Mid-Season Musings: Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2

Attack on Titan’s final season (part 2) has been absolutely mind-blowing for me so far. By isolating from most social media, I’ve managed to avoid manga spoilers so far. it’s quite an experience to not know when most others do. I’m not feeling inspired to work on any of my long existing drafts, so I figured I would write out some thoughts about AOT. This will only be content about the characters, themes, and events, rather than the audio or visual components.

The Attack Titan’s Time Power and the Goodness of Grisha

“I can’t do this. I can’t kill children. I am a doctor. I save lives.”
~Grisha Yeager

The Attack Titan and the Royal Titan both have powers previously unknown or unconfirmed in the series. The Royal Titan can transform Eldians into “pure” Titans with his spinal fluid; we already knew that, but there’s something more. The Royal-blooded Titan can command the Founder, Ymir, to carry out his wishes.

What about the Attack Titan though? Besides its insane berserk energy, and the driven spirit common to its users, what abilities does it really have? The answer was finally made clear. The Attack Titan has a limited power to see the future as well as interact with the past. Those who pass down the Titan power between them often experience the previous user’s memories, but only into the past. The Attack Titan, meanwhile, can experience “memories” that have not happened yet.

This was hinted about in the late episodes of the third season. Kruger unconsciously mentioned that this is the plan to eventually save Armin and Mikasa. When Grisha asked who Armin and Mikasa were, Kruger smiled slightly and basically said, “Who knows?” He was already channeling the events of the future, and the overwhelmingly powerful desire of Eren to save his friends.

Also at the end of season 3, Eren takes the hand of Queen Historia and kisses it, as was expected at the hero ceremony. Don’t forget that Historia has royal blood. And when the Founder and the Royal touch one another, it is the activator for supernatural experiences such as witnessing the future, issuing commands to the Eldians, or visiting the past. Recall how disturbed Eren looked after touching Historia. The Final Season has revealed that in that moment, Eren saw something truly horrifying. We don’t know what he saw. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than the Rumbling, which he himself activated. So this part remains a mystery to me so far.

The other interesting thing about this is that the holder of the Attack Titan can influence the past. In an attempt to win Eren to his side, Zeke takes Eren to visit the past of their father Grisha. Much to the shock of both men at first, Grisha is able to see them as apparitions. That’s because he’s a holder of the Attack Titan who can transcend time to see things in the future. In turn, Eren can interact with Grisha somewhat because he is also a holder of the Attack Titan who transcends time.

It was difficult for me to watch Grisha’s past as he was tormented by “ghosts”, emotional trauma, and his guilt over things he felt he must do. My heart went out to this character when he resisted his “duty” of slaughtering the royal family. But in the end, he still did it, after Eren swayed him with words. The deed of killing the children drove Grisha mad and that’s when he broke irreparably. At least he got to see and hug Zeke, but it was still hard to watch. Grisha was a better man than I previously believed.

Titan Origin and The Face of Ymir

“You’re not a god or a demon. You’re just a person!”
~Eren Yeager to Ymir

By now the new season has also showed us the origin story of Titans. I was fascinated and impressed by the tale. First of all, it was appropriate that the whole truth about the creation of Titans wasn’t given. Ymir made contact with some kind of creature deep inside the dark lake within the ancient tree. But whether that creature was a god who took pity on a girl, a demon who possessed her, or some kind of sci-fi alien parasite is unclear. The Titans are largely symbols representing things like desperation, war, prejudice, and hatred. So it doesn’t really matter how all that started. This story isn’t about that. The mystery of it is pretty cool to me.

Now what about the actual story of Ymir the original Titan? It was in keeping with the tone of AoT for sure, being incredibly dark and tragic. Ymir was a slave in every way possible with nothing resembling choice in her actions. Forced to be sport for the king’s hunters. Forced to be the king’s slave using her titan power to build the empire. Forced to bear the king’s children. And even after death, which was perhaps the only thing she did chose, Ymir was forced to exist on an supernatural plane of existence, building Titan bodies out of sand and mud for 2000 years.

It was fitting that for her entire backstory, Ymir had no face drawn in. Her facelessness was a way of showing her lack of ability to choose, as well as the way she was constantly dehumanized by everyone. In her life, she was seen as many things, such as slave, mother, builder, destroyer, demon, and god. But nobody in her life saw Ymir as just a person. Eren was the first person to do this. That’s why her face was finally shown after Eren embraced and empowered her. I think this was a beautiful thing, even though I’m aware Ymir probably hates humanity and wants to destroy it. It’s still beautiful to see a slave freed.

