This is not a drill. The immensely popular anime, Attack on Titan is now entering its fourth and final season. And with the trailer for Season 4 having just dropped recently, I thought it was important to run and hide down memory lane and remember some of the show’s best episodes, all of which can be found on streaming services like Hulu and Crunchyroll.
For those who don’t know, Attack on Titan, which debuted back in 2013, is about walled in cities where enormous titans roam about on the outside. But one day, those walls are destroyed by an all-out Titan attack. A teenager named Eren Jaeger is a hero with a dark secret, and he vows revenge on the titans after one eats his mother. He and his friends, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, join the military to fight off the titans. But as you learn watching the show, more mysteries than answers unravel as the story progresses. You can watch the first season on Netflix (where you can also catch the excellent Castlevania cartoon) but will have to find other means to watch seasons 2 and 3. Oh, and just so you know, minor spoilers ahead.
10. “To You, in 2000 Years: The Fall of Shiganshina, Part 1” Season 1, Episode 1
The first episode is pretty much a litmus test for whether or not you’ll like Attack on Titan. In this episode, we learn about the walls that prevent the titans from harming humans. Our hero, Eren, wants to join the military so he can get outside the walls and see the world. But he gets more than he bargained for once the walls are destroyed by a massive monster later labeled as the Colossal Titan. Chaos ensues, and people are eaten alive. And then, Eren witnesses something that will haunt him for the rest of his life that I won’t spoil here. The look of sheer terror in his eyes though is enough to give anyone nightmares.
The first episode is a truly violent and disgusting spectacle. The fact that it’s so startling and disturbing makes it one of the best episodes in the series just for its sheer shock value alone. This episode proved that this wasn’t just any other anime. This one was special.
9. “Scream” Season 2, Episode 12
Eren is at a loss when his secret ability doesn’t come through for him in a crucial battle against the Armored Titan. But he finds out that he has another ability that he had no idea about buried deep within him. Meanwhile, we learn something interesting at the very end when it comes to the Beast Titan, whom we learned about at the start of the season.
To be honest, Season 2 is arguably the worst season of Attack on Titan. It’s unbearably slow for the first half, and only slightly picks up when we start learning more about who the titans really are. But this episode stands out because of that new ability we find out that Eren has since it changes everything. Unfortunately, nothing really comes of this new ability in Season 3, but as a finale for Season 2, it really gets the blood pumping.
8. “Close Combat” Season 2, Episode 7
Eren and the Armored Titan get into some close combat, as the title of this episode suggests. Meanwhile, the Colossal Titan is letting off some steam like Bennett in Commando, which burns many of the scouts and keeps them from delivering the coup de grace. As this is going on, the Armored Titan is getting the upper hand with Eren, but Eren manages to grapple with him, turning the tide. In the end, though, the Colossal Titan uses his own burning body to aid the Armored Titan.
Again, Season 2 is kind of weak, but this battle is like a chess match, with the scouts and the Titans trading attacks back and forth. It’s up close, it’s personal, and it’s visceral, just how I like it.
7. “First Battle: The Struggle for Trost, Part 1” Season 1, Episode 5
This first battle is a blood bath. Mikasa is trying to get people out of the city while the Titans wreak havoc, and Eren is preparing to take out the Colossal Titan by striking him in the nape. But the Titans overwhelm them. Eren gets his leg bitten off, and Armin loses his wits and gets eaten! Gulp!
The next few episodes kind of walk back the harrowing events of “First Battle”, but this episode is pretty much a case study in suspense. I know the movie Uncut Gems has nothing to do with Attack on Titan, but the overall sense of anxiety I got while watching that film is akin to how I felt about this episode the first time I saw it. Just complete an utter dread throughout.
6. “Reply” Season 3, Episode 5
Scout member, Erwin, pleads his case to the council to take back Wall Maria so as not to create tension with its citizens due to dwindling resources. This idea is shot down, though, and Erwin gets a death sentence because of events that happened previously. But then, word reaches the council that Titans have broken through Wall Rose. To prevent the Titans from getting to the council, they order the gates to be closed, dooming the citizens to be eaten alive. But it’s all a ruse to get the council to look bad, which initiates a coup.
