Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters Review: “Part 2: The Battle of Heaven and Earth & A Long Dream & Toward That Tree on the Hill”

It’s been 84 years, but it’s here. We have finally arrived at the end of Attack on Titan. I somehow managed to remain largely spoiler-free and resisted the urge to read the manga so that I could see the ending animated. I thought I knew what would happen, but there was no way that I could have predicted everything. But here we are. Let’s do this.

“The Battle of Heaven and Earth” drops you literally right in the thick of things, giving us the last few minutes of the previous special to get you back in the zone. The pacing for these final episodes was insane, with almost nonstop action. There was little time to catch your breath, and it was almost hard to keep up and follow what was going on. But the action was also phenomenal, with our intrepid band fighting hollow shells of all of the previous incarnations of Titan shifters – including Bertholdt.

They have to find Eren and Zeke in a giant pile of bones, and Armin surmises that the easiest way to do that is for him to transform, which will blow the massive skeleton apart. Unfortunately, Founder Ymir uses one of the Titan shells to grab Armin just as he’s about to transform, and the others are attacked. Reiner and Jean are trapped with malfunctioning equipment. Conny is knocked unconscious; Levi is able to rescue him but is even more badly injured in the process. The group is only saved by the timely arrival of Annie and Gabi, riding a fully transformed Falco, who can fly.

Not going to lie – I am high-key disappointed that Mikasa didn’t suddenly sprout wings, as it looked like in the trailer. That amazing shot of her with the giant wings unfolding was actually Falco behind her, grabbing her before she could be killed. I feel like this ending would have been a thousand percent better if Mikasa could inexplicably fly. Why else have that voiceover of Eren talking about the Ackermans developing special abilities?

While “The Battle of Heaven and Earth” was almost constant action, “A Long Dream” was a lot of introspection, as Armin found himself meeting Zeke on the Paths. The scene before Armin realized he wasn’t dead, when he was pleading with his useless body to move, was some phenomenal voice acting. It was then that I had to pause it and run to get some tissues. (I stupidly thought I could make it through this episode without needing tissues. That was dumb of me; since when can I make it through anything without crying?)

Armin and Zeke have a pretty bleak conversation, with Zeke explaining that the entire purpose of life is to multiply. As in, the only point of existence is for it to continue, and what kind of point is that? The Zeke that we meet here has completely given up; he is resigned to what is happening because he doesn’t see the point of stopping it. But Armin refuses to lay down and die, not as long as his friends are still fighting.

This scene is actually a pretty great philosophical discussion. Armin remembers seemingly random moments from his childhood – racing Eren and Mikasa, going to the market – and recalls feeling like those moments are why he was born. His reminiscing inspires Zeke to recall his own moments like that. Perhaps there is no greater meaning to life other than the meaning you make yourself. And that is worth protecting.

Because all Eldians are connected, and because there is no life or death on the Paths, the two of them are able to call on some of their fallen comrades – Porco, Ymir, Bertholdt, even Grisha – to help the rest of their friends. Oh man, that moment when it looked like literally everyone was a goner and then Bertholdt just swept a bunch of Titans off the spine? That was a fantastic moment. And seeing Ymir again after so long? 10/10, no notes.

Also, I’m going to be honest here, when Zeke popped out of the bone and waved at Levi, and then Levi full-on just cut off his head? I laughed out loud. It was just so unexpected. I mean, I figured that Levi would kill Zeke – at this point in time it’s basically his reason for living, so he can fulfill his promise to Erwin – but I never saw that coming. But it was probably the best thing he could do; with Zeke dead, there is no royal blood to use the Founding Titan powers, and it stops the Rumbling.

I also never saw Conny, Jean, and Gabi becoming pure Titans coming. When Conny realized what the vapor coming from the worm was, I gasped out loud. Him and Jean standing together, meeting their fate, was yet another moment I needed to reach for my tissues.

