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Shingeki no Kyojin The Final Season Part 2 Episode 1 Recap

by: Daniel Ruiz Reyes

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Shingeki no Kyojin, also known as Attack on Titan, premiere last Sunday, January 9, the first episode of season 4 part 2, a whole 287 days from the last episode “Above and Below” aired in March 29, 2021, it’s been 9 months since the last new content for only-anime fans, but now the wait is over, the episode has arrived…

But before we move to the rest of the story, let’s do a little recap: If season 3 final episodes show us Grisha backstory and we got the first glimpse of Marley, from the perspective of someone who wanted freedom (one of the most important themes about AoT) and wasn’t on board with how Marley saw Eldians, now season 4 first episodes show us a new group of kids, indoctrinated Eldians, we aren’t in paradis anymore, we aren’t following the characters that we knew for 3 seasons before, animation also change (sort of fitting) now that MAPPA is in charge, but most important, there was a change in perspective, besides the new setting, using this new characters allows one to see the other side and not be just bad guys  for Eren and the others to kill like and this new points of view came with two specific characters which are: 

Gabi Braun, controversial character, but the best example of what indoctrination does to a kid that was teach to hate their own people and that the world hates you, it becomes a never ending cycle of proving oneself to be worthy, worthy to become a titan, shortening the life span to 13 years and serve Marley, one of her first scenes is Gabi going in front of enemy lines, without any sort of protection, in a deadly plan, this part defines how she sees herself, a good Eldian, different from those of the island, but an Eldian at the end of the day, that only purpose is to serve Marley.

And Falco Grice, he represents another point of view, indoctrination breaking and see both sides of the conflict, Falco question the whole system he’s been a part of, also it’s our “Audience Surrogate” the first time we see him, he has a head injury and his comrades need to fill him (and us) in the situation, that doesn’t mean his character doesn’t have a purpose after this, he helps Eren, making him unintentionally participant of the raid to Liberio, but he understands a simple truth, that the people on the island aren’t devils, they are just people, which will put him in certain conflict with Gabi when both get to the island.

Now that we are in Marley and we spend those first episodes learning about this people, which includes Reiner, who had an episode dedicate to his past, a character that was known as a traitor, now we got a better understanding of him, before we only got little glimpses of how the actions he took affect him, but now we got a deeper look into his broken psychological state.

Just when a raid from paradis starts, we see the characters that we knew in another light, now leading the attack to Marley, they were losses from both sides, one of them being Sasha, shot by Gabi, and returning to the island, we get more information of what happened in the last 4 years, with Zeke being in contact with the island, from here, the conflict becomes more complex, becoming more unclear on who is the real enemy and that’s the beauty of AoT, there’s no real bad guy, which contrast with Marley indoctrination that have the Eldians as the bad guys, having someone to point out and blame for everything, a simplification of the complex reality, this 4 season can be summarized as “people with their own agenda that enters in conflict with others agenda”

Which lead to various events, inside the island: Eren and the Yaegerist taking over Paradis military body that leads on the group of Armin, Jean, Connie and the rest to be incarcerated. Zeke schemes using his spinal fluid in wine which leads to Levi killing his comrades and other characters unknowingly drinking it, like Pixies and Falco. The infiltration of Marleyans Pieck and Porco, the Car and Jaw Titan respectively and outside the island is Reiner, who suggest a surprise attack before Zeke can think of a plan against a global assault on the island, all comes together in the finale, the episode ends and we are left with a big cliffhanger, until now…

The episode starts as a direct continuation of the story left in episode 16, in the first minutes we get an answer to one of the questions left unanswered from last episode, the fate of Levi and Zeke, after the last one made a drastic choice involving activating a thunder spear in his stomach, with characters like Floch and Hange in the scene, with no time to lose, we move to the area where Marley is invading Paradis, catching up with Eren facing the Marleyan forces, this setting where we spend most of the episode, where all the actions pieces are, a wonderful display of violence of the main character and his opponents, Reiner and Porco, there’s also non-titan violence, between the marleyans soldiers and the yeagerist, the initial attack favors Marley, with the massacre of yeagerist soldiers and the use of anti-titan artillery by Pieck and General Magath on Eren, ending the episode a somber note for Paradis.

It’s not all action in the episode, there’s reminders of relevant plot points from the last half of the season, such as: The wine with the spinal fluid that was drink by paradis military, Zeke and Eren need to touch to activate the Founder Titan and almost at the end of the episode, the mention of the rumbling, by Armin, while the rest of the group were incarcerated, how his “seeds” and other pieces that are scatter will affect the Marley invasion it’s something we need to wait and see.

For itself, the episode it’s a great return to SnK, hitting all the right areas, like animation, music, the VA for this episode really shine in their roles (Pieck’s VA is always a pleasure to hear) and while setting up certain moments for future episodes, it is recommendable to watch, at least, the final episode of the first half with this one, back to back, because this episode works as a pay off to most of the events that happened in last episode.

But although a great return, I wanted more Armin and Mikasa in this episode, their only scene was really important, wanting to help Eren, not to do Zeke’s plan but to defeat the forces of Marley for the sake of the island and while short, that is compensated by the great animation of the fights in this episode, MAPPA showing that they can deliver quality. I’ll wait to see if the level of animation stays consistent in the next episodes.

One point I like to touch is the episode’s name “Judgement”  which has 2 definitions, the first “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions” and the second one “a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment” the first one can be apply to Eren, who instead of hiding or escaping, as Yelena recommend him and Armin and the others decide to help Eren, to protect Paradis, Zeke and Floch going to Eren, as Zeke mentions “All we can do is move forward. Right, Eren?” all characters make decisions and follow their judgment. 

And finally. having read the manga, understood why the scene of Armin and the rest seemed more shorter than I remember and some other stuff that was place out of order, for example:

-This episode starts with Hange founding Levi, part that in the manga occurs in chapter 115, before Eren goes to see Gabi and it’s surprised by Pieck.

-The ending of last episode “Above and Below” that involves Pieck and Gabi going to the rooftop to point where the enemies are and Porco attacking Eren from below was chapter 116 

 -Mostly of the fight seen in this episode is chapter 117, there’s still parts of the fight left, which explains the cliffhanger

-The scene of Armin and the rest incarcerated where Onyankopon liberated them happens in 118 and is much longer, in the episode was cut short.

Not a complain, as a manga reader, is interesting to see what stuff is pick to be animated, I understand why MAPPA choose to pick those parts and not adapt the chapters faithfully, so the series can show moments from different places, instead of sticking with just one event at the time, it will be interesting to see where this can lead and what other moments are change in favor of this adaptation. 

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