Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 3 Part 1 was amazing, devastating, and heartbreaking, all rolled into one. The hour-long episode stayed pretty close to the corresponding manga chapters, but provided extra depth in certain parts that was greatly appreciated. All in all, this was a masterpiece work that made the long hiatus since Season 4 Part 2 well worth the wait. While the sub version was released back in March, when this story was originally written, the version for dub viewers was just released on September 10, 2023. If you watched it via the dub, you’ll want to review this story too.
Although I have read the manga through to the end, I’ll be sharing some theories and thoughts that I initially shared when I first reviewed the corresponding manga chapters about a year ago, along with thoughts on the anime’s presentation of those same panels. This review and recap will not contain any manga spoilers beyond the latest episode, and is a safe space for anime-only viewers.
This article will have spoilers for the anime, but not the manga.
The anime covered Chapters 131 through 134 in the manga, with just a few scenes left out. It’s unclear if those scenes will be saved for the ending movie or not, so we won’t be talking about those scenes here.
The Opening Scene Was a Callback to the First Episode
The opening scene in the hour-long movie was a callback to the very first episode. We still have a deep mystery about Eren’s dream as a child, when Mikasa woke him up and he wasn’t sure where he was at first. We revisit that scene as the episode begins, though this time the anime doesn’t include that quick montage of scenes that Eren was dreaming about in the first episode. Instead, it focuses more on how Eren was crying, leaving fans to wonder if he glimpsed the worldwide destruction we’re witnessing in this episode.
We’re Flooded with Scenes of Heartbreaking Devastation from the Rumbling
Stalin once infamously said, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.”
I believe this is why the Rumbling’s devastation is shown through the eyes of one child, Ramzi. He’s an innocent, who is just trying to help his parents survive and already lost a hand from the people who persecuted him. In fact, even Eren was compelled to save him when they visited Marley, despite knowing in his heart that it was a hypocritical move.
Eren cried when he saved the boy, telling him that he was so sorry for what he was going to do in the future.
And then we see, up close, Ramzi’s horrific death at the feet of the Rumbling, while Ymir watches on.
I don’t think there was any other way to truly bring home just the heartbreak and devastation, than by seeing it through the eyes of this innocent boy.
Eren Thinks He Always Wanted the Rumbling, But Is That True? Is He Really Free?
The entire hour-long episode presents a question: Is Eren right to believe that he always wanted this? Is he right to believe that he’s freely making these choices?
As he commands the Rumbling, he thinks back to when he first learned about the world outside the walls and the truth of humanity. He says that at that moment, “I wanted to wipe everything away.” And then he convinces himself it’s still what he wants.
But at the same time, he’s crying and apologizing to the little boy who will die.
He has to basically split his personality in two just to commit the Rumbling, separating his child self so that it doesn’t see the destruction, only the beauty of the sky. (Does Eren do this or does Ymir do this? It’s tough to tell. But it might hearken back to Reiner splitting his own personality for a bit, since he couldn’t face what he was doing.)
He reasons that maybe it would be better to let Paradis ultimately fall, because fewer people would die overall. But he can’t stand that idea.
His friends remind him in the Paths that they can save Paradis for a long time with a small Rumbling, and perhaps find a way to guarantee freedom later after that. But he won’t accept this as a solution either.
Here’s a panel from the Paths scene in the manga:
When they see him in the Paths, he’s standing next to Ymir in his child form, and both of their eyes are shrouded. And at the very end, Armin asks him point blank if what he’s experiencing truly is freedom.
Is Eren free? He’s granting them a loophole to fight him — does this indicate his desire to fight isn’t his own?
Here’s the same panel from the manga:
During my review of the corresponding manga chapter where Eren talked with Ramzi, I had to ask if Eren was really controlling his own actions. As Eren struggled with the idea of maybe letting Paradis just be destroyed, it almost looked like a Titan force was taking over his mind, similar to when Grish confronted Frieda and she seemed swayed by his argument until the Founding Titan and its ideology (the opposite of Eren’s right now) took over.
Then when this paths scene came up later in the manga, I asked the same question again.
I wrote: “I’m still stuck on the idea that Eren is bound by some type of ideology, similar to how King Fritz and all those after him were bound by the anti-war ideology.”
Eren’s words, “FIGHT,” have been said before. He said them when he stared at himself in the mirror, and even as a child when he spoke them to Mikasa and her powers were first activated.
Is Eren controlling himself? Or is there an OG Attack Titan personality outside of Eren exerting control, perhaps even Ymir? When we see her watching Ramzi’s death, does this indicate she’s ultimately controlling Eren?
In my manga review I asked: “Is this somehow bound to Ymir’s creation, when she was under the control of the Eldian King who made her do nothing but ‘FIGHT’ their enemies over and over?”
