Attack on Titan – 72 – Lost in the Forest

One quiet afternoon, the fancy restaurant at which Niccolo works suddenly becomes very busy. First, the Blouses arrives with “Ben” and “Mia” in tow, to take him up on his offer to cook the meal he wanted to make for Sasha. Kaya tells them Niccolo is the Marleyan they should speak to. His food is the best any of them have ever eaten.

Not long thereafter, Hange and the Scouts arrive with Onyankopon to discuss some things with Niccolo. He sets them up in the private room where them Military Police often ate and drank. When Jean picks up a bottle of “special” red wine, Niccolo picks a fight with him and snatches it away.

Of course, we know, and later find out why he’s acting like an anti-Eldian ass to cover for the fact he’s saving Jean’s life, because that wine isn’t meant for Jean, and not because it’s too good of a vintage.

When Gabi and Falco spot Niccolo heading down to the cellar on his own, they excuse themselves from the table to meet with him. But while they weren’t wrong to seek aid from their Marleyan countryman, Niccolo just happens to be the absolute worst countryman they could have encountered.

As Gabi gleefully reports she killed a woman on the airship, Niccolo realizes these are the kids who killed his Sasha. Falco can see the change in his demeanor, but Gabi doesn’t. Niccolo tries to brain Gabi with the suspicious bottle of wine, but Falco pushes her out of the way and takes the hit.

Then he takes them both upstairs to present them to Sasha’s parents, along with a knife and the promise that if they don’t want to kill them, he surely will.

When Gabi sees the faces in Sasha’s parents’ faces, she automatically assumes they’re the looks of hatred and murderous rage. That’s certainly what’s emanating from Niccolo, who deduces from the way Falco shielded her that he’s someone important to her. Sasha was that someone to him, despite being a “descendant of demons” she saved him from the war by loving his food more than he’d ever seen anyone love anything.

Gabi tells him that Sasha “started” the killing by killing her friends (i.e. the Marleyan guards she shot), and she was only avenging those friends. At this point, Niccolo doesn’t care who started the killing, he just wants blood. Instead, Mr. Blouse asks for the knife. As he holds it he has a sobering monologue about how he and his wife raised Sasha as a hunter of the forest.

In the forest, it was kill or be killed, but they knew they couldn’t live like that forever. But when Sasha was exposed to the world, it ended up being just a bigger “forest” where the rules were just as ruthless. In his country drawl, he says to Niccolo that it’s up to them as adults to shoulder the sins of and hatred of the past and not pass them on; to keep the kids out of the “forest”, or they’ll just keep running in circles.

Then he and Mrs. Blouse tend to Falco while Connie and Jean restrain Niccolo. When a crazed Kaya rushes at Gabi with her own knife, wanting to kill the bastard who murdered her savior, Gabi is saved by Mikasa, who along with Armin take Gabi to the other room.

Niccolo tells Hange to wash Falco’s mouth out thoroughly, as when the wine bottle shattered some of the contents got into his mouth. That’s not good, because the wine may well contain some of Zeke’s spinal fluid, which he’d used in gaseous form in the past to immobilize a village in Paradis, as well as enemy cities on the mainland.

Niccolo further explains to Jean and Hange that he was told by Yelena to serve the wine to high-ranking military officials. While the Scouts were told that Zeke’s spinal fluid causes Eldians to freeze up, it could have other effects Zeke simply isn’t telling them about.

In the private room, Gabi asks Armin and Mikasa if they really hate her and want to kill her. We know they don’t, and they lament that a kid ended up in such a shitty position where all she can think of is hate and killing. Armin mentions that it reminds him of “someone he knows”, and right on cue that someone, Eren, enters the room, his hand bleeding like a lit fuse.

While Levi is questioning Zeke back in the forest, he gets a report that Zachary is dead, the walls are under Jaegerist control, and Pyxis has conceded to their demands.

Levi’s messengers think Pyxis is simply rolling over for Eren and Zeke, but Levi knows better; Pyxis is still trying to feed Eren to someone else. Levi looks back on all the times he saved Eren’s life because he thought it was the best chance for humanity’s survival, but seeing the mess they’re in, wonders why he bothered.

Back in the restaurant, a group of Jaegerists arrive led by Floch, taking Hange, Connie, and Jean and Niccolo into custody and demanding Hange tell them Zeke’s location. When Hange says they weren’t going to fight them on this, Floch tells her that Eren decided not to trust Pyxis’s surrender, certain the commander wouldn’t gamble the fate of the island on them.

