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Attack on Titan 4×09 Review: “Brave Volunteers”

Brave Volunteers

After the action-packed episodes of the past few weeks, “Brave Volunteers” takes us back in time to show us a little of how this insane plan came to fruition.

“Brave Volunteers” takes us back three years, so around the time of last season’s finale episode, and explains how Yelena and the other Marleyan soldiers came to be part of Zeke’s massive plan to free Eldians from Marley control. Basically, those who defected – like Yelena, the soldier who trapped Pieck and Porco, and Onyankopon, the zeppelin pilot – are from nations conquered by Marley. 

Much of Attack on Titan is, I believe, meant to mirror the events of World War II. In this metaphor, I think Marley is supposed to be Germany. If that is the case, then I believe the nations conquered by Marley are probably not treated much better than the Eldians. Yelena talks about having their homes taken and being forced to fight in the Marley military.

What makes me sad in “Brave Volunteers” is how much Yelena and the others have risked to help out Paradis only for them to be continually distrusted. I mean, we don’t know if we can trust Zeke, but I do believe we can trust the individual soldiers. I think they’ve tied their lots in with Zeke in order to escape worsening conditions in their homeland, or for the hope of seeing their countries liberated. But I admit that after seeing Armin’s reminiscing, and seeing how eventually the Paradisians came to trust and be friendly with the Marleyans, only for that to be reversed after the assault, I was a little heartbroken. Especially for poor Nicolo, who clearly had feelings for Sasha and just wanted to pay his respects, only to get beaten in the cemetery.

It’s a cycle. It never ends. Violence begets violence and it seems as though, at this point, that is all this world is capable of. Armin, I think, was hoping for a peaceful solution basically up until the assault, but I think Eren has abandoned all hope that anything can be resolved peacefully. I suspect that’s why Eren asked if Armin had seen any of Bertholdt’s memories. But then, this episode proves that a peaceful resolution is possible. The issue is both sides have to want it in order to make it work. And from what Tybur was planning, Marley would never have gone for it.

Brave Volunteers Attack on Titan
Levi making Zeke uncomfortable with his glaring is a whole-ass mood.

Basically, even after “Brave Volunteers”, the jury is still out on whether or not we can trust Zeke. The Paradis government made their feelings about trusting the Marley volunteers clear, and it’s hard not to see their point. You have to wonder what Zeke’s ultimate plan is. He says he wants to free the Eldian people, but his past actions go against that. He turned in his own parents. He killed so many on Paradis. He almost completely obliterated the Scouts. Has he been playing the long con this whole time?

There are a couple of theories as to why Zeke has suddenly decided to betray Marley. The first is that he changed his mind after the Scouts disastrous charge, perhaps after seeing their tenacity (or after almost being sliced to pieces by Levi). The second is that he has been planning this for ages, and turning in his father was part of the plan, so he would be sent to Paradis and could reclaim the Founding Titan. The third is that his plan was to use the Founding Titan himself, and once he realized he couldn’t take it through force, he decided to go for diplomacy.

This is the theory I find most likely, but since it’s also what was postulated in the episode by the members of Paradis’s government, I’m now hesitant to believe it. I do think it’s a long con situation, but I disagree that it goes as far back as Grisha’s banishment. Zeke was just a stupid kid then, and I doubt he had the cunning or forethought to concoct a decade-long plan for Eldia’s resurgence.

Maybe it’s not even his plan. Who knows at this point? Not me.

By the way, this is as good a time as any to point out how much I loved Levi in “Brave Volunteers”. For one thing, he’s looking good. For another, he’s being extra sassy, telling Zeke he’s taking him to their finest hotel only to take him to the woods. (Because he’s a monkey – get it?) Not to mention, him making Zeke uncomfortable by the force of his glare is a whole-ass mood right now. I wish I had the power of a Levi Ackerman glare.

Did the Scouts really kill all the wild Titans on Paradis? Wow. Just… Wow.

Brave Volunteers Attack on Titan

On a sad note, I’m glad that we got a moment of the team mourning Sasha, and that through Armin’s flashbacks we got to see her being happy and experiencing new food. I also appreciate they brought back Sasha’s dad, as well as the girl Sasha saved in season 2. The transition of Eren in the flashback shooting the rifle to Sasha getting shot was extremely well done, and it seems very symbolic that it was Eren’s bullet that killed Sasha, seeing as how many hold him responsible for her death.

I laughed when Sasha asked Onyakopon why he had dark skin. In our world, that would be a rude question, but something “Brave Volunteers” emphasizes is how ignorant everyone on Paradis is. Levi cautions Hange on making them seem weak but Hange is so amazed by all of the inventions that exist out in the rest of the world that she can’t help but react when she hears about them. Naturally, on Paradis, where everyone is the same ethnicity (except Mikasa – and maybe Levi? I’m unclear about him actually), it would be a giant shock to see someone who is so different. I think it would have been weirder if no one asked.

The inclusion of Onyakopon is interesting aside from having racial diversity because his response to her question was very religious in nature, and it indicates different religions as well. It’s a small way of showing how big the world is, even though we’ve been confined to only two small points on the globe. (Saying that the “creator” thought it would be more interesting with a mix also sounded very meta.)

Attack on Titan

Last but certainly not least, Annie, at last, makes an appearance in “Brave Volunteers”. We haven’t seen her since season 1, and she is still encased in her crystal cocoon. It makes you wonder what will it take for her to break out of it. Is she capable of breaking it herself? I feel like if she could get out herself, she would have done so at any point in the past few years. Yes, she’s their prisoner, but she can do what Eren did and transform, which would demolish the building.

I wonder if Eren will use the War Hammer ability to break Annie out of the crystal.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.


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2 thoughts on “Attack on Titan 4×09 Review: “Brave Volunteers”

  1. I feel like I’ve been pranked by Yelena’s hair. I thought for sure it was Armin (except manga readers on my timeline on Twitter spoiled that it wasn’t, dammit).

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