Isekai Ojisan – 03 – The Things We Do for Views

Takafumi returns home to find Fujimiya and what looks like Elf from the other world where his Uncle lived. It’s definitely an effective hook, and then the episode rewinds an hour and change to a stark reality of YouTubers in February 2018: if you didn’t meet a certain subscriber and view quota, you’d be cut off from what had been a nice little revenue stream.

Takafumi discovers that one reason their channel is struggling is Ojisan’s tendency to type elaborate but ultimately awful replies to each and every commenter, many of whom are then put off and unsubscribe. This current dilemma reminds Ojisan of when the barrier of the Sealed City fell and 1,000 beasts arrived at the walls.

Naturally, his nephew wants to see and hear about this, so Ojisan switches on the ol’ memory recorder and plays back the events of those days. Notable is how pretty much everything Elf says to him could come across as verbal harassment (rather than the tsundere flirting it is).

When Ojisan nonchalantly shatters the barrier and the beasts arrive, Elf is resolved to fight them all herself while he runs—she likes him that much. But after a serously badass weapon unsheathing sequence and blasting herself towards the walls like a missile, she ends up splatting on the newly-formed barrier, the result of Ojisan asking the spirits to repair it.

No matter; Elf doesn’t tell any of the townsfolk that he dropped the barrier to begin with, and in exchange simply asks him to buy her dinner. But Ojisan, who always interprets her words and body language the wrong way, instead leaves the city without her.

Takafumi hugs himself in despair, and this is what Fujimiya sees when she arrives, trying to make a habit of being around her old friend. The thing is, Takafumi remains disturbingly oblivious to her affections, and even leaves her alone in his apartment to take care of some random errand.

Ojisan may not have much real-world romantic experience, but he can tell Fujimiya’s a good girl and she wants to be closer to his nephew. Unfortunately, Fujimiya does not want to talk to some frumpy uncle about this, so Ojisan borrows Elf’s appearance and voice and insists he’s Takafumi’s “aunt” so they can engage in girl talk. That brings us back to the cold open.

In order to get to the bottom of why Takafumi stubbornly only thinks of Fujimiya as a friend, he taps into his memories and then visualizes them. in them, a cretinous child mercilessly beats upon a helpless young Takafumi. Fujimiya asks where she is…and then it dawns on her: she’s the cretin. Form her perspective back then they enjoyed a “bittersweet” relationship, but just like Ojisan with Elf, Takafumi saw it more as bullying and abuse.

Elf!Ojisan marvels at how his nephew even managed to recognize a grown-up Fujimiya on the street, but Takafumi says he’d never forget her, and holds up a fist for her to bump while blushing profusely. Takafumi then decides that he and Ojisan should record a video of “her” playing Guardian Heroes.

Ojisan is naturally psyched…until he sees the final product: the video doesn’t show any of the actual gameplay—just Ojisan in the form of a sexy elf girl in a long hoodie playing off-screen video games. Ojisan is shocked and appalled, but the video goes viral, with 200,000 views and counting. Takafumi celebrates the great success of his hunch, while Ojisan reverts to his normal appearance before a terrified Fujimiya. I could honestly watch this offbeat, eccentric dynamic packed with amazing reaction faces all day!

Attack on Titan – 82 – Wanting to Go Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 80 – When the Walls Fell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 79 – Days of Future Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 78 – Dropping the Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 77 – A Game of Inches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 76 (S4, E17) – The Paths Not Taken

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 75 – Piecking Sides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 74 – A Whole New Ballgame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack on Titan – 73 – Burning Bridges, Breaking Bonds

Note: This episode was interrupted ~17 minutes in by a special news report of a magnitude 4.7 earthquake near Wakamiya. As of yet are no reports of serious injuries or damage, and there is no tsunami threat. We’re hoping everyone is okay.—R.S.

The first eight minutes of this episode contain some of the bitterest, most heartbreaking moments of the entire run of the show. Eren hasn’t come to see his two best friends to ask them to join his cause. They aren’t friends anymore, and according to him, one of them never was.

When Armin accuses him of being manipulated by his big brother, Eren turns the accusation back on Armin. Since he carries the Colossal Titan, he also carries Bertholdt Hoover’s memories, and has thus partially become Bertholdt, whom Eren considers the enemy. Eren isn’t wrong, either: why else has Armin been visiting Annie?

