Welcome to Anime Rants. For ten years now, I have been following the popular anime Attack on Titan. After all this time, it’s finally all coming to an end. The second-to-last episode of the anime aired earlier this month in the form of an hour-long movie. It’s not known when exactly the last episode/movie will be released, but I’m not here to talk about that right now. I’m here to give some thoughts on what recently hit our screens. This Anime Rant will walk through the events of the episode, explaining my thoughts along the way. The article is divided into sections focusing on the main points I wish to make.
Free Will and Eren’s Internal Monologue
In the second scene of the movie/episode, Eren walks through a city in Marley, and his internal monologue can be heard. He thinks about how all the innocent people here are going to die because of him. The most interesting thing about this monologue is that Eren doesn’t seem to be entirely in control of his actions. Or at least, he doesn’t think he is. The wording he uses suggests that he is acting fatalistically, believing that his choice to start the rumbling was a predetermined destiny. Why is he thinking like that, and what is the significance of it?
As the Final Season part 2 revealed, the secret power of the Attack Titan is the ability to view/relive future and past events. These are memories that were lived out by all the users of the Attack Titan over history. Eren seems to think the rumbling is a “memory of the future” that is unchangeable. It’s possible that he is correct. This opens up the age-old debate about free will. Does it exist? Can we truly make choices? My personal opinion on the matter is that we may not, in fact, be free to choose; but it’s essential to keep acting as if we do, or society will crumble. There is ample evidence pointing to the idea that the universe in AOT, at least, is deterministic. Even so, Eren should be held accountable for his actions.
It is contestable that any character in this universe has free will, but with Eren especially, this is called into question. In the Final Season Part 1, Eren adamantly tells Armin and Mikasa that he is “free.” But it’s possible that he’s the least free of all. For instance, Eren could easily be the “victim” of the Attack Titan. A person’s Titan powers do have some influence over their characteristics, though the degree of the influence is heavily debated. The effect may be the strongest in the Attack Titan, since it has been striving for the same goal for multiple generations in a row. The Attack Titan seeks boundless freedom and achieves it through berserk violence. The effect of this on Eren’s psyche is unknown, but definitely relevant to consider.
For the first part of this scene, it definitely seems like Eren is being a fatalist. However, he is inconsistent about this, which brings us to another important possibility: that Eren is completely confused. I think Eren’s mind basically broke when he discovered the truth about the outside world. Things kept getting worse as he relived visions of past and future. It’s possible he lost his sense of time and the stability of his own existence. Eren is not thinking straight at all (according to this theory). His inconsistency lends credence to the idea: even as he walks through the city, resigned to the fact that he’s going to kill everyone, he still feels compassion for the random boy being beaten in the alleyway.
The uncertainty of this situation with the boy makes Eren think a few more interesting thoughts. He is aware that he’s being inconsistent. He thinks, “I’m just like Reiner. I’m a half-assed piece of shit. No – I’m worse than that.” At that point, he weeps in front of the young boy. A few minutes later, Eren admits in his head that he was disappointed to find out humanity existed outside the walls. He feels severe guilt over that reaction, because presumably, he should have been happy to find the human race thriving. I think it’ s fair to say that Eren is going mental agony. In my mind, Eren’s possible confusion, pain, and lack of free will do not excuse his actions. These things do, however, add depth and context to Eren’s decision.
Armin and Annie
Armin has been my favorite AOT character for many years now, so it’s only natural I have some thoughts about him. Most of them are related to his interactions with Annie, who is now free from being frozen in the crystal. I know I’ll sound like a raging fangirl, but Armin x Annie is my second-to-favorite AOT ship, and it’s heavily supported in this episode/movie. We know that Armin made regular visits to Annie over the course of four years, talking to her at great length. He tells Annie that he did this simply because he wanted to see her. There’s no question that Armin is in love with Annie. His face is bright red as he admits the simple motivation for his visits.
