Attack on Titan Final Season: Episode 9 – “Brave Volunteers”

The first half of the episode sees Armin talking to someone, and talking about how there was a chance things could have turned out differently three years ago. This leads into a flashback that shows what led up to the invasion that was portrayed earlier in the season.

The first thing we see is a Marley force trying to invade Paradis Island. Instead, they are ambushed by Eren in Titan form and their ship being taken ashore. They’re greeted by Levi and Hange, who are holding a man named Nicolo hostage. We get a great interaction between Hange and Levi here, and I have to say that throughout this episode, Levi gets some great lines. When the commander of the force is about to shoot at Levi and Hange, everyone is surprised when the commander of the force is shot in the head by one of his own. We are introduced to Yelena, who, along with a companion named Onyankopon, join forces with Levi and the others.

Yelena and Onyankopon are Anti-Marleyan volunteers who work for Zeke Jaeger, with a goal of freeing the Eldian people. As part of their mission, they provide information about Marley’s military capabilities, as well as some demands from Zeke about a potential plan to take on Marley (which is basically what we saw during the invasion of Marley). When Zeke’s demands are brought forward to Historia and the government, there are those that are against it, including Historia’s advisor. However, the Scouts and their allies argue for it, and Eren reveals something that happened earlier in the series that lends credence to Zeke’s plan. Unfortunately, Levi is unhappy with Eren for withholding this vital information, but Eren says he did it to protect Historia. Speaking of Historia, it was jarring to see her character design here. Just looking at her eyes, she almost looks like she’s dead inside. I don’t blame this on MAPPA, though, because as I recall, she looked the same way in the original manga source material. I think this is to signify how much being thrust into this royal role has changed her. And really, she didn’t even say anything during this meeting, which gives her more of a feel of a figurehead than anything else. She may hold a title, but it seems like she doesn’t wield any power that should theoretically accompany that title.

After the plan is approved, Armin mentions in his narration that Yelena and Onyankopon proved that they have some friends across the sea and they taught them a lot about the outside world. A scene that really stood out to me was when Onyankopon (who is Black) is asked why his skin was so dark. At that moment, it really hit me that up to this point in the series, the only characters we ever saw were light-skinned. I feel ashamed that I had never noticed this earlier. Yes, I did see this part in the manga, but it just really hit me while watching this episode. Onyankopon has to be given credit for how he handled this question, because I’m sure this was an awkward situation for him.

Nicolo, the man Levi and Hange had used as a hostage earlier, has become a cook for the Scouts, and we see the first time he prepares Marleyan dishes. Most of the group is unsure of what to think of it, but Sasha dives right in… and she loves it. The look on Nicolo’s face when he hears Sasha complimenting his cooking said a lot without saying anything.

We then return to the current time, with Nicolo and members of the Scouts visiting Sasha’s grave. A touching moment happens here when Sasha’s family arrives at the gravesite. Nicolo introduces himself and explains how Sasha loved his cooking, and he offers to cook for the family. I thought this was a touching scene.

We also see Levi escorting Zeke to his “hotel”… a big forest full of tall trees. Again, Levi had some great lines during this scene. Unfortunately, because of the incident with Gabi, Pyxis and the Scouts have to take precautions with Yelena, Onyankopon, Nicolo, and the others from Marley. Yelena understands why, but as a viewer, it was hard to see after how much of a friendship these characters had developed with the Scouts.

We also see Gabi and Falco have been confined in a cell. Gabi is still very angry and muttering about Eren Jaeger. She’s definitely going to be trouble.

And right at the end, we see who Armin was talking with at the beginning of the episode… the crystallized Annie. I thought this was an interesting twist.

When the episode started out by providing backstory for what just transpired earlier in the season, I was afraid that it was going to be boring… but it wasn’t. The actual backstory only lasted for half of the episode, but the events were interesting enough that it didn’t come across as an “info dump.” And then we got a little bit of story progression in the second half of the episode. It’s going to be an interesting ride to see how much more this story is going to progress and evolve over the next few weeks.

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