Well, that’s a wrap people, at least for now.
Part One of the Final Season of Attack on Titan has concluded with its sixteenth episode, “Above and Below”, with Part Two airing either later this year or in early 2022.
What a place to end Part One on as well, considering that what many people, including myself, consider to be the best part of the Manga is set to be adapted next.
At least the wait will be worth it.
I just hope that the Mappa animators don’t have to deal with such a hellish schedule this time around but, given what they’re going to have to animate, I unfortunately doubt it.
As for the episode itself, “Above and Below” does a very good job of getting viewers excited for this second half.
Directed by Teruyuki Ōmine, Tomoko Hiramuki, and Jun Shishido, the episode begins with a brief showcase of the aftermath of Zeke setting off the thunderspear at the end of “Sole Salvation.”
With his lower half completley gone, he lies dying in a field of flowers, when he recieves a brief and mysterious vision of a young girl with shaded eyes, who is carrying a bucket.
Before this can be explained, one of Zeke’s Titans, who survived Levi’s purge last episode, crawls up to Zeke, rips open its stomach, and stuffs him inside, no doubt confusing many anime only viewers.
This is the last time we see Zeke in the episode and Part One, creating a slight disappointment in me that a scene I expected to be adapted in “Above and Below” wasn’t.
The scene that was cut is quite an amazing one from the manga, so I’m sad that we’re going to have to wait a while to get it but, hey, it’s not the end of the world.
I know I’ll get to see this moment eventually, along with the plenty of other mind blowing moments from the manga that have yet to be adapted.
Once this scene with Zeke is over, the episode cuts to Shiganshina, where Yelena is having her self prophecized dinner with Commander Pyxis, who notices that the Volunteers and the Yeagerists are using Marleyan tactics to take over the military, identifying people with armband.
White means they’re a Jeagerist, red means they were blackmailed into working with them through the tainted wine, and black is for those who continued to drink the poisoned wine without realizing, like Pyxis.
His bleak situation does not erase his sharpness, though, as he quickly picks up on Yelena commenting about a plan to “save the world.”
This confuses Pyxis because he and many others thought the plan was to save just the island with a partial Rumbling, completly unaware of Zeke’s Euthanization Plan, which Yelena then brings to the locked up 104th.
Yet, before she explains this plan to them, we get the fallout from Eren’s disastrous meeting with Armin and Mikasa, which ended with him telling Mikasa that he hated her and beating up Armin.
Mikasa just seems dead inside about the whole thing and Armin appears to be more conflicted than ever.
That leaves Jean to reassure them, unexpectedly saying Eren must have had a reason for what he did.
This is some great development for Jean because, at the beginning of the story, he would never have spoken in Eren’s favour, yet here he actually does so, showing true growth.
As for another character who gets more entertaining as the show goes on, we then get one of Yelena’s best scenes, as she enters to tell the 104th about the Euthanization Plan.
With her are Onyankopon, who seems to have betrayed them, and probably now one of the most hated characters Greiz.
I say this because he dared to mock and degrade Sasha in front of her possible boyfriend and family, long after she died.
Seeing Yelena put a bullet in his head after he called her the W word pleased a lot of fans, I’m sure.
It also shows just how enjoyably nuts Yelena is.
You never know if she’s just going to have a conversation with someone or stab them in the neck.
Speaking of stabbing people in the neck, we then get Pieck’s epic entrance with the adaptation of one of her best scenes from the manga, as she manages to corner Eren when he goes to try and blackmail Gabi into helping him by using Falco.
Marching into the room and stabbing Eren’s guard, Pieck seems to have the advantage, until Eren clearly points out she’s in no position to kill him, being under orders to capture the Founding Titan.
It’s here that we end up seeing why Pieck is one of the smartest characters because she actually manages to fool Eren into thinking she wants to defect to save her father, or at least make him think that trusting her is worth the risk.
Although, one criticism I do have that carries over from the manga about this scene is that I do feel that Pieck’s backstory is a little too similar to Annie’s but it’s not a massive problem.
Also, the rest of the scene is pretty great, with Pieck ripping away the last shreds of Gabi’s indoctrination, explaining to her that the Marleyans will never free her, no matter how hard she tries.
Pieck then offers to prove herself to Eren by taking him up to the roof where she can point out her comrades.
The scene then cuts to the reveal of another character who is a pretty great liar, that being Armin.
As Yelena fanatically explains the Euthanization Plan, Armin appears to laugh but covers it up with tears, or maybe cries for a very different reason to what he claims to Yelena.
