When MAPPA took over the production of Attack on Titan, there was a lot of skepticism. The worries seemed to be resolved at the release of the teaser trailer, but when the season began airing, many of those worries intensified. Abundant CGI, a different feel to the action scenes, and a new director’s vision at a crucial point in the franchise…
… And it was still a masterpiece!
Somewhere around episode 69 or 70, on one of the highly-anticipated Sundays in which I watched The Final Season with my friends, I did something I usually avoid. I gave a final rating on MyAnimeList.net before the series was finished.
I never do that! Mostly because there are shows that can soar for a great duration only to crash at the end. But in-between countless tense, nail-biting confrontations with minimal actual battle, I was convinced that this show couldn’t disappoint me. And it still hasn’t.
So I gave it my final rating, confident the remaining episodes would surpass or at least maintain that quality. And it went so far beyond that. What’s amazing is that this season has given the best of both worlds of Attack on Titan. The battle in Liberio was classic Attack on Titan but with a nuanced spin now that the secrets of the world are known to the main characters.
And then the second half that has aired since my last post on the series did essentially what Season 3’s first half did, but even better. Personal, intricate character drama combined with political conspiracy and intrigue. Back when Attack on Titan first introduced these concepts, people were wary. They came for mortal battles against giants, not political intrigue.
And yet, the political angle is Attack on Titan‘s most interesting aspect now and is the fuel behind the most violent battles. In the years since the story exploded in popularity, those who have stuck with it have sung its praises because the things we dismissed as secondary are the true heart of the series.
Titan’s human drama and its cathartic, depressing, and sometimes nihilistic outlook on life are humbling. It is a prescient look at war through the eyes of the children who ought to inherit the world but instead are pushed to further its destruction. All of it is furthered by the feeling of hatred that can’t be let go of. And very few are truly 100% wrong.
Gabi Braun is to Attack on Titan what Abby Anderson is to The Last of Us Part II. Much like Last of Us Part II, Attack on Titan‘s tale of war puts the character in a position where they are naturally hated by so many viewers. They’ve killed characters we’ve spent years admiring and the worst part is that we can’t genuinely say their reasons weren’t understandable.
It is undeniable that Gabi is a phenomenal character and echoes Eren Jaeger’s arc in prior seasons. Just as Eren found themselves in despair at their weaknesses and the truth of the titans, Gabi finds herself in a similar crisis of conscience as her world comes tumbling down. She’s a soldier who finds that the battle lines drawn don’t make sense. Her enemies aren’t monsters. She’s killed people and then been witness to the people from whom she robbed them.
Gabi and Eren are both people who grew up vengeful, dangerous, and wholly committed to eradicating something that hurt them. They are the same. The difference is whether they learn their lessons before it’s too late. It’s too early to tell for Gabi, but for Eren?
Eren in many ways becomes the true enemy of the show, something that becomes apparent quickly. He hardly reacts to tragedy. In the time since season three, he’s made up his mind about who his enemy is and what he’s willing to do to stop them. The reveal of those lengths is horrifying and we see it all through everyone else’s eyes.
Armin has always been my favorite character. Additionally, Mikasa was one of the first anime badasses that I fawned over. And both of them seem completely disarmed by the sight of their friend’s transformation. Worse yet, when they finally have a moment to sit down and talk, Eren’s words are a shock to the system that makes you rethink every interaction they’ve ever had.
The new characters added just this season add just as much weight as the ones we’ve known since the very beginning. Yelena is a cunning and deceptive wildcard who you come to love despite how conniving she can be. Hange gets a new BFF in the form of Onyankonpon, a person of color whose friendship with the main characters gets tested as the tensions within the walls get complicated.
The characters we already know don’t just coast by on the good faith of prior seasons either. Sasha is astonishing and honestly, every character’s design gets a post-time-skip glow-up. Levi is still a short king, but man for how invincible he is, the story does not like letting him be even remotely happy. When shit goes south, you know he’s gonna make it out, but you know it’s gonna take more of a toll on him.
As for Zeke and Reiner, the switching of perspectives I’ve praised in the past benefits both of them like crazy. Reiner’s arc has been incredible and my own admiration of him has only skyrocketed with the time given to reflect on his tortured soul. Zeke’s backstory takes a familiar story we’ve seen before and shows us his perspective.
Every chance encounter, tense argument, and power play solidifies Isayama’s story as a quintessential epic of the modern era. In animation, it is a harrowing and yet intensely human war story that harkens back to the war stories of Gundam.
It’s been a joke for years that Attack on Titan is technically a mech series, but it’s never been more accurate than now. Isayama’s inspirations drawn from series like Muv Luv, which themself drew inspiration from Gundam, are clear as day.
Much has been discussed about the animation, but I have nothing but positive things to say. There is CGI, yes, but it is directed and executed so much better than so many other anime. Additionally, several of the episodes focused on human characters have sublime character animation.
Animation by Vercreek
Yuuichirou Hayashi was given quite a high-profile gig in the same year that he directed Dorohedoro, but I think he and Jun Shishido have done a wonderful job. The two of them, Chief Animation Director Daisuke Niinuma, composer Kohta Yamamoto, Sound Director Masafumi Mima, and the rest of the Final Season staff should feel very proud.
The 16th episode ended foreshadowing the beginning of what is sure to be an incredible end. A 76th episode is confirmed for Winter 2021. It’s such a specific announcement that I’m unsure if that’ll be the start of another half of the “Final Season,” or not.
For all we know, it could end with a movie, End of Evangelion style. I’d be more than happy with that. Give me two hours of non-stop action and sadness wrapped up in a message about war and the struggle of being born into the world.
However hard the wait will be, I couldn’t be happier with how MAPPA has produced this season. They took quite a risk coming in at the end of such a saga, but so long as they take their time, I’m sure that what we’ll get will be magnificent.
Thank you MAPPA. And as for the rating I gave it before it ended, that should be fairly obvious by now.
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