Attack on Titan 4×21 Review: “From You, 2000 Years Ago”

2000 Years Ago Attack on Titan
Ymir is saved by a magic spine.

I am once again sitting here in stunned silence. Week by week, it’s getting more and more difficult to put into words how thoroughly Attack on Titan manages to blow my mind. (Also to keep profanity out of these reviews. I mean, did you see this episode? A great many f-bombs were dropped while watching, I assure you.) “From You, 2000 Years Ago” manages to answer some of the main, lingering questions I’ve had since I started watching this series years ago. My jaw was on the floor for basically the entire episode.

Trigger Warning: This review of “From You, 2000 Years Ago” discusses sexual assault. 

Ok, so Attack on Titan has never been a show for the faint of heart. I mean, the premise revolves around giants eating people, and it’s never shied away from gore and violence. But “From You, 2000 Years Ago” just sickened me in a way most of the other episodes haven’t been able to manage. Because it wasn’t about monsters being monsters. It was about people being monsters, and in my mind, that’s always going to be worse.

At last, we learned the truth behind how the Titans were created. Like all history, no side was truly accurate in their tellings. Marley was right: Eldians were an oppressive, war-like people. Using Ymir’s Titan powers, King Fritz conquered Marley. But Grisha and the Restorationists were also right: Ymir’s people did cultivate the land and build great works. Because the world is neither black nor white, but littered with shades of gray.

As Zeke said in last week’s episode, Ymir was a slave. King Fritz came in and butchered her people and enslaved those who survived. Then Ymir was set up by her people and ended up drowning in, like, a hidden underground lake, but apparently, there was just a magic spine or something hanging out in the water. And that saved her life, turning her into the first Titan. There is literally no explanation of what this magic spine is or what it was doing there.

As a reward for all the “good” she did as a Titan, she is given the gracious gift of being forced to bear King Fritz’s children. That’s a level of gross I wasn’t prepared for, on a show about people-eating giants. It makes me side-eye Historia’s pregnancy even more, now. In the brief glimpses we’ve had of her in season 4, she seems unhappy. Was this pregnancy against her will, the way Ymir’s were?

After three children, Ymir sacrifices herself for Fritz. Even though she should be able to regenerate, she doesn’t. Once upon a time, Falco said that Titan shifters regenerate as long as they have the will to live. Ymir had clearly lost that will. That is likely the only order she never obeyed. (Honestly, good for her.)

But then, because heaven forbid that power not exist to serve this horrible tyrant, Fritz forces his children to literally eat Ymir’s body. (Well, the spine.) Then he commands them to have lots of babies, because again, horrible tyrant. And when his children die, their children should eat them, and thus the cycle continues into infinity. “From You, 2000 Years Ago” emphatically states that the greatest evil is humanity.

All of this, by the way, is spelled out in the ED from season 2. Interestingly, the manga chapters depicting Ymir’s story weren’t released until 2019. So Attack on Titan literally spoiled everyone in the end credits of season 2.

The vow of peace that the First King of the Walls took was all about atoning for the sins of Fritz. But Ymir and the rest of the Eldians were just as much victims of Fritz as the rest of the world. He was a tyrant! He was willing to blind every slave just because someone let a pig out. This is obviously not a man that has ever heard the word “no”. Standing up to him would have been suicide.

2000 Years Ago Attack on Titan
Not gonna lie, Ymir’s Titan form is terrifying.

Ymir was a literal slave. Zeke had said that she essentially lacked all willpower and could only do what she was told. Likely everything she did was against her will. I do wonder why, once she became a Titan, she still followed Fritz. Was she still bound to follow orders, even in her altered state? Why did she even return? They show her transforming, and then the next scene where she kneels in front of Fritz, it’s clear that some time has passed. What happened in between?

Plus, as I’ve said before, I don’t believe in punishing descendants for the crimes their ancestors committed. Everyone on Paradis had their memories wiped. No one had any knowledge of this history. Maybe if their true history had been taught, they wouldn’t be in this situation right now. This just goes to show that education is always the answer.

I also have to wonder if the cannibalism is what gave Titans the desire to eat people. There weren’t any scenes of Ymir doing that. She apparently did stuff like build roads and bridges. I’m also still confused as to how and why there are nine shifter Titans while everyone else is mindless. Is there a reason for that other than “plot”?

Another question: is the reason that Titan shifters only live 13 years after their first transformation because Ymir only lived that long? I have honestly been wondering this since we found that out during season 3. Does transforming put a toll on their bodies, or is it just sort of a “tradition” thing? I still have so many questions about everything.

This brings me to yet another jaw-drop moment of “From You, 2000 Years Ago” that has been hinted at for years: the Rumbling. I actually didn’t expect the Rumbling to happen this early, even though it’s the whole plot of this season’s OP. Desperate to stop Zeke’s command, Eren rushes to Ymir and does something no one else in this world has ever done; he gave her a choice. It’s unclear at the moment whether the Rumbling is Ymir’s will, or if she is just acting on Eren’s wishes. After all, that scene is the only time when you can clearly see Ymir’s eyes.

Was Ymir calling out to Eren? The very first episode of Attack on Titan is called “To You, in 2000 Years: The Fall of Shiganshina”. It starts with Eren waking up from a dream that he cannot remember. Ymir has been trapped in the Coordinate for millennia, at least, making Titans from sand and water. Did she cry out for help? Was it to Eren specifically? Or was she crying out to all of her children, and Eren is the one who answered the call?

2000 Years Ago Attack on Titan
The Rumbling has begun.

The Rumbling was as amazing as it was terrifying. The animation in the past few episodes has been really top tier. Mikasa and Armin watching the walls come down around them. Their short moment of relief when they realized that this was Eren’s plan all along, quickly followed by the nauseating feeling that someone is wrong. They both must be so devastated that this is Eren’s plan.

Eren speaking to all Eldians through the Coordinate was absolutely chilling. (By the way, no Levi. Don’t think I didn’t notice that.) Now Eren, as the protagonist, is declaring war on the rest of the world. In order to stop genocide, he will himself commit it. I can’t say I agree with that idea. Still, it isn’t really out of nowhere for Eren. In season 1, he told Annie that he would destroy everything. In the season 3 finale, he asked Mikasa and Armin if they would have peace if everyone across the sea died.

As I’ve been saying for ages, if Ymir can rewrite Eldian DNA, can she not just make them not be Titans anymore? I’m so confused as to why the only options are “sterilize all Eldians” or “death for everyone else”. Perhaps that’s naïve of me. One thing that Attack on Titan excels at is showing you that there are no easy answers.

So it has come to this. The protagonist has become a villain, at least in the eyes of his friends. He may be doing this to save his people, but it isn’t right. Regardless of their opinion on Marley and its alliance, I have to believe none of the other Scouts want total genocide. Will they try to stop him? Will they even be able to stop him?

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 4×21 Review: “From You, 2000 Years Ago”

  1. I don’t think Titan powers – as I understand it at least – are something one can rewrite in the DNA. This episode really emphasized how the whole Titan issue is a sort mystical “otherworldly” curse rather than something you get from DNA. My theory is that connection to the Founding Titan itself that allows Titanization – you can’t use the source of the problem to fix the problem.

  2. The fact that it mentioned in the middle of episode card that the Titan powers might have come from a “parasite” was a really cool revelation, I thought. The idea that it wasn’t a god or the devil, just a fluke interaction with a bug that changed the entire course of human history. I wonder if we’ll learn more about that in some way.

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