It has finally come. The fourth and final season of Attack on Titan is just around the corner. I’m sure many who even just know the name of the show might be surprised to learn it will only have four seasons because it feels like it’s been around forever. The anime first hit screens in 2013 and had a nearly three year gap between its first and second seasons due to those in charge of production being caught completely off guard that the show became a worldwide phenomenon.
Who would have blamed them? No one really knows what will become a hit, especially in the eccentric and wildly imaginative world of manga and anime. An intense and extremely graphic show about nearly all of humanity save a small population living behind three giant walls having been wiped out by people consuming giant monsters called “Titans,” I guess it sort of fit into the zombie craze that captivated pop culture around the early 2010s and the post-apocalyptic genre that has dominated the entire millenium.
Despite the extremely grim premise, the show’s true engine was the many mysteries of this monster-filled world and the ensemble cast’s unrelenting drive to figure out the truth. It truly is, in my opinion, one of the most masterful pieces of storytelling in animation, period. While we should all view review sites with a grain of salt, I was shocked when I looked at the IMDb page for highest rated TV episodes. The second and third highest rated episodes of anything ever (behind the god-tier Breaking Bad finale) are two episodes from AoT.
For the first three seasons, every answer gave rise to more and more questions and cost more and more lives, as humanity’s struggle just trying to find grains of knowledge in a sea of mystery cost so many characters everything. It all came to a head at the end of Season 3, where every single question presented by the first three seasons gets earth-shatteringly answered by the contents of Dr. Grisha Jeagar’s basement.
But all that did was open up an entire world of questions.
While I have read the manga and know a good deal of what’s to come, there’s nothing like watching an apocalypse in full color and motion. And I cannot wait for the pain it’s going to make me go through all over again.
The title of the piece probably gives it away a bit, but I’ll be going into light spoilers (or Colossal Titan-sized spoilers for those who haven’t finished Season 3) for what will be Season 4 from this point forward. I’m going to try really, really hard not to go into specifics and just mention some really important ideas.
Season 4 will cover the absolute most intense arcs in the entire franchise: the “Secrets of Marley,” “War for Paradis,” and “Ragnarok” arcs. Secrets of Marley is set up as almost a soft reset of the series after a brief time skip, focusing on Reiner and the ranks of the military of Marley. It also goes hard into the persecuted daily life – and hardcore indoctornation – that Eldians who live outside the walls go through. We’re introduced to a whole bunch of characters from the nation of Marley, especially those in the “Warrior” program – not unlike when we first met the 104th Cadet Corp.
The War for Paradis arc is violently transitioned into from the previous one, marked by the re-introduction of Eren, Levi, and the gang we’re all familiar with to the world stage. This is where things get incredibly messy, as politics, lies, promises, factions, and faith become the main focus of the show on an even grander scale than in previous seasons. Perhaps most horrifying, a great deal of the politics discussed in this fantasy epic are relevant at this very second in time. We are also finally presented with the real, unbiased history of the Eldians. Ragnarok, as the name implies, will feature the utterly insane endgame to a worldwide phenomenon.
There are a number of things to look forward to beyond just the idea that such a huge piece of pop culture is reaching its climax. One of the biggest, hinted at heavily by the first season four trailer, is that Eren Jaeger convincingly re-takes his birthright as the undisputed protagonist of the series. From around the second half of Season 1, Attack on Titan becomes an ensemble piece where multiple characters and the decisions they make weave the narrative and everyone is dependent on everyone else. But Season 4 will remind us who gave hope to humanity in the first place – and how tragic his character development has become.
My personal biggest thing coming is honestly the storytelling and the way it unfolds. A hallmark of the series is just how tight it is – every little thing in the show plays into everything else and means something. Many shonen series can become bloated with filler, leading to a question of what is important and what isn’t. When I say everything and everyone ever brought up in the first three seasons comes back around in the final season in some way, I mean everything and everyone. Hajime Isayama knows what he’s doing.
Perhaps the single biggest thing to look forward to is just the overwhelming sense of awe. The Titans and their entire presence have sort of elicited this mood from day one (aided tremendously by the absolutely phenomenal score by Hiroyuki Sawano), but it gradually ramps up and up as more secrets and revelations happen. What I’m talking about here isn’t just how it feels when looking up at a Titan, but rather the “holy shit quotient,” which from around Season 2, started going off the rails, only to reach legitimately jaw-to-floor levels in just the beginning and middle stages of what will be the final season. If you love that jolt from shocking twists and turns, believe me – there’s plenty still left in the tank.
Besides, given the way this year’s gone, I think the only way to cap it all off is a post-apocalyptic anime about prejudice, panic, war, and generations of hate. And I am here for it.
Attack on Titan: Season 4 is set to premiere on Funimation on Dec. 7th, the same day as the Japanese release. For those looking to catch up, Season 1 is available on Netflix, while the entirety of the first three seasons, subbed and dubbed, are available on Hulu, Adult Swim, Funimation, and Crunchyroll. Every episode is also available for purchase on both iTunes and Amazon, with the DVD/Blu-Ray box sets available at many retailers.
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