WARNING: Spoilers below
Attack On Titan: The Final Season Part 3’s hour-long premiere begins with a flashback. Eren is walking the streets of Marley sometime during his undercover mission in The Final Season Part 1. As he observes the mundane activities of everyday Marleyans – children playing, a pregnant woman grocery shopping – he’s wracked with anguish. He grapples with his knowledge that he will shortly be responsible for the mass slaughter of all these innocents. Eren is convinced that the only way to end this two millenia cycle of hatred, suffering and war is to wipe the slate clean via the Rumbling – but Eren is burdened by his conscience.
He’s stopped in his tracks when he witnesses an Arab refugee being beaten by a group of white men. As an Eldian, he sympathises with anyone facing bigotry, but he’s unsure if he should save the boy. After all, he’ll soon die in the Rumbling anyway. His morals take over and he saves the kid, only to break down in tears in front of him – asking for forgiveness for what he’s about to do. We then cut to present day as the Rumbling reaches Marley. We witness hundreds of thousands – young and old, rich and poor, people of all races – trampled by Eren’s horde of Colossal Titans. We see the same Arab boy he saved meet a gruesome end as he’s crushed by debris.
The show exhibits unthinkable devastation not to revel in shocking brutality, but to soberly illustrate the reality of Eren’s well-intentioned atrocity. For any naive viewer that still thinks that the anime’s hero-turned-villain can be redeemed, this gut-wrenching genocide is proof that he can’t. This plays directly into the conversations in the episode’s second half, as we catch up with Mikasa, Hange, and the rest of the rag-tag crew of former enemies determined to stop Eren. Even Mikasa and Armin – Eren’s lifelong friends – realise that there’s no talking Eren down from this. They will have to kill him to stop him.
One of Attack on Titan’s biggest strengths is its ability to merge weighty philosophical debates about impossible choices – such as security versus morality – into character arcs that take into account everyone’s backstory and nuanced perspectives. It’s nice to see the show take a breather to articulate these important points in the midst of its destructive climax.
But as good as the series is about highlighting quiet, thoughtful beats, it’s even better at louder, action scenes. The year-long wait might have been frustrating, but there’s no denying that Attack on Titan has never looked better. Studio MAPPA took its time to properly deliver movie-level quality animation here, and it’s most evident during the episode’s breathtaking battle sequences.
We get to see a beloved character make the ultimate sacrifice in an effort to allow Armin and Mikasa’s crew to escape the Rumbling and it’s epic to behold. This is the kind of heart-swelling, myth-making heroism that will forever live on in anime canon. That’s further topped by the episode’s thrilling ending, where our heroes drop out of a crashing plane to do battle with Eren’s monstrous forces.
Part 3’s premiere is undoubtedly stunning – delivering action, tragedy, triumph, massive stakes, great character moments, and even a cute love story. But the experience is still somewhat tainted by the show’s eccentric release schedule. Two and half years into its eternal “final season”, we’re now forced to wait however many more months for the absurdly titled Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 3, Part 2. While the content of Attack of Titan still remains unimpeachable, the way its producers have dragged this out has certainly soured a lot of fans.
‘Attack on Titan: The Final Season, Part 3’ is available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Netflix now.