Following the bombastic penultimate episode, Attack on Titan’s finale fully delivers in many ways, and fails in some, leaving a huge imprint in anime’s history that will last generations!
The Battle of Heaven and Earth
To say that the first half of this one and a half-hour long episode is action-packed would be an understatement; in fact, it lasts all the way to the final fifteen minutes, giving us a spectacle worthy of this series’s end.
Following immediately after the last episode, the Alliance faces Eren for the first and last time. But right from the get-go, Armin is kidnapped, leaving the rest to proceed with the mission to save the world.
And this is an excellent strategy on Eren’s part; after all, Armin is the brains and brawn of the group with his intelligence and Colossal Titan—incapacitating him is as good as winning the battle.
But perhaps this is not Eren’s idea. Throughout the battle, Ymir is a constant presence. And she’s not idle, for she, and Eren by extension, has called on the help of previous Titan Shifters, essentially creating an immortal army to stop the Alliance and protect Eren.
This does presents a terrifying confirmation: that the Founder herself wishes the eradication of humanity outside her children’s land. And we can’t blame her. In a way, the Eldians have suffered just like her, and this is her way of protecting them.
In any case, Armin knows that Eren is beyond salvation at this point, and so does everyone else. It is heartbreaking to see his friends realizing this, particularly Mikasa. But as Levi says, it is their final mission.
And so they fight, giving their all. The ensuing battle is arguably the greatest fight scene in the entire series, mostly because the Scout Regiment is once again outclassed by Titans. But everyone gives their best here, and Pieck and Reiner shine the most during this segment.
Perhaps one of this scene’s highlights is the arrival of Falco in his new Flying Titan form, carrying Annie and Gabi. Falco’s participation in this battle, while just a glorified transport, doesn’t take away the fact that for the first time since the fall of Eldian Empire, six of the Nine Titans are working together to save humanity.
Within The Paths
While the rest of his friends are risking their lives to save him, Armin is trapped in his own guilt and anguish. Ever since Erwin’s death, the burden of fulfilling the late commander’s shoes are too much for Armin, and it is only natural that he’ll finally break down from all the pressure, not to mention the disgraceful way he was captured.
Despite that, Armin is just as tenacious as Eren, if not more. Even better, his real weapon is his brain, and it doesn’t take long for him to regain his composure and starts thinking of a way to carry out his mission.
Which brings him to the Paths and in the presence of Zeke, whom they have been searching for since the battle started. And just like Armin, the older Jaeger is being held against his will.
Their poignant conversation gives us a lot of insight on how they each think and the beliefs they hold. Zeke is a defeatist, much like the last King Fritz, believing that his own race deserves death for past sins.
But Armin is different; he believes in the little precious things as worth living and fighting for. More than that, he believes that humanity can keep striving for a peaceful co-existence with each other.
It is no surprise that Zeke finally realizes it too, and we are treated with another epic scene: Of the two sides convincing the spirits of their friends and families—previous Titan Shifters—to save humanity.
The Beginning of the End
The Rumbling, as shown in the penultimate episode, is indeed an apocalyptic nightmare of terrible proportions. But it isn’t until this finale that we see how devastating the Wall Titans are—enough to put humanity to the edge of extinction.
But every beginning has an end. And as the Scout Regiment and Titan Shifters fight Eren and Ymir to the death, Armin is finally freed and Zeke shows up to taunt Levi before peacefully accepting his death at the hands of the legendary Ackerman.
To say that Zeke is evil would be an understatement; he did kill a lot of people, both Eldians and Marleyans and even other nations. But even someone like him can get atonement, and it is equally satisfying and heartbreaking to see him die just as he realizes his sins.
His death is meaningful, more so if we consider this as his way of redeeming himself. And with the bloodline of Dina Fritz gone, the Rumbling finally stops.
This isn’t the end yet, of course. Eren is still marching forward, forcing Armin to use his trump card: the Colossal Titan.
It is poignant when we see the scene of Armin blowing up Eren interspersed with Historia giving birth, symbolizing the start of a new generation without Titans…
Or so it seems. As always, Eren refuses to simply give up.
An Endless Nightmare
Attack on Titan is widely known for shocking audiences with its clever twists. As such, its finale will not end without throwing watchers into another suspenseful battle.
Everything’s fine at first. Eren is seemingly dead. The Eldians and Marleyans have actually stopped fighting for the first time, and the heroes are reunited at last with their loved ones.
But this is Eren we’re talking about, someone who never gives up. And in a sick way of retaliation, he orders the origin of Titans to do the unthinkable.
Transform all Eldians within the vicinity into Pure Titans.
The horror of everyone else who aren’t affected is palpable and soul-crushing, but it’s admirable how Reiner, Annie, and Pieck hold the line against the origin of Titans and their friends and families. Their desperation feels authentic thanks to the superb voice acting, and this scene is arguably one of the best.
Of course, we have the much-awaited rematch between Armin and Eren, who duke it out in Colossal Titan forms. Though brief, their death match is still epic, especially if we consider that this is the first and last time we are seeing the Colossal Titan fight against a doppelgänger of equal strength.
Eren’s resistance shows how tenacious he really is, but it also means that death is really the only way to stop him.
And the Ackermans will.
A Long Dream
Throughout the series, it’s obvious that Mikasa loves Eren. It may be subtle at first, and with her emotions repressed, Mikasa shows it indirectly. But the finale of the second season is as good as a real confession between them.
However, maybe an actual confession could have actually changed the entire story and situation. Back when the Survey Corps first saw the outside world, Eren asked Mikasa what he meant to her, and she answered that he was family.
