Attack on Titan Season Four, Episode Sixteen, Above and Below Review: Part One Ending as it Began.

4 stars
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. 

Attack on Titan, Season Four, Episode Eleven, Deceiver Review: Oh, Boy! Here I go Killing Again!

4 stars
Oh, Gabi, Gabi, Gabi.
Why must you further enrage the Attack on Titan community?
Even though I think Gabi is a great character, I did find myself wanting to slap her in the eleventh episode of the Final Season, “Deceiver”, although that was pretty much the point.
Directed by Teruyuki Ōmine, the episode title refers to many characters, from Floch, to Reiner, to Zeke, to Kaya, to, of course, Gabi and Falco, who are the main decievers of the episode.
This is made clear right from the get-go, as Gabi fakes a seizure to lure a guard into her and Falco’s cell and beat him unconcious with a rock so they can escape… or at least it was implied that he was unconcious in the manga.
Curiously, in the anime they decided to make it abundantly clear that Gabi had killed the guy, who Falco clearly points out was trying to help her.
Gabi goes even further, planning to kill Kaya if she doesn’t buy into her cover story, when the girl stumbles across her and Falco.
She even actually does attempt to kill her, when she learns that Kaya herself was deceiving them because she knew they were from Marley the whole time.
I’ve seen someone use the Rick and Morty “Oh, boy! Here I go killing again!” gag to describe Gabi and it’s funny because it’s absolutley true.
Despite this, I still don’t hate Gabi.
Again, I did want to slap her when she was blaming Kaya, her mother, and their ancestors for all of their suffering but I still know that Gabi is a brainwashed girl, indoctrinated by Marleyan propaganda.
In any case, she seems to have suffered the first blow to this indoctrination in “Deciever” through experiencing kindness from Sasha’s family, with neither Gabi nor Sasha’s parents knowing that she killed their daughter, and Kaya logically breaking apart Gabi’s arguments about the Eldians supposed sins before tearfully demanding an answer.
This results in the final blow for Gabi’s first pillar of indoctrination by the end of the episode, as Kaya offers to help Gabi and Falco get back to Marley by taking them to see Niccolo because she knows that Sasha would help them and she wants to be just like her.
Following this emotional moment, we get the post credits scene of Reiner and the rest of the Warriors beginning to plan their attack on Paradis.
This continued one of the earliest scenes in the episode, where Reiner woke up and demanded to know where Gabi and Falco were.
Reiner may have been suicidal earlier but now he has a new purpose that keeps him living: rescuing Gabi and Falco.
This causes him to criticize Magath’s plan to wait six months for Marley and the other countires of the world to create a global alliance to attack Paradis because Zeke would have undoubtedly made a plan by then.
His announcement that they need to launch a surprise attack on Paradis immediately makes for quite the cliffhanger.
Also, it is pretty funny that the shot cuts to him when Porco wonders how Zeke could have betrayed them.
Reiner’s own sins as a deceiver are always right in front of him, with him constantly being reminded of them through one way or another.
Speaking of reminders, Hange is forced to remember how the corrupt Sannes told her that she would basically be taking his place eventually all the way back in Season Three.
Whereas once Hange fought to let the people know everything the government was hiding from them in the Uprising Arc, she now has to lie to them until she knows all the info that there is, bringing more distrust down on her and the new government.
This is not helped by Floch and a bunch of recruits leaking information about Eren’s arrest.
Now that Floch has seen Eren acting like a devil, just like Erwin, he is fully on his team, a stark contrast to how he was against him at the end of The Return to Shiganshina Arc, showing just how much Floch perception of Eren has chanhged over the four year time skip.
It’s not just Floch, though, because many others are on the side of Eren, including Louise, the girl Mikasa saved all the way back in Season One.
Now devoted to following Eren, based on Mikasa’s example, Louise’s dedication in spite of military law causes Mikasa to remember Eren saving her all those years ago, through a mysterious headache.
However, Eren saving Mikasa is now painted in an even darker lens than it already was in that first season.
Eren has always been capable of committing atrocities and this flashback makes it very clear, even though the people who kidnapped Mikasa and killed her parents pretty much deserved it for what they did.
Along with Floch and Louise, there’s also Yelena, who is almost certainly involved in Eren’s schemes, based on Pyxis’ findings, yet, so far, she’s keeping her mouth closed.
There are a lot of decievers in this episode, making the title quite fitting, which is funny because it was actually swapped with the next episode’s title “Guides.”
While “Deceiver” does fit nicely for this episode, I wonder if “Guides” will end up doing so for Episode Twelve, considering that I can’t quite think of a way in which that title will suit its events.
Either way, “Deciever” is still a really good episode of Attack on Titan. 
Not only does it have some great, emotional scenes for many of the titular decievers, but it also came with some fantastic animation, especially for the backgrounds.
The episode did make me want to slap Gabi but, again, I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

Attack on Titan Season Four, Episode Five, Declaration of War Review: The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For.

