Attack on Titan The Final Season
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Attack on Titan The Final Season ?
"Are these the sort of sights you saw?"
As I write this, it has only been a few hours since the trailer dropped for 2021's Godzilla Vs. Kong, which turned out to be a wonderfully potent moment of kaiju synchronicity, as it put me in the perfect headspace to enjoy “Assault”. We're nearly halfway done with this run of Attack on Titan The Final Season – given how much ground I'm told the anime has left to cover the jury is still out on whether a “Part 2” or feature film will be needed to wrap up the series – and “Assault” serves as a perfect escalation of the climactic action that began when Eren brought the bloody fury of Paradis to Marley's doorstep. The younger sister of Willy (who I erroneously identified as Fine, though the internet tells me she might not have been given a name) is encased in a protective crystal, which even the Attack Titan cannot shatter with brute force alone. While The Beast, Cart, and Jaw Titans all coordinate their offensive on Eren, the rest of the Scout Regiment make their own attacks on Titans, soldiers, and citizens all over Marley. Though the themes and character beats that make AoT so rich and complex are still there, “Assault” really is the perfect title for the episode because this is the most thrilling indulgence of spectacle that we've seen since the series made its return.I wrote last week about how there's probably always going to be a fundamental push and pull between AoT's desire to tell a harrowing and morally grey anti-war story and its equally strong desire to have its characters turn into giant-monster meat-mechas that pummel the ever-loving shit out of each other. On the one hand, it feels kind of weird to get legitimately excited to watch these haunted and broken child-soldiers commit terrible deeds of atrocious violence against each other. On the other hand: Holy shit, did you see when Eren straight up haymaker-ed Porco right out of the air? And then how Eren took his limbless body and used the Jaw Titan's head to crush the War Hammer chrysalis and slurp up the remains of Willy Tybur's sister like some horrifying human smoothie? Our girl Sasha's just getting headshots left and right like a fuckin' boss, too, and don't even get me started on Levi laying out the Beast Titan like it was absolutely nothing, and now we've got to wait a whole week for a goddamn Armored Titan/Attack Titan rematch!?
Ahem. Like I said, I woke up this morning to see King Kong use a flying battle-axe swing to slam Godzilla's Atomic Breath back into his own skull, so beg your pardon if my inner kaiju-geek has cranked the Hype-o-Meter up a bit too high. MAPPA's work here is also worthy of commendation, and for all of the dweebs who decided to harass animators on social media because they didn't like the new direction the studio has taken the show's visuals: First of all, kindly grow up, and stop giving anime fans a bad name. Also, Attack on Titan still looks really damned good, so calm the hell down. Yeah, I'll admit, the reliance on CG models occasionally messes with the sense of scale and heavy momentum that has helped make the Titans such iconic monster-weapons, but Titan brawls are still ferocious to behold, and the series retains enough of its ground-level tension by keeping the majority of the action anchored by the perspective of the human characters, Scout and Marleyan alike.
This is also where the show keeps the pathos flowing too, never letting the audience get so wrapped up in the action that we forget the toll all of this violence is taking on the characters. Before Falco and Gabi's screams rip him from his dying slumber, Reiner seems content to fade away completely in the Armored Titan's shell. Pieck and her crew are utterly massacred by the Scouts, and Falco likely would have bitten the dust too if Jean hadn't flinched at the last minute, proving that he isn't quite to the point where he can shoot an unarmed kid point-blank in the face with a missile. When Armin arrives and transforms into the Colossal Titan, the mushroom cloud that accompanies the destructive blast needs no analysis or explanation. The devastated landscape and civilian corpses speak for themselves, as they have throughout all history. Armin, clearly horrified by what he is now complicit in, understands Bertholdt better than he probably ever wanted to.
Later, when the remaining Scouts arrive in their swanky new zeppelin, Armin remarks: “Now that it has come to this, if we can't recover Eren and the others, then there is no future for us.” He brings up a particularly sobering point, there, because even if Eren's plans were to go completely right, what path forward is there for the wayward children of Paradis? He told Reiner before that he would not stop until all of his enemies were defeated, but Eren – along with everyone else involved with this war – will have to someday reckon with what comes after that final enemy lies dead in the dirt. Is such a future even possible? And if it is, will Eren and his compatriots be able to forge themselves a new world without drowning in the ash and blood of the one they ruined to get there?
Rating:James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.
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