I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
"A Sound Argument", much like "From One Hand to Another", presents Attack on Titan's take on international relations. Both episodes combine pretense, constructivist worldviews, and displays of diversity to create a massive, sprawling world in spite of the limited details we were given.
While the politics of the new Eldia are beginning to form before our audience, we also have a keen interest in how our characters are doing so far. This episode highlights how significantly Eren has changed since he saw the doom to befall on the other side of the ocean.
Eren Then and Now
As Eren declares his intention to fight for Paradis' survival, Hange interrupts him, piqued by how he is talking to himself. Hange first met Eren in prison in Season 1 and would later visit him in a similar cell after saving Armin in Season 3. Romi Park does well to make Hange's repetition of "fight" aggravating to hear and it could be inferred that Hange was trying to provoke Eren while indulging in her own curiosity.
We see Eren's change through a series of flashbacks from two years back, recalling the Azumabito alliance, Historia's pregnancy and the railroad scene, where Eren shares one last pleasant moment with his friends before he heads for Marley and to doom the world that threatens what he loves.
Hizuru and the Making of a State
Yelena arranges a meeting between the government of Paradis Island and the ambassador from the nation of Hizuru, Kiyomi Azumabito. For Paradis to open itself to the world, it needs to establish diplomatic ties with a sovereign state. This would also allow the fledgling nation to gain more access to resources.
This event was somewhat important for Mikasa Ackerman, a descendant of the Shogun clan. Over a century ago, a son from the Shogun clan joined with Karl Fritz as he closed Paradis off. His descendants would stay on the island but suffer through persecution, which culminated in the death of Mikasa's Asian mother at the hands of bandits. The act of keeping a traditional tattoo was a sign of a long-lasting heritage kept intact amidst difficult times.
The integration of the Azumabito establishes a clear understanding of where Paradis is currently located in the Attack on Titan world's international relations. Given the looming danger it presents, the world barely treats it as a sovereign state or having any human inhabitants. As such, its citizens are not considered to possess inalienable human rights. On their end, Paradis did not conceptualize what nations are and have presumed humanity to be one society. This does bring a small commentary on the organization of society within the Walls. At face value, they may appear to live under a utopia because the threat of the Titans brings humanity together for safety. However, we slowly see that the government is more concerned with controlling the people than keeping them alive based on their individual dignity. Their collective concern is a front for their desire to maintain power over their lives.
Attack on Titan also presents Paradis' situation as a case study for different theories of how states are formed or identified. There are two ways to recognize a state: the constitutive theory whereby statehood is gained by being recognized by a majority of nations, and the declarative theory where other countries accept a state when it has a population and territory run by an effective government. Paradis possessed the requirements to gain recognition for being a state. However, because of their isolation, they would not be treated as such. In the real world, one requirement for statehood was the capacity to enter into international relations, which was mostly applied when there were still colonies around. With a possible Hizuru alliance, Paradis would potentially lobby for its existence to be validated by the rest of the world.
Intrigue and Impatience
During the meeting between the Hizuru delegation and the Paradis military, Kiyomi discusses Zeke's terms openly. The anime uses this episode to fully reveal Zeke's plan publicly. Showing the ODM gear he took from Mike Zacharias in Season 2, Zeke goes on to explain his plan for Paradis. First, they would have to test the Rumbling's effects and show the world what would happen if they dared to attack Paradis. Second is the cooperation between Hizuru and Paradis' military to ensure they are prepared for a global conflict as the island has been lagging behind in terms of technology. Third, the Founding Titan and a Royal blood Titan must be passed down continuously. The third condition alarmed Eren, as it would involve turning Historia and her future offspring into Titans. Dismissing Zeke's plan outright, Eren looks for another way.
However, even while this was happening, Historia already made her choice and it was something no one expected.
To the bafflement of the Military Police, Historia chose to get pregnant. Amidst the intrigue behind how she did it, there is a more important discussion behind this decision. She essentially put both Zeke and the Military Police into a corner. If she were made into a Titan, her child would die, and she might not give birth again. However, Zeke only has less than a year left and they need for his Titan to be passed on for the Rumbling to take full effect.
Yet even beyond the strategic implications, was Historia's choice done for her self-satisfaction, that is to bring life into the world by her own volition?
The scene with the Military Police also affirms Eren's distrust over them. Who could blame him given his experience with Rod Reiss and the trial in Season 1? They plot to make use of the Queen in order to secure victory and any form of control over the tense situation with Marley.
Enjoying Borrowed Time
Having asserted his disagreement over Zeke's plan, Eren calls for his friends to help with work on the railroad in order to improve Paradis' economic capabilities. In truth, this was his way of bonding with his precious friends before deciding on the path to take.
Apart from the cute moment of Armin going after Sasha for water, a lot of this moment is built on the question of who would inherit Eren's Titan. It is interesting how Eren refused to let Historia live this life yet he knew his Titan must be inherited for Paradis to have a fighting chance. Historia is no longer a soldier and deserved a life of her own choosing. What the moment sells most, however, is Eren trusting his friends and wanting them to not live the life he has. To live long lives. The Curse of Ymir takes a toll on Titan Shifters, who would be forced into lives of conflict, unable to live normally and peacefully. Peace would evade them and in this moment in the sunset, Eren wished it would last a lifetime.
Has Eren Given Up?
With the attack against Marley, has Eren affirmed that violence is the only solution? Did he have any part in Historia's pregnancy? From how he has treated Hange's inquiry, we cannot say for sure if we know what Eren's path is.
Armin brings up the possibility that he might have been convinced by Zeke's proposal. Given his time in Marley, has anything changed from the man who wished his friends would live in peace?