WARNING: Contains spoilers.
Armin Uses Diplomacy
Don’t you just love the bacteria and other living organisms illustrated on the first page? It’s like a page from a science book.
Zeke explains to Armin that all these organisms have only one goal: to multiply or increase in number. For him, it’s a meaningless endeavor, and thus can’t understand those who live in fear of dying. Dying means an organism cannot breed anymore, and every day is just a fight for survival in order to multiply. Was breeding that important? If the survival instinct is all there is to life, then Zeke doesn’t care for it.
Founder Ymir wanted to free herself from the pain of dying, and so she became a titan. She worked as a slave, ever loyal to King Fritz, and despite living in terrible conditions she kept plugging on, waiting…waiting…waiting for two thousand years for someone like Eren to come and save her.
She had regrets, unfinished business, but because Zeke failed to understand this, it was Eren she chose to follow. What this unfinished business was Zeke couldn’t name (it wasn’t breeding because she’d already given birth to three daughters), and it is Armin who explains it to him.
For Zeke, death is the ultimate freedom, since a dead person no longer has to live in fear. When he questions why Armin continues the fight when human beings are all going to die in the end anyway, Armin reframes the question in a totally different way.
It’s not all about breeding, he explains to Zeke. When he was a boy, Eren challenged him and Mikasa to a foot race across the meadow. Mikasa deliberately lagged behind, while he, being the weakest of the three, did his best to keep up. But it didn’t matter if he was last in the race. What mattered was that he enjoyed every moment. As he ran after his friends, in those moments he felt he was born just so to enjoy this play time with them. When he read a book on a rainy day, or fed a squirrel, or walked in the market with his friends, he felt the same way. It was these small, ordinary moments, these seemingly unimportant daily activities that gave him a reason for living. It wasn’t about breeding, far from it.
Zeke finally realizes why Armin and his friends continue to fight for life, not just for themselves but for the millions of other children on the planet. He remembers himself as a boy playing catch with his mentor, Xaver, just throwing a baseball back and forth, back and forth. It was meaningless and unimportant in the big scheme of things, and yet in those moments Zeke felt happy. If he had his way, he’d just play catch for the rest of his life.
This realization allows Zeke to form a completely different resolve. He turns a new leaf, calling on past titans to help Armin. Thanking Xaver for playing catch with him, for giving him the happiest memories of his cursed boyhood, he also finds it in his heart to forgive Grisha and thank him for fathering him.
I absolutely loved this part of the story. Armin actually uses dialogue and diplomacy to get into Zeke’s head. He didn’t spoon feed him bromides such as “Children are the hope of the future” or “Family is everything” or other such nonsense. He understood that for Zeke, none of these meant anything. Life as mere breathing, breeding organisms was meaningless to Zeke. But there was still a human part of him, the one that cherished play and friendship and kindness from his mentor, the part of him that enjoyed baseball. Armin, instead of arguing with him about the importance of breeding, told him something he could identify with: I want to live because I want to play with my friends.
Founder Ymir’s Lingering Regret
I’ve been wondering what the 未練 miren, a lingering regret, or unfinished business Founder Ymir had with her life, and it was here that the realisation hit me: the girl just wants to play. She agreed with Eren’s plan because killing all his enemies meant she wouldn’t have to build titans from the sand anymore. If her descendants finally became enemy-free, then she can go on and do what she wants. She can build sand castles instead of gigantic beasts, she can play catch with her children (who should be in Paths by now), she can sprint with her friends across the meadow, see who gets to the tree first.
A life without enemies meant a life without fear of dying. It meant the freedom to play in peace. So she chose to support Eren, who wanted to give her this freedom. If we think of all the power she had, she could have freed herself with or without him. But it seems she needed permission from someone to become free. This someone was Eren.
I cried for poor Founder Ymir, and for Eren who wanted to help her. She was just an ordinary young girl, and yet she experienced every terrible thing conceivable by man or beast, natural or unnatural. She didn’t have any fun, or get the chance to play. All she had been was a pitiful slave, every single day of her short life. No wonder Eren was a saviour in her eyes.
