Attack on Titan, Season Four, Episode Nine, Brave Volunteers Review: Rubbing Salt in the Wound.

4 stars
Another week, another good episode for the final season of Attack on Titan. 
Last week’s episode, “Assasin’s Bullet”, was one of the most tragic in the entire series, featuring the death of long time fan favourite, Sasha Blouse.
So, after a traumatising loss like that, how does the latest episode, “Brave Volunteers”, follow it up?
Well, by showing Sasha a tonne in flashbacks, just to rub salt in the wound, of course!
Wait, what?
In all seriousness, it was both nice and tragic to see Sasha in these scenes, as her jokes always landed, while also making us feel sad, realizing that this will probably be the last time she makes us laugh in the series, considering her death.
Directed by Kōki Aoshima, “Brave Volunteers” is mostly comprised of flashbacks, explaining what happened to the Scouts during the three year timeskip, providing plenty of context for their actions in the attack on Marley.
This context is provided by the first scene, as we learn about the titular volunteers who betrayed Marley under the orders of Zeke Jaeger.
The opening scene showing this is a well done adaptation of the manga, as the episode begins with Armin talking to someone off screen, while he holds the seashell he retrieved at the end of Season Three.
From here, the episode transitions to not long after that final moment on the beach, where the Scouts have to stop an oncoming attack from a Marleyan warship.
Thankfully, such warships are no match for a Titans powers, with Eren picking the ship up with ease, in a moment that is very similar to one of his predecessors and namesake, Eren Kruger.
Slamming the ship down onto the beach, the Marleyan invaders are then greeted by an enthusiastic, yet nervous, Hange, in an excellent case of voice acting from Romi Park.
Hange’s welcome to the Marleyans was funny in the manga but Park’s delivery here makes it even more hilarious, with her giving the best performance of the episode.
However, this is a performance that the Marleyans are not quite buying because Hange and Levi’s captive, Niccolo, is not too cooperative, and the captain of the invading forces would rather die that “drink pig piss” with “devils.”
Well, die he certainly does, as courtesy from Yelena, who blows her commanding officer’s brains onto the deck, before other members of the Volunteers, Onyankopon among them, take control of the ship, as Yelena accepts Hange’s offer for tea and then ominously states how she has been looking forward to meeting Eren.
The reason this is so ominous quickly becomes apparent in the next scene, where Yelena reveals her connection to Zeke, with her worshipping him, like a god.
Before this, though, Hange and Levi get an exposition dump about events in Marley, since they defeated them at the battle of Shiganshina, learning all about how Marley had entered a series of wars because of their defeat and how the Titans used to trap the Eldians have surprisingly become a defence.
Although, these Titans have been long since defeated so if Marley had found that, Paradis would have been in a world of hurt.
Also, when Yelena is mentioning these Titans, we get a comedic shot of them dancing, which I can’t believe I criticized when I reviewed the manga chapter this episode adapted.
Seems a bit of a weird thing for me to have complained about in hindsight.
Back to the episode, the Garrison and Military Police are understandably skeptical of the volunteers because of their connections to Zeke.
However, this changes when Eren learns that Zeke’s secret plan involves both the Founding Titan and a Titan of royal blood.
Realizing that his theory about those two being necessary to activate the Founding Titan is correct, and now having a way to use the power without endangering Historia, through Zeke, Eren admit this knowledge that he had kept hidden from the rest of the Scouts.
This starts the slow spiral of the Scouts not trusting Eren any more, which culminates in them losing trust in him completley with his attack on Marley.
Still, Eren’s revelation also gains some support for the volunteers, helped further by them assisting in taking down further attacking ships.
We see one such take down, when Yelena and Onyankopon lure the enemy soldiers in, only for Armin to force them all ashore with his Colossal Titan, where they are meet by Levi, who is kind enough to offer them all some pig piss, throwing the words the dead captain spat back at them.
With trust in the volunteers now ascertained, many of them begin helping out with other tasks, like Onyankopon, who helped the island set up a port.
This leads to the comedically awkward moment where Sasha asked Onyankopon why his skin is dark.