The big reveal in “Toward That Tree on the Hill”, of course, is that Eren’s behavior in this final season was careful manipulation in order to get the outcome that he saw in the future. He made himself the villain so that Mikasa, Armin, and the others would take him down and become the heroes of humanity, so that they would be able to live in peace and die of old age. He knew that Mikasa would be the one to get to Founder Ymir and free her from her love for Fritz, because only then would the Titan powers go away and Eldians would become normal people.

(I am so happy that this means that Conny’s mom has gone back to normal as well. That was one of the more haunting moments of this series and has stayed with me for years.)

It’s also revealed that Eren had visited all of his friends, told them his plan, and then wiped their memories. They were only able to remember once Eren died. Pieck not getting a visit was a nice moment of levity, as was Eren freaking out at the thought of Mikasa moving on after he was gone. Apparently, some fans didn’t like that scene in the manga, because it contrasted with Eren’s nihilistic personality overhaul. I thought it was perfect; it showed that Eren was still emotional, that he still had hopes and dreams and he knew what he was sacrificing and wasn’t happy about it.

The knowledge that the Rumbling killed 80% of humanity is devastating. Armin reacts to this information the way one would expect him to, and I guess he did not react as strongly in the manga. (This comment summarizes the differences between the original manga ending and the anime ending.) It was hard not to linger on those images of the Rumbling all over the world – people praying, the wildlife trying to run away, the people being forced over the cliff yet everyone trying to rescue the crying baby.

There was a lot going on with the ending; that scene between Eren and Armin confused the hell out of me until I realized it was a memory, but there was a lot of talking and I’m still not sure I understood everything. I think at some point Eren realizes that the Rumbling may not have been necessary, it’s just that he was an idiot who got handed a tremendous power and didn’t know what to do with it. He saw Mikasa killing him and ending the curse of the Titans and did what he could to get to that moment. But he didn’t stop to think if there was any other way to bring that about.

And you know, it’s possible that there wasn’t. Founder Ymir still loved Fritz after 2000 years, despite the horrible way he had treated her, and she was still obeying him even though he was dead. It’s only after Mikasa shows her that your love is not synonymous with obedience, that you can love someone and let them go, that she stops obeying him and ends the Titan powers. And this is because Mikasa kills Eren. If she hadn’t had to do that, would Founder Ymir have had her epiphany?

(Mikasa kissing Eren’s severed head was a visual I did not need. Also, how did she get back to Paradis to bury Eren’s body? Did she swim?)

Honestly, I am amazed that Eren is the only one who died. I was certain that there was no way everyone else would make it though. After Hange died in Part 1, I assumed that meant that no one was safe. But shockingly, everyone else survived – even Reiner. There were so many death knells for Reiner, but in the end, they were all red herrings. I won’t say I’m disappointed, because I was dreading having to watch some of these characters die, but I am surprised.

Also, I’m still kind of pissed about what happened with Historia.

I’ve been hearing for ages how the ending was horrible, and I don’t see what was so terrible about it. I was terrified that it would be the kind of ending where everyone died, so this is actually better than I expected. This is the best ending that could have been hoped for, and I thought it was pretty good.

The end credits scene does kind of put a damper on things, though. While we see that the rest of the Scouts live long lives and die of natural causes, eventually the cycle repeats.

With Eren’s tree in the foreground, you can see Paradis advance in the background, until newer, more devastating weapons are invented and the city is destroyed. Not only that, but at the very end, a young boy walks into Eren’s tree, the same way Founder Ymir walked into a tree all those years ago. This implies that not only is the cycle of war repeating, but the Titan cycle itself. An ominous ending like this seems to indicate that there was no point.

But it all comes back to what Armin said on the Paths. Life is the point. The Titan shifters, who would have had shortened lives because of their powers, got to live into adulthood. Levi, Gabi, and Falco helped the survivors rebuild the outside world. Mikasa eventually married and had children but continued to keep Eren in her heart. So, yes, as long as humanity exists, war is inevitable, but you cannot let it define your life. You have to find those moments that make everything worthwhile and hold onto them.

Thanks for the ride, Attack on Titan. It was a good one.

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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