Attack on Titan Manga Chapter 137 was soooo good. It had a philosophical bent that was absent in some more recent chapters. Still, I’m left wondering how this is all going to possibly be wrapped up with only two chapters left.
With the Attack on Titan anime on a hiatus as we wait for Season 4 Part 3, 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, recaps, and reactions to these amazing “episodes.” Today we’re reviewing Attack on Titan’s manga Chapter 137, “Titans.”
This article has spoilers only through Attack on Titan Manga Chapter 137. This is a MANGA-focused article, so it has SPOILERS if you’ve only watched Attack on Titan through Season 4 Part 2.
Zeke Has Given Up on Life, Believing It To Be Fruitless
The chapter begins with a monologue by Zeke, which never disappoints. He goes back to the beginning of life on Earth. Based on the illustrations, I really thought he was going to address how the Titans began and where that glowing spine came from. But I think Hajime Isayama did that on purpose, so we would be surprised to see where Zeke’s monologue ended up taking us instead.
Zeke tells Armin that life ultimately survived because of its desire to multiply, taking on new forms based on its environment, and they are no different. In fact, he tells Armin that he has concluded life’s only purpose is to multiply. He believes that fear is a byproduct of the desire to avoid death, and a punishment that necessarily goes alongside life.
(Interestingly, Zeke now has a full sand castle before him, rather than just a lump of sand. So more time has passed since the last chapter ended than we might think.)
Interestingly, however, he seems to have a misunderstanding about Ymir’s beginnings. He says she “gave birth to an undying body” because she so “desperately sought to avoid that pain” of fear. (We know the truth is that the spine found her.) But the end result was accurate, even if he got the beginning part wrong. He said she was able to then escape to a world (the Paths) that was free of all fear, including death.
Zeke goes on to tell Armin that he tried to understand why Ymir never freed herself from Fritz’s rule and his commands, even though she had the power to do so. He said he could never really figure it out, except that she was still “attached” to the world she left. In the end, he lost to Eren because Eren understood that while he did not.
Zeke appears to be really depressed and has essentially given up on life. And really, who can blame him? He seems to have resigned himself to the idea that it’s OK for all of humanity to be wiped out and replaced by the Titans. He says that we’re witnessing the death of life forms, including humanity, that are controlled by fear. “A fear born of life-sustaining functions that are completely without meaning.”
In fact, he’s decided that true freedom is found in this death. So he’s given up trying to stop Eren.
Armin Finds a Strange Leaf that He Uses to Change Zeke’s Mind
This is where things get interesting. Buried in the sands of the Paths is a leaf that Armin ultimately uses to change Zeke’s mind. Technically, it’s not actually a leaf. Armin sees it as a leaf, since that is meaningful to him. Zeke sees it as a baseball, since that is the object which is meaningful to him. We don’t know what it really is. Was it left by Eren? Ymir? Someone else? Did Armin create it?
There’s a lot of mystery to these panels.
For Armin, the leaf reminds him of the small moments in life where he was truly happy. He believes these more mundane moments are what give life meaning. He talks about chasing Eren and Mikasa to a tree, reading a book in the rain, or feeding a squirrel. Those moments aren’t needed to multiply, but they are still precious and give life meaning, he explains to Zeke.
Zeke sees the object as a baseball, and it reminds him that he would have been perfectly happy just playing catch for the rest of his life. The moment he comes to this realization, many past Titan hosts appear behind him. We see Ksaver, Grisha, the two Galliards, Ymir, and the Owl. We don’t see all the past Titan hosts, but we see the ones that Zeke knew personally at some point in the past. (He likely met Historia’s Ymir when she returned with Reiner to Marley and was eaten by Porco Galliard.)
The Tide Changes in the Battle
After Zeke reaches this revelation, the tide in the battle changes. Bertolt was a puppet controlled by Ymir. Now he’s regained his freedom and is able to help Annie in the fight. Gabbi uses that moment to shoot the Okapi in the head, and Armin is freed.
More Titans join in the fight to help. (I think we see either Grisha or the Owl’s Titan helping them.) Armin explains that Zeke woke up “everyone who was asleep” in the Paths. I’m not sure if this is entirely accurate, since the “awake” Titans are still having to fight other Titans who appear to still be puppets. But I’m guessing he woke up all the Titans that he knew personally (which overlaps with the ones Armin knew too.) He was able to do this because all the Titans are connected due to Ymir “wanting something from us.”
