In a narrative filled with relentless dread and poignant introspections, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) carved a distinct niche within the anime world.
The series finale, awaited with bated breath by a global audience, finally aired and unfolded a tale of grim realities and the stark yet somber closure to the turbulent journey of its characters.
Let’s examine the ending in detail.
The Prelude to Apocalypse
The finale of Attack on Titan unfurls several key revelations that cast the entire saga in a new light.
The nature of Ymir Fritz, the origin of the Titans, and the paths that connect all Subjects of Ymir are explained, presenting a mythos that is both deep-rooted and never-ending.
The crux of the finale orbits around Eren Jaeager, the story’s conflicted protagonist, and his perilous plot to eradicate what he perceives as threats to his homeland, Paradis Island.
His resolve turns into a tumultuous event known as the Rumbling, where Eren begins to trample humanity outside the walls in his Founding Titan form alongside the Colossal Titans from within the walls.
As the Rumbling progresses, Eren reveals to his friends that he intends to annihilate all life outside Paradis to secure the freedom of his people.
This revelation splits the protagonists into factions, with some reluctantly supporting Eren and others, like Armin Arlert and Mikasa Ackerman, opposing him vehemently.
Eren’s motivations originate from the discrimination and persecution faced by the Titans, a monstrous race yet with threads of humanity tethered to the Eldians — a persecuted ethnic group capable of turning into Titans.
Driven by a desperate bid to shield Paradis from the looming threat of extermination from the rest of the world, Eren believes he can only save his homeland through a full-scale genocide.
The Climactic Confrontation
The height of the story’s conflict materializes in a brutal battle where Eren, embodying the Founding Titan, faces off against his former comrades. It is labeled as the Battle of Heaven and Earth.
Eren and Ymir Fritz, who has her own enigmatic agenda, generate defenders including past Titan Shifters to protect Eren.
The alliance succeeds in blowing apart Eren’s bony nape but all that comes out of it is the spine-like worm creature that Ymir bonded with 2000 years ago.
This creature tries to bond with Eren’s head once again but Reiner gets in the way. The creature in return releases a gas and turns all Eldians nearby into Pure Titans. Also, Eren retransforms into a proper Colossal Titan and faces off against Armin, who takes his Titan form as well.
A critical turn of events unfolds when Mikasa and Levi, with the aid of others, manage to reach Eren’s human form encapsulated within the colossal Founding Titan and deliver the fatal blow.
Mikasa’s act of decapitating Eren is both literal and metaphorical, severing the head of the insurgency and the emotional tethers that held her to Eren.
This confrontation also sees the separation of Ymir’s connection to Eren, a crucial juncture that forces the end of the battle.
The Ymir Conundrum
The enigmatic figure of Ymir Fritz, the progenitor of all Titans, is central to the series’ lore. The story revealed her tragic past and enslavement to King Fritz, which led to the birth of the Titans in season 4.
In the finale, we discover that Ymir’s bond with her oppressor was a complex Stockholm syndrome-like relationship, highlighting themes of dominance, love, and the human desire for connection.
The final act of Ymir’s release from her spiritual imprisonment overlaps with Mikasa’s decisive moment of beheading Eren, a parallel that suggests freedom is only achieved through the severing of toxic bonds, even those masquerading as love.
Ymir and Eren instigated this whole conflict to use Mikasa as a means to free the progenitor from her toxic bond with the king.
The Paths of Revelation
Before his demise, Eren uses his powers to speak to his comrades. He contacts his friends within the ethereal realm known as Paths.
Here, he clarifies his rationale, revealing that his actions were orchestrated to mold his friends into heroes, ensuring Paradis had defenders against external aggressions.
Also, he wants them to live long and happy lives. Furthermore, he admits to Armin that he always wanted to reciprocate Mikasa’s feelings towards him.
Unfortunately, when he touched Historia’s hand, he saw that it was Mikasa’s actions in the future (beheading Eren) that would bring about an end to Ymir’s imprisonment, and eradicate the Titan powers.
This revelation, laden with melancholy, exemplifies the tortuous burden of foreknowledge Eren bore and the sacrifices he chose to make.
The protagonist’s journey ends with his death as he is killed by Mikasa Ackerman. His plan to use the Rumbling to destroy the world beyond Paradis Island is stopped, but not before 80% of humanity is eradicated.
Eren’s death is controversial but serves to halt the cycle of hatred and bring a chance for peace.
Mikasa’s decapitation of Eren is emotionally devastating for her, as she deeply loves him. However, she recognizes it as necessary to save the world and honor the person Eren once was.
After Eren’s death, she buries his head under a tree on Paradis and continues to remember him while moving forward with her life.
Armin, who has always been the voice of reason and diplomacy, confronts Eren in the paths and tries to understand his motivations. After Eren’s death, Armin takes up the mantle of a diplomat, working to broker peace between the Eldians and the rest of the world.
His tact and understanding become key in the post-Rumbling world’s attempts at reconciliation.
The Armored Titan, who struggles with guilt and his divided loyalties throughout the series, survives the final battle. Reiner is seen coping with his past actions and attempting to move forward, participating in the peace talks that Armin leads.
The stoic captain, Levi, sees the end of his squad and the Titans themselves. He fulfills his promise to Erwin by killing Zeke during the final battle and survives the Rumbling despite his severe injuries.
At the series’ end, he is seen living a calmer life, with one less functioning eye and leg limiting him to a wheelchair.
Historia survives the series and continues to serve as the queen of Paradis Island.
She has a child whose father’s identity is still a subject of speculation. She is seen living a peaceful life, separate from the main conflict but still playing a role as a leader in the new world order.
Jean Kirstein and Connie Springer
Jean and Connie join the group that opposes Eren’s plan. After the conflict, they help rebuild society and are shown to be instrumental in the post-Rumbling peace process alongside Armin, likely serving in leadership or peacekeeping roles given their experiences.
Annie, who spends much of the series in a self-imposed crystalline stasis, rejoins the narrative towards the end. The Female Titan holder survives the final conflict and is shown to be reuniting with her father in the series’ closing panels, hinting at a chance for a new beginning.
Finally, she also joins Armin, Reiner, Jean, and Connie in a peacekeeping role.
The Cart Titan holder plays a pivotal role in the “Battle of Heaven and Earth” and uses her tactile endurance to help win the conflict. Pieck survives the Rumbling and joins the peace-keeping alliance with the others.
Gabi Braun and Falco Grice
These two warrior candidates play pivotal roles in the series’ climax. Falco, having inherited the Jaw Titan, helps in the battle against Eren.
After the conflict, Gabi and Falco return to their families and end up together, working towards a future where children like them won’t have to become warriors.
Post Eren’s demise, the world witnesses a temporary peace as the curse of the Titans lifts, emancipating the Eldians from the dread of morphing into Titans.
However, this is short-lived. The rise of the Jaeagerists, a faction idolizing Eren’s extremist ideology, threatens to plunge Eldia and, by extension, the world into another cycle of violence.
The global conflict threatens to repeat itself, with the Eldians and the remaining population outside the island on the cusp of a race war.
A Glimpse Beyond
During the credits, the finale leaves you with scenes that surpass the immediate narrative, showcasing a future where Paradis Island develops into a thriving modern nation in the decades that follow.
However, as the cyclical nature of conflict continues, the series ends with the island being bombed and a dystopian future ascending on humanity.