This blog contains major spoilers for Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 2 Episode 4. If you are not caught up with the series, I advise doing that before watching this blog. You’ve been warned. Rise up, Jagerists! Salute from your hearts and belch your boisterous battle cries as we witness Eren make his way to the top of the list of anime’s most dastardly, diabolical, and inexplicably devious schemers of all time.
The characters who cooked up a secret plan and plot twist so comprehensive and mind-boggling that it has you questioning everything you’ve ever believed. That makes it feel like Eren knew every single thought you ever had before you even had it, which honestly isn’t too far from the truth.
And yes, you all know what I’m talking about. Eren literally manipulated everything while everyone was playing checkers. Eren was not just playing chess, but somehow inventing chess at the same time, across time itself.
Eren schemed up until this point exactly how he wanted all to go in one of the most insane plot twists of all time in anime, and there is a certain art to making a great plot twist, a number of factors that both keep readers and viewers from guessing that it’ll happen and making sure the moment when it’s revealed is incredibly impactful, not just because of the plot twist in information, but the setting, build-up, performance, all of it is very fundamentally important.
Let’s talk about it in the first step, which is what I call the art of distraction. You can’t stop people from making theories. The hints the author has dabbled throughout the series are always there, and what Attack on Titan mastered perfectly is distracting us from thinking about it up until the very last moment.
The reveal of the Attack Titan’s actual ability was so powerful because it was completely unexpected. Why is that? I’m sure people could have thought that there was far more to the Attack Titan, but why wasn’t it a big cause for concern among the community? Why wasn’t it a big theory?
Looking in hindsight, there’s a specificity to almost every Titan’s ability: the Armored Titan’s defense, Colossal Titan’s size, Jaw Titan’s well, jaws, Cart Titan’s mobility and longevity, Warhammer Titan’s creation of structures, the Female Titan’s hardening and ability to crystallize, the Beast Titan’s hairiness, of course, and then the Attack Titan is what?
Just a naked dude who can fight and eventually learns how to harden, basically just copying the Female Titan. Why wouldn’t we suspect there was more to it? Well, it’s quite simple. Since the end of Season 2, Eren’s Attack Titan has been far overshadowed by the Founding Titan.
In Season 1 and 2, Titan shifters are still kind of unclear, and we don’t really have a reason to question the Attack Titan or think more about it. The show is simple and still picking up at this point. By Season 3, once we really start world-building, the focus shifts to trying to figure out what the Founding Titan even is. We figure out its powers, how it played a role in the Rice family and King of Paradise’s vow against violence.
We’re finding that the Founding Titan is arguably the most important and powerful titan out there, and Eren has it in season 4. What’s important is now finding out how Eren can access this power. Now that we know what it is, the series continues to hold the Founding Titan and its relevance to the story in the limelight.
Frankly, by this point in Attack on Titan, it purposefully makes it feel like the Attack Titan is more of a means so that Eren can fight, while the Founding Titan is the real power he holds. That the Attack Titan is really just a supplement, if anything, which is certainly true to some extent. But the show is constantly distracting us from the craziest power of them all.
If you want to see another example of Attack on Titan using this art of distraction more, look at the second biggest plot twist when Reiner and Berthold reveal their identities as Titans. In the episodes leading up to this, we have a super intense fight for the Survey Corps, as well as the reveal that Ymir was a Titan shifter.
It was crazy to see that there’s another shifter. It’s the first one we’ve seen since Annie. We’re left wondering how she got her power, what her goal is, is it like Annie’s, or is she different? And then Isayama surprises us immediately with something far more insane. We were so distracted by other things, other important things.
Ymir’s story and status as a Titan shifter is super important, just like how the Founding Titan is also super important. Right now, it’s not like we’re being distracted by little trivial moments or purposeful red herrings, but the big reveals are always being saved for the perfect time amidst the chaos of it all, and it takes a particular skill in storytelling and writing to find those little spaces, those ideal moments. And this is part of why Reiner and Berthold’s plot twist was also amazing.