When Hange tells Floch that wine laced with Zeke’s spinal fluid has been distributed throughout the military, Floch lets on that he already knows with a big playful grin. It’s part of the Plan. I assume Zeke already owns all those high-ranking military police officials who dined at Niccolo’s restaurant, and are currently with Pyxis planning to steal Eren’s Founding Titan.

As for Eren, he’s come for one reason: to speak to Mikasa and Armin, his best friends in the whole world; his brother and sister. No doubt he’s come to ask them to join him…and he’s probably only going to ask once.

Attack on Titan – 70 – The Good Eldian

Gabi Braun needs the world to be black and white. It’s how she’s always seen it. They are the good guys, and the “island devils” are the bad guys. So of course she’s not going to have any sympathy for the guard into whom she beat her frustrations with a brick, who was only concerned with her health. He’s a devil. The enemy. The bad guy.

Gabi and Falco escape their prison and run all night. Upon stopping to drink and wash off, Falco asks Gabi why she’s still wearing her Eldian armband on, which could get her killed if a soldier sees it. Gabi replies that she doesn’t care about being caught or killed, as long as she finds out the truth from Zeke before she is. When Falco rips it off anyway, she loses it, tackles him to the ground and demands it back.

To her, it’s not a symbol of her peoples’ oppression at the hands of the racist Marleyan state. It’s a talisman in this strange land, proof she’s a “good Eldian” not anything like the island devils. Then she asks, with tears welling in her eyes, why Falco followed her, saying he “didn’t have to die too”. It’s the first and only instance of Gabi acknowledging Falco as someone she cares about.

The duo don’t remain hidden from others long, as a young woman spots them while they’re fighting. Falco, showing his value in such situations where Gabi would be useless, comes up with a cover story on the spot: they’re siblings and runaways. They’ve inadvertently not only come to the right place, but a thoroughly ironic one, in keeping with Titan’s whimsical sense of karma.

To the young woman, Kaya, Gabi and Falco aren’t captives, they’re guests of the Blouse Stables, run by the family of the young woman Gabi killed while aboard the airship. The young woman her uncle Reiner once described in way overblown terms when she had stolen a potato. Gabi doesn’t want to interact or eat with devils, but Falco insists, leading to Gabi trying a spoonful of soup containing—you guessed it—a chunk of potato.

Meanwhile, in the capital, the press has gotten wind of Eren Yeager’s imprisonment and want an explanation, as a sizable segment of the population would probably celebrate his efforts in Marley. Hange will say is that everything that is being done is for the good of all Eldians. She meets with Floch and three recruits who are also against Eren being detained, and don’t care what happens to them; the info they leaked can’t be un-leaked.

Mikasa ends up escorting Louise, one of the recruits, to her cell, where she’ll stay until formally tried for the leak, discharged from the training program, incarcerated…perhaps even executed. But Louise isn’t in despair, she’s smiling as she makes clear she’s the same person Mikasa saved that day when she defeated a Titan before her very eyes.

That day, Louise experienced firsthand how powerless she, her mother, and all the other bystanders were, and how without power, you can’t protect anything. Mikasa tells her to stop talking and turns to leave, but catches Louise giving her a formal Scout Regiment salute, causing Mikasa to recall the same kind of moment she had years ago, when Eren saved her from the robbers.

Gabi and Falco, AKA Mia and Ben, settle in to farm life, with the former not proving particularly popular with the horses, one of which she originally planned to steal (they don’t know how to ride). The little comedy of errors is the one bright point in their whole visit. Kaya has them break for lunch, and tells them how the farms and stables are full of orphans utilizing the Queen’s welfare policies.

When Kaya brings up how she and all the other orphans lost their parents four years ago, Gabi can’t hold her tongue, and starts spouting the Marleyan company line. Kaya admits she’s known they were from Marley for some time, leading Gabi to grab a pitchfork. As Falco struggles with her, they attract the attention of other orphans, and Kaya covers for them, saying “Mia” was worried she’d steal her brother.

Then, in hopes of getting Gabi and Falco to understand her and the other orphans’ plight, takes them to the ruins of her village, and to the very spot in her house where she sat down and listened as her mother, who couldn’t walk and was abandoned by the others, was slowly eaten alive. That experience is burned into her brain forever, and makes her wonder why humanity outside the walls thinks they’re devils, when this is what happened to them.

