This Attack on Titan review contains spoilers.
Attack on Titan Season 4 Episode 10
“That guy is not Eren.”
The past few episodes of Attack on Titan have looked at dissent and disagreements cropping up among the Eldians, but now the temperature turns up and begins to reach a boiling point. Time is running out and a sound strategy becomes increasingly important, which makes any moments wasted on arguments rather than unity feel like a dangerous exercise that will only culminate in doom. It’s never been more important for Eren and company to figure out a plan for how to secure Paradis Island from Marleyan forces, which makes it all the more frightening that this group has never been more frayed and at odds with one another. If Willy Tybur weren’t a bloody stain on Liberio’s cobblestone then he’d probably even smirk over the uncertain state of the world.
“A Sound Argument” doesn’t technically cover that much ground in the present, which may frustrate some, but the revelations to two years in the past are still seismic. The episode outlines the specifics of Zeke’s plan with the Eldians, which also involves the cooperation of Kiyomi Azumabito of the Hizuru clan. “A Sound Argument” develops this risky proposition, albeit in retrospect as everyone is left reeling with the current consequences in the present. This structure continues to work for Attack on Titan and while it might have been possible to contain both of these flashback episodes into a solo entry, it feels appropriate that this plan is allowed some space to breathe.
Attack on Titan is a complicated series and it’s never thrown more information at the audience and in such a compact amount of time. The anime is in the middle of a very intricate maneuver and it carefully wants to tease the audience and mess with their perception of what’s actually going on, but it doesn’t want to overwhelm them or make this endgame feel unnecessarily confusing. “A Sound Argument” benefits from how it doesn’t rush through the exposition, yet also avoids dragging its feet as Eren and company wallow in their fear and doubt.
Eren becomes more belligerent and vehemently opposes Zeke and Kiyomi’s plan, which endangers Historia, but otherwise reduces casualties. Many Eldians are crucial and important for this plan to work, which doesn’t mesh with the internal narrative that Eren continues to build in his head that he and he alone is the one capable of fixing this mess. The Eren from these flashbacks claims that he wants to end this suffering, but we’ve seen that his plan involves widespread fear, manipulation, and casualties. Present Eren appears to resent anyone that attempts to devise a more logical solution to his way of doing things. Eren still views this entire war as his story and a problem that he’s uniquely qualified to solve, while in reality it’s already progressed far beyond this point.
There are some chilling moments where the Survey Corps continue to throw Eren under the bus and claim that they don’t even recognize him anymore, with Mikasa being his sole defender. She brings up proof that Eren still cares about them and that he hasn’t completely changed. That being said, Eren’s plan still does seem sinister and his reluctance to “endanger” the 104th Survey Corps could just as easily be for selfish reasons that Eren hasn’t been completely forthright about yet. Attack on Titan is so thrilling right now because no one is in a place to be trusted. Eren brags about how he’s invincible to some extent, but his friends are getting more comfortable with the idea of someone prematurely eating him and taking his ego entirely out of the equation.
This war has characters thinking several moves ahead of their enemy, but “A Sound Argument” pushes Eren and the rest of the Eldians to think about decades–if not centuries–into the future. These soldiers are ready to cut their own stories short in order to preserve the futures that they’ve spent their lives fighting for. This generational aspect has always been a part of Attack on Titan, but it’s more prevalent than ever and it adds an unnerving atmosphere to the proceedings. Beloved characters are ready to willingly throw their lives away if it means that a better warrior can take over their cause. At this point I wouldn’t even be surprised if the final episodes of the series are set fifty or hundreds of years later and explore if any of this pain has actually done any good or if Eldia’s descendants are just as poor off and living in another, equally destructive, delusion.
On that note, there’s a disturbing element of Eldia’s plan that includes rapidly breeding Historia so that she’ll have as many royal children as possible to help ensure that Paradis Island remains in order for at least fifty years. “A Sound Argument” reveals that this is already in motion and that Historia is very pregnant, which also asks some interesting questions that have never before had to be considered, such as what happens to the fetus if a pregnant woman turns into a Titan? It’s tragic that Historia has already accepted her role as a breeding factory and safeguard for her people even if she seems to be at peace with the decision. It’s just another example of the avalanche of horrors that this war has triggered.
A more uplifting moment of world building relates to Mikasa who learns from Lady Kiyomi that she descends from the Hizuru lineage and that she’s technically of Asian descent. She’s actually a freaking shogun, which is incredibly appropriate for someone as thoroughly badass as Mikasa. This is an enlightening detail, especially in conjunction with Onyankopon’s recent story about his complexion. It’s nice that in a season that’s so fraught with war and wrapping up loose ends that there’s still time to flesh out the anime’s larger world and deliver these more muted moments. There’s a really pleasant sequence where the Eldians are sunkist and blushing under the sunset that makes it almost possible to forget that apocalyptic tension hangs over every single waking minute of these characters’ lives.
“A Sound Argument” is another Attack on Titan installment that spends nearly just as much time looking backwards as it does setting its sights on the future. It follows in line with last week’s installment and they’re two sides of the same coin. The episode’s lack of actual forward momentum may leave it feeling a little deflated, but it’s clear that very big things are imminent. “A Sound Argument” is focused on delicate planning rather than blunt force combat, but it’s still mentally exhausting as more of these master plans come to light and the past meets up with the present.
Simple matters grow more complicated after characters like Gabi, Eren, and Reiner are all in different forms of captivity and ready to go rogue in their own ways. Everyone is preoccupied with the element of surprise over the other teams, yet all of these independent actions may end up cancelling each other out in some sick, ironic way. “A Sound Argument” elegantly details that If everyone plans a double-cross then really nobody is planning a double-cross since all of these renegade actions will clash and contradict each other.
Attack on Titan now has about four different strategies that are running concurrently and there are probably one or two more that haven’t even been revealed yet. These lofty stakes are felt through the perpetual anxiety over the unknown that forces Eldia and Marley to advance, yet not be able to properly examine what’s now in their wake. The desire to move forward has become so palpable that the illusion of progress is more comforting than actual peace. At this point it’s unclear if “winning” this war will even bring this conflict to an end or merely trigger a new age of submission and deception that will last until the cycle repeats itself in another fifty years.
But hey, at least Hange is jazzed over Eren’s new hairdo.