I’ll be honest, a more accurate title for this article would be, “Is Attack on Titan’s Ending Bad? I don’t know but here are a Couple of Things that Personally Bothered me About Attack on Titan’s Ending.” But who would click on that?
So after eleven and a half long years the final chapter of the Attack on Titan manga has been released, Chapter 139, “Toward the Tree on That Hill”. Reactions to the ending have been incredibly mixed to say the least. It’s also way too early to know exactly how this ending will be remembered. My opinion on the ending of Attack on Titan falls solidly in the middle. Thinking overall that the journey was amazing while the destination was fine, I guess. It did some things well, but others not so great. So in honor of the nine titans (and because that’s as many complaints as I could think up) here are the 9 things I liked least about the way Attack on Titan wrapped things up.
9. Eren’s Grave is Impractical
I promise this is the most nitpicky thing on the list… so please don’t stop reading just yet, but have you ever tried to dig a hole anywhere near a tree? It is frustratingly difficult just to dig a hole for like a 4″ x 4″ fence post, let alone one large enough to give a human head a proper burial.
And sure Mikasa has been shown to have super strength in the past which would probably help her dig through all of the roots, but we don’t even know if Ackerman powers work in this post Titan world. I’ll take this panel as evidence that they do.
8. Eren Killed his Mom
One of my favorite moments post time skip is Eren’s conversation with Reiner before his attack on Marley. “Why was my mother eaten by a titan that day?”, Eren asks Reiner. Reiner replies something to the effect of, “because we were dumb brain washed kids who thought we were saving the world by killing the ‘island devils'”, and with that moment one of the early villains of the manga, the Armored Titan, was made human. He showed genuine regret and guilt over having lead to the death of Eren’s mom.
But… turns out Eren was actually the one who lead the Smiling Titan away from Bertolt and towards his mom… or at least that was the picture painted by an unofficial translation that I’ve shared above. The reason this didn’t make it higher on my list of annoyances is because it might just be a translation error. The official translation leaves a little ambiguity in who is responsible, “the one who let him go [Bertolt] and made her [Smiling Titan] go that way was…” And then according to a video by Foxen Anime, the original Japanese dialogue implies that Ymir was actually the one who lead the Smiling Titan to Eren’s mom.
I think over the next few years this is something Isayama will eventually elaborate on in an interview or something. So reserving judgement for now (mostly).
7. The Final Panel was a Lie
Back in 2018… or so… a documentary showing behind the scenes footage of the making of Attack on Titan revealed a first look at what Isayama said would be the last panel of Attack on Titan. It showed a person holding a baby over their shoulder saying something to the effect of, “you are free.”
Fast forward three years to the final chapter and we DO see that panel. It turns out to be Griesha holding his son Eren and saying, “you are free”, however, it is far from the final panel in the chapter. It’s roughly in the middle and its a very small not very important seeming panel.
Obviously plans change and it doesn’t at all ruin the story that this wasn’t the final panel. There was just so much hype and speculation built around the reveal of this panel that it would have been a neat pay off. It also would have added a little bit of weight to the ending. Just knowing that Isayama knew that far in advance how he wanted the story to end makes it feel more important. Anyways, this won’t be the last mention of the “final panel.”
6. The Wall Titans Weren’t People
First we learn the walls are titans. Then we learned the titans are people. So it stands to reason that the wall titans would be people, right? Well I guess not, because while the other titan folk turned back into people following Eren’s death the wall titans just turned into steam.
It’s disappointing because having millions of time displaced Eldians is an interesting situation for the world to deal with post the “Battle of Heaven and Earth”. It’s also a problem Isayama wouldn’t have to worry about solving himself since its the end of his story. The final chapter already features refugee camps on Paradis Island where Eldian’s from all over the world have gathered; why not add in some really confused 100+ year old Eldians?
5. Jean and Connie’s Fake Death
From the moment Eren started the rumbling I assumed he would ultimately be defeated and in his defeat the world would be rid of titans. He would effectively, “destroy them all.” So I wasn’t necessarily surprised that all of the mindless titans created at the end of chapter 138 reverted back to their normal selves after Eren’s death, but it didn’t have to go that way.
