Attack on Titan: The Final Season
The country of Marley, despite its victories, decides it needs to recover the Founding Titan from Paradis Island if it's to maintain its military supremacy- and obliterate the Eldian exiles sent there as well. But those exiles- whose descendants include our familiar cast of characters (Eren, Mikasa, and the other Scouts)- aren't taking this lying down. Eren, in particular, seems to have his OWN strategy to guarantee the security of the Eldians on Paradis- a plan that may include treachery toward his own people as well as the Marleyans.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE PREVIOUS SEASONS. (I'm including a brief summary of Previous Events.) I'll try to at least leave SOME of the secrets of Season 4 as just that- and cite the things here that I MUST cite as obliquely as I can.
Future viewers of this saga- and, in particular, viewers of this "Final Season" of AoT- will never have the ... prolongation of the experience that those of us who saw it in real time endured. From the first episode of this "Final Season" (Season 4) to the last of the two Specials that finally winds things up, in the real world almost 3 years passed. "Seasons" (in the sense of a quarter of a trip around the Sun) are only this long on Jupiter.
But now that we HAVE the whole thing, let's take a careful look at it. Let's start with a quick review of where things stood at the end of Season 3, WHICH IS SPOILER-LADEN, SO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW, READ NO FURTHER!
Once upon a time, there was a war between the Eldians (who can generate the Titan form, though their normal bodies ride inside them) and ordinary humans, which ended in the humans' favor. Each side has their own account of how THAT happened, but the Marleyans (the human victors) treated the Eldians as outcasts, restricted to certain areas of Marley's capitol city of Liberio, and made to wear armbands so people can shun them, spit on them, insult them, and do the other things people do to outcasts. The Marleyan government drills guilt feelings into its ghettoized Eldians as well, but offers them "honorary" citizenship (which of course doesn't really mean anything) if they serve in the military- especially if they can turn into Titans. Malcontents are shipped off to Paradis Island, where, until Eren found a diary, the residents had forgotten any world outside the island even existed.
As the "Final Season" opens, Reiner Braun, a Marleyan Eldian who had to return from a mission to Paradis after his cover was blown, is training a new group of Titan-capable Eldians in Marley. One of the "new kids", named Falco, gets to be privy to some private conversations that show him things in the world are much more nuanced than one would ever realize from Marleyan propaganda. A girl named Gabi, however, buys the Marley account hook, line, and sinker. She is, in fact, the kind of fanatic who rejects out of hand anything that falls outside her (carefully managed) experience base; she can see only aggression in acts that her opponents would argue they did in self-defense. She's devoid of empathy; if she herself didn't see or experience what the other side reports enduring, then it's not credible to her. I find this mentality depressingly common these days, and couldn't move past despising her, even if she hadn't committed the unspeakable, horrifying act that she did.
She's not the only female character I disliked in the show; I've got a long-running disdain for Mikasa, mainly because her character is almost completely defined by her obsession with protecting Eren. There's another Marleyan woman, named Yellen, about whom I also felt that the less said, the better. (On the other hand, we're introduced to another Marleyan Eldian, named Pieck, who I DID like; she seems one of the most sensible people in the cast. There's quite a contrast between her human and Titan forms, and the show gets at least one terrific one-liner out of that.)
I'll note here that Season 4 doesn't stick to a strictly chronological presentation, flitting about in time, and at one point giving us the "origin" of the Titans- though to ME it looked like they were just passing the buck.
Oh, and Annie's back too; she's just as morose as ever, but her old defiance has given way to the attitude of a whipped dog. Even one of the least of the Scouts gets away with humiliating her. How the formerly fearsome has fallen. (I always thought that having a "Female Titan" archetype was kind of misogynist; anybody should be able to become any given Titan, and both Pieck, AND the (Owner? Host? I'm never quite sure) of a Marleyan Titan called the War Hammer, are female.) The Annie/Armin thing is definitely back too. (The show tries to keep it low-key, but it is readily detectable.) Eren, here, blames it on Bertholdt's influence on Armin, but Annie's uncharacteristic kindness toward Armin, which I noted in an earlier review of the show, pre-dates the Bertholdt...uh...absorption.