After drying my tears I was reminded once again why I fucking love this manga.
A Sacrifice Made, A Promise Fulfilled
So we find Zeke calling to Levi, with those hilarious words: “I know you wanted to see me, though I don’t want to see you.” Even in the final moments of his life we find him wanting to verbally spar with the captain. He notes the good weather, and regrets that he never really cared, but then he’s killed so many that wanting anything more is asking for too much. He is at peace with his decision.
Levi, who has killed many but only because they were trying to kill him or his friends, doesn’t spare a moment. He beheads Zeke with a swing of his sword. But the expression on his face is inscrutable. He’s not celebrating, or smirking, or pumping his fists, or going all whoo yeah I killed the goddamn beast. Instead he looks… What is that look?
For me, it’s the look of a man who kills his enemies only in a do-or-die-situation. It’s the look of a true warrior, an honest fighter who doesn’t like it when the person he has to kill gives himself up without a fight. He is used to fighting, expecting a fight back from his enemies, so when they just sit there and wait for the fatal blow…
I’ve always loved Levi but I never loved him so much as this moment. We see his humanity, understated and yet pierces straight through the heart. It was because of Zeke that Erwin was killed, that Miche was killed, that his entire squadron in the Forest of the Giant Trees was killed, and yet he still has that look on his face. He has fulfilled his promise to Erwin, but he knows better than to crow about it. Levi has class.
Another thing I loved about these panels of our captain was seeing him having an arm around Gabi, keeping her steady for sharpshooting, protecting her from falling. He’s such a dad. Uncle Levi, always looking after children, babysitting them as best as he could despite them being a real handful. My god, I love him so much!
Jean Detonates the Explosives
As if I needed to cry some more, we see Jean finally able to detonate the explosives around Eren’s titan’s neck.
“You suicidal shitty dumbass!” he cries out.
Are those tears welling in his eyes? Is he doing his best not to weep? He’s always been mad at Eren for being suicidal and reckless, but this is because he has grown to care for him and doesn’t want him to die or involve Mikasa while he does so. Now he is forced to kill the person he shouted at in the past: “I will kill you if you try to kill yourself!”
Poor Jean. Brave Jean. Like Levi, he grits his teeth and does what needs to be done. In Jean’s case, it must have been a million times more painful because Eren had been his good friend. Imagine that, having to kill a friend you have grown to like and respect. We don’t get any internal monologue from Jean during this event. What I wouldn’t give to hear the thoughts going through his mind!
Eren sees Jean, knows his head is about to be blown off, but he does nothing. He just lets him go ahead with it. Maybe this was Eren’s plan all along: to get his friends to turn against him, to show the entire world that Paradis is filled with good people. That’s why he told Mikasa he hated her, told Armin he was useless, talked back to his captain, grabbed his commander’s collar and told them they’re clueless. It’s as if he wanted to make it easier for them to kill him when the time comes.
All of this (Code Geass vibes aside) is so utterly heartbreaking.
Reiner Gets to be a Hero
Eren’s titan’s head is severed from its body, and the spinal cord thingy attempts to connect to it once more. But Reiner won’t have it. He essentially puts himself in a suicide mission, ready to die if that was what’s needed to make the rumbling stop once and for all.
Will the Armored Titan survive the blast from the Colossus Titan? He’s survived Bert’s blast before, so he might be able to do it again. Unless he really, truly wants to die this time around. Having a death wish for so long must be taking a toll on him.
If we think about it, it’s the perfect way for Reiner to go. He’s always wanted to be a hero, always dreamt of saving the world. This is his big chance. Yet I don’t want Reiner to die just yet. I still want him to have a reunion with his mother, so she can ask for his forgiveness.
Also, if Eren dies, what happens to Historia? Will she be condemned to a life of solitude? Reiner’s always had a thing for her, and next to Eren and 104th Ymir I would absolutely pair Reiner with Hisu if that is at all possible.
Details that Make Me Go Aww
Other things I really loved:
- Zeke, after being shown with a small anthill last chapter, has finally built a proper sandcastle. Dunno why but I felt so relieved upon seeing his work of art! There’s a part of me that hopes he enjoyed building it.
