Attack on Titan's fourth and final season was always going to generate titanic levels of excitement, but the announcement of a sudden change in studio has increased the anticipation even more. With MAPPA in the driving seat for the series' concluding installment, many fans have been curious as to what prompted this last-minute shift, and how the fan-favorite studio bagged the unenviable task of bringing one of the breakout anime hits of the last decade to a close.
Now, they needn't wonder anymore. In a recent interview with Newtype magazine, translated into English by Anime News Network, Attack on Titan producers Kensuke Tateishi, Toshihiro Maeda and Tetsuya Kinoshita opened up on the change, and their comments should leave fans assured that the Hajime Isayama's story will get the explosive finale it deserves.
Though the first three seasons of the anime were produced by WIT, last year, news broke that animation duties for Season 4 were being passed on to another company. It's not unheard of for a series to change hands from one studio to another from season to season, but given the drop-off in quality that befell Seven Deadly Sins and One-Punch Man following similar changeovers, Attack on Titan fans fretted that an already-delayed production schedule and incomplete source material to pull from was dooming Season 4 to end the series on a whimper rather than a bang. Could Attack on Titan go the way of the ill-fated Game of Thrones?
Founded in 2012, alongside Attack on Titan, WIT studio has made a name for itself by producing popular and critically-acclaimed shows like The Ancient Magus Bride and Vinland Saga, as well as the recent Pokémon movie, The Power of Us. Its adaptation of Isayama's manga has been resoundingly well-received (minus the story's more controversial elements), which is why it came as a shock to hear that it was ducking out when the finish line was in sight.
"While Season 3 was in production, we consulted with WIT Studio, and it was decided that The Final Season would be created by a different production studio," Tateishi explains. "One of the reasons is because the end of Season 3 has the protagonist gazing at the ocean, marking a turning point for the story. Also, as creators, we wanted the anime to escalate even further. Through many talks with WIT Studio, we understood that the continuation would be difficult, so we looked for a new studio [...] but most studios turned us down. Everyone understood what big shoes they had to fill, and we were told by dozens of studios that they emphatically could not accept."
It's not at all surprising to learn that few were keen to take on the huge baton being passed. Luckily for Tateishi, Kinoshita and Maeda, though, MAPPA stepped up to the plate. "The only studio that said they would consider it was MAPPA. When we talked to WIT about it, they said they could rest easy knowing it was in MAPPA's hands. The producers were in agreement, so the production shifted to MAPPA."
"MAPPA took the matter firmly into their hands," Kinoshita adds, "saying, 'Attack on Titan should have a proper ending for the sake of the fans,' which also made a strong impression on us."
Whatsmore, the three producers confirmed that they intend to adapt the manga right up to the end rather than wrapping things up halfway through. And, as a final testament to the commitment levels of all involved, broadcaster MBS will continue to invest in the show's production despite the rights being sold to NHK (in order to reach the widest possible audience in Japan.)
Judging on the point the manga's story has reached at the time of writing, the producers' pledge to give the anime a proper ending -- and one that's faithful to the source -- seems feasible. Meanwhile, MAPPA is a studio that needs almost no introduction to industry-savvy audiences. Around the same age as WIT, some of the studio's notable credits include Terror in Resonance, Yuri on Ice!!!, Banana Fish, Zombie Land Saga, Dorohedoro and The God of High School. There's little doubt that one of the most accomplished new studios of the 2010s will live up to The Final Season's hype, and skeptical fans can rest safe in the knowledge that the decision to give MAPPA the reigns sounds like it was a creative one. As Maeda says, "The show is in good hands."