Shingeki no Kyojin, known in the West as Attack on Titan just concluded the second part of its third season, and after six years and 59 episodes we finally got some answers. Naturally, the way there was paved with stunning action and heartbreaking deaths. Also unsurprisingly, the answers we got caused controversy, with some accusing the series of anti-Semitism and pro-fascism ideas. This is somehow fitting for what turned out to be the bleakest season in an already harrowingly dark show.
For the first two seasons, Attack on Titan managed to balance tragedy and loss with some sense of triumph. I even dared say the show was about giving us and the characters hope that at the end of all the horror there would be a happy ending – or at least something resembling one. While the first half of this season hinted at a deeper darkness than what the anime had explored, it wasn’t until these past 10 episodes that Attack on Titan went full nihilist and killed heroism.
At the same time, this season took a step back to take us on a trip down memory lane as often as possible, in order to build up on nostalgia before breaking down everything we thought we knew about the world of Attack on Titan.
Consider the first episode. Even the opening theme, Linked Horizon’s The Path of Longing and Corpses, feels like a mix of every opening before it and includes sound cues and lyrics from the other songs. Then the episode itself leaned heavily on nostalgia as Eren, Mikasa, and Armin step into Shiganshina for the first time in years, walking down familiar paths and looking at familiar buildings – all in ruins. Even the ending theme plays accompanied by a series of still images from previous seasons, showing the members of the 104th Training Corps in better days, reminding the audience of how much these characters changed, and how many of them are gone.
This being Attack on Titan, it didn’t take long to get right into the action. Those who thought the show had moved on from the human-on-Titan battles from the first season didn’t need to worry, as the Battle of Shiganshina was as epic as anything we had seen before. There has been some speculation and doubt that WIT Studio may not return to animate the show’s fourth and final season, which would be very unfortunate. The little studio has always done a good job, but they outdid themselves with the second half of the third season. Not only are the character designs and details better than ever, the action is simply stunning – and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Watching Erwin and his soldiers raging and charging one last time could not have been as heartfelt without WIT Studio’s meticulous and brutal animation. The main reason Armin’s sacrifice brought tears to my eyes being the gorgeous and terrifying sight of the Colossal Titan’s bodily furnace roasting our little hero alive.