What’s Up With ‘Attack On Titan’?

As the final chapter of the manga is about to be published, we think it might be a good time to provide a recap and thoughts on the popular franchise.

Without fail, Attack on Titan has been trending every Sunday this winter as fans share their opinions on episodes of the final season. And get ready to see more of it in the next coming days. The final chapter of the manga is being published on April 9th, and everyone who reads is getting ready to say goodbye. But what is Attack on Titan? Why and how did it get so popular?

Well, we’re here to help with that!

In 2013, audiences were captivated by the appearance of the Colossal and Armored Titan, two monolithic beings that attack Eren Jaeger’s walled world – Paradis. When they break the wall, Titans, mysterious, humanoid monsters invade the city. They eat Eldians, citizens of Paradis, for an unknown reason, including Eren’s mother. Eren and his friends, Mikasa and Armin, join the Cadet Corps, wanting to fight back against these monsters. Their first battle is a disaster, and Eren ends up getting eaten by a Titan! But he’s so enraged that he ends up transforming into a Titan, destroys the Titan that ate him, and goes on a rampage against the remaining Titans. Pretty wild right? Eren, Armin, Mikasa, and the friends they’ve made (except one character, Annie) all wind up joining the Scout Regiment, which is led by Erwin Smith, Levi (a fan favorite), and Hange. The Scouts goal is to explore outside the walls and learn more about Titans.

The climax of the season centers around Annie, who is revealed to be another Titan Shifter, specifically the Female Titan. Eren and Annie battle as Titans in the capital, causing chaos and destruction. Before Eren can defeat Annie, she crystallizes herself, leaving the Scout Regiment with A LOT of questions. Especially because while fighting, Eren and Annie damaged one of gargantuan the walls that surround the city revealing that Colossal Titans are inside the walls!

When written down, this all sounds very absurd. And yet the show was a massive success. The show can be boiled down to “Humanity now resides within three gigantic walls after nearly being wiped out from existence by monstrous creatures called Titans, who surround them on all sides,” as HITC summarized.

And yet we can talk about the show for hours. AOT was a breath of fresh air to the Shounen genre. It didn’t shy away from gore and violence, creating a lasting impact on fans. It’s OST was captivating and haunting, and for the most part, there’s no filler. In addition to this, the characters are all complex, with unique motives and desires. While there are primary and secondary characters, they all matter. AOT reminds us that all of these characters, for as little or great amount of screen time they had, can have an impact. And fans loved everything about it.

Then we waited. And after four long years, we got to watch our heroes try to figure what’s going on in this crazy world. First we’re introduced to another strange Titan, the Beast Titan. He’s referred to as “Monkee” by fans because, well, he looks like a monkey. He is extremely violent and can talk, leading to more questions.

A good chunk of the second season focuses on Christa Lenz and Ymir, two characters who didn’t get that much screen time in the first season. We find out that Christa is actually Historia Reiss, the illegitimate child to the true King of Eldia. Ymir, a scrappy and tough ex-street kid, joined the scouts in hopes of helping Historia value her own life. And in a shocking twist, Ymir reveals herself to be another Titan shifter, the Jaw Titan, when she decides to save Historia, and three of their companions: Reiner, Bertholdt, and Connie.

After suffering from a personality split and seeing the Beast Titan, Reiner has a breakdown and tells Eren that he and Bertholdt are the Armoured and Colossal Titan (the same ones that caused Eren’s mom to die!!!!) Reiner and Bertholdt then essentially kidnap Eren and Ymir, taking them back to, well, wherever they came from. Because the world is cruel, Eren ends up facing the Titan that ate his mother, and he unlocks an ability that allows him to control Titans. The season ends with revealing that the Beast Titan is a shifter as well, who says “Not just yet.”

everyday i wake up and cry over the way ymir is in love with historia pic.twitter.com/KmqFdKKAiB

— sun. ★ (@hanjiluvrs) April 3, 2021

Once again, an absurd show when written down. But I want to stress the point that Ymir and Historia play critical roles in this season despite not getting too much attention previously. And what’s truly amazing is that they have a deep bond that’s almost explicitly romantic. And that’s a big deal in Shounen anime! To have two female characters care deeply for each other on such a level, and they’re never sexualized. While on the subject, none of the female characters in AOT are sexualized, which is a rare thing in anime. They are all dynamic and strong in their own ways, and it’s something that a lot of fans find so refreshing!

And AOT also continues to step up the plot, adding themes of mystery and betrayal. As Erwin likes to point out, it makes you wonder who the enemy is, which season three answers!