All of that to say, the moment in chapter 138 where Jean and Connie accept their deaths and put all of their hope into their friends was a beautiful scene. It could have been one of my favorite moments in the series, however, them returning to normal in the next chapter really ruins the emotional impact. I will say, if things had to go this way I am at least glad Connie got his mom back.
4. Eren’s Motivation for the Rumbling
For year(s) fans have asked one question more often than any other, “why is Gabi so OP?” The second most frequent question has been, “where is Eren’s point of view chapter?” Well we finally got it! So just why is Eren doing the rumbling you ask? Turns out he doesn’t know. He just wanted to or maybe had to, it’s unclear.
I actually didn’t want any additional elaboration about Eren’s motivation. I thought we already had enough. When Zeke first proposed his plan to use a small scale rumbling as a deterrent Eren was immediately against it. Not only did the plan seem cruel, but it put his friend Historia into a horrible position where should would be forced to “breed like livestock.” I just assumed Eren explored every option he could think of and the only solution he could come up with to save both his home and his friends was to destroy the world. Did I think that was a good idea or morally just? Of course not, but Eren is a strong willed individual and I could see how he could follow through with this plan if he thought it was the best option.
But nope, that’s not the case. The reason Eren did the rumbling is because Ymir manipulated him so that she could get advice from Mikasa on how to break up with a psychopath. That’s what I got out of reading the final chapter, which is at least more than Eren did.
3. Eren is a Bird
I said the final panel talk would return and here it is… kind of… pictured above is actually the second to last panel. The final panel is a full page and doesn’t really fit the format I’m working with but it’s all related… trust me…
So the manga ends with Mikasa sitting beneath Eren’s favorite tree next to his tiny tombstone thinking about how she misses him. Then out of no where a bird swoops down and wraps her scarf around her. The final panel shows the bird flying off with Mikasa saying, “thank you for wrapping this scarf around me Eren.”
And… yeah what other conclusion can we draw from this other than that Eren is now a bird or maybe all birds? I don’t really know. I’d like to think Mikasa has just lost her mind and wants to believe that this bird is somehow Eren, but then I’d have to convince myself that Isayama just decided to end this series with the reveal that wild birds give a danm about us.
Birds have been used frequently throughout Attack on Titan to represent freedom, but never once has their been any indication that the Founding Titan can control them a la Bran Stark.
2. Armin Thanks Eren for Genocide
Before Eren explains that he doesn’t know why he wanted to flatten the world he explains that he pushed his friends away because he wanted to make sure they were against him killing 80% of all humanity. He wanted them to oppose him so that once he was defeated the world would view them as heroes. So in a way he committed genocide for his friends. Sweet.
Above all the one thing I didn’t want to see from the ending of Attack on Titan was for Eren’s actions to be seen as even remotely heroic. But here we have a scene where Armin, the moral compass of the manga, literally thanks Eren for committing genocide for his and his friends’ sake. At least that is how I read it the first time. On my second read through I noticed Armin goes on to say, “I won’t let this error go to waste.” Then it hit me, Armin isn’t actually thankful that Eren did this for him. His reaction is that of someone receiving a bad gift from a friend. He’s like, “I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but you really shouldn’t have killed all of those people for me.”
I guess that makes it slightly better… but I think its okay to be rude in this case.
1. There isn’t a single dinosaur in all of Attack on Titan
In the opening to season 2 of the Attack on Titan anime we get the shot you see above of the Beast Titan running along side various animals including a whale and some dinosaurs. This hints at something… I don’t know what though, because nothing ever becomes of it.
Is this really my biggest gripe about Attack on Titan’s ending? Of course not, but I never said this list was in any order. I just numbered it and you assumed. That said, the end of Attack on Titan featured more or less every titan shifter so it would have been pretty neat to see a past Beast Titan that was a T-Rex or even a whale. But nope the best we got was a ram.
It’s still possible we could see a dinosaur titan in the anime though, as a lot of the background titans weren’t too detailed. Here’s hoping they flesh out some of the designs in the anime and this intro sequence finally makes sense!
Speaking of the anime, if you enjoyed this list be sure to follow my podcast The Coordinate: An Attack on Titan Podcast where me and my co-host Bill talk about the anime adaptation of Attack on Titan. While waiting for the final chunk of episodes to release next winter we will be discussing all of Attack on Titan’s OVAs, spin-offs, and even a horrible series of live action films (part 1, part 2).