With the Attack on Titan anime on a hiatus for nearly a year, we’ve decided to continue reading the manga past where the TV show left off. One chapter at a time, we’ll be providing reviews and thoughts on these amazing chapters. Today we’re reviewing Attack on Titan’s manga Chapter 131, “The Rumbling.”
This article has spoilers only through Attack on Titan Chapter 131. This is a MANGA-focused article, so it has SPOILERS if you’ve only watched Attack on Titan through Season 4 Part 2.
This May Be the Most Heartbreaking Chapter Yet
During the year hiatus between Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 1 and Part 2, I caught up on the Attack on Titan manga. Then I read along with each chapter after watching the corresponding anime episode. And I have to say that out of all of the chapters, Chapter 131 may very well be the most heartbreaking chapter yet.
I can’t even begin to imagine how this is going to translate on TV next year when the show returns. I’m just glad we didn’t end Season 4 Part 2 with this chapter, because it would have been a heartbreaking way to start off what will likely be a year-long hiatus.
The chapter explores The Rumbling from the perspective of both Eren and the small boy that we saw Eren and his friends befriend in Chapter 123 (which was not aired in the anime until the Season 4 Part 2 finale.) I understand now why they delayed airing this for the anime. They wanted the viewers to have a closer emotional connection to the little boy when the new episode eventually airs.
The episode begins with Ramzi and his friend, Halil, talking about the money he’s stealing. Ramzi is saving up the money so they can all eventually move away from the immigration camps and live somewhere nicer. But in the midst of their conversation, they see people running for their lives, as the terrifying sound of the Rumbling draws close.
The first thing we see are the birds fleeing. They’ve been a strong motif throughout the series, usually signifying freedom, such as when Eren was watching the bird flying over the wall. Or when Falco saw a bird flying over him while he was passed out on the battlefield. They now symbolize the freedom to flee from pending destruction.
We flashback to when Eren visited Marley with the rest of the group (which was just shown in Season 4 Episode 28, but took place in the manga back in Chapter 123.) During the visit, Eren already knew that he was going to slaughter everyone he was meeting. He said it was because they never found a way for Paradis to survive. But the knowledge of what he is going to do haunts him while he moves through the streets of Marley, and he wonders what his mother would think.
Is Eren Controlling Eren?
But then he questions everything. He thinks back to the King of the Wall’s vow, and wonders, “Aren’t we Eldians the ones who ought to die?” He realizes that if all the Eldians got wiped out, the Titan problem would end. And ultimately, far more people would die from his plan than if he let the people of Paradis be killed. It seems like he is about to come around to Zeke’s or King Fritz’s ideals.
But then something shifts.
I haven’t read past this chapter yet, but I think we are seeing a Titan take over Eren’s mind in this panel. Look at how his eye changes and becomes sparkly as he suddenly comes to the determination that he can’t accept any end where Paradis is the one destroyed.
It reminds me so much of the moment when Grisha confronted Frieda and she seemed swayed a bit, until the Founding Titan and its ideology took over her. In that moment, it was then the Founding Titan talking through the host Frieda, and not Frieda at all.
This panel hints at something similar happening to Eren. It leaves me wondering if there’s an OG Attack Titan personality controlling his hosts, one who seeks freedom and to destroy everyone but the Paradisians. Or, in the alternative, if post-Rumbling Eren is that OG Attack Titan, and he is controlling this younger version of Eren in this panel. If like the Founding Titan controls future hosts, the Attack Titan controls past hosts. We already know the Attack can send back selective memories to previous hosts, and we saw Eren influencing Past Grisha, so this isn’t a far-fetched theory.
Was Eren ever truly free if he was always being controlled by Future Eren? Such a crazy chicken-and-egg question.
There’s an odd series of panels next that I’m having trouble meshing with what we saw in Chapter 123. Here, Eren encounters Ramzi being beaten up in an alley by older men, in a scene very reminiscent of when young Eren found Armin being beaten up in Paradis when Attack on Titan began. We see Eren walking away because he knows he’s going to kill this kid anyway, so what’s the point? Then we see him carrying the kid back to his people, and lamenting about how he truly is just like Reiner but worse. He cries as he apologizes to the boy, but the boy has no idea why.
But how does this jive with Chapter 123, when Levi saved the same boy? I’m not exactly sure. Is it possible that Eren saved one and Levi saved the brother?
Ramzi’s Heartbreaking Story Happened While Ymir Watched
Ramzi haunts Eren. When Eren first joined Zeke in the Paths after his head was shot off by Gabi, we saw shards of memories following him. One of those was Ramzi, in both the manga and the anime.