If Mikasa thought she be safe from Eren’s aspersions, she is proven dead wrong, as he dismisses her as nothing but a vessel for the Ackerman blood, sworn to protect the king of Eldia at all costs. The day she killed to save him in that cabin, she was simply obeying orders, like a slave, and every time she’s saved him since was for the same reason.

There’s nothing Eren hates more than people who aren’t free, who he calls “cattle”, and blows right through Armin’s “stop it” by saying just looking at Mikasa would piss him off, and that he always hated her. 

Whether it is true if Eren always hated her (I tend to doubt that), no one can deny Mikasa putting Eren’s safety above everything else, even defining her entire existence. She doesn’t help her case when Armin, who’s had enough of Eren’s lip, leaps over the table to slug him, only to be immediately and easily restrained…by Mikasa, again moving without thinking, betraying her Ackerman programming.

Armin still manages to get a potshot in, and Eren decides to stir the shit a little more, telling him that they’ve never fought each other once in all their lives because it wouldn’t be a fair fight. To drive that point home, he beats the shit out of Armin while Mikasa can only watch in tearful horror. He then asks one of his underlings to take them, and Gabi, away. They’re headed to where it all began: Shiganshima.

I can’t believe Eren always felt this way about Armin and Mikasa, but it is probably no coincidence that the man who has become obsessed with his idea of “freedom” isn’t just breaking his bonds of bondage, but of friendship as well. Even if there was once an Eren Yeager we could root for, that Eren is long gone now.

I don’t care what he says about Armin or Mikasa or how technically accurate he may be about their circumstances. The fact is they both loved him, and dearly. They didn’t deserve to be shit on like this, and he didn’t deserve them, period.

Levi is tired of waiting around for something to happen, and so breaks his bonds of protocol and command by deciding that both Eren and Zeke will be fed to other, more malleable hosts. But he waited a little too long, and also made the critical mistake of letting his unit drink the Marleyan wine usually reserved for the Military Police.

Zeke lets out a shout as he flees the camp, and in moments each and every one of Levi’s solders transform into Pure Titans under his control. At the same time in the capital, Pyxis and a host of other officials are momentarily paralyzed and report feeling strange…including Falco, who swallowed a drop of wine after all.

Zeke may seem to have the upper hand, but makes the miscalculation that Levi would refrain or even hesitate to slaughter Titans bearing the faces of his subordinates. That’s exactly what he does, including two of the three escorting Zeke out of the forest when he catches up to him, slicing them up like spiral hams. Zeke is left with no choice but to transform into the Beast, and repurposes pieces of a Titan’s corpse into deadly thrown projectiles.

Unfortunately, the lumbering Beast Titan is no match for someone as small, agile, and fast as Levi in the middle of a forest full of anchors for his ODM gear. He can attack Zeke from any and all angles, and launches four nape-busting missiles right into the Beast’s neck.

Zeke is thrown from the Titan body, severely injured, but still alive, and Levi’s plan to feed him to someone else are back on. If Zeke was headed to Shiganshima to meet with Eren, like the final six minutes of this episode, he’s been delayed indefinitely.

Kakegurui – 05

I may have bristled at least week’s structure (spend the entire first half introducing Ikishima, someone not involved in the second half’s gambling) but it was a blessing in disguise, putting a welcome kink in the gamble-a-week rhythm of the show to this point. Also, a poker game this layered with lies, deceit, and glorious twists needed more than two halves of an episode; it needed three.

Liberated from the need for setup (ably achieved in the first half) the crazy-faces showed up early and often here, as did the twists, the most important one being that the moves of the seemingly superfluous fourth player, Tsubomi, are being controlled by Kiwatari, the only non-livestock in the game.

Tsubomi and Mary are aware of this (Tsubomi isn’t so great at hiding the cheating), but in the tenth and final game, when Kiwatari tells Tsubomi she’s not allowed to beat him, Tsubomi does her stuff: painstakingly picking and peeling back the emotionless facade Tsubomi had built to repress the trauma of losing her beautiful locks of hair, roughly hacked off by Kiwatari himself once she became livestock.

Tsubomi tells her that losing intentionally here, when she has a perfect opportunity to prove she’s not “lifelong livestock”, would be like a “motionless pig in an open cage.” Unable to accept that, Tsubomi’s facade cracks, beats Kiwatari in the round, and becomes a human again.

