Ugh, okay, chapter 81 of AoT, and I’m in the corner cryin’.
But seriously, what an emotionally powerful chapter this was. God man, it’s gonna’ take me a minute to get my thoughts in order.
Well, first of all, Erwin, and all of the recruits, watching them sacrifice their lives here was just so absolutely, emotionally powerful. Just incredibly moving and heartbreaking. Even after Erwin gets hit and falls, (and the panels here of him dying are truly devastating, powerful images) to see the recruits continuing to charge forward, to carry on in his stead, it really is just so intense, and as well speaks to Erwin’s own power as a commander, how he was able to inspire these people into giving their lives for a greater cause. To see their courage in the face of certain death, carrying on Erwin’s spirt here, it truly was one of the most moving, and also one of the most heart-wrenching moments in SnK up to this point. I felt so much for all of them. The way Marlowe thought of Hitch too, in the end, never realizing it was because he was in love with her, ugh, my heart.
Now contrasting that, and I swear to Christ, I really, REALLY don’t understand how anyone can sympathize with Zeke given the sick display he puts on here, his cruelty and ego-driven rage towards these young men and women, and how he lets his rage towards his father fuel his violence towards these innocent people just... it pisses me off so much. I can’t even. I mean, Zeke is one twisted, sick mother fucker. He’s demented, truly, the way he swings wildly between violent rage and perverse glee as he kills them, and then has the unmitigated gall to act like he feels sorry for these people, how clearly he thinks of them as pitiful and pathetic, their sacrifice as meaningless. He treats them like their lives are pointless, and then has the nerve to play at sympathy for their plight. What pisses me off the most about Zeke is how utterly self-centered he is. How everything he does, everything he thinks, is filtered through his own view of the world and life, and how he never once stops to consider the lives of others, their own views or experiences. Because he’s deemed his own life as worthless and without point, so too has he deemed the lives of every other Eldian. He’s far and away the most self-centered, ego-driven and selfish character in the whole series. Oh, he just made me sick here. His own hypocrisy is equally disgusting, with how angry he becomes when Levi dares to make him pay for what he’s done. As if he can’t believe anyone would dare cause him harm, unable to comprehend why they would even wish to do so, as if he’s some great, godly figure sent to the world to bestow his twisted sense of mercy on those he deems unfit to live. Just the whining, hysterical reaction he has to getting fucked up. The ego on this guy is seemingly infinite. He truly is despicable. Just a pathetic child of a man taking out his issues on everyone but himself, throwing temper tantrums when anyone dares to challenge him on what he’s decided is right. Fuck Zeke. Seriously, just... fuck this guy so much.
Now, enough about him, let’s talk about Levi.
Truly, some of the most heartbreaking moments we’ve seen with Levi up to this point happen in this chapter. The moments following him taking Zeke down (and yes, that whole sequence was epically bad-ass), just seeing the depth of Levi’s pain here was so devastating, and incredibly moving. You can see how preoccupied he is with what’s happened. Zeke isn’t even his main consideration or concern. He seems almost distracted, looking back behind him, out over the field of his fallen comrades and friends, and wondering in an almost frantic, inner monologue to himself if anyone out there is still alive. He’s hoping beyond hope that someone, ANYONE, is, so that he can save at least one person. This goes back to Levi’s determination to keep the new recruits alive back in I think chapter 78 or 79, ordering them not to die, and then trying desperately to get those with the horses back on the other side of the wall. It really puts into perspective just how devastating this is for Levi, to see all of these people, dead, crushed to death by rocks, all of these people who just a short while ago he had been doing everything he could to protect. To know they had to die to save only a few. HIs desperation here, the way he clings to the hope that at least one person is still alive, out of all of them, to be saved, the way he reminds himself that as long as they’re breathing, it can be done, if he gives them the serum, it all just drives home in the most poignant way just how pained Levi is at the sacrifice they’ve all made. It drives home how much it’s cost Levi, to allow them to do it. I said before that him making that choice for Erwin was Levi going against every, innate feeling and instinct that he has, the need to protect and save people. Levi had to go directly against his own nature in order to make that call, and the consequences of that are plain to see in these panels. His wide eyed, shocked expression, the frantic, mantra-like thoughts going through his mind, almost childlike in the way he keeps asking if anyone is still alive out there, if there’s anyone he can bring back. And the way he thinks of Erwin specifically when he asks that, it serves as such a cruel reminder that Levi’s just given up one of his dearest and closest friends. That he’s just willingly lost a person that meant so much to him, in order to obtain any sort of victory for humanity. It reminds us of the personal cost to Levi. Another person he’s lost in this battle for humanity’s salvation. Ah, he just breaks my heart so much here. And also how it’s that hope, that desperate wish that someone is still able to be saved, that stays Levi’s hand from killing Zeke immediately. How it’s purely Levi’s wish to save someone that keeps him from killing Zeke then and there, it truly speaks volumes about what kind of person Levi really is, about how much he values life.
And then of course there’s Levi’s reaction when Pieke catches him off guard and steals Zeke away. Levi’s stunned horror, as he watches Zeke escaping is, for one, I think, because his chance to save even one life is being taken away, there before his eyes, and, of course, because the purpose behind all of his comrades sacrifices, the reason they gave up their lives, in order for Levi to kill Zeke and provide those left a means of escape, is being rendered meaningless. We then see Levi’s stunned horror turn to unbridled rage, as he realizes the promise he’d made to Erwin is slipping from his hands. He can’t allow for all of these people to have died in vain, he can’t let their sacrifices mean nothing, he can’t let that stand. Once again, the depth with which Levi values the lives of other people is truly incredible, and the emotion in these panels is perhaps the most powerful example of that quality in Levi up to this point in the story. I just felt so much for him all throughout this.
When you think about what Levi’s been through here, too, how before he even went after the Beast Titan, he’d already run himself ragged taking down some unknown number of smaller Titans to protect the horses and the new recruits, and then in order to get to Zeke, he had to take down probably a dozen or more 12 or 15 meter Titans, before finally taking the Beast Titan down, all this by himself, it displays the strength of Levi’s will so powerfully, how much of himself he’s willing to give in order to further the cause of others. For him to then continue to go after Zeke, after all of that, just the way he never gives up, never stops fighting, exemplifies how wholly Levi truly embodies the ideal of the Survey Corps, and the fight for humanity. What an absolute hero he is.