Attack on Titan: What Season 4’s Short Episode Count May Mean for the Anime

Over a decade since it first began publication, the subject of Attack on Titan's ending has been a fiercely anticipated and debated one among its fans. Following (largely unfounded) concerns over a sudden studio change for the fourth and final season of the anime, viewers have once again been fretting over a fresh reveal about Attack on Titan's currently-airing Season 4. According to information revealed about the season's upcoming Blu-ray release last month, it will have just 16 episodes spread across two discs.

This isn't the shortest episode order the anime has had. Though Season 1 comprised 26 episodes -- a standard season length for most shonen series -- Season 2 had just 12. To make matters worse, this followed a four-year dearth in content for the anime adaptation, dulling some of the interest in the property accumulated in its initial heyday. Season 3, however, came much quicker and was divided into two parts, releasing less than a year apart. Though longer than Season 2's episode count, 16 is a much more peculiar number for a regular anime season -- and even more so considering how much story the anime still has left to tell.

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This time around, Attack on Titan fans are right to be worried about what's in store for the anime, especially as this news comes alongside the announcement that creator Hajime Isayama's manga is due to end on April 9. Should Season 4 continue without any more interruptions (Episode 5 has been delayed by a week), this would mean the anime, at just 16 episodes, would end before the manga, a situation many feared would happen as soon as the fourth season of Attack on Titan was confirmed to be it's last.

This, of course, is the worst-case scenario. It's also bound to be the least likely, though. Doing a Game of Thrones and ending the adaptation before its source material concludes would probably be about as well-received for Attack on Titan as it was for the HBO show. It would also be out of step with the production's history. The risk the anime took in prolonging its making-of time between Seasons 1 and 2 allowed the manga -- which was beset with its own production problems -- to get far enough ahead, avoiding the series going off on its own tangent like Fullmetal Alchemist did. It's hard to imagine, even with a different studio behind the wheel, that an anime like Attack on Titan, which has made such pains to stick so closely to its source, will veer off-course at the last moment.

As was the case with Seasons 3, the most likely answer as to why Season 4 is slated for just 16 episodes is because it will be divided into two parts. This way, the final season can faithfully adapt Isayama's ending in several months' time. Some fans are even speculating that, rather than a second season, we may end up with a movie to close the Attack on Titan anime out. This is entirely plausible. The series has maintained a strong enough level of popularity during its 11-year-run to support a feature-length anime release. The franchise might even look to the recent, astronomical success of the Demon Slayer movie, Mugen Train, for inspiration. Or, we might get both: a part two of Season 4 that ends with a longer, special episode -- an OVA, effectively.

As of yet though, all we can do is speculate about the anime's clouded future and sit tight -- very tight -- for the Attack on Titan manga to finally bring an end to the blockbuster fantasy story in three months time.

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