Just like that, Sasha was cancelled by all of Twitter.
Jokes aside, this comedic moment did lead to a moment of insightfulness from Onyankopon, who states that their creator most likely thought it would be more interesting if different kind of people existed in the world.
This ideology will become important to Onyankopon’s character in the future and is why I think he is such a great side character.
Another volunteer who helps out, although much more unwillingly in this case, is Niccolo, who broadens the 104th’s perception of food, something that is greatly appreciated by Sasha.
Que another comedic, yet tragic, Sasha scene where she dives into the lobster, like a rabid animal, and declares Niccolo a food genius, earning a blush from the previously prejudiced soldier.
Despite coming so far with the volunteers, though, Eren is not as convinced as Armin and Mikasa that this can eventually create a chance for peace.
He points out that the world despises them because they can turn into monsters, which they are not exactly wrong about, and how they need to buy time to stop them from attacking.
With this line, Eren fires a practice shot, which transitions cruelly, yet beautifully, into Sasha being shot, showing how Eren is partially responsible for her death because of his attack.
From here, the episode switches to the present, as the 104th attend Sasha’s funeral, only for Niccolo to be attacked by an Eldian soldier for being Marleyan, showing how bigotry is now unfortunately starting to run strong in Paradis’ ranks, as well.
Thankfully, Niccolo is protected by Jean and Connie, who bring him to the grave, where the characters say their goodbyes, including a heartbreaking line from Connie, who says that Sasha was like his twin and now it feels like a part of him is gone.
Sasha’s parents then arrive, with the young girl who Sasha saved all the way back in Season Two, who they seem to have adopted, showing that Sasha really did make a difference with her fighting.
Niccolo offers to cook a meal for the family in memorial of Sasha and her father agrees to, free of charge.
Like father, like daughter, it would seem.
However, while there is a coming togethor of would be enemies here, this is very much not the case with Levi and Zeke, whose rivalry continues to grow in two very tense, yet comedic, scenes.
First, there is the carriage ride scene, where Zeke comments how the ignorance of the Public on Paradis is frightening.
Levi wants to kill Zeke but is willing to wait to see if this plan of his plays out, to which Zeke acts grateful for, before cautiously asking Levi if he can stop glaring at him.
Monkey PTSD intensifies.
Then, we get the hotel scene, where Zeke is welcomed to the five start hotel of the Titan forest, a perfect spot for relaxing and possible ODM Gear fights if Zeke tries anything.
Zeke wants to show Gabi and Falco the luxury of this “hotel” but I doubt they’ll be too happy about it, especially with Gabi chewing her fingernail and ranting to herself about Eren Jaeger, as she and Falco currently sit in a prison cell.
Finally, we get our three big moments from Armin, Mikasa and Eren this episode.
For Armin, it is finally revealed who he was talking to all this time: Annie.
The Female Titan is still stuck inside of the freaking crystal four years later.
Then, there’s Mikasa, who sits against Sasha’s grave for the second time this episode, repeating the words Eren first spoke to her, “Fight or die. Win and live.”
With her repeating Eren’s line, we cut to the man himself, inside a prison cell, looking particularly dead inside, and sporting a new hairstyle that is suspiciously similar to the way the Warhammer Titan styled her hair.
As he looks at his reflection in the jail mirror, Eren ends the episode with him twice repeating one the words associated with his character, “Fight. Fight.”
Who Eren will be fighting against now that he is on Paradis, though, remains to be seen.
“Brave Vounteers” is another really good Attack on Titan episode.
It gave us some much needed explanations about what the Scouts had been up to during the time skip and gave us more tragedy, with the comedic Sasha scenes that only rubbed salt in the wound that is the pain from her death.
One thing that has surprised me about the last couple of episodes is that they have been pretty slow paced, compared to the previous episodes anyway, adapting only one chapter as opposed to two.
This makes me wonder just how far the season will adapt, since there’s only supposed to be 16 episodes, after which we will probably either get a Final Season Part Two or a movie.
Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
In any case, the next episode “A Sound Argument” is set to air today and it will be extremely interesting to see the fans’ reaction to it, given what is revealed there.

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