Attack on Titan finale review: Why the ending remains true to the story


Attack on Titan [Japanese: Shingeki no Kyojin] aired its final episode on Saturday, Nov. 4, bringing an end to the decade-old saga.

The 1.5-hour-long Attack on Titan finale picks up right where we left off at the end of season 4 part 3. It starts with the allied squad of Marleyan Warriors and what remains of the Survey Corps chasing after the ginormous Attack Titan form of Eren Yeager in a near-vain attempt at stopping his genocidal Rumbling.

Throughout the first half of the episode, Mikasa, Levi, Jean, Connie, Reiner, and Pieck take on hundreds of brain-dead Titans created out of thin air by the Founder, Ymir. Armin wonders what Ymir wants before getting captured by an Okapi Titan.

The team is later joined by Annie and Gabi, who make a timely entry on a flying Beast Titan form of Falco and help rescue Armin.

The fighting sequence that follows, titled the ‘Battle of Heaven and Earth,’ takes place on the bare-boned back of Eren’s Titan form. There are also conflicts at nearby Fort Salta, a Marleyan fortification and research base.

The ODM gear scenes are incredibly nostalgia-triggering. They take you back to the first couple of seasons of Attack on Titan when the plot was all about killing Titans and not a complex meditation on history, politics, and humanity that mirrors the real world.

Long as the odds are, the Survey Corps does not give up. In a poignant scene amid the battle, Jean hangs by the harness of his gear, his outstretched hand saving Reiner from falling to the ground. “We’re Scout Regiment,” Jean says. “We don’t know how to quit.” Without saying it out loud, it is implied that Reiner, a Marleyan Warrior once sent to infiltrate Paradis, is once again accepted as part of the Survey Corps.

A Brief Reunion

While inside the Okapi Titan’s mouth, Armin finds himself in the Ways, the plane where Ymir creates the Titans. Together with Zeke, they convince some of the previous Titan shape-shifters we’ve seen to help them fight the good fight. Bertholdt Hoover’s Colossal Titan, Grisha Yeager’s Attack Titan, Tom Ksaver’s Beast Titan, Porco Galliard’s Jaw Titan, and others show up to help.

From a storytelling perspective, there’s a sense of things coming full circle as we see everyone fight together for one last time on Attack on Titan. However, the reunion is sad, brief, and somewhat ironic. Most of these people spent a large part of their lives fighting each other over Eren Yeager. Now they are united in fighting against him.

Zeke, however, does not get much closure. Levi Ackerman cuts his head clean off the moment he appears on Eren’s back, finally keeping his last promise to Erwin Smith.

The team pins their hope on the nuke-like blast radius created by the full transformation of the Colossal Titan. Armin takes it upon himself to end Eren’s life and stop the atrocity. He transforms right over Eren’s nape.

Between this and the royal-blooded blonde’s death, the Rumbling stops. However, the relief lasts for mere seconds. The Hallucigenia-like creature that once helped Eren’s severed head connect to his body appears once again. This time, it releases a gas that immediately transforms every Subject of Ymir — military and civilian — gathered at Fort Salta into Pure Titans. We get more nostalgia here as bizarre-looking Titans run to aid Eren. But this time, there are familiar faces in the crowd of giant abominations: Jean, Connie, and some others.

Realizing what was about to happen, Levi takes Mikasa and Pieck and flies away on Falco’s Beast. Being Ackermans and shape-shifters, they were immune to the gas. It is now up to them to kill Eren, who has revived himself as a giant version of the Attack Titan, although not nearly as big as his Founding Titan form. Armin’s Colossal Titan engages him.

“See you later, Eren.”

A distraught Mikasa envisions a memory — of a distant place, a distant time — while preparing herself for the inevitable. She knew she has to kill the boy she loved since she was a child, the one who wrapped the red scarf around her neck.

In the vision, Mikasa sees herself and Eren living a quiet life in the countryside. Eren has chosen to spend the rest of his life with her, walking away from the Rumbling.