Kaya asks simply, What did my mom do? Gabi comes back at her about ancestors this, millennia that; slaughter this and century that. In other words, whole cloth straw man arguments. Gabi can’t name a single thing Kaya or her mom did to deserve their suffering. As Kaya gets more and more upset as she tries drives that point into Gabi’s conditioned head, you can almost see the Gears in Gabi’s head start to spark and smoke.

All Gabi can do is talk about holding people responsible for things that happened before they were even born. Things she never witnessed but was only told about. Things that, considering Zeke’s betrayal, she cannot trust to even be true. Falco finally answers Kaya truthfully: she and her village suffered because they got caught up in Marleyan force-recon mission…and that’s all.

When Falco apologizes for what happened to Kaya’s family, she objects to him feeling like he should apologize for simply being from the country that did it. He didn’t do it! Then Kaya tells the story of how her life was saved after her mom was eaten. A girl a little older than her grabbed a hatchet and attacked the Titan, putting herself between it and Kaya. That girl was Sasha.

Kaya is right: if Sasha were still alive, she wouldn’t abandon Gabi and Falco who had nowhere to go, simply because of where they were from. Kaya tells them they’ll be having dinner with a Marleyan that night, and if they like, they can talk to that person about getting back home. Of course, Kaya isn’t aware that these are two extremely dangerous Titan candidates, but she’s not worried about who they are, but who she wants to be: a person like Sasha.

After the credits, Magath confirms to Reiner, Colt, Porco and Pieck that Zeke faked his demise and is working with Paradis, and announces a global alliance will launch a full-scale attack on the island…but not for six months. Colt doesn’t want to wait that long to rescue Falco and Gabi, who are after remain vital military assets (though we’ll see where their heads are at later). Magath insists they must wait; Marley alone will only be pushed back again.

Reiner assures them, Zeke is counting on them taking their time to attack so he can formulate a defense—or even perfect the Rumbling. He recommends they launch a surprise attack as soon as possible, not letting the Eldians bask in their Liberio victory. We’ll see if Magath listens. Until then, this was an episode full of people who were saved wanting to emulate those who saved them, and the decisive breakdown of Gabi’s black-and-white philosophy.

Attack on Titan – 69 – Love Is in the Air

Things in present-day Paradis are pretty grim, but leave it to Hange to liven things up a bit by getting all pedantic about an incarcerated Eren repeating “fight” into his mirror. Hange is there to talk, just like the first time they met, only this time they’d prefer if he did most of the talking. If nothing else, Hange believed Eren would never sacrifice Historia (which is necessary for the Rumbling). Yet here they are.

Flash back to two years ago, with the Scouts and Yelena’s Marleyans welcoming the first outside visitors to Paradis’ rebuilt port: Paradis’s sole friendly nation, Hizuru, and its special envoy, Azumabito Kiyomi. During initial pleasantries, Kiyomi presents the shogunate crest: three katanas forming a triangle. Eren urges Mikasa to reveal what she’s only ever shown to him: that very same crest on top of her right wrist.

That’s right: Mikasa is the long-lost descendant and rightful heir to Hizuru’s throne. Queen Historia immediately feels a deepened kinship with Mikasa, as both were born with a heavy burden to bear. It’s just that unlike ‘Tori, Mikasa likely has no intention of uprooting her life, so say nothing of leaving Eren’s side.

Kiyomi has come to Paradis on Zeke Yeager’s invitation, as he enticed them with the prospect of mining the unique resource known as “Iceburst Stone” which fuels Paradis’ ODM gear. They’re excited at the prospect of restoring their former glory by taking the lead in an innovative industry. It also becomes clear that the Azumabitos of Hizuru are particularly concerned with profit, however it can be acquired.

Zeke’s plan to use the Rumbling to protect Paradis consists of three stages, as presented to Historia and all the island’s higher-ups. First, there will be a “test run” of the Rumbling, then strengthening of the Paradis military. Finally, the Founding Titan and a Titan with royal blood will be passed down. Zeke will pass the Beast Titan to a royal, and for thirteen years that royal’s primary task will be to have as many children as possible.

