Attack on Titan Season 4, Part One Review
Attack on Titan has returned for its 4th and final season and, in decidedly AoT style, has done so by upsetting the apple cart. Beginning by putting us into a position to sympathize with the opposing forces of the Scouts we’ve been following, these first couple of episodes have a bit of a The Last of Us 2 vibe.
Like the second half of that game, which saw us learning about and relating to a previously hated character, Attack on Titan is presenting us with the point of view of the villains. Like in Game of Thrones, nothing is simple in this world and the blurry morals of the series have long been a staple of this world.
As we saw before, in Grisha Yeager’s flashbacks from season 3 of Attack on Titan, the Eldians are seen as second class citizens in Marley. Though they possess unimaginable power, they are relegated to ghettos in civilian life and forced to participate in suicide attacks in conflict. Sharing these horrible fates, Reiner and Bertholdt volunteered to infiltrate the walled cities of Paradis and join their military.
Overseen by Zeke (the beast titan), they were successful and managed to stay hidden for a long time. Of course the events that followed comprise the bulk of the series, but these last bits of back story go a long way toward helping us understand why Reiner and Bertholdt (and Annie) were willing to go to such lengths to destroy the people of Paradis.
Hoping to shake off the “shame” of being an Eldian and win freedom for their people from the bitter horrors of war, Zeke and Reiner are prepared to return to Paradis for one final battle with the Scouts. With four years having evidently passed since their “horrible defeat”, though, who knows how much the characters we’ve come to know may have changed?
Assuming the horrible defeat that is being referenced is the Battle for Shiganshina, then Eren, Mikasa, Armin and Levi (who we see will likely see next week) will be decidedly different from the characters we have come to know. Armin will surely have mastered his Titan powers and who knows what kind of devastating new maneuvers and tactics the cream of the walled cities’ crop will have devised since then?
As the Eldians face their last chance at retaking Paradis, and displaying that modern weaponry is still no match for Marley’s titan superweapons, we do identify with them and understand their struggles. At the risk of being overtly political, the sort of finger-pointing and squabbling among similarly disenfranchised groups in our own world can be clearly seen in this struggle, and that makes it all the more relatable.
On a less intense and serious subject, fans concerned about a possible quality drop with the change of animation studios from Wit Studio to Mappa will find that their anxiety was needless as the first two episodes of the final season have displayed incredible animation that is well befitting the legacy of this series.
In taking this approach, no matter how the final battles of this last season of Attack on Titan shake out, victory will be tragedy for some of these characters. It’s a sad state of affairs for this anime to go out on such a heavy note, regardless of who comes out on top, but war is always ugly, and leaning into the darkness behind the cycle of conflict and retribution has always been a central intention of this story.
Still, with such a shocker start to the season, who knows what other surprises will be in store for the audience as the remainder of the series emerges? Only time will tell but, if the beginning is any indication, all bets are truly and considerably off for this last leg of Attack on Titan.