The credit for making anime popular should go to a few well-established shows such as ‘Death Note‘, ‘One Punch Man‘ and of course, the good old “big three”—’One Piece‘, ‘Naruto‘ and ‘Bleach‘. But the year 2013 proved to be a major game-changer for anime after ‘Attack on Titan’ first came out. For the first time, a Japanese anime series was being compared to other major internationally acclaimed shows like ‘Game of Thrones‘. The hype was real but all of it soon came crashing down after nothing about the anime was heard till the year 2017. Post 2017, the creators of the anime consistently churned out season after season but it was a little disappointing to see that the hype around it had considerably faded away.
I was personally quite lukewarm towards all the typical shounen elements that it initially offered but even for me, the recent seasons have proved that it’s easily one of the best modern anime shows. If you are one of those few people who did not buckle into the temptation of reading the manga, the value of your patience is probably hitting you now and you can finally go around telling people that “it was all worth it”. What started off as one of the best anime hooks that received a mixed bag of reviews has now turned into one of the bleakest anime shows of all time that was surprisingly very well plotted out right from the beginning.
Origin of Titans
Episode 57 of Season 3 Part 2 finally answers the most awaited question — where did all the Titans come from? Titled “That Day”, this episode takes you way back to the second episode of season one, “That Day: The Fall of Shiganshina”. It presents you the story of Erin’s father, Grisha Yeager, and it also finally reveals how the Titans were first created. Right from the beginning of the anime, there were minor cues here and there which suggested that Titans were nothing but actual humans transformed into their monstrous existence. It all started with a race known as “The Subjects of Ymir”.
According to the official historical events of Marley, the titans were first created to destroy and conquer the world around them. These Subjects of Ymir then used their power to create their own nation known as Eldia and further expanded by creating a huge Eldian Empire. But this uprising came to an end when King Karl Fritz decided to withdraw himself from all conflicts. What followed was The Great Titan War, a civil war wherein all the specialty Titans battled against each other. This led to their own downfall and almost all the Marleyan land, that was previously reclaimed by Eldia, was restored to its independent state.
The King then decided to use the Founding Titan’s abilities to erase all the memories of “The Subjects of Ymir” and built three giant walls of Colossus Titans all around their Eldian territories. A false idea of “the only humanity is within the walls” was then planted in their heads and the King threatened Marley that if he ever tried to attack the walls, he would be forced to unleash the army of Colossal Titans that he has kept hidden inside the walls. This is the reason why Grisha Yeager tries to infiltrate the war just to gain control over the Founding Titan.
This episode proves to be a turning point of the entire anime as it reveals that all the main characters, especially Eren, have been living a lie. What’s even more terrifying is the fact that the incident that led to Eren’s mother’s death is actually connected to the brutalities of both his dad and Zeke.
Eren Jeager: Not Your Typical Shounen Hero
“Die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”
In simple words, ‘Attack on Titan‘ is just about a bunch of giant monsters trying to take over a human civilization for fun. While this is exactly what the anime is all about in the first two seasons, the word “monster” gets a whole new meaning in its season 3. Apart from the Titans, there are ruthless serial killers, corrupt government officials, genocidal pacifists and most of all, the main protagonist Eren, who by definition are all the monsters of the anime. Looking back at season 1, Eren was nothing but an oppressed character who was weighed down by his own ideas of escaping the walls that surround him. It’s this confinement that later drives him to become the freedom-seeking hero that he eventually turned out to be.
In one of my reviews of the previous seasons, I have criticized how the anime has some very bland one-dimensional villains who do nothing but cause mayhem in the human world. But season 3 brings new life to them by showing that these bland Titans were placed by no one but the government, Titan shifters and pretty much everyone from the entire cruel world. While it was pretty obvious in the first two seasons that the Titans are the main antagonists of the show, season 3 makes it clear that there is indeed no line that separates good from the evil. After all, the Titans are nothing but a projection of those who now feel oppressed.
In the beginning, Eren is nothing but a victim of the atrocities of the restricted world that he is confined to and though he does show signs of being slightly aggressive for his age, all of it seems to be rather undisciplined because of how naive he is towards the realities of the situation. But it all hits him hard when his own home is destroyed and his mother gets eaten before his eyes. That’s when he realizes that in the world where he lives, he must eat or get eaten. All of this leads to a major transformation in the character’s behavior as he goes from being a victim to someone who’s determined to confront the monsters. But almost literally and metaphorically, the day he comes face to face with his sworn enemies, he himself turns into a monster.