Returning to the case of Eren’s twist, even in the most recent episodes, zooming into the moments before the reveal, this theory of distracting the audience still goes, but this time it’s not with the Founding Titan, really. It’s distracting us with Zeke. The cliffhanger of episode 3 left us believing that Zeke tricked Eren into giving him the power of the Founding Titan, allowing Zeke to use it solely according to his own will and as a bearer of royal blood.
And honestly, just because of how ambiguous the Founding Titan and Ymir are at this point, you don’t really have a place to question this. Like, yeah, you might think that Eren has something else up his sleeve, but it kind of seems like he’s trapped at this point, ’cause you don’t really know any better.
And then in episode 4, up until the point of the reveal, it’s a total slow burner. We’re exposed to a lot of dialogue and even more insight into Zeke’s belief about Grisha and how he brainwashed Eren into believing his doctrine of wanting to free Eldia from the Marlians. Once again, I’ll emphasize that this distraction, per se, is very, very important for character building and fleshing out Zeke and Grisha’s character. It’s as much a distraction as it is a pretty important plot point.
Ever since Zeke and Eren spoke at Shiganshina, the first thing Zeke ever told Eren was how Grisha brainwashed him. This show is leading us to believe that Zeke is really running this scene in his attempt to show Eren exactly how Grisha molded him. Their discussion about their father distracting them from the truth that was yet to come, and then we get to the monumental scene.
First, just take note of how beautiful the soundtrack is here – the build-up and just how menacing the orchestral music behind Grisha and Frida’s discussion is, as it gradually gets more and more hostile. It’s building up to the moment we all know is coming, where Grisha eats the royal family.
He says very subtly, almost like it’s not important, that the Attack Titan’s true power is the ability to see its future bearer’s memories, and you’re thinking, “What does that mean? What can Grisha see? Then how does this change things?” Dozens of thoughts swirl in our heads, alongside the anticipation of the violence and massacre of eating the royal family, with the music belting in our ears, along with Hiroshi Toshida’s absolutely incredible voice acting and performance here.
There’s so much going on; it’s almost like overstimulation, and then it stops, just like when Reiner and Bertolt were revealed. Attack on Titan perfectly uses silence to make the moment of reveal strike clear and poignant. And then the music returns, just for a moment – the frightening villain piano theme just slightly hinting at the devious twist that is to come.
Grisha falls to his knees and claims that he can’t kill children. Wait, what? The panic sets in – the royal family screaming at Frida to kill him, Zeke asking what’s going on, and how it could even be possible that the past is changing right now in front of his eyes. And then it happens – you realize this isn’t some different version of the past that’s occurring like Zeke thinks; this is the one story everyone’s been living. This is history.
This is fact – one that Eren made happen. We see the true power of the Attack Titan come to life as Eren grabs Grisha’s shoulder and tells him exactly what he must do. The beautiful contrast here between Eren’s stone-cold, determined face and Grisha’s fear and wavering commitment. It’s clear that Grisha would never do this if Eren were not there.
“Did you forget what you came here to do? Your sister who got eaten by dogs, your wife was turned into a Titan. You don’t stop here. You don’t stop in death. You don’t stop even after death.” It’s horrifically beautiful – everything about this moment. Not only does it shock us to our core with the power of the Attack Titan and Eren’s ability to actually change the past with it, but it also shows us the unwavering and indomitable mindset that Eren carries with him.
The reason Zeke thought Grisha brainwashed Eren was because he was carrying out the will of Eren himself. The subtle line here, but Grisha says how he killed the entire royal family except the father, and us knowing that Eren needs the father in order to meet Historia and make contact with the Founding Titan. It’s more than just Eren changing the past too – he’s molded this story into what he wanted it to be.
He doesn’t show Grisha all his memories, only what he needs to, to make sure he follows exactly what he says. It’s insanely manipulative and almost unbelievable what Grisha could not do, Eren could, to achieve his goal to take away their freedom before they take hours.
This is the culmination of Eren’s character up until this point, it’s something that’s been hinted at since season 1, that Eren will never submit to anyone. This has nothing to do with his titan or what cage or chains you might shackle him with, Eren proves that he stops at nothing in this single moment, just like what Grisha says, only Eren will get what he wants.
The beauty of this perfect plot twist is that the plot itself was always written by Eren. As always, this has been the Anime Culture Corner.
I hope you enjoyed the blog.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.