Now in the manga, we see the heartbreaking story of Ramzi and his brother trying to flee the Rumbling. But there is nowhere to go. They can’t even escape up a mountain, because the Rumbling is there too.
The scene where Ramzi dies is horrifying. The manga does not hold back in showing the utter, abject bloodshed the Rumbling has released. I’m assuming the anime is going to have to censor a lot, since it’s shown on public TV in Japan.
While Ramzi dies, we see the Founder Ymir in the background. It looks like Ramzi may even see her as he dies.
If Ramzi is an Eldian, is it possible that Ymir could rebuild him in the Paths, even though he never became a Titan?
But the deeper question is why Ymir is witnessing this and what it means. Is Ymir controlling Eren? Is she powerless, simply watching the destruction around her?
Eren’s Lament & a Wish That Is Like a Vow
Eren laments that the world outside the walls was absolutely nothing like what he’d seen in Armin’s books.
I’ve always felt like there’s more to Armin’s story, and I wonder if we’ll ever learn it. He specifically said that it was his grandfather who named him. His grandfather had a contraband book about the world outside the walls. We never met his parents, because when he was very young they went for an excursion outside the walls and we never saw them again. We’re left to assume they were eaten, but is that true?
But back to Eren’s lament. He says he was so disappointed when he learned what humanity was like outside the walls. But he’s equally disappointing, because he’s made this choice of violence, killing even a kind young boy named Ramzi.
He then says, “So I made a wish. I wished for it to all be wiped away.”
Is Eren implying that his wish set this all in motion, and he can’t undo his wish for some reason? Is it a vow, similar to the vow that King Fritz made, and it is not easily undone?
After a few panels of Rumbling horror, we get a better view of Eren’s huge Founding Titan body.
And on that panel we read the words: “They were always just there, wherever I looked, from the day I was born… Those miserable walls.”
He thinks back to when he was a child and believed that anyone who saw outside the wall would be the freest person in the world.
And while he’s trampling the world beneath him, a “child Eren” is above all the despair, looking into the skies happily, enjoying freedom. Some have supposed this might be age regression. But it’s likely even deeper than that, and connected to the Paths.
“We finally made it,” child Eren is saying, marveling at the view of the skies. (It’s important to note, I think, that he’s looking up into the sky, not down at the destruction.)
Is Eren “splitting his personality” like Reiner did because he’s so overcome with grief? Is his child-side being spared and disassociating from the horrors beneath him? Did Ymir step in and shield him from the truth of what he is doing?
It’s tough to determine in that moment. It appears that Child Eren is in the Paths and calls Armin up there to join him for a brief moment, just like Eren had once called all Eldians into the path with him. It’s only for a brief moment. Armin sees him, recognizes him, and then is back out.
Is there any chance that Child Eren has been in the Paths for a long time, trapped in a sense? Or is this a new defense mechanism that Eren just created?
Armin & Annie’s Conversation Grounds Us Again
In the midst of the horror, we’re brought back to what the crew is trying to do to stop Eren. We see an interesting conversation between Armin and Annie. Annie invites him to sit next to her, and thanks him for talking to her all those years that she was trapped in the shell she had created.
She asks why he spent so much time with her, and Armin tells her that it’s because he missed her. He asks her if she still doesn’t “get it,” even after how Hitch teased him. And she doesn’t understand at all. She ends up chalking it up to Armin being a good person and trying to stop conflict. He talked to Annie for the same reason he is still trying to reach Eren. She cannot accept that he might like her for who she is.
But Armin doesn’t believe he’s a good person anymore. And he feels some responsibility, since as a child he dreamed of the world outside the walls and urged Eren to dream with him. He wants to believe there is still something akin to what he dreamed of out there.
And really, there could be. They’ve barely seen any of the outside world, and Eren took the parts he saw as enough proof that he needed to destroy it. But they’ve hardly seen anything in the outside world except Marley. Which makes Eren’s decision even more tragic.
I still can’t truly wrap my mind around Armin’s love for Annie. They didn’t connect that deeply before they realized she was the Female Titan. I can’t help but wonder if the idea that Bertholdt still had some influence on him was somehow true.
In the end, we see a closeup of Eren in his new, contorted form. His eyes are downcast. He’s horrified by what he’s doing, but still is moving forward.
And Armin is still clinging to the hope that something, somehow can change.
It’s a horrifying but incredibly well done chapter. And it will leave you thinking for a long time.