Much like Chapters 112 and 113, Chapter 114 of Attack on Titan is one that I have slowly come to appreciate more in the years since it came out.
So, I was pretty excited to see it adapted in Episode 15 of the Final Season, “Sole Salvation”, which aired right alongside the delayed episode, “Savagery.”
I mention that episode here because while I think that “Savagery” could have been adapted a little better, I think that “Sole Salvation” is a perfect adaptation of its corresponding chapter that mostly improves on the source material, with its fantastic animation, voice acting, and soundtrack.
Directed by Mitsue Yamazaki, the episode is entirely devoted to Zeke’s backstory and explains his relationship with the mysterious man teased at the end of Episode 14, why he decided to turn on his parents, how he came to his ideology and what this ideology is.
That last point is foreshadowed right at the beginning of “Sole Salvation”, where it is shown how Grisha and Dina tried to indoctrinate Zeke in their cause to restart the Eldian Empire by taking Zeke to a tower and showing him the poor conditions Eldians are forced to live in compared with the rest of the world.
It is at this moment that a seemingly kind, old janitor walks in and apologises for interrupting, saying he can come back later.
Any niceties disappear, though, when he sees the armband on Grisha’s arm and throws his bucket full of dirty water at them in disgust, blaming them for the murder of millions of innocents, even though this happened centuries ago and none of them could possibly be responsible.
The old man even goes as far to scold them for “pumping out kids”, in reference to Zeke, an important line that will affect Zeke’s ideology going forward.
Grisha again uses this situation to try and instill a drive in Zeke to change the world, telling him that he will save everyone, however, this is clearly not helping Zeke, considering the poor kid is doing the worst at training because his heart is not set on being a Warrior.
Can you really blame Zeke, though?
The kid just wants to live with his parents and be seen as their son, not as their tool for reviving Eldia.
It is here that we get our first look at Zeke’s father figure, Tom Ksaver, the former Beast Titan who seems to take an immediate interest in Zeke.
Along with him, Zeke also has his grandparents who do actually care about him and what he wants, yet still try to indoctrinate him with Marleyan propaganda about how the Eldian Empire was pure evil and committed countless sins.
One interesting thing to note about this scene is how the illustrations in Mr and Mr Jaeger’s book on the different atrocities the Eldian Empire supposedly committed against Marley actually link back to the ED of the Second Season.
That ED was just full of spoilers and foreshadowing for future events, wasn’t it?
Back to the episode, we then get the opposite side of the indoctrination Zeke suffers, as Grisha attempts to teach him the exact opposite of what his grandparents said, that Eldia never committed the atrocities Marley claims because Ymir would never allow it.
As for the truth?
Well, it’s probably somewhere down the middle.
The Eldian Empire certainly did a lot of evil things but they also did some good.
It just depends on where you’re perspective falls, I suppose.
Once we see both of these scenes showing how Zeke’s parents and grandparents are trying to indoctrinate him, we then get his introduction to the one person who never tried to, Ksaver.
The two offically meet when Ksaver’s baseball rolls into Zeke’s path, seemingly by chance, although it is pretty clear by the end that Ksaver did this on purpose because Zeke reminded him of his dead son.
The two form an instant friendship, as Ksaver praises Zeke ernestly and not based on what he expects him to be, like Grisha and Dina do.
Speaking of which, we then get yet another showcase of how the two were not the best parents, as Zeke returns to find them arguing with Falco’s uncle, Grice, about Zeke’s low scores, which most likely means he won’t inherit a Titan.
Again, Grisha makes it clear what is expected of Zeke as his and Dina’s son and a child of royal blood but, again, Zeke just cannot live up to these expectations.
He still can’t keep up with the other kids and is horrified when Grisha storms off in disappointment.
Clearly not father of the year material.
At least Dina is kind enough to understand that Zeke is trying, attempting to tell a screaming Grisha this, while Zeke cries in the other room.
I also really have to give props to Grisha’s voice actor, Hiroshi Tsuchida, who did an absolutley amazing job this episode, especially with his screaming.
Again, in Zeke’s darkest moment, Ksaver is there to help him, lifting his spirts by telling him how it’s a good thing he won’t inherit a Titan and that they are both decent people.
However, Zeke’s newly lifted spirt is dashed upon the rocks when he hears Marleyan officers talking about how they are close to locating the Eldia Restorationists and their leaders.
