly, after the Colossal and Female Titans were captured by Paradis, Marley’s weakness was exploited by a number of nations ganging up on them. As we know, the fresh invasion of Paradis couldn’t happen until their war with the other nations was won. Yelena and her people, who aren’t foreign secret agents embedded in Marley but a group called the “Anti-Marleyan Volunteers” are tasked with freeing the Eldian people, are led by Zeke Yeager.

Hange relays Zeke’s plan to save all Eldians by bringing about the Rumbling, which requires both the Founding Titan and a Titan of Royal Blood. When some higher-ups bristle, Eren confirms that Zeke at least isn’t lying about the Founding Titan and Royals, as he himself experienced with Dina Fritz. He hadn’t brought it up until now because he wished to protect Queen Historia.

The Scouts capture more Marleyan Scout ships as the plan is considered, but Eren doesn’t want anything to do with a peaceful resolution. As far as he’s concerned, everyone across the sea who believe they’re scary monsters who can turn into Titans are absolutely right, and should be scared.

But three years later, with Liberio in ruins and Sasha dead, Armin wonders if they could have taken a different path to get what they wanted. Jean and Connie are joined at Sasha’s grave by Niccolo, the captured Marleyan who used to love cooking for Sasha as much as she loved eating his cooking. Sasha’s parents visit the grave, and Niccolo tells them the small but meaningful way he knew and cared for their daughter, and he shakes her father’s hand.

It’s Armin’s wish writ small—an Eldian and a Marley joining hands and joining in their mutual grief. But it’s too small against the most dangerous “Titan” of them all: that generational leviathan of shared, irreconcilable hatred and distrust. It’s why once Yelena’s haul of stolen Titan serum is secured, Pyxis has the volunteers detained, while Levi stuffs Zeke in the forest, on a tight leash.

Meanwhile, in the cell she shares with Falco, Gabi chews her nails to the quick, cursing Eren Yeager with every breath, a vessel for that long-stewing hatred mixed with her own personal losses at Paradis’ hands.

Armin then says that no longer what he and Mikasa and Sasha and everyone else did or didn’t do, Eren was going to have his way; the worst was going to happen regardless. With that in mind, he believes they had no choice, no more than Reiner, Bertholdt, or Annie had a choice that day years ago. The person he’s talking to? Annie, still frozen in crystal.

As Mikasa leans against a gravestone, she repeats the words she’s lived by: “Fight or die. Win and live.” Those words are echoed by an Eren just as fully committed to war and vengeance as Gabi…just as lost: “The only way to win is to fight.”

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 67 – A Few Miscalculations

Here it is, the rematch you’ve all been waiting for. Eren vs. Reiner. Attack vs. Armored…aaaaand just like that, it’s over. Reiner’s down for the count. He didn’t have much gas in the tank to begin with, and neither did Eren, who hops out of his Titan and gets picked up by a waiting Mikasa.

After last weeks Titan battle-heavy episode, I was pleased that this was only a brief struggle, with Reiner’s consolation prize being he managed to rescue Porco and Jaw. But even if Eren and Reiner are done for now, Gabi isn’t. She grabs her gun and runs after the airship. Falco follows close behind.

When Mikasa carries Eren up to the airshop, Armin is waiting there to help lift them up into the cabin, after the exchange of weary, haunted stares. I can’t help but think back when the three were just little kids running around Shiganshima laughing without a care in the world. If Armin’s a bit chilly, Levi is downright disgusted to see Eren’s face again.

Compare their thousand-yard glares to the still-strong camaraderie of the B-Team, Sasha, Connie and Jean, with Connie taking a moment to hug dear his siblings from other mothers out of relief they all made it out of this crazy operation. Indeed, we learn the Survey Corps only lost six men, against untold hundreds of Marleyans.

Of course, not only has the airship not ascended or cleared Liberio, it hasn’t even finished gathering up all of the corpsmen. One of them is Lobov, an older man but new recruit who sought to do more than he was doing in the garrison. He is unfortunate enough to be in Gabi’s line of fire.