- Sasha looking on as Armin feeds a squirrel is cuteness overload.
- Mikasa is her badass best in getting the okapi to barf up Armin. In the past she’s said to Annie’s Female Titan, “Give Eren back!” but now she’s shoulder to shoulder fighting alongside her and says “Give Armin back!” to their common enemy. How the tides have turned! I don’t know if they’d consider each other friends but I like that they have reached a kind of rapport.
- Pieck looks so adorable being carried by Jean. She’s really petite, even smaller than Annie.
- Xaver’s Beast Titan in the form of a ram was a pleasant surprise! He’s said he was useless in battle, so I was expecting him to be more of a lamb-like creature. But he looks amazing as a full-grown ram with those lovely curving horns.
- It was great to see Eren Kruger once again, along with Marcel, Bert, Porco, 104th Ymir. I miss these people and I’m glad they’re given a chance to save the world.
- Poor Mikasa, looking on helplessly as her dearest friend transforms to blast away her one family left on earth. I do laud her for not screaming “Armin, stop!” and getting in the way, but instead lets him do what he feels needs to be done. It shows incredible self-control on her part.
- Falco’s Jaw Titan looks absolutely awesome in the last spread of the chapter. Look at that beak, those wide-spanning wings, that perfectly feathered tail! If I were to be one of the Nine Titans I’d totally want to be this one.
There is a part of me that believes Eren won’t die just yet. In fact, I’m 100% sure of it. He could have easily crystallised himself after his titan’s head was blown off, and this is because he has plenty of unfinished business:
- Free Historia’s kid, or baby Founder Ymir herself, whoever that final panel child may be.
- Apologise to Armin and Mikasa, and Levi, for that matter.
- Talk to his father and mother in Paths.
- Have a group hug with his friends.
- Make sure the world will indeed forgive the islanders.
Starting and stopping the rumbling is one thing, but is that enough for the rest of the world to refrain from ganging up against the Eldians? Won’t the world be very angry about the deaths the rumbling (partial at this stage) has caused, and won’t they seek revenge for these killings? Making the rumbling stop solves only a portion of their bigger problems. Deep-seated, historically-anchored hate doesn’t disappear that easily. In the end, will Armin & Co find out that, while they gave the world’s children a chance to sprint peacefully across a meadow, they inevitably endangered their own children’s chances to do the same?
Also, there’s the problem of the uninherited Beast Titan. Since Zeke died without transferring his power to a pure titan, that means it went to a random Eldian baby. Who could that baby possibly be? Could it be—horror of horrors—Historia’s child? Nooooooooo! Please, anyone but the queen’s baby! Wait, scratch that, I don’t want it to be transferred to any child, as that will doom them to a very short life. Can’t Eren and Founder Ymir just remove the titan powers for good? Its presence is why the world hates them to begin with: absolute power corrupts absolutely. We’ve seen how the Marleyans have misused this power. But removing it will leave the islanders defenseless, make them sitting ducks helpless against the wrath of the world. What to do?
In the dream sequence in the first chapter of the manga, a girl with a scarf says, “See you later, Eren.” Mikasa? When? Was that a random memory or is it something that happens in the future? So many unanswered questions!
With two chapters left to go, I’m assuming we’ll see all these resolved and more. Will Eren fight back? Will Founder Ymir fight back? Still so many possibilities, still plenty of reason to be on our toes.
All in all, it was a fantabulous chapter. Eren’s prophecy of Armin being the one to save the world has been fulfilled. Levi’s promise to Erwin has been fulfilled. Zeke cooperates with Armin and makes the ultimate sacrifice. Major events in the span of 45 blissful pages. Isayama-sensei has even shown us the storyboards. Can’t ask for more!
Very much looking forward to the last two final chapters, though a part of me is still incredibly scared of what happens in the very end. We never really know what kind of crazy surprises are in store, given the nature of this sublime manga and its peerless manga-ka.
Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of this chapter? Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. xoxo – hana
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