The third season is split into two halves. The first portion deals with the corrupt government and Historia’s father, Rod Reiss. The goal eventually becomes to restore Historia to the throne. While this is happening, Eren finally remembers what happened to his father. You see, I’ve been avoiding three crucial details that are required in order to become a Titan Shifter:

1. You have to be Eldian. Only Eldians can turn into Titans.
2. You have to become a mindless Titan first (through the help of some special serum).
3. You have to eat another Titan Shifter while they’re in their human form. Pretty gross, right?

Well, our poor hero remembers that he ate his father, giving him Titan shifting abilities.

Eren can’t seem to get a break, especially when we find out that the Beast Titan, who has killed most of the Scouts at this point, is Zeke Jaeger, Eren’s half-brother. Zeke is trying to take Eren in order to have the ability to control Titans (that he discovered in season 2). After Zeke reveals this, there’s a catastrophic battle that ends with Armin being close to death, turned into a Titan, and eating Bertholdt. Meaning Armin is the new Colossal Titan.

We also find out where the enemy Titan shifters are coming from Marley, a land across the sea. It turns out, the rest of the world is way more advanced than Paradis. Marley has been unleashing Titans onto Paradis Island in revenge for being oppressed by the Eldian Empire way back in the day. That means the Titans we’ve hated are just Eldians who had some of the serum and were sent to the island.

The Walls that surround Eren’s little bubble of civilization were built by the first Reiss king using his power to control Titans (that’s why we saw the Colossal Titan in the wall in season 1!) King Reiss promised to flatten the Earth with the Colossal Titans if the island was attacked, but he never truly wanted to do that. Armed with this knowledge, the surviving Survey Corps members finally make it to the sea.

In this season, we saw a lot of flashbacks of Carla Jaeger, Eren’s mom. In one of these flashbacks, a core of the show is revealed: you are special because you are alive. You don’t need to be anything special, you don’t need to constantly strive to prove yourself. You deserve love and rights because you are alive. But as Bertholdt said, this world is cruel. They don’t want to fight, but this world is cruel. Both statements are true because life is complex, and Attack on Titan reflects that.

AOT also proved that everyone is special, which is why it hurts when they die. No one is safe in this show. Much like Game of Thrones, Attack on Titan isn’t scared to kill its characters off. Erwin, Ymir, Carla, Bertholdt, Moblit, Marco, Petra. They all died. And for what? That’s something season 4 attempts to explore.

When season 4 was released, we were told it was the final season, leading to many questions and a sense of dread. What was going to happen? But the show takes a sharp turn from other seasons. It takes place after a time skip, and it does a deep dive into Marley, shows how Eldians are treated horribly outside of Paradis, and introduces us to more Titan shifters. It shows how tensions are escalating, leading to a declaration of war on Paradis. Meanwhile, Eren (who’s been in contact with Zeke), has split off from the Scouts, creating essentially four different groups with three different goals. The Scouts, who want to make peace, The Jagerists, who want to release the Colossal Titans on the world, Zeke and his followers (who are mixed in with Jaegerists), who want to essentially mass sterilize Eldians, and the Marleyans, who want to destroy Paradis. As season 4 ended, we’re left with Jagerists in charge of Paradis, the Scouts locked up, Zeke on the run with some Titans, and the Marleyan airships approaching Paradis.

#AttackonTitanFinalSeason Episode 16
This Episode was fcking awesome!!!
Eren and pieck are absolutely THE GOATS!
At the End of the Episode we got the finally the annoucement That we are getting Part 2 on Winter 2022. Im HYPED#AttackOnTitan #PIECK #pieckfinger #gabi #ErenJaeger pic.twitter.com/SJZixtLsMU

— Zakuda (@sakutax20) March 28, 2021

Now this season has truly cemented Attack on Titan in anime and television history. Countless videos and posts have been made on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube, all exploring the themes of the show and theories about who is in the right. It’s developed from a simple story about humans vs monsters to one of who is the bad guy in war, and what does it mean to be human? One of the reasons why it’s so successful now, is that it’s audience has grown up with the characters, and much like life, the plot complicates as time goes on. In 2013, Eren was 12. He and his friends are around 19, making fans who’ve watched since the beginning connect with their growth.

In addition to this, the anime stuck with the source material. Some shows will try to split off from the manga, but Attack on Titan didn’t do that. It followed the manga, allowing the intended themes to be explored and animated. The anime has benefitted from following the manga and adapting the arcs appropriately.

It’s truly a layered and complex story, one that many fans are sad to see end. If you read the manga, it’ll be over when you read the chapter. If you watch the anime, it’ll end next winter. Regardless, it had to end, which is something Attack on Titan has always understood. The story has to end. Whether or not it’s the ending we want, we’ll have to wait and see. Until then, shinzou wo sasageyo, my friends.

About the Author

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Daniella Baltazar

Daniella Baltazar is a senior at Emerson College currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Media Arts Production with a minor in Global and Post-Colonial Studies. She is a spring 2021 intern for AfterBuzz TV and is hoping to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.