Either way, he’s certainly fooled Yelena into thinking that he is on board with the Euthanization Plan.
Any way he can take this further is quickly interrupted by news of Pieck’s apparent defection, though, as Eren leads her to the top of the roof.
It looks like many of the Yeagerists are ready to become Pieck simps when she smiles and waves at them.
Unfortunately for them, they are not long for this world, as you can see Porco hiding amongst the crowd, having seen the handcuffs that Eren had placed on Pieck and Gabi to prevent her from transforming.
What follows is pretty much a full minute of Pieck basically rubbing it in Eren’s face about how smart she is and trying to worm any additional information out of him before the inevitable ambush happens.
What an ambush it is too, as Eren is prepared to transform but completley unprepared for Porco’s attack from below and Marley’s attack from above.
The build up to this moment is great with the lack of music up until Pieck points the finger at Eren when he asks where the enemy is, and her well animated smile of reassurance at Gabi.
Once the tables turn and Porco attacks, biting off Eren’s legs, we get a great transformation scene of Eren, in which his Titan is 2D, most likely pleasing those who had a problem with the CGI this season.
However, I do think some of the animation was lacking in this scene and also in a few others.
For example, the shot of the airships coming down to assault Shiganshina does look quite a bit off.
So, I suppose it’s a good thing that Mappa’s getting more time to animate Part Two.
Again, though, I hope the animators get treated way better than they did this time around with the really bad production schedule and tonnes of crunch.
Aside from the couple of animation issues, this final scene is still incredibly hype, ending Part One of the season exactly as it began, with Reiner in an airship ready to attack.
This parralel makes it a fitting place to end Part One of the Final Season.
There was certainly a different part they could have ended it on, which would have frustrated anime only viewers even more, so it’s probably a good thing they ended it where they did.
Overall, “Above and Below” is a pretty good episode, with a hype ending.
It might not be the best episode of the season so far but it was a fitting way to end the first half.
And, even though we may have to wait a while for Part Two, us manga readers still have the final chapter of the story to look forward to, which is supposed to be dropping on the ninth.
It’ll be interesting to see how this story will end and how Mappa with adapt it when the next half of the Final Season starts, either in late 2021 or early 2022.
Three more chapters.
That is how long we have before my favorite story comes to an end, at Chapter 139.
It is also a fitting number to conclude Attack on Titan at because of the significance of the numbers 13 and 9 in the series.
For now though, we have Chapter 136, “Devote Your Hearts”, another banger that adds more tension and excitement to the final battle between the Alliance and Eren.
Coming into this battle, I was expecting a lot of character deaths but, once again, no one died in this chapter.
I remember saying in my predictions post for Chapter 137 that I was pretty certain Pieck was going to die because of her predicament at the end of “Battle of Heaven and Earth.”
Well, much like Jean’s fear for Pieck, I was proved “dead wrong” because Pieck not only survived but was also the best character in this chapter, by far.
In what is probably her most epic scene in the entire manga, Pieck runs along the trident of the Warhammer Titan, transforms and kills it, and then transforms multiple times while shooting herself out of her previous Titan forms, as if she was wearing a jet pack!
It is an incredibly epic fight scene and her banter with Jean is quite funny, as she gives this whole speech about him not needing to worry about her and to continue with the mission, only to turn around and see that he is already doing just that, causing her to give a disappointed, “oh.”
However, while this is an epic and funny scene that made me glad Pieck was safe, there were other scenes that raised death flags for characters.
One of these was Reiner when he brings up Falco’s promise to him to protect Gabi “from the dark, dark future we face”, which makes it seem like he is preparing for a heroic sacrifice.
I was wrong about Pieck though so, hopefully, I have been reading too much into this potential death flag.
In any case, Reiner is helping Jean and Pieck by holding off the Warhammer Titans so I wonder which of them will be the one to detonate the explosives on Eren’s nape?
This plan to blow up the nape was devised on Falco’s flying Titan, and it is also here that the second part of the plan was formulated, that Mikasa, Annie and Connie would go to rescue Armin from the Okapi Titan, which holds him captive in a hentai nightmare.
Jokes aside, this is a very emotional scene, as the Alliance finally admits they can no longer hold back on Eren, with both Levi and Connie pointing out that it is too dangerous to do so.
Yet, it is Jean who tragically has to break the news to Mikasa that they have to kill Eren, if they want to stop him.
The look on Mikasa’s face after this moment is just beautifully drawn by Hajime Isayama.