But before that, Gabi is stopped by Falco, who tells her it’s impossible to chase an airship on foot. She tells him how Zofia and Udo died, and shocked she was by how protective of her the soldiers at the gate were despite her being an Eldian. All her life, Marleyans have cursed and spit on her, and all she wanted to do was prove Eldians could be good people.

Then tonight happened, with Paradis stomping on all of that. So yes, she’s going to chase an airship on foot. Falco tells her “we stomped on them first”, but it’s only an abstraction for Gabi, like the Eldians and Paradis themselves. To her, they’re cruel demons who deserve to die, end of story. She slides, gets a lucky shot off that kills Lobov. He crashes to the ground, but his ODM cable is still connected. As Gabi prepares to retract the cable and ascend to the airship, Falco again tells her it’s pointless and she’ll be killed.

Gabi doesn’t argue the latter part, but believes it will be far from pointless. She wants Falco to tell everyone how she fought to the end, and they’ll surely inherit her feelings. She tells him he’s a good person, then pulls the trigger…but Falco grabs hold of Lobov and rises with her, honoring what Reiner told him to do: save her from a grim fate.

When she asks why, he doesn’t say because he loves her—she wouldn’t understand—he tells her he’ll be the next Armored Titan. Of course, none of them know how the ODM works, so they end up banging against the belly of the airship. In the midst of the totally off-guard jovial celebrating corpsmen, Sasha hears their bump. But again, virtually everyone else aboard is in the midst of a celebration, before leaving the battlefield…before the battle is over.

It’s a shocking lack of discipline and training for such a dangerous operation. Before anyone knows the source of the bump, Gabi rolls into the cabin and fires the gun she’s been clutching tightly since the battle began, just waiting for her chance. The bullet goes straight through the heart of Sasha, the woman who killed the guards at the gate.

As she bleeds out, the corpsmen swarm on the two kids and beat them bloody. Floch wants to throw them out of the airship, but Jean, who is not an out-and-out monster (yet), won’t authorize it, because if he could, there would be no end to this killing. He takes them to Eren instead, so Gabi can curse him in person. The thing is, someone else they know is aboard the airship: War Chief Zeke.

Back on the ground, a recovering Pieck tells Magath she finally remembered the somewhat-“off” soldier who dropped her and Porco down a well. He, or rather she, was a follower of Zeke’s. We learn her name is Yelena, and she was wearing a fake beard when she escorted Pieck and Porco. Zeke was in on the operation all along, and to hear Eren say it, it was a victory: the operation killed the leaders of the Marleyan army, sunk their main fleet, and destroyed their major military port, and he was able to inherit the Warhammer.

While it was a tactical success, it may turn out to be a massive strategic blunder if the entire world unites against Paradis. Even so, I guess Eren demanded that the people who created the people who destroyed his home and family needed to be hit and hit hard, no matter the cost. As Hange remarks, Eren used his trust in her and the corps to rescue him, but by being taken hostage again and forcing them to attack, they’ve now lost their trust in him.

Zeke calls the sacrifices made “noble” as they will “bring freedom to Eldia.” It’s clear that unlike some like, say, Gabi, he wasn’t satisfied with Marley simply allowing Eldians to exist under their bootheels. True freedom means liberating all Eldians from the yoke of Marley forevermore. He’s willing to go, and indeed has gone, farther than someone like Gabi even believed was possible to even go. Call it the narrow perspective of youth.

Alas, there is one noble sacrifice no one in the corps was ever going to be able to bear: Connie reports that Sasha has died. Beautiful, capable, eternally hungry Sasha Blouse. She didn’t die in a blaze of glory, but by the hand of an indoctrinated little Eldian girl who was so desperate for revenge she literally chased down an airship and found a way aboard.

