By Tanika Mally
Arts & Review Editor
On December 6th, Attack on Titan: The Final Season’s first episode was released, effectively breaking the internet in the process. The final season has been long anticipated for the past two months, when the trailer dropped and set fans into a frenzy. With such high expectations, it is no surprise that there have been a number of changes to the show itself, both in production and in storyline.
It was announced early on that the previous animation company that was handling the series, WIT Studios, would be passing on the project to MAPPA Studio—the very studio which currently animates the anime Jujutsu Kaisen and animated Kakeguri’s two seasons. In the premiere episode of this season, “The Other Side of the Sea”, MAPPA has successfully recreated and enhanced the characteristically sombre, dark atmosphere of the show, while maintaining their own signature animation style. It has been foreshadowed that this final season will be much darker than before, and the season premier is a testament to that. In previous seasons of Attack on Titan, WIT Studios has always maintained a level of “gleam” throughout the show—with its neat line art and generally bright visual aesthetics. However, MAPPA seems to be diverting from this path as the animation line art appears to be much closer to the manga’s style, Shingeki no Kyojin, off of which the anime is based. The line art for this season seems to be thinner and almost “scribbly”, and while that would typically detract from the animation overall, surprisingly enough, MAPPA was able to incorporate it in a way that brought a unique charm to the anime. The visual aesthetic for this season has also been significantly subdued, with the characteristically vivid colors of the setting and characters replaced with more earthy, muted tones.
In terms of the storyline, a point of divergence that we see here is that the beloved main character, Eren Jaeger, as voiced by Yuki Kaji in Japanese, is not shown once throughout the episode- a strange scenario of sorts. Unlike the seasons in the past, it is expected that from here on out, we will no longer get a close look inside Eren’s mind, and instead will be kept on our toes about the decisions he makes. From what it seems, it is anticipated that we will be witnessing the climax of character development in many characters, such as fiercely protective Mikasa Ackerman (voiced by Yui Ishikawa) and highly intelligent Armin Arlert (voiced by Marina Inoue)- the two childhood best friends of Eren. However, the premiere has already introduced viewers to a new series of characters. Falco Grise and Gaby Braun are two children and part of the Warrior candidate program—a government initiative to find the next inheritors of some of the Nine Titans. Viewers are strapped to their seats as they watch these two characters navigate through what seems to be the apex of a long-time war. While it’s far too soon to say, this first episode has already set down the groundwork for great development for these two new characters.
A jarring aspect to the show’s start would probably be the exposition of the show itself. The episode opens up in the middle of the battle scene, with soldiers on each side fighting and dying left, right, and center. Viewers are suddenly thrust upon a new setting with new characters without warning, and while this may prove to be a good idea later on, it was still slightly confounding. Fans who don’t entirely recollect the events that occurred in previous episodes are definitely thrown for a loop, and it certainly takes away from the cinematical aspect of the show as the viewer is trying to remember just what led up to these moments.
Numerous features seem to have changed in one way or another, yet the show still retains its characteristic and unique elements which only contribute to the nostalgic aura that many fans are currently swimming in. Despite the slightly disconcerting beginning of this season, the anticipation, animation, CGI, and incredibly well-developed and appropriate soundtracks certainly make up for it. Even though the beginning of the end has only just started, I can only hope for this show to go out with a bang that leaves everyone knocked off their feet.