Attack on Titan season 4 part 3 review: Love, War, and Sacrifice

Image: Attack on Titan
Image: Attack on Titan /

The final stretch of Attack on Titan has begun. The premiere, “The Final Chapters (Part One),” is a full hour long; it pushes together multiple episodes to give us an epic beginning to the end.

As promised, MAPPA Studios pulled no punches. The show stopped being a purebred shonen series a long time ago. And with this episode, Attack on Titan all but formally announces that there will be no happy ending. They did away with the one thing that has defined most anime since time immemorial: absolution.

Let’s dig into the newest episode below. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

The triviality of the common man

The episode begins with the Rumbling trampling through the world indiscriminately. We see people scampering for higher ground in vain, failing to keep up with the speed of a thousand parading Colossal Titans. Amid the chaos, we see two young boys making plans to saving up for next winter, only to be crushed under the giant foot of a Titan.

This gory scene brings the Conclusion Arc into focus: common people trying to live their everyday lives are of no consequence at all. The show often invokes comparisons to the horrors of real-life war, particularly World War II. This is one of those times.

Love in the time of the Rumbling

The world of Attack on Titan is not one for love stories. Other than the lifelong affection that Mikasa has for Eren, the show does not really deal with romance. But this episode tucks in a little romance in between all the violence and hopelessness.

Annie seemingly had a soft spot for Armin from the very beginning; remember that she spared his life when in her Female Titan form. Armin reciprocated the feelings during his many visits to her crystalline form.

The two finally get to talk about it as they sail to an island where they intend to board a flying boat. We see the ever-deadpan Annie blush a little. But their partnership has tragedy written all over it. The choices they’ve made make a happy life together very difficult to envision. After the lives she’s destroyed, Levi’s former squad among them, Annie cannot see herself as deserving of Armin’s love.

Armin makes a feeble attempt to console Annie, reminding her of his own war crimes. What he did to the Marleyan port the night Eren devastated Liberio is hardly something he can come back from.

Hange Zoe’s sacrifice

No one was more interested in Titans than the bespectacled, ever-cheerful Hange Zoe. She chooses to go out doing what she loves: getting a close-up look at the gigantic Titans (and killing a few while she’s at it).

She goes out in a blaze of glory as she’s burned to death by the steam from the Colossal Titans, which gives her squad more time to fuel the flying boat (which is their weird name for a plane) and escape the rumbling.

Hange is giddy with excitement at the prospect of dying while killing Titans. It feels very her, although it didn’t make the scene any easier to watch. As a leader, she was hard-headed, intelligent, and goofy, never losing herself to the role. Before she makes her final sacrifice, Levi puts his fist on her heart, a callback to their old commander Erwin Smith, and says the words that broke every fan’s heart: Shinzou Wo Sasageyo, give your heart.

After her sacrifice, we also got one last glimpse at Erwin, Hannes, and good old Marco as they welcome Hange to the world beyond.

“We’re the same, Reiner”

The night Eren attacked absorbed the War Hammer titan and lit the fuse that led to the Rumbling, he met Reiner in a dilapidated basement under the stage in Liberio. A calm and composed Eren said, “We are the same, Reiner” before transforming into the Attack Titan and pulling the internment zone apart.

Reiner never forgot those words. They gave form to his worst nightmare: the lingering unease that the islanders on Paradis were not “devils” after all.

When Jean repeats the words to Reiner after they’ve boarded the flying boat, the situation has completely turned on its head. Eren is no longer seen as the hope for Eldian liberation, but rather a genocidal monster intent on wiping humanity from the surface of the earth.

Nevertheless, Reiner admits that he understands where Eren is coming from. Having lived with the weight of killing people for the sake of a greater cause, Reiner becomes the first person to float Eren’s anti-heroism. He suggests Eren is bearing a burden, not just taking joy in the genocide. He may want the rest of the characters to stop him.

"It has to be agonizing for him too. Committing mass murder, that’s not a burden you can just bear… I’d want it to end, for someone to end it."

Reiner looks at Mikasa as he speaks, which could foreshadow how Eren goes. Maybe, despite all the bad blood between them, it’s Reiner who understands Eren best.

How Attack on Titan redefines “Freedom”

Freedom is what Eren Yeager always yearned for, ever since he started reading Armin’s books as a kid. In the end, he realized freedom wasn’t possible if the rest of the world wouldn’t let Paradis Island be. So he took up the responsibility to eliminate the rest of the world. But he doesn’t take away his friends’ freedom to stop him.

Taking Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Reiner, Connie, Pieck and Levi back to the Coordinates once again, Eren clarifies that he will not stop the Rumbling. But he also says he will not take away their Titan abilities, even though he can with the Founder’s powers. He draws a clear line: “There is but one thing for us to do. Fight.” Sticking to his principles, Eren leaves everyone a choice, however hard it might be to make.

We have always seen that the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do. But in Attack on Titan, we realize that the right thing to do is not always the good, kindhearted, or just thing to do; it is just what one must do at times.

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