We see a panel of Armin asking Bertoldt to help while Zeke asks Ksaver (and Grisha) to help, and Ymir watches them. Zeke still thinks the euthanization plan was the right choice, but with that option gone, he still thinks life is worth saving.
Then Zeke appears, growing out of one of Eren’s ribs. He calls out specifically to Gabbi and Levi as they ride on Falco’s back. And without any hesitation, Levi cuts off his head. It was almost a funny scene, in a way. Levi finally got his wish, even after he had given up on fulfilling Erwin’s last command in the previous chapter. He didn’t hesitate at all. Will we see Levi celebrating in the next chapter? The panel that shows Levi’s expression doesn’t show a happy Levi, but a determined Levi. Perhaps even with a shade of sadness. It’s hard to decipher, however.
While the book has made Zeke a more sympathetic figure recently, in Levi’s mind he’s still the one who killed so many of Levi’s friends, including Erwin. I’m only surprised that Annie’s not facing the same level of pushback.
Zeke’s head is cut off. And then the Rumbling stops.
It appears that the theory that Eren was still only able to achieve the Rumbling due to Zeke maintaining his connection to Ymir and the Paths was correct.
I’m Guessing Zeke Is Truly Dead at This Point
I’m going to guess that Zeke is truly dead at this point. Although most of the Titans that grew out of Eren’s ribs weren’t “real” Titans (like Zeke’s original Beast form), I think that Zeke’s condition is different. At first, I believed this wasn’t “really” his body since he was growing out of Eren’s rib. But Zeke has royal blood, which allows him the ability to do things that others cannot. I think that he somehow presented his real body to Levi to kill. He sacrificed his life in order to stop the Rumbling and give life on Earth a chance to continue. (As a caveat, his spirit may not be dead, as we learned that all past shifters still live in the Paths in some form.)
I believe his royal blood is also why he was able to contact the Titans he knew before who were asleep in the Paths and wake them up. Of course, Armin played a role in waking Zeke up first, so to speak. And whoever provided that leaf/baseball also played a role. (Maybe Eren, as a way of providing freedom to Armin despite Ymir’s actions? Or maybe Zeke subconsciously?) Either way, it was Zeke’s royal blood that allowed him to talk to his sleeping friends and wake them up. Then he and Armin convinced them to help. Why this somehow superseded Ymir’s ability to use them as puppets, I’m not certain of.
There’s a funny comment in a discussion thread about this chapter from a year ago. A Redditor wrote, “Oh I get it now. Zeke gave up on his dream and died.”
Jean Doesn’t Hesitate Anymore
When the Rumbling stopped, it gave Jean his shot at setting off the explosives around Eren’s neck. In the past, Jean lost several important opportunities in battles because he hesitated. But he’s not doing that anymore. He sets off the explosives, severing Eren’s head from his body. But just before, you can see the heartache on his face that he has to do it. “Goodbye you suicide blockhead,” he screams as he sets off the explosive.
As Gabbi predicted, that glowing spine immediately jumps out, trying to reconnect to Eren’s head.
Reiner jumps in to stop it from happening. I don’t know how long he can hold onto that glowing spine, but he’s going to try to hold it just long enough for Armin to turn into Colossal and destroy everything around him.
Bird Falco helps the crew escape. And the chapter ends with Armin about to turn into Colossal as he says goodbye to Eren, while Reiner remains behind, stopping Eren from regenerating. While some are hesitant to leave Reiner, he’s been chasing death for a long time. He didn’t hesitate about this potential sacrifice because he’s been ready to make it forever. (But let’s be real, Reiner will probably be saved by a Jaw Titan again. I mean, they already saved him again in this very chapter!)
This chapter seems dedicated to the philosophical discussion of what life is about and what gives life meaning. Much of the story before this was dedicated to philosophical discussions around war, hate, and propaganda, along with a good dose of “life is cruel.” So it’s interesting to see this shift. I don’t think this shift is a “jumping the shark” moment, however. I think it’s a natural progression and attempt at answering the “life is cruel” statement.
The cliffhanger was perfectly timed. We had a good mix of philosophy and action. I loved this chapter and can’t wait to read the next one in a week. My prediction is that this will not kill Eren. But we will finally learn if Eren has been controlled by Ymir all this time or not. I’m going to guess it’s a little of both. It was truly Eren we heard speaking in the Paths, but like all the other Titans, he’s not completely free.