「壁の向こう側」 (Kabe no Mukougawa)
“Beyond the Walls”
And with that the great adventure is over. Or at least for the next year, because you damn well knew they weren’t going to leave things off with this didn’t ya? Yes that’s right boys and girls, SnK’s recent season may have ended, but that doesn’t mean the modern anime phenomenon is over; with a season planned for fall 2020 (barring some unforeseen delay shenanigans) and some crazy material to come it’s all cylinders firing here, and this finale certainly helped reinforce the point. Walls were breached and seas were reached, but beyond into the great unknown? Oh you know the fun which awaits. There’s only so many ways to tease the upcoming good guy schism and accompanying violence after all, and with two of our main group wielding Titan power? Oh yeah, there’s plenty of drama yet to squeeze.
SnK’s grand reveal this season may have upended several years of development, but what’s to come is certain to overshadow everything up until now.
SnK’s adaptation has certainly had a roller coaster ride over the years. After a frankly unprecedented mainstream start (few Japanese series can claim similar levels of international success), the franchise stumbled badly through a combination of heavy delays and lackluster sequel. Couple it with the split cour setup for its third season (and a similarly longish delay in initial airing) and you’re left with a show which doesn’t lack for impact, yet seemingly failed to capitalize on its momentum. It’s an ironic fate for such an iconic franchise, but in the face of vicious face planting SnK’s latest cour successfully did what it needed to do to help right the ship.
What helped SnK recover these past few weeks was undeniably its story. Short season or not, the movement into the meaty part of this plot meant interest from start to end, and in such a scenario a tight runtime only helps intensify the alluring suspense. Whereas before we were left dancing around the edges of grand reveals (a noticeable issue plaguing season 2 with some of its questionable scenes), this time we got them in all their glory—and the satisfaction which comes from finally learning the truth. Sure, we may not know exactly what is to come from this great paradigmatic shift, but simply knowing where we stand and the possibilities open before us is plenty more to go off of than simple “wait and see” greeting prior arcs.
Helping this aspect in particular as well is the other shift SnK made: its character focus. Unlike before with heavy emphasis on Eren and friends, we received a more “generalized” viewpoint this time around, with personal struggles and conflicts largely replaced by big picture conundrums. Make no mistake, we still got some of the issues facing the likes of Eren, Levi, and most recently Armin for example, but these took second stage to the reveal of SnK’s true state of affairs and just where each character now fits in the story. This arguably was the best thing to happen to SnK overall, because while the series has been driven by needs and wants of certain characters for revenge, understanding, or plain survival, it has always been the greater push for worldly knowledge which has defined this story. Titan fights and gorgeous tactical battles may be a treat to watch after all, but it’s the information underpinning their existence which provides logic and sustainability to the audience. Without that knowledge, without these reveals, this season simply would’ve been another visually stunning yet aggravating Ring around the Rosie with nary an answer in sight. Sometimes those infodumps (especially the well-paced variety) are just what the doctor ordered.
While SnK will never be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, this season I believe did what it needed to keep this train chugging nicely along. Nothing will top the shock and awe of SnK’s opening salvo some six years ago now (!), but if season four can match the pacing, animation, and development of this one, we are looking at one hell of a conclusion indeed. The future may not be fully known to us just yet, but SnK will definitely leave its mark on anime history, one way or another.