Attack on Titan Volume 21 Review: The Basement Reveal Delivers the Best Chapter so far.

Chapter 83: Falling Axe.

4 stars
The follow-up chapter to Armin’s heroic sacrifice, Chapter 83, “Falling Axe” is set-up for the three brilliant chapters to follow in this volume.
Much like the previous chapter, it starts off great showing how Eren and Armin first met, with Eren encountering Armin after he had been beaten up by bullies.
Armin’s words about how he did not really lose because he did not run away and then Eren asking his name made for a fantastic transition into the current timeline where Eren is trying to cope with Armin’s charred body.
Before he can do anything, however, he is interrupted by Zeke (and the other Titan) who confront each other in their first meeting.
While I did like the scene between the two, after reading the rest of the volume I felt like the twist to who Zeke is probably should have been revealed here because we do not see Eren’s reaction to this.
However, it still is an interesting scene and if I had not already been spoiled on who Zeke was it would have been very intriguing build-up.
I especially liked how Zeke told Eren he would rescue him some day because it shows that Zeke thinks he is in the right.
However, their meeting is interrupted by Levi who naturally killed all the Titans Zeke sent after him, which prompts Zeke to go rescue Reiner.
But, before he is rescued, Hange and the others manage to retrieve a letter from Ymir to Historia that was in his possession.
Unfortunately, this adds to my increasing fears that Ymir is already dead, which I hope is not true because she is one of my favourite characters and I feel she could add a lot to the story given more screen time.
The chapter ends with the surviving soldier from Erwin’s suicide run at Zeke arriving with a badly injured Erwin leaving Levi to decide who should get the Titan Serum and eat Bertholdt, Erwin or Armin.
Once again, I had been spoiled on who would eat Bertholdt so this did not leave much investment for me by the end.
However, this does not change the fact that “Falling Axe” is still great build-up.
It might have its minor problems but it delivers quite a few great scenes like the first meeting between Eren and Zeke.

Chapter 84. Midnight Sun.

5 stars
As I said, I had already been spoiled on who would eat Bertholdt and become the Colossal Titan so I figured this chapter would not be very investing but, oh, how wrong I was.
“Midnight Sun” is an incredible chapter of Attack on Titan that delivers so much emotion.
I really wish I had not been spoiled on what would happen because this was just amazing to read.
First of all, I now know what that great mid-credits scene at the end of episode twelves of season three was all about.
The reason Levi is fighting with Eren and Mikasa is because he wants to give the Serum to Erwin while they want to give it to Armin.
However, before Mikasa can do anything crazy, Hange and the others show up and calm everyone down.
Both sides give good justifications for who should be chosen to eat Bertholdt, including the new character Floch, who compares Erwin to the devil, saying only he can save humanity.
Eren tries to get Levi to choose Armin by bringing up his dream to see the ocean.
This moment was so powerful it left me tearing up, which was a huge surprise because I already knew how it would end, showing just how amazing this chapter was at drawing out emotions.
In the end though, Levi chooses to save Armin and finally let Erwin rest.
The reveal that Armin was the one chosen was expertly handled and the death of Bertholdt that followed left me feeling sorry for him, despite everything he had done.
Then there was the death of Erwin.
Erwin is in my top five favourite characters of the series so I was sad to see him go but I personally believe he was killed off in a great way that tied off his character arc brilliantly.
I was also glad that I had not been spoiled on at least one major character death.
I knew coming in that Erwin would probably die because I had been spoiled Armin would become the Colossal Titan but I still had my reservations because I had not been spoiled.
So, it was nice to see a major character death I did not know for a certainty would be happening.
Speaking of character deaths, we also got confirmation this chapter that Moblit died saving Hange.
I feel like his death will probably be overlooked compared to Erwin and Bertholdt’s but he was still a great side character with a heroic death and I will miss him.
Overall, Midnight Sun was a perfect chapter that delivered a great emotional gut punch, even though I knew what was coming.

Chapter 85: Basement.

