After concluding the last chapter with Eren and Mikasa’s mutiny against Levi’s orders, tensions are high in the Survey Corps. The surviving members argue over who should receive the Titan serum: Armin, who was left severely burned and critically injured after his attack on the Collosal Titan, or Erwin, who emerged from his suicide mission against the Beast Titan on the brink of death.
Eren attempts to steal the serum, so Levi attacks him, prompting Mikasa to retaliate. Remembering the past, Eren defends his decision to save Armin, while the last member of Erwin’s unit opposes him, saying that it was his job to make sure the commander survived. Mikasa goes to fight the soldier but is held back by Hange. Eren makes a final plea for Levi to save Armin’s life, before he is dragged away, and Levi is left to make decision. Erwin’s final act is to refuse the serum and he dies, leaving Armin to shift into a Titan and eat Bertolt.
This chapter definitely seems to have polarised opinions in the fanbase. Just like the Survey Corps, every reader appears to have their own ideas over who should have survived. Many believe that Armin is useless, and unfit to fill Erwin’s shoes as a commanding member of the Survey Corps.
However, if Armin was truly incapable, Levi wouldn’t have had such a hard decision. While Erwin’s death could have been avoided, it was also foreshadowed for the last year. Since he lost his arm, he grew more and more obsessed with the idea of dying. As I said in my review for chapter 74, he took a step back and began to train Armin as a someone who could eventually replace him. Erwin had cast aside his dream of finding the basement, in order to fulfil the mission. Levi himself has had to come to terms with the idea of losing Erwin, because ten chapters ago he was threatening to stop him from going on a suicide mission but allowed him to go against the Beast Titan a few chapters later.
While Armin may not have the experience or expertise that Erwin had, he is able to see things from a different angle, one which may not be clouded by the past. He was able to figure out the identity of the Female Titan. He was able to come up with the strategy which won the Battle of Trost, despite being terrified. He was able to find where Reiner was hiding during the fight for Shiganshina and had a key role in bringing down Bertolt. Armin may not have made the best first impression, but he’s grown a lot over the course of the series. Besides, it’s a shounen manga, so the original trio are bound to survive the longest.
I’d originally guessed that Bertolt would be the one to walk away from this fight, with Reiner coming close to death multiple times. Especially because he was against Eren, who’d wanted his revenge for approximately six years. Although, it was the Colossal Titan who’d originally breached the outer wall, so it was Bertolt who was indirectly responsible for Carla’s death. And Eren defeats him, using Armin’s sacrifice to take down his Titan form.
Even if Eren didn’t kill Bertolt, it actually works out better than if he had. He still gets his revenge, in the place where it all began, but he doesn’t turn to actual murder. It’s the Titans he’s after, not the people inside them, even if the lines have blurred slightly. By ‘killing’ the Colossal Titan he might start to get some closure. Besides, they needed Bertolt to regain Armin’s humanity, so this way Eren can still see the end of the Shifter that left him orphaned and get to keep his best friend.
Over the next few chapters, I’d like to see the fallout from the fight between the Ackermans. While her intentions were noble enough, Mikasa still disobeyed her commanding officer and turned her blade on fellow soldiers. That naturally has to come with some consequences, although Levi may make an exception because he also let his emotions cloud his judgement. It’d be interesting to see if he punishes both Mikasa and Eren for defying him, or whether he accepts that tensions were running high and he was also at fault.
I also want to find out what was in Ymir’s letter from a few chapters ago, and soon. Now that Shiganshina is reclaimed for humanity, and the Colossal Titan is dead, they may decide to head back to the inner walls to regroup and decide how to take down the Armoured and Beast Titans. Historia has been sidelined during this arc, due to her duties as queen, but she is very likely to be the key to finding Ymir. If the Survey Corps can gain the Dancing Titan as an ally, it evens the playing field. Even though Bertolt has gone and Armin has become a Shifter, it’d still be three against two. Eren and Armin are against Reiner, Zeke, and Annie once she wakes up. They’d need Ymir’s help as soon as that happens, especially if Erwin was right and the Quadripedal Titan is a Shifter too.
Although, it doesn’t seem like the divide between ‘good’ Titans and ‘bad’ Titans is as obvious anymore. As Zeke said, Eren may have been manipulated by his father, but we still don’t know if that’s true or just something said to unsettle him. There’s still a lot of things we don’t know, and the letter may reveal more information. Armin could have also inherited Bertolt’s memories after eating him, revealing even more and giving him intel that could help him work against the other Shifters.
Overall, there’s still a lot to learn but hopefully after the more action-driven chapters we’ve had this arc, we’ll have a few quieter moments that finally give some answers.