Mikasa and Armin race to where her body lay. Eren asks if she said anything before passing away; Connie says “meat.” Eren fights back a chuckle which twists into a grimace as Jean tells him Sasha is dead because of him. I doubt she’ll be the last, because as much as Eren cared for Sasha, her death won’t be enough for him to stop. If anything, it’ll only motivate him to keep going. Like Gabi, he can only keep going.

Attack on Titan – 66 – What You Saw That Day

Eren has Lara Tybur in the palm of his hand but isn’t able to do anything with the super-hardened crystal she’s encased in, and she initiates a last-ditch attack that immobilizes him. This gives Pieck, Porco, and Zeke a chance to rally the troops.

Pieck’s machine gun armaments are particularly effective against the Paradisians’ ODM Gear. Gabi also has a gun, and runs. Even if it looks like she’ll never be able to make the slightest dent in this chain of events, well…let’s just say that’s how it looked for one Eren Yeager many years ago.

Reiner was already begging for death before the attack began; now he’s lost the will to even wake up from unconsciousness. He was able to save Falco, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. He’s as much paralyzed as Eren, but by choice. He was already the aggressor; what’s the point of starting the cycle over?

Eren, full of terrible purpose, tries to bite through Lara’s crystal but only ruins his Titan’s mouth. As Levi stalks the Beast Titan, Eren transfers out of the immobilized body and into a fresh Titan body. Gabi has stopped running, but still has her gun, and wants to use it. Against Eren. Against his allies. Against the demons of Paradis. Then Armin Arlert makes his appearance.

Having hidden aboard an unassuming fishing boat that drifts right into the middle of the Marleyan fleet, Armin transforms into the Colossal Titan, which we recall is a cataclysmic event in and of itself. It’s as if a massive bomb were detonated over Liberio’s waterfront.

The eerie blood-red glow calls to mind Evangelion and the God Warriors of Nausicaä—the 80s precursor to Colossal Titans. The Marleyan navy is obliterated; even the water the ships were floating is all boiled away. Armin climbs out of the Colossal, looks upon his mighty work, and despairs. This is essentially the very same sight Bertoldt Hoover saw in Shiganshima.  What’s past is prologue.

Levi takes out the Beast Titan. Sasha shoots dead one of Pieck’s gunners, then her reinforcements carpet bomb the Cart Titan. The only Marleyan Titan still in the game is Porco in Jaw, who uses his speed and agility to deliver some wounds to Eren. Only Eren uses Lara’s crystal to block one swipe, and thus Porco inadvertently teaches him how he’ll crack that particular nut.

Levi cuts Jaw’s legs off, and Eren uses him as a nutcracker. The crystal doesn’t just crack, it shatters into a million pieces; Lara is just a spray of blood, most of which Eren swallows up, thus gaining the Warhammer power. Zeke is out of commission. Pieck looks near death. Jaw himself is about to be eaten by Eren. And oh yeah, Hange Zoe has arrived via armored airship to retrieve the assault force.

All Gabi can do about this situation is call out to the only Titan left: Reiner. So she cries out to him, in an extended scene that I hope Ayane Sakura recorded in parts because it sounded painful to scream that much. Falco joins in, and their two-kid chorus reaches Reiner, even though he’d prefer if they just stayed quiet.

Reiner knows if he gets up, he’ll be giving Gabi and Falco a good chance of dying even more horribly than they might have otherwise. All the same, he can’t ignore their cries. He transforms behind Eren, interrupting his eating of Jaw. He’s not in his full armor—indeed, he already looks exhausted before raising a hand to Eren, and certainly not particularly happy to be here once more. But if certain kids won’t let him die in peace, he’ll just have to die more violently, even if those kids will rue the day they asked to be saved.

Well, that was a goddamn downer. It feels downright wrong at this point to outright root for the Paradis forces. Heck, even Mikasa and Armin look like they’d rather be anywhere else…like back on that gorgeous beach. At the same time, did they have a choice? Willy Tybur was coming for them with the full force of the Marley Titans. The majority of Eldians of Paradis don’t deserve death any more than the Eldians of the Liberio Internment Zone.

