This new season has moved to MAPPA, who worked on hits like Yuri On Ice and Zombie Land Saga. From a general animation standpoint, I actually thought it was hard to tell how this switch will have worked. You see, what we saw was nice and fluid, and it all seemed well done, but with the absence of any major scenes with ODM Gear being used, I can’t say whether the usual battle quality will remain as high. As it stands though, my only real concern is that the overall quality seemed to take a dive in episode two. Most of it was fine, but there were times that characters talking, or walking looked jerky, as though they were done in CG. They seemed to have fewer frames of animation too, which made the difference really noticeable.
I was also mixed on the new themes. The ending theme, Shock by Yuko Ando, didn’t play too long but sounded fine for what it was. The opening theme, My War by Shinsei Kamattechan, felt off to me though. I’ve come to expect a certain feel to AoT theme songs, and that is in a big way thanks to Linked Horizon’s epic sound. This theme felt like it was trying to combine some creepy tones with the chanting and a more fantasy battle edge later in the song. It’s not a bad song at all, and I don’t dislike it, but it’s not AoT for me.
The first episode, Beyond the Ocean, was an interesting one though. This is actually set four years after the battle in Shiganshina that we saw in the last season. Despite not featuring any of our regular heroes, their victory does appear to have had some real consequences for those across the ocean.
So, the episode covered a battle between Marley’s military and the Middle Eastern Federation. The main point was that the war has been raging for four years and that taking Fort Zlava would secure victory for Marley. To do so though would require taking risks. And so, a young soldier named Gabi chose to walk across the battlefield and take out the Federation’s Anti-Titan Artillery Train by herself. The plan succeeded, and the Armored, Beast, Cart, and Jaw Titans were able to step in and take out both the fort and the approaching naval forces. The result was a peace treaty being signed by the Federation, though Marley knew that with their Titans no longer being enough to prevent attacks, they needed to recover the Founding Titan as soon as possible.
While I prefer the ODM battles to gun-based assaults, I will say that I thought this played out really well. The action was essentially a war movie with giants fighting on one side. It all looked good, the brutality was on show, and we got to see what would happen if Titans were faced with an artillery focused assault. Zeke certainly feels some guilt about the battle too, even acknowledging that his and Reiner’s defeat on Paradis Island was the cause of this war. Not only did they lose Titans, but it made it clear to the rest of the world that Marley is not an undefeatable force.
Yet still, their rule affects others. The military was primarily using Eldians as cannon fodder. And why wouldn’t they? Marley sees itself as above the Eldians, as shown by one Marley soldier questioning why he’s getting shot at, but not why his Eldian comrades are. We even see the Eldians described as demons by their own superiors.
That was part of why I liked Gabi as a character though. She wanted to inherit the Armoured Titan and her goal was to wipe our ‘evil Eldians’ so that only the good ones would remain. That way, she could free those in the Internment Zone. It’s a noble wish that is born of being born into a world that views her race as evil and is lifted by naivety. You can see from the way the Marley soldiers act that their view of the Eldians will never change, but Gabi is pushing on anyway. It was a really great touch.
So, as an opening episode, I thought this was effective. I’m eager to get back to the fast-paced, more fantasy-based battle style, but this certainly sets the scene with regards to what our heroes are facing. It did a great job of showing that war is atrocious, but not everyone involved views their actions as being without honour. Not only that but with characters like Gabi fighting on the side of the villains, we have the wrinkle that not all the bad guys are really bad guys. That’s a great start.
The second episode, A Night on the Train, was devoid of the action of the first episode and was used more to set up what life is like for the Eldians with ties to the Marley army. In particular, we got to see how different people viewed their roles. Those within the Internment Zone view the people of Paradis Island as evil and the soldiers fighting with Marley as heroes. It makes me think they all share the same hope as Gabi, that victory means their freedom, because they’re ‘good’ Eldians. Others though, such as Colt, don’t like the current system and are opposed to people being used as Titan weapons. Reiner too is mixed, wanting to save Gabi from her fate. While he described his time of Paradis Island as a living Hell, he did also mention that all sorts of people were there, perhaps hinting to the others that Paradis Island is not entirely bad.
One thing that seemed quite interesting was the familial links that tie chosen warriors together. For example, Galliard took the Jaw Titan when Ymir voluntarily returned it. She took it from Galliard’s brother when he sacrificed himself to save Reiner. Meanwhile, Gabi is Reiner’s cousin and looks set to inherit the Armour Titan from him. The Founding Titan is the only one with actual bloodline restrictions, but they’re seemingly sticking with this process anyway.
The main thing we saw set up here is the imminent return to Paradis Island though. As it stands, conventional weapons are catching up with the Titans, and they are no longer enough to stop the rest of the world form attacking Marley. In fact, the actions of the Middle East seem to have rallied them against Marley. Since the rest of the world won’t just sit back while Marley improves its weapons, Zeke suggests a plan.
His view is that if they can take Paradis Island, it will send a clear message to the world, and buy them some time. The problem is, he only has one more year left, then Colt will inherit his Beast Titan, and Zeke is unsure Colt will get all his powers. So, they have one year to accomplish this. Step one is for the reclusive Tybur family – who have the Warhammer Titan and don’t fight in the wars – to publicly declare Paradis Island as an evil land of demons.
Zeke’s plan makes sense, and I’m all for things getting back to the main cast sooner rather than later, so I’m happy with that. It was cool to see how the whole situation is viewed by the Eldians too. We even got to see some soldiers suffering the effects of war, which was a nice touch. I just hope the blips in animation don’t continue and leak into the battles that are still to come.
So, those are my thoughts. But what did you think about this start to the final season? Did you enjoy the worldbuilding, or miss the ODM Gear scenes? Did you notice the animation changes? Let me know in the comments below.