Review for Attack on Titan - The Final Season - Part 1
If you haven’t seen the rest of Attack on Titan, and especially the previous instalment, Season 3 Part 2, then go away now. Seriously, step away, click away, do something else instead. The last part of Attack on Titan released in the UK was so full of revelations, so many plot developments, that it practically turned the AOT universe upside down. I managed to get through the previous review without spilling the beans, by remaining circumspect, but there is literally no way that I can talk about this release without spoiling what came before. So once again... go away.
Have they gone? Then I can continue, although first off, I have to admit that the “Final Season” moniker is annoying. You’d expect it to take us right to the end of the story, but when the Final Season ‘concluded’, it turned out that it didn’t come close to the end of the manga it was adapting. This year, Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2 has been airing, and as it comes close to the end of its run, it still seems that there is significant story left over. Now people are expecting the Attack on Titan story to conclude with a feature film (edit: and as I’m writing, The Final Season Part 3 is announced). The “Final Season” title is a promise that just isn’t delivered. But that’s just a petty nitpick in a show which I thought had reached 10/10 levels in the previous release. Let’s hope that The Final Season: Part 1 can keep that standard up.
Attack on Titan tells the story of Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlelt, three children who grew up under horrible circumstances, in a mediaeval culture existing in a triple walled land. The people there are terrorised by Titans, giant humanoid, mindless forms that hunt and consume them. The Titans existed on the outside, before a colossal Titan appeared and destroyed the outer wall, letting the Titans into the outer ring of the country, orphaning Eren in the progress. They fled to the safety of the second wall, and grew up to join the Scouts, a military force armed with astounding weaponry and the ability to “fly” through the air on steampunk cables, letting them attack and destroy the Titans.
But the nature of the world changed, when Eren learned that he too was a Titan, but unlike the mindless brutes outside the city, he could transform at will, and retain his consciousness. Now he had the strength and the form with which to exact his revenge. But if he could transform, then that would imply that other people could as well, and there was more to those figures like the Colossal Titan and the Armored Titan than meets the eye. The answers could lie in the work of Grishka Jaeger, Eren’s father, a man with an enigmatic past. That work lay in the ruins of their house, deep in Titan territory. And so it was that the Scout Regiment took on the mission of retaking territory lost to the Titans, and finding out the truth to their world. It took them outside the third wall, and to the edge of their land, where their world turned upside down.
For they learned that that they weren’t the only humans left in the world, that their land was just an island, and the real threat lies across the sea. For there is the nation of Marley, a country whose people were once terrorised by Eldians, people with Titan powers. They defeated the Eldians, leaving the only ‘free’ Eldian land on the island of Paradis. Moreover, the Eldians became second class citizens in Marley, confined to ghettos. The Marley people also weaponised the Titans, and using that strength became a superpower. Undesirables were turned into mindless Titans and dumped on Paradis to keep the free Eldians in check. But now, four years later, the balance of power has shifted, and Marley’s foes have developed technology to counter the weaponised Titans. Their new plan is to turn their attention once more to Paradis, and recover the so-called Founding Titan, and use it to take a lead in this arms race once more.
Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 1 offers 16 episodes across 3 Blu-ray discs from Funimation.
60. The Other Side of the Sea
61. The Midnight Train
62. The Door of Hope
63. From One Hand to Another
64. Declaration of War
65. The War Hammer Titan
67. Assassin’s Bullet
68. Brave Volunteers
69. A Sound Argument
72. Children of the Forest
74. Sole Salvation
76. Above and Below
It’s all change behind the scenes for the Final Season of Attack on Titan, with a new studio in MAPPA taking the helm, and with a new director as well. There’s a time skip to deal with, so there some updated character designs and costumes also. Attack on Titan still gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution, on two dual layer discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with no visible aliasing or compression. Digital banding is a little more prevalent this time around however.
Attack on Titan’s visual aesthetic is astounding, and comes to life with impressive impact on Blu-ray. The character designs are typical anime, but are drawn with bold outlines and shadow detail to make them stand out against the backgrounds. Those backgrounds are detailed and stylish, evoking that pseudo-mediaeval feel with North and Central European architecture. The show also uses a diminished colour palette, eschewing the bright and primary (except for blood), and opting instead for autumnal, pastel shades. On top of that the animation is excellent, detailed, fluid, and atmospheric. The aerial action sequences have to be seen to be believed. The Spider-man movies should take a leaf from Attack on Titan.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo Japanese and 5.1 Surround English, with translated subtitles locked during playback with the Japanese audio. There is no signs only track with this release, which explains why there are no song subtitles for the theme songs. I went with the Japanese audio as always, and was happy enough with original voice actor performances, suitably histrionic for such an over the top show. What I sampled of the English dub was acceptable enough, with the actors rising up to the dramatic challenge. Certainly the 5.1 up-mix from Funimation really does enhance the show’s dynamic action sequences, and it’s a shame that the Japanese audio couldn’t have been mastered in surround for a change. Alas not a lot of Japanese television gets the surround treatment in Japan. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.
You get 3 discs in a BD Amaray style case, with two on a centrally hinged panel. There is some nice inner sleeve art as well. For this release, it seems Funimation have ditched the o-card slipcovers, so another hit to consistency in your collections. Although given that we started with Manga, went to Sony, back to Manga, and now Funimation, and probably Crunchyroll for the next release, o-cards are hardly an issue when it comes to sleeve artwork consistency.