Two other things stand out to me about the tale of Ymir. Firstly, there’s her death. That spear she took shouldn’t have been enough enough to kill her, but it did. My theory is that the Founding Titan can only be truly killed if the holder sacrifices themselves. This could have interesting effects on Eren and his story. (Alternatively, maybe Ymir simply died because it had been thirteen years, a rule we still don’t know the reason for.) Secondly, what stood out to me about Ymir’s story was what happened with her body after death. The king literally king fed her flesh to their children, forcing them to eat her, so they would inherit the Titan power. It was seriously chilling. Eating humans has always been associated with Titans in this show, and there are several reasons why. Clearly, one such reason is the tradition in the royal family of eating the one with Titan power.

The Rumbling: Eren’s Choice

“Because you guys are important to me. More than anything in the world.”
~Eren Yeager, speaking of his comrades

As one who hasn’t completed the manga, I am not aware of how Attack on Titan will end. Everything in the final season has been completely new to me. Therefore, it’s possible there’s still more to Eren and his actions that I don’t know about. For now, however, I will assume the speculations of Jean and company on the rooftops were correct.

As much as Eren often seems to be driven by his hatred, he is even more so driven by his love. Unfortunately, it’s not a humanistic kind of love, but an entirely small and selfish sort of love. He cares more about his friends and the people of Paradis than about humanity as a whole. He ordered the rumbling to happen so that Mikasa, Armin, and others will no longer be threatened by the world. Nobody will ever be able to make war on the Eldian people again.

My opinion on this is that it’s in keeping with Eren’s character. He’s always been selfish and incredibly driven to do what others cannot or would not do. It also makes sense given that Eren believed for his entire life that the people within the walls were all of humanity. His knowledge of the people outside only began four years ago. But his perception has not changed. Humanity is within the walls. Enemies are outside. By dehumanizing the outsiders, Eren has fallen into the trap of hatred and violence at the core of this series. Honestly, it’s not surprising for a character like Eren, who has been full of rage at the world since the very first episode.

Gabi’s Redemption and the Devil within

No, I’m the demon. I’ve killed so many people, just for recognition. There’s a demon inside me.”
~Gabi Braun

Many AoT fans hate Gabi since she was responsible for the death of the beloved Sasha. Plus, her character’s general loudness and pride might be seen as annoying by some. As for me, I still love Gabi, just as I love most of the characters in AoT. Even if Gabi never changed, I would appreciate her character as an important one with regards to the themes of revenge, hatred, and the cycle of violence. But it turns out that Gabi does undergo a slow change.

Falco was never really down for war and violence, but only wanted to save Gabi. His gentle nature and wisdom to see other points of view finally started rubbing off on Gabi. Many other events and realizations led up to the change. One example was seeing the death of several comrades and friends, both in Liberio and then within the walls right before the Rumbling. Another very important factor is Kaya and how she started hating Gabi after discovering she killed Sasha. Both the kindness of Kaya’s family, and seeing the brokenness of Kaya that Gabi herself caused, were critical to the evolution of Gabi.

This brave girl no longer thinks of the Paradis people as demons. In fact, she views herself as the real demon. Ironically, by realizing some of her own mistakes, she has become a better person, and much less “demonic.” She now has the desire to save others and think beyond herself, her own glory, and her indoctrination as a captive Eldian. The change was truly inspiring to see.

After Gabi makes the remark that there’s a demon inside her, Niccolo says that this demon is inside everyone, including himself. The demon inside people is the reason for all the chaos and violence in the world. Obviously Gabi and Nicc aren’t talking about a real, supernatural demonic creature. The demon is, rather, a metaphor for the parts of our psyches that make us feel and do monstrous things, like killing others.

It’s fascinating to me that way back in season one, an important theme was embracing the demon inside to get the results to benefit the most people. Eren had to embrace his monstrous Titan power and be willing to kill Annie, all for the sake of helping the humans survive. We saw a similar trend with the character of Erwin, who was known as a demon for the way he sacrificed soldiers. He embraced his monstrous self to get closer to his dream. But now, in season 4, we see what happens when you let the devil within go too far.

Eren gave his demon too much free reign. And he’s not the only one. Everyone making war and throwing hate and prejudice around are freeing their demons. So it seems that although the demon inside is sometimes necessary for survival or greater results, it is also a dark and tragic thing that must be kept on a leash.

That covers most of my thoughts for today. Thank you so much for reading!

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