Attack on Titan returns this week with another excellent episode. After 3 action-packed, explosive, and adrenaline-filled episodes, it is nice that we get a slower-paced one that gives the story some space to breathe. Instead of epic battles and high stakes, it mainly focuses on fleshing out the themes and world of the show. This is sort of a flashback as to how the Eldians on Paradise Island first made contact with the outside world and modernized as well as present-day segments that deal with ramifications of the previous episodes including the racial tensions between the Eldians and Marleyans. Overall, this was a fantastic episode that succeeded in laying the groundwork for the future of the story. This review will contain some spoilers so be warned.
Us Vs Them
As Marley sends scout ships to Paradise, their soldiers get captured and we get to see the first interactions that the people of the island have with the outside world which leads to cooperation and hostility. Usually, in other media, racism and bigotry are portrayed in very simplistic terms with one race being “evil” and another race being “good”. With the depiction of Marley’s treatment of Eldians on the mainland, I thought that was the route that the show was going for but instead it goes for a more nuanced approach. The Marleyans who were captured are shown to be good people who are willing to cooperate with the inhabitants of Paradise such as Niccolo and Yalena. However, despite their help, they are still subjected to racist attacks and suspicion from the Eldians.
I like this portrayal of racism because it makes the conflict so much more interesting. It shows that there are good and bad people on both sides. The “enemy” isn’t some mustache-twirling bad guy but instead real people with their unique personalities and views. This just makes the actions of the Survey Corps in the previous episodes much more disturbing since how many of the people that they killed in Liberio were not only innocent but also would have helped them in their fight. This just continues the theme of this season of asking the question “who the real enemy is?”. The depiction of racism in this episode also felt much more real and genuine than other media portrayals because as History has shown oppressed people can also become oppressors when they gain power.
To be frank, I’m simply blown away that a show that started as being about killing big monsters is now talking about racism and discrimination. It feels so different from the first season, both tonally and thematically, yet at the same time feels just like a natural progression of the story. The show has always been about the theme of “Us vs. them” starting with Humans vs. Titans and then becoming Eldians vs. Marleyans. I am simply impressed by the storytelling and writing of this series in general that it has evolved from a simple monster-hunting show to a complex tale of war, oppression, and human nature.
A New World
In this episode, we get to see how Paradise was able to gain modern technology and their first contact with the outside world. However, I was expecting that there would be more of a “culture shock” or surprise from the people of Paradise to the Marleyans. Imagine your whole life believing that you were the last humans in the world and then strange people with technology hundreds of years more advanced show up on your shores. That would be the equivalent of aliens landing on Earth. I know that the episode does take place over the course of years but the pacing suggests that they adopted this new tech relatively quickly. There didn’t seem to be any reluctance or fear to modernization especially from people who have lived in isolation for a hundred years. It didn’t ruin the episode but it was somewhat immersion breaking.
Eren’s Dark Intentions
The episodes also show some brief snippets of the current day and what certain characters are up to but the one I’ll focus on is Eren’s new look. He looks so cold and detached that it’s quite intimidating. It is kinda scary to think that a man who has some clear issues also has such destructive capability. This makes me so excited to see what this darker Eren, who is not afraid to kill innocent people, is planning and going to do. Also, if the previous episodes didn’t make it clear enough then this further hammers home the point that Eren, the main character we’ve been following all these years, is no longer the “good guy” for at least is now more of an “anti-hero”. This makes the story so much more interesting since you as the audience don’t know whether to support or denounce what he is doing and make wonder who is the real “bad guy” in the story.
Annie is finally back in the picture after all these years. She is one of my favorite female characters from the show. I still remember just how frightening she was back in Season 1 when she killed half of the Scouts in the forest. So I’m really excited to see how she is going to fit into the story and react to all of the events in the past seasons.
Zeke and Eren’s plan to use the Founding Titan to unleash the “Rumbling” is on its way. However, for me, something just feels off. That something big is going to happen. I just feel like their plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as they think. The palpable tension in the interactions between Levi and Zeke just makes me think that they’re going to come to blows at some point. Whatever the case, I’m very excited to see where this plan leads and how it’ll affect the story.
To conclude, this still is a wonderful episode in an incredible season. To be honest, going into the Final Season I had my doubts that they would drop the ball because of the change in studios and the work restrictions caused by the pandemic. Despite some missteps along the way, I do think that this season has presented some of the highest quality seen in an anime. More than anything, this episode just makes me excited to see where the story will go next. These past few episodes have made me confident that MAPPA will be able to continue to deliver excellent storytelling in the future.