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 134, “In the Depths of Despair.”
This article has spoilers only through Attack on Titan Chapter 134. This is a MANGA-focused article, so it has SPOILERS if you’ve only watched Attack on Titan through Season 4 Part 2.
The previous chapter brought us the harrowing realization that Eren has no interest in discussing his ideology with his friends. He could spend all the time in the world with them in the Paths — just like Zeke did with him — sharing his philosophies and talking about why he’s come to his decision about the Rumbling. But while he’s giving his friends the freedom to fight and try to kill him, he’s not giving them the freedom to try to talk him out of it. It’s an interesting choice, that seems counterintuitive in some ways.
When the last chapter ended, the military at Fort Salta was using the last airships in the world (as far as we know) to launch an attack on Eren and the Rumbling. Not knowing that our crew was on its way to try to help, they believe this is humanity’s last chance to survive. (I find it interesting that no one is taking an airship to Paradis as a way to evacuate some people to safety. I’d love to see a storyline where a country somewhere made that attempt!)
Historia Is Already Giving Birth
The new chapter begins in an unexpected place… Historia giving birth.
I wasn’t completely sure this was Historia until I read through the rest of the chapter and compared her to some other women shown. There was a pregnancy theme running through this chapter, just as there was an “irredeemable” theme running through last week’s chapter.
Historia is under guard as she gives birth during the Rumbling, crying in anguish. The manga doesn’t return to her again, providing only this small glimpse into her life. I’m not positive on the timeline, but I feel like she might be giving birth earlier than expected. And if that’s the case, it could lend more credence to the idea that she’s carrying Eren’s son and the farmer boy story was just a cover. I’m still divided on who I believe the baby daddy is: Eren or the Farmer. At the moment, I’m leaning toward Eren.
The Rumbling Has Moved Forward Fast
Next we see multiple panels showing how fast the Rumbling has moved forward, and how people from all over the world are being affected. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s heartbreaking. Isayama is not holding back in showing us the raw horror of Eren’s decision.
This panel in particular intrigues me.
Eren is for freedom, but in a limited way. He is protecting his freedom at all costs, followed by only his closest friends’ freedom and those who stay in Paradis. But his freedom doesn’t even extend to all Eldians. He didn’t give the Eldians left in other parts of the world a chance to evacuate to Paradis. He could have contacted them through the Paths and warned them if he had wanted.
He also is not valuing the freedom of whoever the Eldians were who were turned into the Wall Titans. That’s why this panel intrigues me. I feel like we’re perhaps seeing regret and sadness in the eyes of a Wall Titan as it kills and tramples people underfoot. They’re being forced to undergo this horror, with no choice of their own in the manner. First King Fritz forced them to become Wall Titans, and now Eren is forcing them to enact the Rumbling. Are they conscious of what’s happening?
Panel after panel shows us the horrors of people being trampled underfoot. It shows them fleeing, praying, begging. It’s a nightmare after nightmare that never stops. We see people fleeing from the Titans and falling off a cliff as they run out of room to run. Isayama takes a moment to focus in on a newborn baby. Its mother passes her away to the crowd as she falls off the cliff to her death. People in the crowd try to pass the baby along to keep it alive for just a few more seconds.
The horrors of war are more keenly felt when you focus in on an individual’s story. And Isayama does just that in only a few panels showing this one baby’s plight. It’s a stark contrast to Historia giving birth on Paradis, heartbroken but with a baby who is safe.
I cannot even imagine how this will feel when I watch it on the anime.
Marleyans and the Rest of the World Realize Their Own Blame, Which Serves to Highlight Eren’s Heartless Horror
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ parents realize there is no airship left for them. There is no escape. And they dissolve in regret for how they treated their children.
Next is an interesting series of panels. A commander (whom I’m just assuming is Marleyan for the sake of writing this review) makes an announcement to the troops going to face Eren in their airships. He says the responsibility for this horror is shared by all adults of the world. He acknowledges they were wrong in feeding their hatred, thinking it would save them. He says they dumped all their problems on the “devils of the Island” and the birth of the Founder Monster was a result of their sins.
He says that if they survive, he won’t make the same mistake. “I will not make the same mistakes. I swear it. If we see another tomorrow.”
He asks everyone fighting to make a vow that if they live, they’ll create a new world “where we care about each other.”
This is a huge turning point. In recognizing their sin, they’re ready to start a new world where they don’t treat the Paradisians as devils. They want to start a new world where they care for each other.
Eren can obviously hear all of this. His point has been made. If he pulls back now, and they stay true to their word, Paradis is SAFE. His goal could be accomplished without bloodshed. And because there’s now even a chance of that happening, Eren should take time to reconsider his actions. What is the point of killing anyone else?
But he doesn’t. He is stuck on this “fight” path. He is stuck moving forward and can’t deviate. It’s horrific to see that even this change of heart is not enough to change Eren’s heart.
Is Zeke Back?
What happens next is a bit tough to analyze via the manga, and I wonder if it will be clearer in the anime.
We see a body that looks like Zeke’s (but without a head) hanging from one of Eren’s rib bones. This body looks just like Zeke. But it wasn’t there and then suddenly it is. At first I thought this was Zeke physically hanging from Eren’s rib bones, but I’m now wondering if it’s a re-creation of Zeke’s body. Eren has the Warhammer Titan abilities, among other things, and could theoretically create a Beast Clone with Zeke’s abilities. I *think* a panel may indicate that this creature was not formed from the nape but in a different direction, indicating the Warhammer’s influence. But I’m not positive. Some of these panels are hard to interpret.
This beast somehow grabs rocks in its hands and hurls them toward the ships, dispensing of them before they can continue their attack on Eren. In a later panel, we see the Beast body hanging, his head clearly showing. And we see a panel of someone saying, “I’m sorry.”
In the manga discussions, there was a lot of debate about whether this is Zeke or a re-creation of the Beast. Some pointed out that the fur/hair color was different, indicating a re-creation. I feel like it could go in either direction. Either Eren re-created Zeke and is using his powers, or he’s simply hanging the real Zeke like a marionette and forcing him to move against his will.
At first, I thought that last panel in the series was Zeke feeling regret for how his powers are being used against his will and thinking, “I’m sorry.” But the rest of the panels indicated that this was actually the military commander, feeling regret that he was not able to stop the Rumbling and apologizing for failing.
The Last Ditch Effort
With all hope gone, our crew arrives on their flying boat (much to the dismay of the Warriors’ parents, who had felt some comfort believing their children were safe.)
Onyankopon really rises to the occasion and manages to get them close enough to the Founder to attack, despite running on fumes with fuel. We get a closer look at the Beast Titan and his coloring really does appear different from his normal form. Maybe he is just a re-creation?
Reiner transforms, ready to fight Beast one-on-one for the very first time. There’s a fascinating panel that shows him landing a punch on Beast as he transforms, and it shows just how tiny they are compared to Eren’s massive size.
Pieck transforms too, ready to fight.
As the crew begins to land with their vertical maneuvering gear, Armin has one question for Eren.
“How exactly are you free?”
That’s the same question I’ve been asking this whole time. Is Eren truly free at all? Or is he bound to an ideology just like the Founding Titan’s Royal hosts?
Eren said before that Armin might be the one to save the world. Perhaps that is going to play out soon.