In any case, a large number of lives were going to be lost. The only question was from where those lives would be taken. There are no heroes here, and probably never were. Only warriors on both sides sacrificing their humanity to try to ensure their side suffers a little less this time around.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

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.

Attack on Titan – 52 – Hoover Hardens his Heart

On the eve of the present battle, Bertholdt and Reiner recall the Battle of Trost when Marco Bott overheard them talking about Titans and their mission, simply by chance. They tell him they were just joking, but know Marco is sharper than that.

Annie soon joins them as they restrain him, and Reiner decides to remove his ODM gear. Shortly afterward he’s found and eaten by a Titan as the three watch in horror and remorse. Their secret was safe for a little longer, in exchange for their friend and comrade dying horribly.

Back in the present, while having coffee with War Chief Zeke (the Beast Titan) and discussing Annie’s capture, Zeke questions their commitment, but they resolve to end this with him tomorrow. At dawn, Bert and Reiner go to their separate positions, with the latter chiding the former for being so timid when he’s perhaps the most powerful Titan of them all.

Reiner encourages Bert to think for himself and not just wait for others to give him a signal to act. That’s all well and good if you’re the Armored Titan, but it’s a little different when your Titan is so big his transformation is basically a nuclear bomb.

Back to the latest point of the battle up to now, with half of Reiner’s head blown off, his Titan still manages to call out, which is the signal Bertholdt, hiding in a barrel, was waiting for. The Beast Titan tosses the barrel into the town. Irwin, Hange, Levi, Armin, and everyone else watch as it sails over them, and Armin realizes it’s Bertholdt is in there and they’ve got to get away.

But just when he seems ready to transform, which would be game over for everyone in the town, Bert spots the KO’d Reiner and hesitates. He fires up his ODM instead and rushes to Reiner’s side, where he learns Reiner transferred his consciousness to his nervous system as a last resort. Bert asks Reiner to flip himself over to protect his exposed nape when Bert transforms.

While Armin wasn’t able to negotiate with Reiner, he wants to at least try with Bertholdt, probably assuming the more timid of the two will be more willing to listen. But while Eren’s been mastering physical Titan hardening, Bert has been busy becoming mentally tougher, and meeting with Armin is the last bit of proof he needs to confirm that he’s finally ready to take the next step.

Bertholdt has no ill will towards Armin or his other former comrades; indeed, he regards them as “precious”. But they also have to die, because that’s what needs to happen. That’s the plan of all Titans, and those they serve. That it’s unfortunate doesn’t change the fact it’s inevitable truth that not even Bertholdt can avoid any longer.

Mikasa tries to take him out of the equation all together with a sneak attack, while Armin mentions Annie to try to throw him off emotionally, but Bertholdt shows he can and will deal with all psychological comers, and that he can live with whatever the result of this battle.

With that, Bert transforms, unleashing the nuclear-esque explosion virtually right on top of Hange Squad, while Levi and Armin’s squads just barely get to a safe distance. But no distance is safe once the transformed Colossal Titan starts scooping up flaming bits of town and launching them into the air, creating a kind of meteor shower for all surviving scouts to contend with.

Armin freezes up a bit, as the original plan to retreat back to Irwin and fight the Colossal in a battle of attrition will no longer work; not when Bert can put a wall of flame between Irwin’s forces and the Beast Titan. Armin’s only choice is to fight and defeat the Colossal Titan there and then, with only the forces he has. Needless to say, it will be a colossal undertaking, and they’re colossal underdogs.

Attack on Titan – 51 – Homefield Advantage

With Shiganshina’s outer gate sealed, his troops atop Wall Maria, the Armored Titan on one side and the Beast Titan and his forces on the other, Irwin determines that the enemy is willing to wait out his forces in a siege. They’ll kill all the horses and starve the humans until even Eren can no longer resist capture, and it will be over. The two objectives this week are: keep Eren from getting captured, and prevent the horses, and any chance at resupply, from being killed.