Along with this scene being a potential death flag for Eren, with Mikasa maybe being the one to put him down, there are two other hints towards parts of the ending in this opening part of the chapter.
The first of these is pretty minor and that is the survival of Kiyomi and Yelena.
This chapter confirms that they stayed behind in life boats after Falco’s transformation caused their ship to capsize and did not go with them to the final battle, which pretty much guarantees that they will survive the story.
A much bigger hint at the ending comes from Gabi, when she mentions the shining centipede, or, as Kruger previously called it, “the source of all living matter”, which emerged from Eren’s head when Gabi decapitated him.
Gabi says that if they can decapitate him again, they might just see this source again, which basically confirms its importance in stopping Eren.
Once this talk is done, the initiation of the plan begins, with Jean and Reiner going to help Pieck (not that she needs help, as I’ve said) and detonate the explosives, and with Annie, Connie and Mikasa going to save Armin, leading to more intense action sequences.
This is especially the case between Mikasa and Annie, as Annie uses Mikasa’s ODM Gear to throw her towards the Okapi Titan that has Armin.
Although exciting, this big action moment unfortunately fails, with the Okapi Titan now heading for Bertholdt’s Colossal Titan, which is being controlled by Ymir.
This brings us into the final part of the chapter, where we see Armin, who is thankfully not fully experiencing the Okapi’s tongue attack anymore.
Armin is now facing his unconscious body and yells and it that he hates himself and that his body has always betrayed him.
Just like Mikasa shouting that she is strong in Chapter 135, this scene of Armin perfectly reflects his character growth since the Trost Arc.
Where Armin slowly began to grow confidence in his own strength from that arc onwards, this final arc has been slowly diminishing that to the point that Armin is now at his breaking point.
However, at his lowest moment, who is the perfect character for him to meet?
Why, Zeke, of course!
That’s right, the monkey is finally back, and Armin has made contact with him after realizing he is not dying but in the Paths.
Their interaction is brief, with the chapter ending abruptly just as it begins, but it does raise a very interesting question.
Zeke asks Armin if Ymir ate him too, which makes me wonder if Zeke was eaten when Eren transformed, only since his mind was in the Paths when it happened, he is now trapped there.
Whether Zeke is truly alive or not, though, I am very excited to see how he and Armin will work together since the two have never even talked to one another before.
Both are at their lowest points in the series and they may just need each other to climb out of the dark pits of self doubt that they have found themselves in.
And, hey, with Zeke back, this means Levi can have his final confrontation with him that has been built up forever.
However, it is pretty clear from the way Isayama shows Levi thinking about this in the chapter that it may not be as simple as we think.
Levi notes how the one order he has not been able to follow from Erwin is to kill Zeke.
He also mentions how he doesn’t regret saving Armin over Erwin and even seems to be on the verge of tears when remembering his dead comrades, Erwin and Hange among them.
It is also this scene that the title of the chapter, “Devote Your Hearts” seems to come from, as Levi thinks of how if the Scouts didn’t dream of “an absurdly innocent and idealized world” then “it won’t have been worth what they devoted.”
As the story has been drawing to a close, more and more chapters have been given names that have significance to the story, first “Wings of Freedom” and now “Devote Your Hearts.”
Back to the actual chapter, it’s time to talk about my one criticism, which is the confrontation between the Eldians from Liberio and the Marleyan soldiers.
The Eldians approach the soldiers, leading to the two sides pointing guns at one another because, of course, the Marleyans just can’t stop being racist even though it’s the freaking apocalypse.
Annie’s father tries to cool the tension but it just doesn’t work, until the leader of the soldiers, Secretary Muller, arrives with his gun at the ready.
The chapter then cuts to the Alliance on Falco’s back, hearing the gunshots, the implication being that both sides started shooting at each other.
Only, I am pretty sure this is not what happened.
There’s no way that Muller, the guy who was just saying that he wanted to abandon hatred two chapters ago, is just going to give into that hatred again.
No, most likely the shots fired were Muller getting everyone’s attention to stand down.
It just feels pretty predictable, so I don’t see why Isayama had to give us a fake out.
Although I could be completely wrong about this and, if something else happens and it makes perfect sense, I’ll be sure to correct this criticism.
All in all, though, Chapter 136, “Devote Your Hearts”, is another fantastic Attack on Titan chapter that feels like it is setting up the last three nicely.
It does end a bit abruptly but so did Chapter 120 and that was followed up by my two favorite chapters of the story so far, so let’s hope that this abrupt ending points to a similar trend, with incredible chapters to come.