5 stars
Chapter 100, “Declaration of War.”
Pretty much every Attack on Titan fan who has read the manga can easily recall this chapter.
I can still remember sitting in stunned silence after reading it because of what had just occurred.
So, needless to say, I was extremely excited to see one of my favorite chapters adapted in the anime.
Well, having seen it, I can say that Mappa and director Teruyuki Ōmine definitely pulled it off, providing a nail biting delivery for “Declaration of War.”
The episode starts off with a flashback to Reiner, Bertholdt and Annie’s time in the scouts, as was seen in Episode Three.
This time, we have a scene of Bertholdt wondering why the man who hung himself in the settlement chose to tell them his story before he did so,  believing it was because he wanted to be judged.
At this point, the scene perfectly transitions to Reiner about to be judged by Eren, as they meet for the first time in four years.
Falco, the sweet boy, has absolutely no idea about the absolute disaster he has unintentionally caused, completely unaware as Eren subtly threatens all the people in the building above them by showing his cut hand, threatening to transform if Reiner tries anything.
From here, we see the build up to Willy’s declaration, as he is visited by the mysterious Kiyomi Azumabito from last episode, who seems to know something, given that she leaves before the festival.
Another interesting scene is between Karina and Annie’s father, where Mr Leonhart insists that his daughter is still alive, which is basically just Isayama’s way of saying, yes, Annie’s in the story, even if she’s not important right now.
The final build up scene before the performance sees Zeke, Pieck and Porco being lured away by a mysterious guard who then traps Pieck and Porco in a hole to prevent them from transforming and trying to stop whatever is about to happen.
As a manga reader, it’s been pretty fun to see fan theories about who the mysterious soldier is.
I’ve heard theories about it being Jean, Connie, and, most often, Armin who has had an extreme growth spurt.
In any case, this trapping scene is very well done, building the tension up nicely, and even providing some humor when Pieck’s panzer unit get jealous over Pieck hugging only one of them.
With the threat of enemy Titan Shifters removed, Eren can now confront Reiner in temporary peace and Willy can begin his last speech.
Down in the basement, Reiner asks Eren why he came here and Eren chillingly replies “the same reason you did” and follows this up by telling Reiner multiple times that he is “the same as you.”
This shows just how much Eren has grown over the four year time skip, going from hot headed to calm, collective, and even reflective over his situation.
He is clearly not the same arrogant character who I couldn’t stand all the way back in season one, and Yuki Kaji does a fantastic job voicing this calmer version of Eren.
Another voice actor who deserves praise for their work this episode is Kazuhiko Inoue, who does a fantastic job with delivering Willy’s lines, during his epic speech.
This voice acting, accompanying the gruesome imagery of the performance, makes for a great use of exposition that keeps the viewer engaged while being fed information.
The information Willy conveys is that the Marleyan version of history is a lie (big shock), and that The Great Titan War was actually ended by King Fritz, who conspired with the Tyber family to make a Marleyan, Helos, a hero, and then fled to Paradis Island out of guilt for what his people had done.
Willy revealing this shows how masterfully he can manipulate a crowd because first he reveals the truth, before redirecting the crowd’s anger at a new threat, Eren Jaeger.
Speaking of, Eren knows full well how much of a threat he is, admitting that he might just end up destroying the world, like Willy fears, because of the millions of Colossal Titans in the walls, which he could potentially control.
Falco is horrified that someone he trusted would use him and becomes even more terrified when he realizes the letters Eren had him send were to his “comrades.”
For now though, Eren’s attention is entirely on Reiner as he proceeds to judge him just like the opening of the episode suggested that he would.
However, this judgement is not what we might expect.
Instead of condemning Reiner, like he did in earlier seasons, Eren is shown to have become more understanding of him, as showcased by Eren telling Reiner to forget his promise to make Reiner suffer, admitting that there is good and bad people on both sides of the conflict.
This is followed by the moment that breaks Reiner completely, Eren telling him that he did what he did because he was a brainwashed kid.
Reiner refutes this entirely, falling to his knees and tearfully admitting that he pushed on with the mission to attack Paradis because he wanted to be a hero and he is to blame for Eren’s mother’s death.
Reiner’s voice actor, Yoshimasa Hosaya, did such a great job with Reiner’s tearful repentance that it almost made me cry.
Reiner’s pleas for death are then juxtaposed by Willy saying he doesn’t want to die because “he was born into this world,” and this very line that Eren’s mother spoke years ago finally draws Eren’s attention away from Reiner, as shown by the subtle widening of his eyes.
Maybe Eren is experiencing some hope that he will not have to go through with his plan?
Unfortunately, any hope Eren might have for peace is shattered because Willy follows this up by proclaiming he wants everyone to help him fight the devils of Paradis.
Accepting what he must do and that he really is the same as Reiner, Eren pulls Reiner to his feet, as we get some anime original content of soldiers approaching the basement door, ready to attack Eren.
One might think upon hearing about this scene that it is a pointless attempt at diminishing Eren’s responsibility for what comes next but, thankfully, it comes across more as a way to build tension, rather than try to justify Eren’s horrific act of violence.
And horrific it is, as Eren transforms then and there, killing who knows how many civilians and even Willy Tyber himself, crushing him with massive his fist, before throwing him in the air to be devoured, like a piece of popcorn.
This scene is just fantastic with a great use of sound and music.
That said, some manga readers took issue with the OST in this scene, 2Volt.
Some took such a disliking to this OST usage that they even harassed director Teruyuki Ōmine over it, to the point that he felt depressed.
Critique a scene all you want but if you harass the people behind that scene, you’ve gone way too far.
Personally, I feel that the music worked great and the people who dislike the scene may have had their own preconceived ideas on how the it would go, making them be inevitably disappointed when it didn’t suit their envisioned scene.
Still, even though I thought this final scene was great, there is one issue I have with the episode but it is one I am not ready to deduct points for just yet.
This issue is that there is a cut scene between Willy and Magath that is crucial to understanding both their characters’ motivations.
There is a possibility that this scene could have been moved to episode six, so if we see the scene there then this won’t be an issue, however, if it’s not there, then I think we are missing some crucial development for both these characters.
Like I said though, I am not going to be deducting any points from the episode because there is always the chance of this scene appearing in the future.
Overall, “Declaration of War” is a fantastic adaptation of one of the manga’s best chapters, delivering the point of no return for Eren brilliantly.