In a way, it is an alternate reality where the two of them run away and find their brief “happily ever after.” In this reality, when Eren asked what he meant to her, she probably said how she truly felt.

We find out later that this could never have ever happened. In the thousands of possibilities Eren foresaw, the Rumbling always occurred. But perhaps the vision was a slither of peace Eren cut out for Mikasa in a war-torn world, both as a final goodbye and to convince her to move on in the future.

As the vision ends, a thunder spear from Levi breaks open the Attack Titan’s teeth, allowing Mikasa to slide in. In a heart-rending moment, Eren opens his eyes, which were closed throughout the battle, to see Mikasa’s face one last time. He too spent his whole life loving her.

Mikasa cuts off Eren’s head, giving him a painless death. She plants the gentlest kiss on his lips, as Ymir looks on. “See you later, Eren,” she says.

With Eren’s death, every team member suddenly remembers speaking with Eren one last time, memories he used the Founder’s power to hide up until now. Armin’s memory is the most significant. In a lengthy chat, Eren told him everything that was going to happen and how the “Devils of Paradis Island” would emerge as the world’s heroes by stopping the Rumbling. The two hug and promise to meet again in hell.

Mikasa walks away with Eren’s decapitated head to give him a proper burial under the tree in Shiganshina where he always fell asleep. In the very first scene of the anime, Mikasa wakes Eren up from slumber under that very tree.

She meets Ymir on the way.

Why did it have to be Mikasa?

The anime does not clearly state why Ymir needed Mikasa to slay Eren. Turns out, it is deeply tied to love.

We now know that the reason Ymir obeyed royal blood was her devotion to the cruel King Fritz, who never returned her love and treated her like a slave. Even with the Founder’s endless powers, her emotions made her subservient to him. To give up on creating Titans meant letting go of that love for him, which she could not do.

It could be that Ymir needed Mikasa to break that cycle by sacrificing her love but not letting go of it. Mikasa was never a slave like Ymir. She followed Eren down the darkest paths without any obligation. And yet, she stepped up to oppose him when she had to.

When Ymir watches Mikasa kill Eren, it drives home the point that you can love a person to death and still oppose them, something Ymir could not do.

The Ending of Attack on Titan

The narrative of Attack on Titan is a never-ending loop. That remains true to to the very end.

With Eren gone, the remaining 20% of the world’s population works hard to build everything back. Levi distributes candies to kids, a subtle nod to his malnourished, neglected childhood. Gabi and Falco plant trees. The rest of them sail back to Paradis as the heroes who saved the world to negotiate peace on everyone’s behalf.

And yet, the cycle continues. People take up arms in Paradis in fear of retribution and for self-preservation, chanting Eren Yeager’s name. As the title credits roll, we see how Paradis changes over time. Huts grow into houses, buildings into skyscrapers, and in the end, war visits the island once again. Some more years later, a young boy exploring the ruins of Paradis with his dog and walks up to the hollow trunk of the same tree where Ymir got her Titan powers. It is open to us to interpret what happens next.

While many have labeled the ending as “pointless”, yours truly feels differently about it. To me, peace was never Eren’s objective, freedom was. He wanted to give his friends the same chance at life that everyone outside of the walls seemed to have.

He wanted them to live without fear or shame, with their heads held high. But he also wanted to remove the god-like powers of Titans, which posed a threat to the rest of the world.

In the world Eren left behind, everyone was free to make their own choices with what little they had. No single person, even one with his abilities, has the power to sell peace to billions of people or to influence a future thousands of years later. That was never the point.

If Hajime Isayama, the author/mangaka of Attack on Titan, had ended the story immediately after Eren’s death, it would’ve indeed seemed like a happy ending. A budding world after the storm of a war; hopes and dreams abound. But he didn’t, because that is not how the real world works.

Next. Attack on Titan season 4 part 3 review: Love, War, and Sacrifice. dark

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