It’s been seven years in the making and, after some agonizingly long waits in-between seasons and a whole change in creative power behind the scenes, the fourth and final season of Attack on Titan is here. It’s obviously a moment of feverish excitement for fans, one that resulted in both Funimation and Crunchyroll crashing under the sheer barrage of attention.Attack on Titan has spent the previous 59 episodes building up a labyrinthine tale of an all-consuming war and the humans scrambling to survive against the seemingly insurmountable forces of the grotesque Titans. Season 3 left audiences slack-jawed with a host of game-changing revelations about the origins of the Titans as well as an unknown world of technological advancements that lay across the near-mythic oceans. That finale left us on a characteristically bittersweet note: Eren Yeager and his scrappy team saw hope on the horizon, but the end credits – showing images of the brutal wars that awaited them – cut that optimism short.
Season 4’s premiere episode, “The Other Side of the Sea,” switched things up and revealed the other side of the long-running battle that has plagued the show since its very beginning. We are introduced to Falco, a young Eldian soldier from Marley fighting on the battlefield near Fort Slava. As a fellow soldier explains to him after he’s dazed from the gunfire, they are nearing the climax of a four-year battle. If the Marley forces sink the Mid-East Allies in their own port, the war is over. Or, at least, it will hopefully end. As Attack on Titan has so artfully conveyed for 60 episodes now, generational conflicts and the inherent corruption within are unlikely to ever fully conclude.If you’re just as confused as Falco by this exposition, don’t worry. Attack on Titan has always revelled in bucking the heightened expectations of its audience. You won’t see Eren or most of your favorite characters here, aside from the new and delightfully epic opening. Instead, you’re asked to watch the “enemy” in battle, which mostly seems to be made up of arrogant generals and achingly young soldiers. Sound familiar? While the show has been heavily criticized over the years for the way it seemingly appropriates real-life images of war for its own use, you can’t deny that Titan has consistently portrayed war itself to be a losing game for all involved. Baby-faced soldiers of the Marley fleet chastise one another for not having faith in the almighty powers that have been indoctrinated into them since birth. The landscapes of the battlefield are desolate, nothing but trenches and blood in the dirt. Casual bigotry, ingrained after generations of propaganda, rolls easily off the tongue. The kids, each of whom look weary and shellshocked beyond their fragile years, are fighting for death and not much else.
Indeed, they’re fighting for a truly deadly prize. Falco and his comrades, Udo, Zofia, and Gabi, are Eldians who are competing for the ultimate prize: to be given the power of the Armored Titan. So, not only are they fighting “the enemy” but they’re battling one another for this dubious honor. It’s one that we know has a short shelf life, one that Eren is nearing the end of. This quartet of new faces may be unfamiliar to us — and it’s still a major shift for the show to move away from its core cast to introduce further additions to its already vast ensemble — but they do a great job in making us care about them very quickly. Titan has always been horribly good at creating deftly layered characters, which makes its frequent bloodshed all the more tragic.
Top 25 Best Anime Series of All Time
It’s Gabi who sees herself as the natural heir to the Armored Titan, with her brash resoluteness allowing her to blow up an entire enemy train that will allow the Marley forces to unleash their Titan forces more freely. The episode’s most haunting scene, in an episode full of them, sees an aircraft carrier drop in a fleet of neutralized Eldians. Strapped into their harnesses, which look like body bags, they are parachuted over the Fort and transformed, collapsing to the ground like bombs.
The sight of dozens of flailing naked giants, each grinning blindly, landing on buildings would probably be pretty funny if we hadn’t spent dozens of episodes entrenched in the humanizing of these so-called monsters and reminding us that what is happening is essentially an act of genocide. The show has always tried to find the middle ground between depicting the atrocities of war faithfully and giving action lovers some bang for their buck. Here, that balance is as precarious as ever, with those long-awaited Titans scenes scored with epic music and looking gorgeous – but it’s the faces of petrified soldiers being sent to their deaths that will linger with you long after the smoke has settled.
The Marleyans take the fort, aided by Zeke, and the war is seemingly over. But, of course, it never is. The power of the Titans is not absolute and the battle is still on for a new candidate for the Armored Titan. The next episode preview hints that it will be quite some time before we return to Eren and friends, but with Falco and his circle now free of the battlefield, the scars will take some time to heal.
The Best Anime Series on Netflix Right Now