4 and a half stars
After 84 chapters of build-up, we finally got the reveal of what was inside the basement in Chapter 85 and it did not disappoint.
I was so glad I did not get spoiled about what was in there because what is revealed in this chapter and the next one open up the world of Attack on Titan in so many amazing ways.
We see at the end of the chapter that what Grisha left for Eren in his basement was a book that explains everything, along with a photo, writing that outside the walls humanity is not extinct.
This was a fantastic cliffhanger that led into the next chapter amazingly.
Not only this, but the cliffhanger also built on the recently departed Erwin’s legacy because we get a flashback to Nile telling the other military leaders that Erwin’s theory was that there were still humans outside the walls.
Well, his theory is confirmed with the ending cliffhanger, which  not only adds to his legacy but it makes his death all the more tragic because he could not see that he was right all along.
The rest of the chapter is just as great, starting off with Armin waking up after eating Bertholdt.
The panel where he hallucinates(?) the crying face of Bertholdt’s Colossal Titan with half of its face a skull is very striking.
Eren’s reaction to Armin waking up was also very touching and Levi’s pep-talk with Armin about saying there should be “no regrets” was a fantastic reference to his OVA with the same title.
After this, we get another great panel with a before and after shot of Mikasa and Armin arriving at their old home in the present and when they went to save Carla after Bertholdt breached the wall.
This leads to the scene in the basement where, originally, I though Hajime Isayama was going to pull something where it turned out that there was actually noting in the basement.
This fear was caused by Eren’s key not fitting the basement door and the group initially not finding anything in there.
Thankfully, this fear was unjustified because they later discovered Grisha’s book, leading to the fantastic cliffhanger.
I am so glad Isayama actually revealed there was something in the basement because if he had pulled a fast one then I would have hated it.
The final cliffhanger in “Basement” is the standout of the chapter and leads brilliantly into the next chapter, the incredible “That Day.”

 

Chapter 86: That Day.

5 stars
Coming into this chapter, I was expecting the full explanation of the world of Attack on Titan.
I not only got that but also my favourite chapter of the entire manga so far.
“That Day” is an absolutely incredible chapter and I cannot wait to see it animated when the second half of the season three anime airs in April.
This chapter has one of the best cases of world building I have ever seen, with Grisha’s notes revealing who is actually behind everything in the series.
It is revealed that over a thousand years ago a woman named Ymir Fritz supposedly made a deal with the devil and became the first Titan Shifter.
After she died, her powers were transferred into nine people, creating the nine Titan Shifters who built the empire of Eldia.
Centuries later, Eldia was overthrown by the nation of Marley who oppressed the remaining Eldians as punishment for years of genocide under them.
Some Eldians fled to the island of Paradis, under King Fritz, where the walls were created with the Founding Titan power and everyone’s memories were wiped.
It is also stated the reason Marley sent its Warriors to attack Paradis was because of the large amount of fossil fuels there and to retake the Founding Titan.
This one piece of exposition takes the previously small world of Attack on Titan and expands it exponentially.
It opens up so many interesting opportunities and questions.
Did Ymir really make a deal with the devil, how is she connected to the Ymir we know, along with Marley are there any other countries and cultures out there?
These are all interesting questions and I cannot wait for them to be answered.
It is also brilliant with how Grisha’s backstory ties into the explanation, with the persecution he faces at the hands of Marley being very similar to the ways the Nazis treated Jewish people before the Holocaust, a comparison Isayama is obviously trying to make.
Watching Grisha be motivated to begin his stand against Marley because of the violent death of his sister and the completely brainwashed fear his father presents was amazing for him character development wise, and all of this in one chapter.
This led to Grisha joining the Eldia Restorationists where he met Dina Fritz, a descendant of the royal family.
They eventually married and, in a brilliant twist, are revealed to have had a son who is Zeke, which makes him and Eren half-brothers.
Still, while this was a great twist, I do wish it had been revealed earlier when Eren and Zeke first met in Chapter 83 because we do not get a reaction from Eren to them having the same father.
That said, I still like the twist and the one that follows it when Zeke betrays his parents to the Marley government after Grisha tries to turn him into one of Marley’s warriors as a double agent.
This adds new meaning to Zeke’s first meeting with Eren when he tells him Grisha has brainwashed him, likely believing his father tried to do the same thing to him.
The chapter can end before more details about Grisha’s past can be revealed but what we got and how this tied into the explanation of what was outside the walls was nothing short of brilliant.
I had fears that the reveal of what was outside the walls would not live up to expectations but those fears were baseless because this reveal was everything I hoped for and more.
It had fantastic world building, fit in with the themes, and had great character development for Grisha to go along with this.
Chapter 86 “That Day” is my favourite chapter of Attack on Titan so far.

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