Initially, after turning into a Titan himself, he shows absolutely no control over his abilities and acts purely based on his instincts. Gradually, as he starts to accept his monstrous side, he is able to command his own newly acquired powers. But the more he learns to use his ability to fulfill his hunger for freedom, the more he is driven to becoming a monster himself. Unlike most typical shounen protagonists, who portray acts of utter heroism to protect the ones they love, Eren becomes more and more insensitive towards the ones who were once very dear to him. More than once, Eren preaches about abandoning a part of one’s humanity, to surpass the real monsters. He does indeed live up to what he preaches without even realizing that it’s just turning him into a monster.
His actions that were once driven by nothing but a sense of never giving up against evil are now merely inspired by his philosophy of doing whatever it takes to achieve freedom; even if it means that he has to kill the ones of his own kind. Defying military conduct is clearly no act of heroism. Undeniably, all of his actions are slowly transforming into that of a ruthless antagonist. While these ideas can be quite controversial and some might even argue that Eren’s actions are justified as desperate times call for desperate measures, one cannot deny that the war in Eren’s head at this point of time is far more significant than the war that is going on outside.
Armin is one character who has always contrasted Eren’s personality and many fans have claimed how his cowardice is downright annoying. That again is debatable but what’s clear is that being harmless, like Armin, may not really make you a morally good person as you may still eventually become a prey. And even being capable of causing harm may not really make you a bad person as it all comes down to what you choose to do with your violent tendencies. At the end of the day, neither of the two characters end up saving the world and are only driven by their own ideas of a better future. There is no evil but at the same time, there is no hope for good either.
This is exactly why Eren, who once was a typical archetype driven by his sense of justice and a “never give up” attitude, is now a dark twisted character who believes in setting aside his own emotions and simply moving forward. As I mentioned earlier, Attack on Titan’s initial success in the year 2013 means nothing at all now as the true meaning of its initial orthodox style of narrative has finally unfolded in the recent season. Unfortunately, the anime does not provide justice to its stature.
The Ending: The Darkness That Lies Ahead
In the last scene of the show, the Survey Corps ride to the end of the walls and that’s when they get to see the ocean for the first time. Along the way, they even run into another malformed Titan. While everyone else seems to be terrified of it, Eren just walks up to it and starts reading his history by placing his hand on him. Once they reach the shore of the ocean, everyone seems to be having a good time but Eren seems to be distant and weighed down by his recent discoveries. Throughout the series, the only thing he had hoped for was the life of a free man beyond the great walls. But the realization that a whole new bloody war awaits him, just leaves him devastated.
This is where the maturity of his character starts to reflect and shows how he has completely given up on the idea of looking back. He knows that what lies ahead may even potentially destroy everything that he has ever had but all he wants now is some freedom. Which again, seems like a distant dream. This scene perfectly encapsulates how his own mind is not at peace and that he can already foresee the “sins” that he’ll commit once he crosses the ocean. But he still chooses to go on. His iconic words “Tatakai Tatakai TATAKAI!” (fight fight fight) have now become his depressing reality.
Post Credits Scene
The post-credit scene of the anime appeared as a disturbingly dark glitch that reminds you of those terrifying tapes from ‘The Ring’. These scenes clearly act as a teaser for the next season and give minor hints of what might happen next. The first scene shows a burnt dead body which could belong to either of the main characters from the Survey Corps. This is followed by another major scene where it seems like something about Mikasa and Eren really pisses off Levi and that’s when he lashes out on Eren. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that Levi holds the Titan serum in one of his hands.
From what we know from the previous events of the show, Eren himself had given him the serum and had asked him to use it when necessary. This may or may not have something to do with their conflict but it seems to be playing a major role there. If you’ve read the manga, you probably know what these tiny shots imply, but for others like me, we’ll have to wait for a whole new season to find out if our protagonists are fighting over the serum or something even bigger. And of course, we’ll have to prepare ourselves for the heartbreaking death of one of our beloved characters because from what it looks like the two burnt bodies seem to belong to one of the protagonists. The last few episodes are pretty much of a culmination of everything we’ve seen from the beginning of the show and with only one more season to go now, ‘Attack on Titan‘ is finally preparing us for its end game.