This episode is phenomenal since it’s all about the politics that exist within this universe. There are no people getting eaten or battles waged with massive monsters. Instead, it’s just the monsters in the room who would rather save themselves than help others. A deceptively smart episode.
5. “Forest of Giant Trees: The 57th Exterior Scouting Mission, Part 2” Season 1, Episode 18
There’s a new Titan in town, and it’s a female. The Female Titan decimated the troops with a surprise attack in the last episode, and Armin, Reiner, and Jean are pinned down. But they get rescued by Christa. Newly safe, they think they’re going to retreat, but lo and behold, the attack has just moved somewhere else—this time to a giant forest for better positioning. But things aren’t right, since scout leader, Levi, who always appears to be calm in the face of danger, seems to have no plan at all, putting the scouts in peril.
This is a thrilling episode because of the new location—the dark forest—and also because it puts Levi’s leadership capabilities into question. Whereas up to this point, he seemed like the only character who actually had his head on his shoulders, in this episode, it made it seem like he was a questionable leader. Plus, the Female Titan is just badass, and a welcome, albeit horrifying, addition.
4. “Ruler of the Walls” Season 3, Episode 9
“Rod’s” Titan (that’s really what he’s called) is the biggest Titan ever. So big, he’s literally dragging himself for miles to get to the Orvud District. But a trap is set for him, and he gets his neck blown up. His daughter, Historia, proclaims herself the new ruler of the walls.
The image alone of “Rod’s” Titan dragging himself still haunts me to this day. It reminds me of something out of a Miyazaki movie, but far more nightmarish. I also love the pacing of this episode and how it ends. It all makes for a satisfying crescendo to Part 1 of Season 3.
3. “Perfect Game” Season 3, Episode 16
Armin is put in charge due to certain circumstances, but he doesn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, the Beast Titan is hurling rocks at scouts and killing everybody in sight. Eren tries to stop the Colossal Titan, but is knocked out. All hope is lost in this epic episode.
This one still haunts me since the scouts who are going after the Beast Titan know they are on a suicide mission and are basically being used as a distraction while the Thunder Spears are being set up for the Colossal Titan. When the episode starts showing the soldiers having visions of the futures they’ll never have, it really puts you in a mindset of the horrors of war.
2. “Hero” Season 3, Episode 17
This is a follow-up episode to “Perfect Game,” and it just blows my mind. Levi takes on the Beast Titan BY HIMSELF, but the Cart Titan rescues him before Levi can take him back. While this is going on, the scouts are trying to destroy the Armored Titan, and Armin sacrifices himself so that Eren can get in close. But Armin burns up to do so, giving the episode its title.
Levi taking on the Beast Titan alone is my favorite moment in the entire series so far. But I just love how the previous episode and this one are so dire. More dire than any other episodes in the series. The stakes are as sky high in this episode as the Titans our heroes are fighting against.
1. “That Day” Season 3, Episode 20
We learn so much in this episode. Eren has a dream about the life of his father, and we learn that there was a whole world outside of the walls that existed. I don’t want to spoil this episode since it’s the best in the series, but we also learn about how the mindless Titans come to exist, as well as how Eren’s able to transform in the first place.
So many mysteries are uncovered in this episode, but they create even more mysteries. I fell in love with Attack on Titan because of the premise in the first season, but this episode made me a believer in this story since it expanded the lore beyond my wildest imagination. There are shows like Lost that start out fantastic but then end up being disappointing because the writers didn’t think things through. And then there are shows like Attack on Titan that make you want to go back to the first episode because you’re wondering if there were hints even back then. That’s the power of this episode.
As of this writing, there is no official date other than “Fall 2020” for Season 4 of Attack on Titan, but if it can keep pumping out episodes like these, then I think I’ll be very happy with the conclusion.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.