Why the Ending to Attack on Titan Makes Sense
The following was written by me for the website The Game of Nerds. I am reposting it here with their permission.
Good lord, it’s Game of Thrones all over again. If you follow the world of anime and manga, then you may have heard that last week, Attack on Titan, the popular manga by Hajime Isayama, released its final chapter. And the fan response was…divisive. Fans took to social media in droves to talk about the ending and what happened to Eren Yeager. Many people cried. Some looked back on how much Attack on Titan meant to them. And some just threw their hands up and complained about it.
To all the haters out there, I get it. I know what it’s like to feel disappointed by the ending to a beloved story. Me and countless others went through that same experience two years ago with the end to Game of Thrones. I hated how rushed things were, how they mishandled some characters, and I hated how Cersei died. I got more of an emotional reaction from the series finale to a Disney cartoon that aired the same morning than Game of Thrones. In other words, I feel your pain.
Here’s the thing, though. While some people may criticize how Eren Yeager dies and act like it’s Daenerys all over again, it’s not. From my point of view, this was the best ending for Eren Yeager and Attack on Titan. Don’t believe me? Then allow me to give my perspective on Eren’s plan and why this was the best possible ending.
By the way, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve read the manga, watched the anime, or saw a recap video online.
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game (Or the Titans)
For those who remember, Eren was only able to activate the Rumbling because he fooled his half-brother, Zeke, into thinking he was on his side. Zeke was a self-loathing man who hated himself and his people, the Eldians, for their ability to turn into Titans. His solution? Team up with Eren to use the power of the Founding Titan to render all Eldians sterile. That way, the power of the Titans would die with them and the world would be saved.
As soon as I read about that in the manga, I thought that Zeke’s “plan” was stupid because it doesn’t really solve anything. And I had a feeling that Eren wasn’t going to go along with it. In fact, I remember thinking that if I was Eren, I would just use the Founding Titan to get rid of the power of the Titans for good.
Think about it. The reason why the Eldians are hated is because they’re cursed to turn into Titans. Any people who could do that would be feared and hated by the rest of the world! Eren understood that the Titans are another prison for the Eldians; one that almost none of them realized. His solution? Follow through with the promise he made as a kid: end the Titans for good. In other words, destroy the power of the Titans. Which is what he did in the end!
But ending the Titans wasn’t enough. He had to leave the Eldians in the best position to survive after he was gone.
Eldians Become the Saviors of the World
If Eren destroyed the power of the Titans the first chance he got, that wouldn’t solve anything. It would just leave the Eldians waiting to be wiped out by the rest of the world. So, he made it so that the rest of humanity couldn’t retaliate. At all. Ergo, he activated the Rumbling and wiped out most of humanity. However, he also gave his friends and the remaining Warriors the chance to take him down for good. If his master plan was to destroy everything outside of Paradis, why would he do that?
It’s as Armin said: he wanted them to stop him. Whoever would kill Eren Yeager would be a hero. A near-messiah who saved the world and ended the threat of the Titans forever. As the world would rebuild itself, that hero would hold a lot of influence in what happened next. So, what if said savior was from Paradis? By letting an Eldian of Paradis Island kill him, Eren would force the world to acknowledge something important. That the people of Paradis were no more devils than the rest of the world. They were just people, both good and bad. In other words, human.
From what we saw at the end of the manga, what Eren hoped for came to pass. His remaining friends became heroes of humanity. While Armin acknowledges that the hate and violence will never fully fade from the world, humanity can finally move on, free from the Titans forever. And while Paradis remains a militarized nation, Armin holds out hope that seeing the Warriors and Scouts working together will convince them to trust the rest of the world. And you know what? So do I. At least now people will be killing themselves normally than worrying about giant man eating monsters.
About Eren’s Outburst….
I’ve heard a lot of people complain about one scene from the final chapter in particular. As Eren’s talking to Armin via the Paths, Eren’s trying to act like he no longer cares about what happens to him. However, as soon as Armin says he hopes that Mikasa will eventually move on and find someone else to love, Eren breaks down. He starts lying on the ground and crying about how he doesn’t want that, that he wants Mikasa to only love him forever, because he loves her.
As Armin points out, and Eren acknowledges, he looks really pathetic in that moment. Instead of the cold and stoic man he’s become post time-skip, he’s reduced to the same emotional wreck we first met. And while some fans hated it, I didn’t. Why? Because it proved that all that stuff he said about hating Mikasa was a lie.
Eren knew for years the future that was going to come to pass. He knew that he would start the Rumbling, almost destroy the world, and then die at the hands of Mikasa, and it terrified him. However, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find a way to change the future that the world (and his future self) had created for him. So, knowing he couldn’t fight it, he chose to embrace it. He chose to bury his emotions and severed ties with his friends so they wouldn’t feel guilty for killing him.
But in that moment where he takes off the mask, Eren Yeager showed us that he was still the same scared teenager that we’ve come to know, love, and hate. He never wanted to become a genocidal maniac, and despite all his posturing, he was disgusted with what he’d become. However, he knew that if he didn’t do this, everyone he loved would die. So, this wasn’t a sudden turn to madness like Daenerys, but a calculated sacrifice for his friends and for the world.
I Liked the End to Attack on Titan
I want to make one thing clear: in no way do I approve of what Eren Yeager did. What he ended up doing is wrong in every sense of the word. As much as I deplore his actions in the end, though, I still think that this was the best possible ending for Attack on Titan.
When Eren started the Rumbling, he wanted to do three things:
- Make himself into the enemy of the world
- Turn his friends into the saviors of mankind
- End the curse of the Titans forever.
He managed to do all that and more. Through his actions, the world had to realize that it was their blind hatred of a people they never even met that led to this outcome, and would have to deal with it. By dying at the hands of his friends, they became the heroes that everyone left will listen to, Eldian or not. And with his death, the Titans vanished from the world forever. They were free.
If this all sounds like the ending to Code Geass, that’s because its the exact same scenario. And while some fans may have a problem with that, I don’t. Code Geass had one of the most brilliant endings I’ve ever seen in an anime, so I see that as a compliment rather than a criticism. Attack on Titan started as this supernatural, post-apocaylptic fantasy, but then turned into this story about the nature of war, humanity, and freedom. As for Eren Yeager, all I have to say is: well played.