I am a Political Science graduate, major in International Relations and Foreign Service, with an interest in anime, religion and philosophy
Chapter 100, "Declaration of War", was the most important chapter of the series for me. While reveals such as the truth behind Marley and Reiner and Bertholdt's true allegiances shattered the way we thought about the world, the declaration combined both the overwhelming truth of the growing world around our characters and horrifying betrayal. How does this episode balance expectations with Mappa's interpretation of the events unfolding?
Willy Tybur: The Director of the World and All Its Players
The anime did a splendid job of showing how exactly Willy directed the scenery for the declaration. He used puppets to show the moving Titans eating people and massive set pieces for the Wall Titans. The best part of Willy's direction was the play of the Titan War and costume design. The actors were blindfolded and this is important. For most, it felt like the characters wanted the violence to happen for their convictions. However, Eren said it best, that they were left with no choice. They did not know any better. Marleyeans never got a chance to live with Eldians because of the terrible atrocities the Eldian Empire committed against the world while Eldians were left unaware of the doom that was to fall on them. Both nations were left in their positions based on the narratives set before them by their respective societies and thus, they were unable to change anything. This was something Willy intended to change with his monologue, framed as a retelling of the past and an unfurling of the foundational lie of the world.
Much of Attack on Titan works like Plato's Allegory of the Cave, except it happens on both sides. Marley cemented their view of the Eldians of Paradis as devils while the Eldians in the walls were caged like cattle awaiting the retribution of the world for the crimes of their forefathers. The blindfolds worn by the actors best shows not only the ignorance of each other's truths beyond historical events and the myth of Helos and the devils of Paradis but also of the pure inevitability of human conflict.
Fatalism plays into the characterization of Willy, where he bares his full self before the audience, burdened with the power over Marley and Eldia's fates while knowing he cannot escape from inevitable war.
Willy retold the myth of Helos, unveiling its true nature as the Platonic cave of ignorance that kept the world at peace. The foundational lie of their society premised on a need for atonement, with Karl Fritz, the King of Paradis, declaring himself the scapegoat for his people in exile. Like Fritz, however, Willy was both director and player. Fritz sentenced his people to the altar of sacrifice for his own vision of peace and for the world to decide its fate without them. Willy united the world against Paradis so that they could create their own peace without the Eldian threat. Willy and Fritz bore the blindfold, as though declaring their own acceptance and blindness to the inevitability of humanity's self-destruction.
The Existential Response: We Were Born Into This World
Willy's declaration may be the centerpiece but the whole discourse matches with Eren and Reiner's private meeting. Joined by Falco, the three overhear Willy's confession while a despondent Reiner begs his victim for forgiveness. Reiner's voice actor, Yoshimasa Hosoya, nails Reiner coming to grips with the consequences of everything he has done. The exploration of Reiner's character in these past episodes has paid off, showing a broken young man losing every sense of certainty over his place in the world. Indeed, his mission of saving the world was nothing more than a blindfold and he was a player, directed by Marley to carry out Eldia's extinction and drown his people to perpetual imprisonment in a cave of ignorance.
Eren comes like a savior, confessor and judge all at once, offering Reiner understanding to comfort his anxieties and frank resolution that terrifies him and Falco. The scene where a young Bertholdt talked about the man that committed suicide also establishes Eren's role for Reiner as the judge of his actions. Yet this judge wears a blindfold too. As the two share their traumas, they also hear from outside of how the world misled them and realized that they really did not know any better. Eren did feel that both of them were players in the cycle of violence but Eren made his choice before he could led to the same turns.
It was not until we hear Willy open himself to the world that we see the two narratives, of Eren's Resurrection moment and Willy's woe, come together. Willy bears guilt and loathing for being Eldian but declared that he lives because he was born into this world. This statement resonated with Eren. As Willy called for the world to unite against Eren, the revolutionary opened his cut hand before the penitent Reiner. Both declared their narratives: Willy moved the world against Eren just as Eren moves forward against the world.
From Eren's words, it is clear that this cycle that has blinded all of them to ignorance and mutually-assured destruction had to stop somehow. It would not mean through the taming of the cattle or the slaying of the devils but by destroying the world that denies the cattle their freedom. Nothing can stop him by this point.
Strong Presentation, Higher Expectations
Episode 5 has incredible art from start to finish. Many scenes deserve some praise.
The shots for Karl Fritz slowly resembling a statue emphasized his place as a historical figure and his static nature as a symbol of deterrence.
Kenny and Uri's scene was reshot with more melancholy and tragic beauty.
Snippets of the Rumbling were horrifying, establishing the scale the coming apocalypse would befall.
The adaptation nails the lighting of scenes, allowing Willy to be clear in view while appearing realistic with light sources. Camera flashes sounded like gunfire, a display of the season's approach to war.
The music for the declaration showcased the swirl of emotions Willy directed his mind and the audience to.
Nailing the most pivotal scenes from the manga proved to be a challenge that Mappa has masterfully dealt with through their color choices and scene direction.
However, fans are divided over the final scene and how it displays the strength of the adaptation. All the right pieces fit together. Even the minor events surrounding the speech were key to making the climax of the episode burst right in front of our awestruck eyes.
Having read the manga first, the episode was amazing, but the problem is that the manga's presentation is simply too astounding to be surpassed at all due to the sequence of spreads Isayama cemented into our minds beforehand. Furthermore, Mappa had to balance expectations with their own realities, whether it be different creative decisions or a hectic production schedule.
Whatever opinions you have on the music choice or the presentation of the last part of the episode, you cannot deny how significant the moment was for the whole series.
We were led to this point and we were born for this moment.