Attack on Titan 4×23 Review: “Sunset”

Sunset Attack on Titan

As the Wall Titans march inexorably forward, the world falls apart around them. It isn’t just the destruction left in their wake, but the crumbling of human society in the aftermath. “Sunset” shows us that unless something drastic happens, the New World that will happen under Eren’s rule will be just as violent and oppressive as the old one.

“Sunset” feels like an aptly-named episode, in that it may very well be the sunset of humanity. With the Wall Titans visible in the background of nearly every scene, the enormity of what is going on hits you like a ton of bricks. There is something so unbelievably terrifying about them. Unlike the pure Titans, who will attack anything and everything, the Wall Titans just… march forward. And in doing so, they will destroy everything. I like that this episode emphasizes that even though Eren is doing this to protect the residents of Paradis, even they are not safe from his vengeance.

As this episode proves, it isn’t just about the visible destruction. Even among the civilians, there is a schism coming – those who agree with Eren, and those who don’t. The Yeagerists have completely turned on the volunteers. Shadis encourages everyone else to hide among their ranks for their own safety. The 104th has fractured.

And so the cycle continues. Floch killing the volunteer who dared oppose him is evidence that the new regime will be no different than the last. The argument that being submissive is better than death is hilarious coming from a group who is literally about to kill everyone on the planet for doing the same thing to them. While it is hard to see what Paradis could have done to save themselves, surely there was a solution that was less… final.

That Eren told Floch his plans is niggling in the back of my brain. I always assumed that Eren was just putting up with the Yeagerists in order to achieve his goals. Now I’m not so sure. But then, Floch seems very willing to follow Eren’s plans, and no doubt Eren realized he can use that sort of unflinching loyalty.

Whatever Eren saw when he kissed Historia’s hand must have changed him irrevocably. At this point, it’s difficult to see how he could be redeemed. And with only a few episodes remaining, it’s hard to see how this can all be wrapped up with a satisfying conclusion.

Sunset Attack on Titan

I feel for Armin in this episode. He has been struggling for a long time and no doubt getting emotional whiplash from the actions of a man he has long called his best friend. But in “Sunset”, he finally breaks down and snaps at Mikasa. It’s hard to blame him; in addition to dealing with the unthinkable situation in which they all find themselves, he also has to deal with the added guilt of wondering if Erwin would have handled everything better. For him to arrive at the conclusion that it would have been better if he’d died is just heartbreaking.

Mikasa is ripe for some long overdue character development. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mikasa, and generally, I get the sense that she’s someone with a lot going on under the surface. But this episode sort of highlights how she hasn’t had much growth over the course of the series. You have to wonder if, while Armin was unloading on Mikasa, he was thinking that Eren had a point about the hurtful things he said at the restaurant. Does Mikasa’s Ackerman blood mean she’s compelled to follow Eren’s orders, and without him she has no idea what to do? It’s time for her to think for herself.

It’s been 84 years since we last saw Annie Leonhardt before she was unfrozen in “Thaw“, and most of her screentime in “Sunset” was spent on expanding the backstory we learned in the “Wall Sina, Goodbye” OVA. Seeing Annie’s backstory gives you a lot more understanding into who she is as a person. But I’m not going to lie, something like this leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

More than once on Attack on Titan, female characters forgive and even love their abusers. I have no idea if this is meant to be a commentary on breaking the cycle of abuse through forgiveness or not; after all, a large part of Historia’s arc was about moving past the way her parents treated her. But it really is upsetting to see it happen so much. I know that a work depicting something isn’t an endorsement, but that doesn’t mean I have to like watching it.

I do appreciate, however, that Annie’s outlook has changed in the years she’s been frozen. Knowing that she was at least semi-conscious that whole time and could hear what Armin and Hitch were saying makes it understandable that her views would have changed. Gabi is meant to be an Eren parallel, but you can also see shades of Annie in her. Annie telling Hitch about how they were praised for killing people mirrors the conversation Gabi had with Kaya in “Thaw”. That was how she was raised. Now that she’s had time to reflect on her actions, she recognizes that that’s a messed-up way of thinking.

While we’re on the subject of the cycle of abuse… I was actually very invested with the scene of the Eldians in Marley trying to warn the soldiers about what’s coming. I could have done without the, “The island devils are coming to kill us,” but they’re living in an oppressive state and have been fed propaganda their whole lives. But with the soldier claiming that they all must be in on it and Annie’s dad snapping like that… Will we get to see the Eldians trying to take back some of their power? 

Sunset Attack on Titan

It’s nice to see Hitch again. I’m very curious to know where she and Annie are going. What does Annie plan to do? Why is Hitch going with her? Couldn’t Hitch have just given her a horse and sent her on her way? Although I was incorrect in my assumption that she would be sent after Conny and Falco, it’s entirely possible that she and Hitch run into them anyway. Considering all of the Armin/Annie buildup, there is no way there isn’t a reunion coming.

“Sunset” was the episode of reunions, of a sort. In addition to Hitch’s return, we also finally learned the fate of Hange and Levi, who somehow managed to stumble across Pieck and Magath hiding in the woods. Much of the episode was incredibly depressing, but I did get excited when I saw that Levi is still alive. And I couldn’t help but laugh at Hange approaching them and being like, “Hello, fellow travelers! Can you help me and my friend?”

Let’s hope that Levi is bandaged enough that Pieck and Magath don’t recognize him. While I think it would be ridiculous to show him alive after so long just for those two to kill him, I wouldn’t put it past Attack on Titan to do just that.

You know an anime means business when it skips the ED for more scenes. The scene with Conny and Falco heading North I think is meant to counteract the earlier scene, where Mr. Braus believes Conny will hesitate when it comes to killing a kid. When you watch Conny’s eyes as he talks to Falco, I don’t think he will be swayed. After all, he is continually deceiving him as they travel.

It is lowkey hilarious how Falco keeps unintentionally guilting Conny. “Gee, thanks, mister, for saving me from being eaten by Titans! You’re such a nice guy.”

I don’t know what will happen in next week’s episode. I don’t want to believe that Conny would sacrifice a child to save his mother, but this is his mother. She’s the only family he has left, and this is a chance to bring her back. And I don’t want to think about Conny and Armin coming to blows over this, but both of them are clearly at the ends of their rope for different reasons. Something has got to give.

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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