Attack on Titan, Season Four, Episode Thirteen, Children of the Forest Review: An Intense Adaptation for an Underated Chapter.

5 stars
I really loved Chapter 111 of Attack on Titan when I first read it and I think it is one of the most underated chapters in the entire manga.
So, imagine my excitement to see it so well adapted in the thirteenth episode of the final season, “Children of the Forest.”
Directed by Yasuhiro Geshi and Kōnosuke Uda, the episode picks up first with a scene from Chapter 110, which many feared was cut, that being Zeke’s flashback revealing what he did to Ragako village.
The scene opens with the village being consumed by gas, fanned in by Marleyan soldiers, with Zeke and Pieck in attendance.
Once the smoke hits them, all of the villagers, Connie’s family among them, collapse and are unable to move.
Zeke then Titanizes them with his roar, just like he did back in the first episode of this final season.
However, Zeke’s explanation of these events and how he supposedly did it to save Eldia clearly does not satisfy Levi, understandably.
Levi believes Zeke to have not a shred of guilt over his actions, which is not helped by Zeke’s good mood.
This does lead to a pretty humorous scene, though, where Zeke assumes Levi must not be very popular with the ladies.
Oh, Zeke, if only you knew the extent to which Levi fangirls will go.
This comedic and on the nose moment is quickly interrupted, though, as soldiers arrive to inform Levi of Zachary’s assasination at the hands of the Yeagerists.
With that, the episode transitions into the adaption of Chapter 111, as Gabi, Falco, Kaya, and the Braus family arrive to taste Niccolo’s excellent cooking in remembrance of Sasha.
It is here that Gabi and Falco plan to make contact with Niccolo based on Kaya’s advice, all of them still unaware that the woman Gabi killed was Sasha herself.
The tension of this reveal slowly builds as Falco begins to realize something is amiss, and Hange and the 104th arrive to question Niccolo.
However, the impending reveal to those characters close to Sasha that Gabi was the one who killed her is not the only case of growing tension here, because now the wine is coming into play.
I did criticize how easy it was to guess that there was something up with the wine in Episode Ten, when it was more subtle in the manga, but now I would like to rescind this criticism.
It being made fairly obvious that the wine was poisoned with something made the scene where Jean and Connie almost take a sip very nerve-racking.
Thank goodness Niccolo had the foresight, and the added kindness thanks to Sasha, to stop them from doing so, although he did end up using Marleyan racism to cover it up.
This leads to the big conflict of the episode, as Gabi and Falco follow Niccolo when he retreats with the wine and confront him, telling them that they are Warriors candidates who snuck aboard the airship when it was fleeing Marley.
This, of course, tips Niccolo off and he asks the big question: “Did you kill someone? A female soldier.”
Well, any smart person would find this question odd, considering Niccolo is a Marleyan, who have pretty much all been brainwashed into hating Eldians.
This is why Falco picks up on it.
Gabi, on the other hand, oh boy, her brainwashed brain cannot take a hint.
With every word out of her mouth she keeps digging her metaphorical grave deeper and deeper.
You can really see how indoctrinated Gabi is, as she almost seems to be seeking praise from Niccolo, a Marleyan, for killing Sasha.
However, praise is certainly what Niccolo has in mind.
No, he’d much rahter perfer a wine bottle smash to the skull for her.
It’s Falco who takes the blow, though, jumping in front of Gabi and taking the hit but also ingesting the wine.
The soundtrack during this scene is also straight up fire.
Niccolo is much more focused on Gabi than the injured Falco, delivering her a beating off screen, before throwing her before the Braus family and exposing her as Sasha’s killer.
It’s here that the best voice acting of the episode is showcased.
Ayane Sakura again does a magnificent job as Gabi but Eji Hanawa steals the show as Niccolo, who mournfully and furiously explains how Sasha saved him from this war and taught him that he was supposed to make people happy with his food.
Gabi hits back by telling him of the people Sasha killed, claiming that it is actually she who brainwashed him, ironic coming from her.
Mr Braus understandably looks sickened to hear such a despicable thing about his daughter and requests the knife from Niccolo.
The terrified eye movements of Gabi and Mr Braus’ contemplative face here, almost as if he is considering actually killing Gabi in an act of revenge, are animated incredibly well.
However, revenge is not what Mr Braus ultimately wants, as he shows exceptional maturity for a mere side character, giving one of the best speeches of the series about how, as adults, it is their burden to carry and move on from their sins to get the children out of the forest.
The forest, in this instance, being a metaphor for the cruel world and cycle of violence that our characters struggle with daily.
With this, Mr and Mrs Braus convince Niccolo to let Falco go, followed by Mr Braus asking if Gabi is alright.
This shocks Gabi right to the core of her being, as she sees these supposed devils concerned for the very person who killed their daughter.
Well, not all of them are concerned because Kaya is already moving head first into the forest, as she attempts to stab Gabi with a knife for the death of Sasha.
Only Mikasa’s Ackerman insticts save Gabi from a knife to the head.
The animation of Kaya being tackled to the ground and comforted by Mr and Mrs Braus is just great, as well.
Mappa did a really good job with the animation this episode.
With Mikasa and Armin moving Gabi to a safer place, we then get the big reveal of the episode from Niccolo.
Zeke’s spinal fluid is in the wine, and potentially hundreds of military officers among the Military Police and Garrison are currently infected.
Zeke lied at the beginning of the episode when he said that Eldians freeze when they ingest his spinal fluid, and this lie has caused those infected to be entirely unaware of their dangerous position.
The Scouts have absolutley no time to warn everyone, though, because who else should show up but Eren and the Yeagerists, and in a much more abrupt way than in the manga.
Rather than seeing Eren enter the room that Mikasa and Armin are talking to Gabi in, like in the manga, we just hear the door close and see him casually walk up to them, bloodly hand raised in a threatening manner.
It honestly reminded me of the abrupt Reiner and Bertholdt reveal from Season Two, it’s that great.
Just as entertaining is Floch’s arrival with the Yeagerists and Hange’s slow realization that they all knew about the poisoned wine.
Floch grinning at Hange and shushing her is a real improvement on the manga, making Floch look much more sinister than he does in the original source material.
Following this, we get the naturally frustrating cliffhanger of Eren saying he wants to talk to Armin and Mikasa, only for the episode to cut off there.
Well, at least the wait might just be more than worth it because tomorrow’s episodes is about to adapt two fantastic chapters which, with time, I have come to look incredibly favourably on.
If done right, the next episode could easily be in the top ten best episodes of the series.
As for “Children of the Forest”, in my opinion, it is a near perfect adaptation.
Great shots, animation, voice acting and music, it has it all.
I do wish a couple of manga panels, like a particular flashback shot of Sasha, had been included but these are not major things and did not decrease my enjoyment of the episode.
“Children of the Forest” is a fantastic episode and I have my fingers crossed that “Savagery” can be adapted to near perfection as well.