The discs boot to animated menus, and you get the Marathon Play option if you wish to forego credit sequences.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen Funimation’s titles getting more and more anaemic when it comes to extras; they hardly do commentaries any more, and titles like One Piece (DVD) are ditching the extras altogether, where they used to be loaded with them. But they do seem to be doubling down with Attack on Titan. Here’s what you get with this release on disc 3.
Attack on Titan Final Season Part 1: Voice Actor Panel (45:51)
Attack on Titan Chibi Theater 1 (5:38)
Attack on Titan Chibi Theater 2 (5:10)
Behind the Scenes Footage From Production – 3DCG Animation (3:54)
Behind the Scenes Footage From Production – Staff Discussion (28:48)
Promo Video (2:18)
The Eyecatch Gallery translates the mid episode screens.
Finally there are the textless credits.
I thought with Season 3 Part 2 of Attack on Titan, the show had made the biggest genre switch since the horror Alien begat the war movie Aliens. But along comes Attack on Titan the Final Season and we get a protagonist shift as drastic as that seen in Shiki. And that isn’t just the focus of the show carrying on from the previous season, across the water in the nation of Marley. I have to admit that it’s such a drastic change in the dynamic of the show, that I’m still uncertain of how on board I am with it. It’s still notable for amazing storytelling and visually arresting animation, but if you go through three seasons believing the world as presented to you, and suddenly in the fourth season, the writers turn that upside down, you have to have a lot of faith in the process to stick with it. So far, I’m sticking with Attack on Titan, but my faith is being tested.
We learn more about the people of Marley, and the Eldians, the whole back-story behind Attack on Titan. The ancient Eldian Empire ruled through the power of Titans, something intrinsic to their blood, but Marley rose up and overthrew the overseers, with the surviving Eldian nation exiled to the island of Paradis (where the first three seasons of the show took place). Back in Marley, the nation subjugated the Eldians and placed them in ghettos, and using their Titan powers, they became a superpower in turn, waging war against the rest of the world. But the arms race turned against them, and they needed to get back on top, by obtaining the Titan powers that the Eldian exiles took with them to Paradis, which was where the series began, with the attack of the Armored and Colossal Titan on the third wall. That attack failed, and we begin this collection of episodes four years later, as Marley are training a new group of Warrior Candidates to try once again. This is four years after Eren and his group of scouts got past the walls, and made it to the limits of the island, and learned the truth behind their exile.
There’s a lot to take in with a four year time-skip, although we are eased into it from the Marley perspective. While we get some idea of their history with the Titans, and some sympathy for that, it isn’t enough to outweigh their treatment of the second class citizens in their midst, the Eldians, with a dynamic between the two races obviously based on the early Nazi regime and the Ghetto-ized Jews. The difference here is that the Marleyans need the Eldian blood to fuel their Titan war machine, so they keep the Eldians downtrodden but alive. Naturally some Eldians rebel and plot against this, like Eren Jaeger’s father, while others actively collaborate, looking to become honorary Marleyans and gain respect for them and their families. This is helped by the Tybur family, possessing one of the strongest of the Titans, and through historical precedent, being the one Eldian bloodline to have a prominent place in Marley’s leadership. And of course there are those Eldians who are torn between wanting freedom and collaborating.
The start of this season focuses on a group of children being trained by the Marleyans to be the next generation of Titans, preparing for another assault on Paradis to obtain the Founding Titan (which Eren’s father took with him when he and his wife were exiled to Paradis, and which Eren inherited). We get to see how these Eldian recruits are treated, and why they fight. Once of them, a boy named Falco makes friends with a maimed amnesiac soldier in a sanatorium. It turns out that this soldier is Eren Jaeger, four years older, his demeanour changed, and having infiltrated Marley for some secret purpose. The first part of his plan is to reunite with Reiner, the one Marleyan warrior out of his team with Berthold and Annie to return to Marley, but it seems to be more than fortuitous timing for Eren’s plan to unfold just as Marley announces another full out attack on Paradis. The resulting devastation certainly stalls Marley’s plans, and Eren achieves his objectives with the aid of the Scouts that have also and independently infiltrated Marley. Returning back to the island isn’t without cost though.
And it’s here that the biggest change in the story becomes apparent. The four years since the Scouts learned the nature of their world haven’t been spent in idleness. Paradis has made contacts with the world, figured out its place in it, and reclaimed its society, and the island beyond the walls. Moreover, they’ve spent four years modernising so that they can be prepared for Marley’s attack, although when it becomes clear that Eren Jaeger acted independently, that complicates their plans.
This is where Attack on Titan, the Final Season really challenges. The Marleyans have their plans; the people of Paradis now have their plans. But more importantly, Eren Jaeger has his plans, and he plays his cards close to his chest, going as far as shutting out his closest friends Armin and Mikasa. He has become the antagonist of the series, and given how the story unfolds in this collection, it’s not a pleasant character development to behold. It’s clear that he has taken a look at the world wrought by thousands of years of Titan warfare, and made a judgment and choices to end it once and for all. He’s brought together former enemies and made new friends to further that aim, and more tellingly, he apparently doesn’t care what happens to the people as long as he ‘saves the world’.
Once again, Attack on Titan doesn’t pull any punches with these episodes. The story is engrossing, the animation is spectacular, and there are revelations and plot developments aplenty to appreciate. And once again, no one is safe in this world. If you have connections to any of the characters built up as the series unfolded, then you will be in for a hard time. However, the direction the story goes in this collection of episodes demands that you trust in the creators to keep telling a good story, even if it doesn’t transpire in the way you hope. Fortunately that trust is still easy to give at this point.