***********SPOILER ALERT!!! PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THROUGH THE END OF SEASON 4 OF ATTACK ON TITAN**********************
Okay...whew. Deep breaths. This is my third...yes THIRD rewatch of this show. Well to be clear, my third rewatch of seasons 1-3 and now second time watching the first half of season 4. Not being a manga reader...yet, this is all from the perspective of an anime-only fangirl.
I just finished episode 16 of season 4, entitled "Above and Below". Of course the ending leaves us on the edge of a perverbial cliff and I immediately took to the internet to find the trailer for the last half of season 4. I am once again stunned by this show. The editing, the animation, the plot twists, the character development! It's all simply amazing. Isayama has done a superb job of making you think, and I mean really think hard. Who is the "good guy"? Who is the "bad guy"? Can we even use terms like this to describe these characters? I want to take a moment to analyze the progression of the show and how it's affected me as a viewer throughout the history of this animated masterpiece.
In season one, we find ourselves clearly siding with Eren, after all, he wants to destroy all the titans. What a noble cause, we think to ourselves, as we praise his tenacity and his spitfire personality. Then as the show progresses and we see Eren BECOME a titan himself, the lines become a bit blurred. Upon further watching, we discover that not just Eren, but all titans are in fact humans. The scouts have been shamelessly slaughtering humans all this time. DUM DUM DUM. What now? Well...we still love Eren and damn, we REALLY love Levi *wink*. Throughout most of seasons 1-3 we still pretty much see Eren as the overall protagonist of this series. His neverending determination to destroy all the titans, we are here for it, despite what's happened along the way. Then the last episode of season 3 hits like a ton of bricks. The last scene is honestly a bit heartbreaking. So many emotions at once. They finally make it to the sea, but Eren has lost his smile, his innocence, his youth. He is essentially a hardened soldier now and realizes that the enemy he has fought so long and hard to eliminate isn't even what or who he thought it was. This last scene killed me, especially when I watched it the first time and had to wait forever for the next season. I can't tell you how many times I cried during this show, how many character deaths just crushed me (RIP Erwin). But this particular scene...I just knew that season 4 was going to be a world of pain, and it was, still is rather.
The beginning of season 4 during my first watch was really confusing. The viewer is thrust into a whole different storyline waiting for it to converge with our main man Eren. When it does, it's certainly not how we wanted it to, or expected it to. After Eren mercilessly slaughters children and is seemingly unaffected by this, I begin to question my dedication to his character. Granted, Levi has, and always will be, my favorite character of the series, but I never once imagine what Eren would become. Some naive non-manga-reading part of me figured "Eren will save the day cuz...well...he just will, that's what main characters of anime do!" How wrong I was! Eren is now the bad guy? Maybe? I don't even know any more. By the end of episode 16 of season 4, the last episode out to date, I am left with so many questions. A few of which are:
Was Willy Tybur right?
Are Eren and Zeke right?
Is Levi alive?
Why did Eren beat the crap out of Armin and be an ass to my girl Mikasa?
Honestly, there's way more than that, but those are the ones coming to mind at present. I am left feeling confused, and somehow empty and fulfilled simultaneously. The amount of easter eggs I caught on to watching this all again, much of it for the third time, is astounding. Also, I'm sad with the way the story is going, but at the same time, I am consistently in awe of how Isayama has the ability to make us question things like morality, life, death. I'm sure the ending won't be what I want it to be, but would that really fit the show's personality if it did? I have empathy for so many of these characters, even Zeke, after seeing his childhood trauma and brainwashing, I can't help but feel bad for him. Eren, in a way, was brainwashed as well. Hell, I'm even feeling a little bad for Gabi by the end of it all. Though, don't get me wrong, she is my least favorite character of the show (RIP Potato Girl).
If there's one thing I can say about this show, it's that it is utterly invigorating, original, and poignant. It touches on so many things and parts of history in our own world that we like to ignore (for instance how the Eldians are treated by the Marleyans). I anxiously await the last half of season four. I will no doubt have a box of tissues at the ready and lose a lot of sleep contemplating what could happen next. Here's hoping for an ending that will satisfy us, whether it be sad or happy, I'm sure it will be an ending worthy of this show and Isayama's carefully crafted modern classic.