The game would have ended with Tsubomi in first place, if the chip count, which we’d been getting from Kiwatari, was accurate. Turns out that is the last and final twist in the game: Mary and Yumeko falsified their debt reports (just like Kiwatari did), then swapped them, so the boards in front of them at the card table gave Kiwatari the wrong figures to do his math throughout the game.

It’s a total defeat brought on by Kiwatari’s confidence in his control over Tsubomi, as well as his hard-headed belief he can judge everyone as if they were cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Tsubomi may still technically be livestock, but regained her will to live and fight for solvency.

The council secretary Igarashi worries about what Pandora’s Box President Momobari (whom she seems to love) has opened by allowing someone as inscrutable as Jabami Yumeko to roam free. However, when Igarashi says “the usual things” that one can use to control a person don’t work on her; she’s not entirely right.

I have no doubt if Yumeko’s friends were threatened, she wouldn’t stand by and do nothing. And now Yumeko has two friends—Ryouta and Mary—who may be leveraged against her in the future. We’ll see how she deals with that as she faces off against more and stronger opponents.

Kakegurui – 04

Gentleman that he is, Ryouta offers Yumeko a small contribution of 1 million yen ($9000 US) but she tells him she’s got cash on hand; the council hasn’t yet come to collect her massive debt. Instead, she, Mary, and other livestock are presented with “Life Plans.”

With these, the council is “collecting” by taking ownership of Yumeko and Mary’s futures and planning them out accordingly, stripping them of all human agency. In Mary’s case, she’ll marry a lolicon Diet member and have three kids, grow old, and die. Yumeko is likely in for a similar fate.

We also learn there’s yet another downside to being livestock: non-livestock like towering brute Kiwatari feel empowered to demand, say, that Yumeko strip in a dark corner of the school.

When she refuses, he threatens to violate her. With Kiwatari and his two goons to deal with, the noble Ryouta is hopelessly outmatched, but still looks ready to try rescuing her.

That’s when the “fun” is interrupted by piercing and accessory-laden student council member and Beautification Committee chairman Ikishima Midari. Rather than outright stop Kiwatari’s assault, Ikishima challenges him to a round of Russian Roulette with a massive revolver. Kiwatari retreats, so she retires to a bathroom stall to play alone.

Ikishima (voiced by unhinged-girl extraordinaire Ise Mariya; see Aku no Hana), like Yumeko, literally gets off on the thrill of gambling, but takes it to a very visceral extreme, playing with her very life rather than chips or cards. Yumeko promises she’s repay her for saving her, and Ikishima seems very excited at the chance to collect.

That first half is to introduce Midari, but she plays no role in the remainder of the episode, which is given over to the “Debt Adjustment Assembly.”

Livestock are invited to play Blind Man’s Bluff (AKA Indian Poker) in order to try to transfer their debt to someone else in exchange for a lower sum—a much lower sum in Yumeko’s case. And just Mary’s luck: she ends up in Yumeko’s group…and Kiwatari’s there too.

Two issues: First, so much time was spent on the intro of Kiwatari and Ikishima that this game is left unfinished. Unless Ikishima plays a role in this gamble next week, it would have made more sense to save her intro for later, establish Kiwatari as a rapey dick quickly and efficiently during the game, and have the whole game contained within this episode.

Second, while BMB is a fairly simple game, the way it’s employed here, and the way it’s explained, threatens to sap all of the enjoyment out of the proceedings. It’s very convoluted and requires a lot of words—too many, in fact—to get the point across of what is going on.

Still, I enjoyed watching Mary utterly reject the life plan the council (and that stupid “kiddy” council member in the bunny suit) laid out for her, as no matter how comfortable and happy a life it might be, it’s not a life she chose. This motivates her to put in an effort to try to claw out of her situation.

She even breaks out her crazyface, as does Kiwatari (the latter looking for all the world like he wouldn’t be out of place in Attack on Titan), but Yumeko doesn’t join the party. She remains quite calm as the episode pretty abruptly ends without any resolution.

Surely more wrinkles will be added to the game as things escalate, but of all the ways Kakegurui could shake up its formula, giving half an episode over to two character intros and then rolling credits before a game can finish didn’t quite work for me, especially when the game itself required so much narration to lay out.

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