But what if she answered differently and truthfully? This is the possible scenario that are shown both to her and us audiences: of Eren and Mikasa running away to live peacefully in an isolated part of the world, leaving the war and their friends behind while awaiting his death.
It looks strange and possibly even out of character for both of them, but it does prove that Eren still has humanity inside him. Maybe if Mikasa had chosen to be honest, Eren wouldn’t choose to do the Rumbling, saving humanity at the cost of Paradis.
There is no guarantee that Marley would stop, of course. And neither does running away solves anything. In fact, the cycle of violence would just continue.
Thus, we come to the culmination of Mikasa’s character arc: killing the man she loves. The brief fight scene involving the last two Ackermans flying toward Eren is a high-octane visual, and it is a fitting final mission for their bloodline.
And yet this is also the most heartbreaking part of the entire series as Mikasa finally bids farewell to Eren and kills him, especially since she is the last person Eren sees, bringing his story to full circle.
What is Attack on Titan without more revelations? As it turns out, Armin already knew what would happen thanks to a final conversation with Eren just after they left Paradis, and it gives us a lot of insights on Eren’s plan.
The Rumbling may not actually be the best plan, but it is the only way Eren could see his desire of an empty world. In fact, he really never intend to let humanity outside Paradis live, even if his friends die.
He did try changing the outcome using his powers over memories, but it seems that everything is set in stone. And he simply followed the order of events. But as he admits himself, there really was no way he could have done anything because he didn’t know any better; he is just an idiot.
And we know this to be true to a degree. All throughout the series, Eren overcomes the obstacles in his way through sheer will and determination. He was never a strategist like Armin or an excellent fighter like Mikasa.
He was simply a human being, and a young one at that, who got his hands on too much power.
Despite that, he genuinely cares for his friends, and while his actions are unforgivable, in the end, Eren leaves a gift for the world.
The end of Titans.
Eren and Armin’s conversation is indeed a heartbreaking scene, especially since this will be the last time they’ll talk as friends. But more than that, it shows just how much Armin values Eren—to the point that he’s willing to share the sin of killing 80% of humanity.
After all, he was the one who planted Eren with thoughts of a beautiful but empty world, which drove his friend to see it through the Rumbling. And it is a tearjerker when he promises to see Eren in hell, where they could be together to suffer for their crimes against the world.
In a way, this is Armin’s own atonement and his dedication to their strong friendship.
With Eren’s death comes the end of terror brought by the Titans. It is highly satisfying to see all the surviving characters reuniting with their love ones—returned to human forms—and seeing the end of such a long and harrowing journey. It is particularly a tearful scene when all the deceased Scout Regiment members show up one last time to salute Levi, and his tears of joy at the fulfillment of his mission.
But the gripping part of this scene is arguably Armin’s grief over seeing Eren’s decapitated head in the arms of an equally sorrowful Mikasa. Given that Eren’s death releases the memories he has taken from his friends, the final conversation between him and Armin is no doubt still fresh in the Scout Regiment Commander’s mind.
Surprisingly, the Founder Ymir also appears, now free from her shackles born out of love for King Fritz. And just like Mikasa, we are shown what her life would look like if she had let the spear pierced the tyrant: a fulfilling life with her three daughters.
Perhaps that’s why Ymir chose Mikasa. Because in the end, Mikasa chose to kill the man she loved for the sake of the world, creating an outcome that free the world from the terror of the Titans.
A New World
With the Rumbling stopped and the Power of the Titans gone, the world is ready to rebuild. Armin and the Scout Regiment, including the Warrior Unit, are hailed as heroes just as Eren has planned, which does seem ironic considering how Marley and all nations are against them. In exchange, however, Paradis is out for revenge after losing their hero, adding to the irony.
Despite that, Historia’s monologue rings true and echoes the message of the story: to keep fighting for peace. With Armin’s group as ambassadors for the world to Paradis, perhaps there is hope for the future. And even if there’s none, Armin simply wants to tell their story.
The montage showing how everyone else is helping with the rebuilding of civilization is satisfying and bittersweet at the same time; so few have survived among the cast, though everyone gets their happy endings in some ways.
But that’s not the same for Mikasa, who awaits her friends’ return in Shinganshina. Her tragic character arc, combined with the death of the series main protagonist-turned-antagonist, at her own hands makes the finale a bitter pill to swallow. The sorrow is further driven to us when we learn that she buried Eren on the same tree where he often sleeps.
Nevertheless, it is a fitting end, and it does bring the entire story to full circle as the final shot shows Mikasa smiling at a bird enjoying its freedom in the blue sky.
But what is Attack on Titan without one final twist?
As centuries passed, Eren’s concern of the cycle of conflict repeating proves true. Perhaps this is the story’s true message, and the only good thing is that the rest of the cast died peacefully before it happened in their time.
The final shot of the end credits, though, does hint that the Titans have never been truly gone… or are they?
With that comes the end of one of the most influential and popular anime in history, and arguably, one of the greatest stories in modern fiction. The final episode for Attack on Titan is a tribute to the entire series itself, utilizing everything the story is loved and known for: heart-stopping action scenes from start to finish with plenty of twists and emotional moments, ultimately ending in a heartbreaking tragedy.
As controversial and divisive as the ending may be, it does serve as a fitting conclusion to a harrowing journey of triumph, deaths, betrayal, and the struggle for freedom. Nevertheless, it portrays an important message that resonates with the audiences.
To keep fighting for peace, even if it may seem hopeless.
Thank you, Hajime Isayama, for writing a story that will have a lasting impact for years to cone!
Episode score: 2,000/10