At least initially, Annie is unable to face this truth. She’s probably never considered anything like love before, so it makes her uncomfortable. In addition, she feels it would be wrong to enjoy such an experience when millions of people all over the world are currently dying. Annie therefore tries to reframe Armin’s visits, saying that he only did it because he was a good person who avoids conflict, rather than out of romantic interest. “Talking to the monster was a strategy to avoid conflict,” Annie surmises. This line was interesting to me because it shows that Annie thinks of herself as a monster relative to Armin.
Rather than try to deny that Annie is a monster, Armin reminds her that he is a monster now, too. As the new Colossal Titan, he killed hundreds of Marleyan people, including civilians and children. He also betrayed and killed his own former comrades at the outpost in the Final Season Part 2. Armin is probably talking about these things with Annie because he trusts and loves her.
The two of them keep talking, discussing how the outside world was different than expected for Armin and Eren. On that topic, Armin says, “I still want to believe there is something unknown outside of the walls.” This line was important to understanding Armin, because it’s a reminder of the fact that he always seeks new information and understanding. He has a childlike sense of wonder at the world, along with an extremely sharp mind that thinks of things almost scientifically. On the other hand, he is also fascinated by mystic concepts like Onyankapo’s God. Armin needed there to be something unknown and magical in the outside world. Instead, there were only more flawed, hateful humans everywhere. I heavily empathize with Armin’s depression and disillusionment.
Later on, Annie does seem to accept the fact that Armin loves her – or at least she has realized that she loves him. It’s obvious to Mikasa, too. However, since she still lacks the will to fight, Annie decides not to accompany Armin onto the airship. I think Annie believes herself undeserving of Armin’s love; plus, should anyone be selfishly thinking of romance at a time like this? I’m not sure how I would feel with a dilemma like this. Is it alright to pursue personal happiness while everyone else is suffering? Although it’s hard for me to say what I would really do, I hold that at least theoretically, it’s okay. Why should one make oneself miserable for the sake of others? It’s possible that Annie was thinking about this question.
Earlier, I said I empathized with Armin’s depression and disillusionment. Annie is suffering her own all-time low, and I feel for her, too. Her depression is because she has nothing left to fight for. Believing that her father is dead along with most of the Marleyans, Annie no longer possesses the fierce motivation that defined her way back in the first season. If you ask me, though, Annie does indeed have a reason to fight. She can fight to help Armin, if she truly cares about him. However, Annie isn’t yet ready for that step.
Hange’s Sacrifice and The Nature of War and Violence
There were several other key events and things worth commenting on in this movie/episode, but I’m not going to spend much time on every one of them. The lady from Azumabito had an interesting thought to share about not treating others well until it’s too late. Floch’s return and subsequent death was also of interest. It was rather pathetic seeing Yelena beg the others to admit that Zeke had been right. But the event I wish to comment on with a bit more detail is the sacrifice of Zoe Hange.
When Yelena asked everyone to admit that Zeke’s plan had been the best option, Hange freely agreed. She affirmed that Zeke’s plan was the better option given that she failed to give Eren a solution or hope for the future. The regret and pain on Hange’s features are difficult to look at as she says in a low voice, “I admit my powerlessness.” Like everyone on board the ship, Hange is severely depressed and in agony over not being able to fix the situation. But this gloom doesn’t last long – not for the crazy, strong Zoe Hange. She finds a way to feel empowered again. She does it by volunteering to fight the titans to buy time while everyone else escapes in the airship.
It was extremely moving to watch Hange’s final battle with the titans. The song that played was perfect for it. I definitely cried. To be honest, I didn’t expect the anime to bring this part of the manga to life so well and in a way that evoked such emotion. Hange’s skill and speed were amazing as she cut down titan after titan. I think she did as well as Levi in her last stand. In life, Hange loved titans. She got to die among them. More importantly, however, Hange loved the people of the Survey Corps and believed in their mission. She got to die defending them all and giving them one last chance.
After this emotional scene, there is a brief moment showing Hange “waking up” among the footprints of the giant titans. All around her are her fallen comrades from past battles, including Erwin and Moblit. They tell her that she succeeded in fulfilling her duty, and they extend their hands and welcome her among them. It was a touching moment. It’s unknown whether there is any sort of afterlife in the AOT universe. I doubt such a thing would exist in such a realistic world. So I think that Hange’s spiritual experience was a vision she saw as she died in reality. However you wish to interpret it, the important thing is that Hange got a sense of peace.