This plan makes sense in the present, but it does nothing about the overarching problem of the power of the Titans bringing ruin upon Eldians. Basically, the cure (i.e. the successful defense of Paradis) is worse than the disease. Hange understands this, and doesn’t like the prospect of kicking the can down the road to future generations, as previous ones did to them.

Back in the present, Hange tells Eren she felt the same urgency to weigh the protection of their lands against the cost it would incur, but still wishes Eren hadn’t gone off on his own, which severely limited their remaining options. Eren’s only response is that no prison can hold him now that he has the Warhammer Titan, so if Hange has “anything up her sleeve”, now’s the time to come out with it.

As for Queen Historia, she became pregnant in the ensuing two years, as discussed by a good old boy’s club getting drunk and discussing future strategy. The father of the child she’s carrying once threw rocks at her on her farm and later volunteered at her orphanage as penance. It was Historia who initiated their eventual liason resulting in her pregnancy.

One old man, Roeg, drunk on wine, can’t believe the queen got herself knocked up, and suggests they make her a Titan despite her pregnancy; no one else thinks that’s right or wise. Roeg suspects it was Yelena who convinced Tori to get pregnant, but he really has no idea. These guys, by the way, are being attended to by Greiz and Niccolo, who serve under Yelena.

Looking back two years ago, Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Connie, and Jean are all hard at work building a Paradis railroad, of all things, when Hange and Levi pay them a visit to report that Hizuru gave their reply: they won’t help Paradis open trade with other nations, as they’re committed to a monopoly on the island’s resources.

The rest of the world’s nations remaining united against Paradis, Root of All Evil, creates stability they’re unwilling to give up. That means they have little choice but to rely on the Rumbling for defense, which means sacrificing Historia. Armin wishes they’d reconsider a more peaceful path, but Mikasa tells him it’s no good; as long as those nations don’t know who and what they really are, they’ll always fear them.

An alternative plan, then, involves showing them who and what they are, by setting up a base in Marley. Eren worries time is running short; he only has five more years as a Titan. Then talk turns to who will inheret his Titan. Obviously, Mikasa volunteers first, but Jean vetoes, as there’s too much mystery surrounding the Ackermans.

Jean volunteers, but Connie believes he’s too valuable as a future regiment commander. Connie volunteers, but Sasha says they can’t leave such an important role to an idiot, so she volunteers. Connie says she’s more of an idiot than he is, so that wouldn’t work. Then Eren says he doesn’t want any of them to have to inherit it. They’re all too important to him, and he wants them to live long lives. This causes all of them to turn red—apropos for Valentines.

Back in the darker, bleaker, narrower present, Mikasa, Armin, Jean and Connie discuss what’s next now that Eren seems to be going all in on Zeke’s plan. If Eren is choosing Zeke over them, they may need to cut him down, but of course Mikasa would never allow that. She assures them it won’t come to that, that he still cares about them.

But Jean mentions how the old Eren would try to keep Mikasa off the front lines. The new one pulled them into an unnecessary battle that got Sasha killed. And worse, Connie mentions how Eren laughed when he heard Sasha had died. Armin decides that he and Mikasa will talk to Eren alone and try to see how he sees things. Because he may not be Eren anymore, and thus may not consider them as important as exacting final revenge upon Marley and the world.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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 – 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.

Attack on Titan – 49 (S3 Fin) – To The Basement

The bigwigs decide that the serum Kenny gave Levi should stay with Levi, to use if, when, and where he deems necessary. Where Levi bumps up against the brass is when Erwin insists on leading the battle to retake Wall Maria.

Even when Levi threatens to break his legs, Erwin is adamant about being present when they learn the truth, and if they retake the wall and gain access to the basement of Eren’s house. If he dies before that, so be it; Hange will take command in his place, and someone else if she dies.

The night before the battle (which is kept secret from the public) is to commence, the Scouts are treated to a morale-boosting feast that includes meat, something that’s been in short supply since Maria fell.

The mere sight of the meat on the table sends Sasha into an uncontrollable berserk mode, and she has to be tied up. Meanwhile, Eren and Jean start heartily going at it, at first with words, then with their fists…but no one stops them, at least until Levi kicks their asses and orders them to bed.

Mikasa and Armin decided not to interfere in Eren’s fight with Jean, both due to his quick healing, and the fact that it’s just nice to see Eren being “spunky” again, rather than moping or skulking or wallowing in despair. No doubt his experiences with Historia have changed his perspective and narrowed what he deems his responsibility.

