There's always a fear of let-down when a well-known and overly hyped series returns. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster for fandoms: GOT, Endgameand Berserkall returned this April to assuage any concerns: they relaunched and they conquered, and social media will be insufferable for anyone not involved in those fan communities for the next year. But then the Sonic the Hedgehogtrailer dropped this month, too, and we all crashed back to reality. So obviously, as a major Attack on Titanfan, any new season is met with excitement and trepidation. Will they maintain the animation quality? Will the soundtrack be just as eargasmic as the first OST? Will Studio WIT continue to stick to the source material (season three had several diversions from the manga, all advised by the author himself)? And will the pacing and overall tension be well executed? It's not hard for studios to lose their spark with long-running anime series, regardless of how amazing the manga is--One Piecehas taken several dips in quality over the years as Studio Perriot desperately pads the episodes to avoid catching up with the manga. Thankfully, Attack on TitanSeason 3 Part 2 delivered.
Opening & Soundtrack
The opening notes of ‘Shoukei to shikabane no michi’ pays homage to ‘Guren no Yumiya’ but quickly diverts into its own song. This one will be a grower for me. I was waiting for the drop a few times but it didn't really land. The previous opening, YOSHIKI’s ‘Red Swan’, although mellower from what we're used to, was a really nice touch to what is going to be one of the most emotional story arcs we've seen so far. Visuals of the opening were good, and manga readers will recognise certain teasers for some of the major reveals.
Besides the opening, we were treated to a remix of ‘Attack on Titan’ right at the end, which was awesome, and they've gone back to feeding in the soundtrack right at the crucial and tense moments.
The episode opens with the Survey Corps travelling at night through the forest towards Shiganshina, the district where it all began. The atmosphere is a stark difference from the final scene of the last episode, which saw the Survey Corps standing triumphantly before atop Wall Rose. Back to business now, they acknowledge that there are Titans who can move at night, aided by the moon. In the moonless darkness, a Titan slumbers against a tree, dimly aware of their presence but unable to catch them. In many ways, we're reminded of the last time the troops took a night mission when the Beast Titan invaded the wall. Things didn't end well there. The tension is thick here, and it only mounts when daybreak finally comes, and they arrive at Shiganshina, surveying the carnage of their former home.
Tension atop the wall
It's hard not to feel a way when you see Eren, Mikasa and Armin looking at their old neighbourhood. The day Bertholdt breached the wall changed everything, and they lost so much, and had to grow faster than the other kids in the Corps who had not yet seen a Titan up to that point. The most chilling thing about the wall-top sequence is the knowledge that somewhere, Reiner and Bertholt are waiting for them, watching, to prevent them from progressing further.
Armin does the thing we all know and love him for: showing the rest of the crew exactly why Erwin trusts him so much. He justifies his decision to search inside the walls by reminding everyone how they have always been one step behind the Titans, that humanity never thinks outside the natural parameters that it’s accustomed to. Armin's moments are always poignant: in season one, his speech saved Eren and Mikasa, and later on, he clocked Annie's identity first. His ideas are vindicated when Reiner breaks through the wall and kills an unnamed soldier (RIP I guess) and it all hits the fan.
Levi v Reiner
Just like Armin's little moments of brilliance, no season is complete without Levi's badassery. This has been the season of Levi, from the first half's fight against Kenny and the interior police, and now his quick attack on Reiner, stabbing him right through the throat. That shot where Reiner's eyes quickly roll forward into recognition is chilling, as Levi retreats, knowing something very wrong is about to happen.
Levi's development over the series has been amazing to watch. He started out as your typical shonen prodigy, always winning every fight, and transitioning into a melancholier and more introspective captain after the loss of his crew. He starts to doubt himself after seeing death so many times, often admitting to Eren that he doesn't always have the answers, and his decisions aren't always right. Whilst Historia's punch was a comical scene, it was obvious to see that the moment relieved him of what was most likely a period of depression--he had just lost the only blood relative he knew, and had suffered a lot of new, overwhelming struggles during the process. It's good to see him back to his fighting self here, but this is Attack of Titan, and things never look good for long.
So, the episode ends when Beast Titan appears, signalling a death circle of Titans that literally explode onto the scene. I don't know what's more frightening: the Beast Titan blocking the horses in and throwing that boulder with such precision, or that weird quadrupedal Titan with the rucksack just chilling next to him.
For a first episode after an agonising wait, this was a strong start. We got our first kill, first Levi moment, an Armin moment, some nice homages to past episodes in terms of music and scenery, and we've got a major cliffhanger--a major war is about to begin. There's a lot to look forward to in this season, and anime-onlies should prepare themselves from now, because a madness will happen. Wait and see.
A solid 8/10.
Written by Abigail Jackson for The Nerd Council