Prepare to be disgusted.
For as gory and merciless as Attack on Titan is, this episode puts previous dark, visceral episodes to shame. Biting humans in half is one thing, but this particular abnormal titan is a whole new level of just gross.
If you haven’t already caught up to this point in Season 3, turn back now. Full spoilers for “Ruler of the Walls” are ahead.
Last episode’s cliffhanger left off with a transformed Rod Reiss barreling toward the Orvud District. “Ruler of the Walls” follows the Scouts’ daring gamble to save the district, and features probably one of Attack on Titan’s more clever battles too.
The Scouts use an entire district of people as bait, which is cruel, but makes the lead-up to their encounter with Rod stressful and exciting. Similar to the tricks the Scouts used against Kenny and his goons, the Scouts employ explosives once again. First to knock Rod of balance, and then another round for Eren to deliver, and Historia finishes him off. In the midst of all of this, we see both Historia and Eren grow once again.
Eren’s growth is somewhat within the realm of how he’s been developed in the past but also moves forward in a constructive way. He’s coming to terms with not being as special as he once thought he was. This is a good moment, which is then soon spoiled by his usual, self-deprecating nature. I like seeing Eren vulnerable and disappointed, but I hate seeing him take these moments that are meant to be learning experiences and turning them into punishments.
Once again, Historia takes the badass crown.
With Historia, however, I keep getting more and more thrilled by her character. She knows she has to become the queen, but she’s not doing it just because others are telling her to. More importantly, Historia is doing it the way she wants to, which is by earning the people’s respect by being on the front lines. We see her put her feet down with Erwin, we see her in the heat of the battle, coming to terms with her defiance, and we see her after she’s landed the last blow, standing before her people and claiming her throne. Once again, Historia takes the badass crown, and I’m still so here for it.
Even though the action and character growth (outside of Eren’s strange moments of beating himself) stays strong throughout this episode too, the best part of it is the animation. I haven’t been quite as wowed by the animation in this season outside of the second episode, and “Ruler of the Walls” delivered all the beauty and fluidity I remember in “Pain,” but in a slightly more disgusting way.
I’m glad CG is used relatively sparingly in this episode, and unlike most CG that is used in anime, it complements the drawn sequences rather than distracting from them. I love that we get all of those revolting details from Rod’s Titan body being dragged against the ground. The way Rod’s organs drop against the wall and the blood drips down, the entire cross-section of his face, the way his body blows into chunks–they’re all deliciously grotesque. Had these particular instances been done in CG alone, I’m not sure it would have had the same sickening tone.