By: Jordan Sarver-Bontrager
Before this summer, I had never seen a full anime series in my life.
In August, I caved. I wanted to give Attack on Titan a shot. I had always heard that this show was very similar to Game of Thrones, one of my all-time favorites and a show that was very formative to my media taste. The epic story, the vast amount of characters, the complexity, royalty, politics – all of it.
Still, I didn’t really think I’d like Attack on Titan; I expected to watch a few episodes, get the gist and then quit. Instead, I spent three entire days watching the whole series. “Why did I put this series off for so long?” I would ask myself and my friends. I loved it.
The show ticked all my boxes. It had a great story, incredible characters…the whole nine yards. Season one, despite dragging in some parts, was great. Season two was incredible, with a big reveal about two characters that had devastating consequences for everyone in the story.
Season three was the best, in my opinion: the three episode run of Perfect Game, Hero and Midnight Sun is the strongest sequence of episodes I’ve ever seen on television. Season four introduced a more complex look at the world of AoT, but even with this massive change to the story, it was still incredibly well handled. However, I do know of some people who didn’t like the expansion of the story, calling it “contrived,” “too complicated” and “exposition heavy.”
Plot disputes aside, I think Eren Jaeger is one of the best protagonists ever. He’s an angry kid who is confused and upset at the world around him and becomes increasingly comfortable with violence as the series goes on. It’s an evolution of his character that flows naturally. He starts off wanting to end the destruction brought on by the titans, and then he becomes the one causing the destruction.
All of the characters – from Mikasa Ackerman to Hange Zoe to Jean Kierschtein – have deep and enriching stories, are complex and exist in a moral gray area.
This brings us to season four episode 30 – “The Final Chapters (Part 2)” – a long-awaited sequel to “The Final Chapters (Part 1),” which aired in March.
The final episode of this series is outstanding. The Rumbling is in full swing. The surviving characters have set aside their differences to stop Eren. The animation is gorgeous, every frame beautifully detailed, and the action is incredible, from the fight on Eren’s Founding Titan to the battle between Armin’s Colossal Titan and Eren’s manifested Colossal Titan.
But it’s during the fight between Armin and Eren that we got one of the best scenes in the entire series. Mikasa makes the decision to kill Eren. She loves him, and she will always love him, but the only way to end this nightmare is to kill the love of her life.
Mikasa has a fantasy where she and Eren run away from everything to a log cabin. The animation for this scene was beautiful; the environment around the cabin was washed in vibrant greens and blues that evoked a nostalgic feeling in me. It’s a simple, intimate scene that is capped off by Mikasa holding Eren’s head, saying, “I’ll see you later, Eren.”
We cut back to Mikasa advancing towards Eren; then, she kills him. Those two scenes left me breathless. With the fight against Eren finally over, the story could finally conclude.
This ending is perfect, everyone has a fitting conclusion. I honestly don’t have a negative thing to say about the ending of the series.
My favorite scene in the whole episode is a three-way tie. The cabin scene between Eren and Mikasa was beautiful, and it left me legitimately emotional. Next was the scene of Eren’s death; I think that scene was executed to perfection.
Then, there’s the scene of Levi Ackerman seeing his fallen comrades. Throughout the show, Levi’s development was perfect. He starts off as a typical anime “cool guy” who kills titans like it’s nothing to him, but as the show goes on, we see how much he cares about the people around him and the lengths he’ll go to in order to save humanity. This scene with him is the culmination of his character arc. He’s lost parts of his hands, he’s down one eye and now he can no longer walk. His service to humanity is done.
Despite my enjoyment of the conclusion of Attack on Titan, I’d be remiss not to mention the criticism it has also received. With such a massive fanbase, it is almost impossible to make an ending where everyone is satisfied. This isn’t like Game of Thrones, where the ending is just horrible, and everyone hates it for different reasons. With Attack on Titan, you either love or hate this ending.
The first criticism I’ve seen is that everything is too convenient. I can understand this; a lot of lucky coincidences happened during the battle. However, this show has always inserted convenience to allow the characters to get out of certain situations.
Reiner, for example, is a character who has almost died several times over the course of the series, but his plot armor is intentional. Reiner believes he should die for the things he’s done, but he just…doesn’t die. It’s like some form of karma is keeping Reiner alive. I like this direction, and it makes the convenience of the final battle more understandable. Characters were in peril, but enough was set up for me to believe that the characters could survive some situations.
Another criticism I saw was about how Eren’s character was handled. I’ve seen people say that his character was ruined during his scene with Armin. Armin pins the blame for the slaughter of 80 percent of humanity on himself as well as Eren, which is something that wasn’t in the manga. Many thought that Eren was ruined because of how he talked about Mikasa, calling him “immature” and “entitled”. I think this works because at heart, Eren is still a kid who hasn’t been able to deal with his emotions. It’s a fitting end for his character. He never really got the chance to grow up.
All in all, the ending of Attack on Titan is beautiful, it makes a lot of sense that the story ended up here. Hajime Isayama carefully crafted this story for 12 years, and the payoff was massive. From the clever foreshadowing to the complexity, I’m forever grateful I gave this show a chance.