This is a good Segway into the topic of the nature of war and violence. AOT is full of the agony of conflict and killing more than anything else. Usually, AOT’s takes are on the dark side, but occasionally, a beloved character like Hange gets a lighter sentence. Erwin was haunted by visions of mountains of dead men who died under his command. His last moments were painful because he didn’t get to live long enough to fulfill his dream. On the other hand, Hange got to make, in her words, “a supremely cool exit,” and received a peaceful welcome on the other side.
In both cases – Erwin and Hange – different sides of war and violence are being explored in different lights. Following Hange’s death, these themes are explored again with the scene on the airship. When Levi asks to be the one to kill Zeke, Jean acknowledges it and says they all have had to kill people who are technically on the same side. This is no different. Jean’s remark triggers Connie to remember what happened at the port in Final Season Part 2, when he shot and cut down his former companions. Connie had to kill his friends for the greater purpose of “saving the world” from the rumbling.
Unable to forgive himself, Connie looks up at Reiner, asking if he and Berthold and Annie suffered like this, too. Reiner says he could never hope to forgive himself, nor atone. But the least he can do is help save as many lives as possible that are left. He encourages Connie to persevere with him and help the mission. It was a nice callback to their days in training, when Reiner acted as the encouraging big brother for everyone. Even Jean, who understandably hates Reiner, acknowledged that he is no different and has no right to judge. It was a good bonding moment for the three young men.
Reiner and Connie are dealing with severe guilt. From what I understand, this is something many soldiers have gone through in modern day wars. I know nothing firsthand about war, but the psychology of soldiers and veterans is interesting to me. It’s sad, too. Reiner is so disturbed that he is suicidal, and only staying alive for now to help stop Eren. It must be unimaginably hard to have killed people, even if you can logically say you had no real choice.
Eren as a Child and Closing Thoughts
I want to briefly touch on the free will topic again before including my final thoughts. The concept of free will and the debate around it are important elements throughout Attack on Titan, especially in the later seasons. The topic comes up again briefly when the characters talk to Eren through the founder’s power. Eren tells them they are free. As Armin pointed out, it was within Eren’s power to alter their memories, brainwash them, or directly order them not to use their titans to stop the rumbling. For some reason, however, instead of using this control, Eren gave free reign to the other characters.
I think Reiner was spot-on with his explanation: Eren wants to be stopped. He wants them to kill him after not being able to stop himself. Emotionally, Eren is fragile and helpless. But he’s also incredibly stubborn, and refuses to stop. This leads well into my final thought, which is the significance of Eren appearing as a child in front of the other characters. Though some of the characters expressed confusion, Armin seemed to immediately understand why Eren’s appearance was the way it was. I think I understand too. Internally, Eren is still a child.
Think of it this way: he is immature, stubborn, and throwing a worldwide temper tantrum. His anger is childish, and his confusion is childlike. In his mind, at his deepest place, he is still a kid who can’t control his raging temper or maintain a sense of consistency in his actions. I don’t think I’m infantilizing Eren, because I’m not saying he’s literally a child or that he didn’t make the decision to start the rumbling. It’s just that emotionally, Eren is immature. He should still be held accountable.
The ending of this episode/movie was exciting, with a lot of action going on. Armin and the Survery Corps, along with Reiner and Peick, have finally caught up to Eren at the last fort in Marley. It’s time for the final battle. The last thing we hear is Armin saying, “Eren, I have one more question for you once I drag you out from in there. In what sense are you free?” That’s the perfect line to end on. I look forward to the next (and last) movie/episode soon.
Thank you for reading~
2 thoughts on “Attack on Titan – Final Season Part 3 (Part 1): Review”
I must admit that nothing that happened after season 2 never made much sense to me. I could only conclude that Erin was slipping into madness and that the outside world was already mad.
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Thanks for the recap, but I think I’ll stick to watching grass grow instead of following this anime.