He’s no longer trying to do everything on his own, or feeling like he needs to. Rather, he now accepts that nobody, not even Mikasa and Levi (of whom he always jealous for their ridiculous strength and skills) can accomplish much alone. Individuals have to find what they can do, and then rely on others for the rest.

The next morning, it’s quickly apparent the embargo on news relating to the battle for Maria was broken by Flugel, whose company provided the meat for the scouts the previous night.

As a result, the regiment gets perhaps its warmest and most enthusiastic sendoff, with the crowds below cheering as the scouts scale the wall, and Erwin pumping them up with battle cries and an order to commence.

It’s all very triumphant…but I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. It’s not going to be easy to retake a whole wall, after all, and it’s certainly not going to happen this third season.

Rather, we’ll have to wait for a fourth, and judging from the little teaser we get mid-credits—in which a bloodsoaked Levi slugs Eren and ends up with Mikasa’s blade at his throat—it’s clear that all of the hardships overcome this season will be replaced by a whole new batch of new ones.

And then there’s the nagging question of whether we’ll ever see that dang basement—or if it will continue to endure as one of anime’s longest and most frustrating teases. Until next year (or whenever), farewell, AoT.

Attack on Titan – 34

While I’m all for hanging out in the branches of giant trees on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, I was hoping for a little more substance. Instead, it’s a time-marking episode, with Reiner and Bertholdt waiting for a sunset that never comes while Ymir and Eren poke and prod them with questions, none of which are actually answered except one: they’re ultimately headed for the traitor’s hometown.

Just as Mikasa has to keep calm and watch her pace so as not to break the rescue party formation, Eren has to keep calm and not do anything stupid by transforming back into a titan before he’s healed and in the middle of enemy territory. But while his eyes bulge and his teeth grind, Eren’s struggle is pretty moot: Reiner says he and Ymir are too weak to transform anyway.

Then Reiner goes off, talking as if he wasn’t the armored titan, but just another soldier in the scouts who should probably get a reward, if not a promotion, for all his good work. Ymir surmises, and is probably correct, that after spending so long pretending to be a regular human soldier, he no longer knows who he is, or at least forgets sometimes.

However, he’s lucid enough to know he can flip Ymir if he can convince her it’s in her best interest, or more importantly, in Christa, AKA Historia’s. Ymir is at least willing to listen, adding another slice to Eren’s shit sandwich. But as the sun sets, their limbs start to regenerate, and the smoke flares in the distance indicate the scouts are further along in their pursuit than Bertholdt calculated.

I was expecting a quiet episode in the trees, but rather disappointed in the lack of answers, especially when it comes to the Beast Titan. Eren also seems to know, and accepts, less than we do, and it’s always frustrating to wait for a character to catch up to you.

Attack on Titan – 33

Thanks to Bertholdt’s colossal smoldering husk falling off the wall, he and Reiner are able to make off with both Ymir and an incapacitated Eren in a literal cloud of smoke. All the scouts present end up injured and burned in some way, and Mikasa, who is knocked out, isn’t able to immediately give chase, like she did when Annie took Eren. No one is.

It’s a good a time as any, then, for another flashback to the “good old days” when Eren, Mikasa and Armin played out the very same dynamic: Eren would bite off more than he could chew in fights with bullies, Armin would run to Mikasa, and Mikasa would unleash hell on those who hurt Eren. But because she’s almost always just a bit late, she’s rarely able to get Eren out of a fight before he gets beaten up.

EAT ANGRY.

Hannes, who remembers this (and misses being a ‘useless drunk soldier’), reassures the two that Eren won’t give up just because he’s been taken away. There’s no evidence of him ever giving up throughout the years they’ve known him. So the best thing for Mikasa and Armin to do is not to stew in their own present helplessness, but rest, heal, and eat food, so they can give their best when it’s time.

That time comes sooner than expected, as Erwin arrives with the military police and join forces with the scouts to go across the wall. Hange believes the two traitors are likely tired after their ordeal and will hole up in the nearby giant forest until nightfall, when (most) other Titans don’t move.

She turns out to be correct, as Eren wakes up, still steaming and missing his arms, beside Ymir, who is looking much better than a couple episodes ago (in that she’s up, about, and talking). Reiner and Bertholdt are both back to their human forms. They should have a lot to talk about before the cavalry appears, and before the sun goes down.

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