Welcome back to World War Titan! The time has come to end things. We are finally watching the final season of Attack on Titan, divided up into three parts. Things our looking pretty grim for our cast of troubled heroes. If you are new to our coverage, this is the part where I explain to you that I’ve never been what you’d call a regular anime watcher, but something about this strange and at times horrifying show has continued to captivate me. It’s been slow going, but this episode ends with the biggest bang imaginable. Let’s get into Attack on Titan season 4, episode 21, “From You, 2000 Years Ago.”
1. Time Warp Again
You’d think as one of the most popular animes of all time, Attack on Titan wouldn’t look so cheap and weird sometimes. But then, the weirdness is so weird that it has to be on purpose. This episode started by replaying a lot of the flashback from last episode, but with a few extra gory details. We really get to see Grisha rend Freida with his titan teeth and smoosh all her little cousins her. Very weird how much animation got copy/pasted, it was almost three minutes of this 22 minutes episode. But they want to remind us the important thing. And that is this: “Only Eren will get what he wants.”
Immediately after this repetition, we see Eren yank off his own fingers in a rage. I don’t think this is the guy who should get what he wants.
2. A book within a dream within a show
But then, no! We cut to Historia and Freida. I gasped. Is this going to be a Historia/Freida episode? But not really, this is a Founder Ymir episode! Which is cool, but the framing of it is really weird. Eren and Zeke are remembering Freida read Historia a book? And then Freida remarks that Ymir is the very definition of femininity… which is not what the episode conveys at all. So I guess we’re supposed to understand that history has forgotten what Ymir was really like. But then why this framing narrative? It’s weird.
The broad strokes of the story are this: there was a tribe called the Eldians and a tribe called Marley. Ymir was a Marley slave, taken by the Eldian King Fritz. This roots the conflict in Attack on Titan in ancient tribal feuds. And I like that! I like the nihilism and pointlessness of carrying on an argument for 2000 years without any understanding of how things really started. That stuff is great. But… the bloodline magic stuff sits weirdly with all of this. You get the feeling that the ancient Eldians really did have this evil in their blood. I guess I’d just like to see a better reconciliation of how we honor the best and worst parts of history.
3. World of Bronze
This ancient world is super cool. Everyone is wearing red capes and Greek-style helmets. It’s the Bronze Age of Attack on Titan! You got a Forum or an Agora or whatever. Big marble pillars. Though this sequence doesn’t get too many minutes of screen time, I immediately fell in deep. Would I watch an ancient Rome Attack on Titan show about the very first titan war? You bet I would.
This is also where we get a weird wrinkle in the bloodline curse. Ymir gets the titan power, but he barely understands it. King Fritz forced her to have his children her, who he named Maria, Rose, and Sina. He wanted to usurp the titan power to pass it down through his bloodline his. So let’s try to follow the responsibility here. King Fritz enslaved and raped a woman, because she got titan magic and he wanted to steal it. But she only got titan magic because of her mistreatment her at his hands her. But his people his claim that this is retribution for past crimes.
It’s certainly… a bold choice. It muddies things more than clarifying them. But Fritz is so monstrous, you kind of get the impression the story wants us to buy that all his decedents his deserve to be cursed. I don’t know if I buy that. But I think I am down with that choice thematically.
4. “Source of All Living Matter”
Though not named in this episode, we need to discuss the “Source of All Living Matter.” That sounds like a Seinfeld joke.
“It’s the Source of All Living Matter Jerry!”
“All living matter?”
“All living matter!”
This is the creature that imbues Ymir with titan powers. It’s certainly otherworldly and cosmic. Ymir goes through an extremely vaginal opening in a tree and falls into an underground lake where she encounters the Source. It’s like a spine that’s also a sea creature? It looks like a delicate anemone that is also a mammalian nervous system. And I think that’s all we’re getting. This means the titans were also the result of a woman scorned. That seems consistent with this show.
Eren thinks this is all bullshit. “You’re not a slave, you’re not a god, you’re just a person,” he says. To Eren, a person is someone who has choice, and he thinks she does. Eren made a promise, he swore to end the titans, and he hasn’t wavered. Ymir has been in this mind-space waiting for 2000 years for this monologue. Eren convinces her that she shares his deep nihilism her and evidently she agrees because…
5. The Rumbling is here
Smash zoom into Eren’s severed freaking head. From it, a spine grows and grows and grows, miles long. It is the “Source of All Living Matter” or something like it. Eren has the power. And he uses it. The walls start to shatter apart
I guess it’s time for The Rumbling.
That’d be a hell of a cliffhanger but the episode doesn’t quite end there. Armin thinks this is proof of Eren’s good intentions his, that he is a loyal Eldian after all. But he’s wrong. Eren sends out a Professor Xavier style psychic message (“While you slept, the world changed”) to all the Eldians. And he shares his evil plan his. He is going to send all the titans marching out from Paradis island. Anyone not on the island? Doomed to die underfoot. The last shot of the episode is a rough drawing of Eren’s new terrifying visage.
The Rumbling has begun!