Armin & Annie’s Love Story Continues
In the midst of this horror, there’s a brief respite as Armin gets to talk with Annie in the flesh, rather than just a silent Annie in a rock. She thanks him for what he did, since it helped her deal with the boredom while she was stuck in that shell. But she doesn’t understand why he did it.
For some reason, Armin doesn’t come right out and tell her how he feels about her. (And I’m still left wondering if any of Bertholdt’s love for Annie is affecting Armin’s affections.)
Armin’s fondness for Annie is one that can be believed and appreciated. He had a connection with her even before her true nature was discovered, and he always wants to see the best in people. (Plus, he now sees that he can commit atrocities himself for what he thinks is the greater good.)
But everyone else’s ready acceptance of Annie is something I can’t really get past. Levi harbors a lot of rage toward Zeke, but it makes no sense that he doesn’t harbor a lot of anger toward Annie still too. She killed his entire squad, including Petra. She played around with some of the Scout regiment, treating them like yo-yos, before killing them.
It would make more sense if a few of the people, including Levi, weren’t readily accepting her. This is one part of the storyline that I struggle with, even though I’m OK with Armin’s affection for her.
Hange’s Death in the Anime Outshines the Manga Presentation
Much of the rest of the episode focused on fleeing the horrifying Rumbling and trying to prepare an advance against Eren in his Founding Titan form. Eren hit Marley and is now heading toward Fort Salta, where the air defense lies. So our team is going to fix up the airship and head there too, before the Rumbling hits their location.
But Floch appears out of nowhere, shoots holes in the airship, and costs them valuable time before he dies. He begs them not to stop the Rumbling, since he truly believes it’s the only way to save Paradis.
I’ll admit, Floch’s appearance was more jarring in the anime than it was in the manga. I had read the manga chapters back-to-back, so it hadn’t been months since I had last seen Floch. But in the anime viewing timeline, it had been nearly a year since Floch’s last appearance. My brain had categorized him as being dead, and seeing him again felt almost wrong. But it was an important reminder of how firmly many believed in Eren’s plan.
We have a brief, much-needed comedic moment between Hange and Pieck, before things get serious again. Hange determines that she is the only one qualified to try to slow down the Rumbling just enough to allow the airship to escape. They need the Titans’ power, so they can’t sacrifice them. They need Armin and Mikasa to confront Eren, so it can’t be them. The others don’t have Hange’s skills. And although Levi might normally be the natural choice, he’s far too injured.
Hange knows it’s a suicide mission, but she must do it to give their plan a chance. Levi tells her to “dedicate her heart,” the first time he’s ever said that, which points to the deep bond between those two.
Hange’s sacrifice was done so much more beautifully in the anime than in the manga. In the manga, it almost felt like a waste, and it felt much shorter. But in the anime, they display her incredible prowess and show just how she’s truly affecting the Rumbling line and truly slowing them down. Her fiery, painful death is magnified in the anime, and it pulls on heartstrings in a way that the manga missed.
After her death, she wakes up in the afterlife, where she sees Erwin and the others. It’s up to the viewer to decide if the afterlife is separate, or if it’s another creation of the Paths.
Falco & Gabi Have an Idea
After this is the Paths scene, which I talked about in the first section of this review. Next, we see Falco and Gabi confronting Annie. They remember she said that as the Female Titan, she was better able to manifest other Titans’ abilities if she consumed part of them.
Falco believes that by turning due to Zeke’s spinal fluid, he’s somehow also manifested some of Zeke’s own abilities, including picking up on Zeke’s memories.
It seems like this idea of manifestation through consumption has been hinted at before, such as when Eren developed the hardening ability after swallowing a vial marked “hardening.” But Annie had the unique ability to do so reliably, and now Falco can too.
Falco has memories of a previous Beast Titan flying, and he thinks he might be able to do the same. But is he right?
It’s interesting, because Zeke never seemed to manifest those skills of being able to use previous Beast Titans’ abilities. What makes Falco different?
The Confrontation with Eren Begins
And now, we are finally going to begin the confrontation with Eren.
We spend quite a bit of time at Fort Salta, seeing some of the Warriors’ parents, particularly Reiner’s mom and Annie’s dad. They feel grief over their past actions, as does the commander of Fort Salta. He wants the Marleyans to recognize the role they played in bringing about their own destruction — that their own hatred fed into this.
But their last-ditch plan to save humanity through an air bombardment is broken when we see a version of the Beast Titan, hanging from one of Eren’s ribs, throwing rocks and taking out the planes. And then later, aiming at our own crew’s airship.
Is this Zeke? Is he being controlled by Eren?
The episode ends with Onyankopon bravely crash landing, after helping the crew drop from the plane right over Eren’s Founding Titan form, so they can begin their fight. And Armin screams out to Eren, asking if he truly is free.
This hour-long episode was fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautifully rendered. It dove deep into some past lore, while leaving many questions for the last episode.