Unfortunately, and paradoxically, the person you’d want kept away from the fighting, Eren himself, is their trump card against Braun, so he must serve as bait to get Braun to change his prime objective from the horses to Eren. Irwin doesn’t give him time to mull over the decision, so he descends the wall he just climbed and goes after Eren, who packs a much more devastating (and armor-shattering) punch now that he’s focusing all of his hardening power on his fist.

Meanwhile, the newbies are having a hard time even with the small-fry Titans. Irwin observes that the Scout Regiment is far weaker than it once was, but the thousands of sacrifices of the men and women under his command were what made this final stand possible. He visualizes himself standing atop a pile of scout corpses, but  if he can get to Grisha’s Basement before he dies, it may all be worth it.

As Eren grapples with Braun, the more experienced Levi and Hange squads advance, with Hange and Mikasa scoring direct hits on both the Armored Titan’s eyes with Lightning Spears, a weapon Braun didn’t know about until it was used on him.

The Scouts keep up the fight, even as they think they’ve “got him”, launching a dozen or more Lightning Spears into his nape, blowing it open so another volley can take out the vulnerable Braun within. The likes of Sasha and Connie momentarily hesitate at the prospect of killing their former friend and comrade, but Jean snaps them out of it, and the…apparently? fatal blows to Braun are delivered.

Mind you, I’m pretty damn skeptical Braun is 100% dead yet…more likely he’s just hurt and has another ace or two of his sleeve. And the absence of Bertholdt is very suspicious. Irwin and the Scouts can’t afford to revel in small victories. This battle’s for all the marbles.

Attack on Titan – 50 – Keep Hope Alive

Part Two of Titan’s third season picks up where Part One left off: Eren, Mikasa, Armin are part of a force of 100 scouts led by Erwin, Hange, and Levi, tasked with nothing less than retaking Wall Maria, starting with Shiganshina.

On the way they encounter a motionless Titan that is apparently asleep, but they have no way of knowing for sure, do they? It’s only the latest instance of them having to do the best they can with the information they have…which still isn’t much, and may never be anywhere near as much as they know about humans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin note the reutrn to their hometown for the first time since they were forced to flee and eventually joined the Scout Regiment that brought them back. But there’s no time for reminiscing (or checking out basements yet); they now stand in enemy territory, and the mission takes precedence. Besides, they’re responsible for preserving humanity’s hope it can survive and be free.

It’s a simple matter of plugging both the inner and outer gates of Shiganshina, then mopping up the Titans within. Throughout the trip there Eren remained dubious of his abilities and usefulness, but his two best mates help get him through that apprehension, and he successfully seals the outer gate with his Titan hardening ability.

Mikasa has steady praise for Eren as they move on to the next gate, but something isn’t right; Armin found signs that people were camping, but they had more than enough time to prepare for an attack…so where are they?

To answer that question, Erwin puts Armin in charge of a whole squad of scouts, confident that Armin has proven himself capable of leading men and women in the field. While initially nervous and hesitant (and far too polite to subbordinates), Armin grows more and more confident in himself as he runs through all the possible ways the Titans could be messing with them this time.

Remembering the Titan-in-the-wall, Armin orders everyone to inspect the wall for hollows. Once scout strikes paydirt, only to be killed by Reiner emerging with sword drawn. Levi in turn swoops down and delivers what would have been a couple of fatal blows to anyone but Reiner, who transforms into the Armored Titan upon hitting the ground.

Thanks to Armin, the enemy has revealed itself sooner than it had planned, but that’s not exactly a good thing for the scouts, as Reiner’s reveal spurs the teleportation of the Beast Titan and a host of other Titans who had been hiding nearby.

With that, the battle for Wall Maria—and indeed for the survival of humanity itself—begins in earnest. With just Eren the only one on the good guys’ side able to transform, and the need to plug that second gate, this is not going to be an easy fight. And there are sure to be more curveballs in store for the scouts courtesy of the kooky Titans.