But Eren's the principal mover-and-shaker this season, and indeed his moves shake up his friends no end. There's plenty of double-crossing by our "hero" as he pursues his plans, which vexes his Scout compatriots, who are trying to Do The Right Thing even as Eren's schemes cause as much chaos and carnage to his friends as they do to his enemies. This all leads to a three-way battle in Paradis (well, the place WAS always ironically named), as Marleyan invaders square off against a group of Eldian Supremacist Jaegerists (who are fanatically devoted to Eren and his "plan", even though they're as much in the dark about what the "plan" is as anyone else); and BOTH these parties are also fighting a remnant group of the Scouts (which include most of our favorites who DIDN'T defect to Eren's group, AND who also escaped a horrible scheme to take the Scouts out of commission; I guess you could call these "The Adults In The Room.") I noticed the civilians kind of disappeared from this struggle entirely, either because of good sense, or because it would have made the animation even more challenging. MAPPA took over this season, and so the characters look a little different; I kinda miss Armin's mop-top haircut though.
I did have issues, of course:
-I've never particularly liked the show's opening music, but the opener here, with sketchy (in the literal sense) battle scenes accompanied by a chorus chanting "La, la, la, la, la", was especially Not Doing It for me.
-As a general rule, starting off with "Yes, we lied to you about the threat posed by these people before" might work against the credibility of your own very next statement if it's "But these people really ARE a menace NOW, believe us!" (NOT an exact quote, but that was the gist of it.)
-There's a lot of blaming-and-shaming going on here, culminating in a kind of Group Recrimination Session where everyone accuses everyone else of mass murder. (Even poor Armin, still the least military of the bunch, gets his share of this.) Uh, this is WAR, folks, and, ESPECIALLY when things get taken as far as Eren takes them, people die.
-The show, in the end, is not precisely nihilistic, but does hint that the best one can hope for is to create a safe space for one's loved ones, for a limited time- and we'll say that extreme measures are resorted to to accomplish even THAT much. And future generations? The show has a remarkable nod to that in the "cliff's edge scene"... but then there's that coda...
I said I was going to do the 8 OADs here. (I'd never seen the term "Original Animation DVD" before. I guess these were released Direct to Video, huh?):
In #1, "Ilse's Notebook: Memoirs of a Scout Regiment Member", Hange recovers the notebook of an earlier Scout who took after Hange's own heart- making careful noetes of an encounter with a Titan. The result of that encounter should maybe have discouraged Hange, but, always being rather unhinged (un-Hanged?) herself, she takes things the opposite way. (I'm STILL not sure why there's so much variation in the sentience of the Titans.)
#2, 'The Sudden Visitor: The Torturous Curse of Youth", is mainly a rare foodie/comedy entry; what it mainly fed is my anger that, in Final Season, the show killed off one of my favorite characters. (The show's tendency to go "Over The Top" spoiled the comedy here, in my opinion.)
#3, "Distress", has a simple plot- our Scouts, back when they were inexperienced, and bickering even more than they later were, have to rescue one of their own. It's tightly focused, and very good, though not quite in the league of the NEXT one.
#4-5, "No Regrets", is Levi's backstory. He's apparently always been the surly "tough guy", and here (though even MORE in Final Season itself) we again see that the Fates seem to pile one brutality after another on the guy. This is, by far, the best of the OAD "short stories". (Even the insert song is great.)
#6-8 are titled "Lost Girls", and they DID lose my interest. #6 and 7 are a two-parter with Annie doing some detective work. Well, she's VIOLENT enough with the lowlifes to be a pulp-era private eye, but the story seemed kind of pointless to me. And #8, even with its venture into the surreal, just reinforces what we already knew about Mikasa's feelings for Eren.
There have been complaints about the ending, but honestly maybe there's no completely satisfactory ending for a complex saga like this. My own feelings are pretty mixed- some characters I liked got killed off, and it's simultaneously overcomplicated while STILL leaving much about the Titans unexplained. And it still tends to indulge in overwrought melodrama. But you've got to give Isayama credit for the sheer AMBITION of his story, and maybe a few of the survivors here DID grow a little by the end. Most of all, I'm grateful that we FINALLY have a conclusion for this, and it's maybe less nihilistic than it MIGHT have been. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Gory violence has always been a trademark of this series. (The Titans DO eat people, even though they don't really NEED to.) Crunchyroll Store rates this TV-MA. Same with me.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream.
Review Status: Full (28/28)
Attack on Titan: The Final Season © 2023 Hajime Isayama/Kodansha/"Attack on Titan: The Final Season" Production Committee
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