Distraught, Zeke attempts to warn his parents, without explicitly telling them that they are close to being found out.
It is right before this moment that Grisha gives him such a look of disappointment that I’m sure it made all of us want to kick him.
If we didn’t know his own traumatic past then Grisha would be completley unlikeable here.
This past is hinted at in this scene because Grisha only explodes into anger when Zeke brings up his aunt Faye, who was feed to dogs, not wanting to end up like her.
Grisha’s angry reaction results in Zeke breaking down to Ksaver and telling him everything about his parents.
He comforts his father figure, though, telling Ksaver that because of all the fun times they had togethor, he will remember him, even if he is turned into a Titan.
Clearly seeing Zeke as a son now, Ksaver begs Zeke to turn his parents in to save himself and his grandparents, stating that his parents used him as a tool and never loved him, something that is, for the most part, unfortunately true.
And so Zeke turns his parents in at the behest of Ksaver and many years pass, during which Zeke and Ksaver grow closer to being like an actual father and son.
Soon, Ksaver’s term is close to its end, meaning he will have to pass his Titan on.
However, he is thankful that he managed to finish his research, discovering that every single Subject of Ymir is connected to the Founding Titan, meaning that it could change their bodies at any moment, and it is here that Zeke’s ideology finally comes to its full fruition.
Remembering what the old janitor yelled at him and his parents all those years ago, Zeke wonders aloud if the Founding Titan could sterilize all Eldians so that no more Subjects of Ymir will be born, and the power of the Titans will eventually vanish entirely from the world.
In Zeke’s mind, this would also mean no Eldian would have to suffer.
This explains much of Zeke’s apathy when he murdered countless Scouts before.
He believes that he is saving them from the cruel world.
When this genocide by sterlization plan was revealed in the manga, a few people decided this was proof that Attack on Titan was facist propaganda but I think it’s obvious that this is not that at all but a cautionary tale.
Subjected to brainwashing attempts and racism all his life, Zeke came to the conclusion that it would be better if his entire race didn’t exist so seeks to commit genocide by sterilization with his Euthanization Plan, which he sees as saving the world.
It’s screwed up and shows what dangers can be created from such despicable things, like prejudice and indoctrination.
These two things have clearly affected Ksaver as well because his own experiences causes him to align with Zeke’s plan.
When he was young, Ksaver took off his armband and married a woman, who he had a child with.
However, when she found out that he was an Eldian, she killed their son and then herself in disgust.
This goes to show just how strong the hatred for Subjects of Ymir is in the outside world, because it both destroys the Eldians and those who hate them.
In this scene, there also appear to be a few hints through the toys of Ksaver’s son to future plot points but I won’t say what in case any anime only viewers happen to read this review.
Following the formation of Zeke and Ksaver’s Euthanization plan, Ksaver reveals to Zeke how he will need to find someone he can trust to give the Founding Titan to.
Not long after that, Zeke finally inherits Ksaver’s Titan and truly acknowledges him as his father.
Low and behold, who should Zeke learn about many years later who he thinks would be perfect for joining him in his plan to sterilize all Eldians?
Why, his half-brother Eren of course.
The two finally meet in Marley and Eren seems to quickly accept Zeke’s plan, claiming that there is no greater gift than to not be born into this world, warping his own catch phrase into something much more sinister.
Zeke tears up from Eren calling him brother, showing just how much he was longing for this familial love.
Even though Zeke has done monstrous things, you just can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.
Levi, however, is understandably not so sympathetic, as he continues to taunt Zeke in the present about how he will be feed to a Titan.
This was clearly not the best call, along with impailing a thunderspear in Zeke’s stomach because a delirious Zeke rips the pin off with a scream for Mr Ksaver to keep watching him.
Takehito Koyasu also does an excellent job voicing Zeke here, in all his delirious desperation.
Just as excellent is the animation, with the close up on the characters’ eyes and the rain drops falling in slow motion, right before the big bang of the Thunderspear exploding, blowing both Levi and Zeke away, leaving their fates uncertain.
A frusrating cliffhanger for the anime only viewers that is pure Attack on Titan.
“Sole Salvation” is pretty much a perfect adaptation of its chapter counterpart.
With its amazing animation, voice acting, and soundtrack, it easily tops the manga in plenty of areas.
Now there’s just one more episode of Attack on Titan for me to review before we have to wait for the rest of the final season begins airing at the end of the year or in early 2022.