Afirst sight, Attack on Titan It seems like a simple anime, focused on the fight between good and evil, which represents the last battle of humanity against the monstrous Titans. But the show’s misleading Japanese name mimics the duality of its protagonist, Eren Yeager. Shinjeki no Kyojin it also means “Attack Titan”, and is a subtle hint that there is more going on behind the scenes than viewers realize.
The final arc of the series takes a surprising turn. Eren sees genocide as his only option and allies with former enemies – like his stepbrother Zeke Yeager – in hopes of achieving his ultimate goal: liberating his people. It is a development that the creator of the manga had to prepare in advance, but the approach has received a mixed response from fans. In a way, Eren has played a hero better than a villain.
Warning: This article contains some spoilers for the Attack on Titan manga.
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10 As a child, save Mikasa from her kidnappers
The close bond between Eren and Mikasa is one of the most powerful relationships in the series. When Mikasa is a girl, her parents are murdered and she is kidnapped by a child trafficking ring. A young Eren comes to his aid and manages to kill two of the kidnappers.
When the third corner him, he urges her to fight. She obeys, and according to Eren, this leads her to notice him, her Ackerman instincts genetically programmed her to become his protector. It is unclear if this is true or not, since genetics aside, it is obvious that Mikasa has true feelings for Eren and sees him as her hero.
9 He is traumatized after the death of his mother
It is not uncommon for a hero to have a traumatic background, and it is often related to family problems. For example, DC’s Batman has to watch his parents die in a shootout, and the incident inspires him to become the Dark Knight.
Eren also sees his mother die, but his case is even worse than Bruce Wayne’s. She is eaten by a monstrous Titan. Eren tries to help her, but he and Mikasa are kidnapped by Hannes. He can do nothing but approach her in horror, and the image haunts him forever. Carla Yeager’s death is both heartbreaking and chilling, and guides her son on his quest to kill all the Titans. It’s the perfect origin story for a hero.
8 It doesn’t start out being especially exceptional
Heroes are not born. They are made. This is a fact that shonen anime has always accepted. Most of the programs of the genre focus on the journey of the protagonist. Naturally, at first, the hero is not particularly exceptional. It is often your determination that makes you stand out from the rest. Young Eren is no different.
His instructor in the Training Corps, Keith Shadis, points out that Eren does not excel at anything, but that he makes up for it with his strong willpower. He graduates fifth – after Mikasa and the three Marleyan warriors – but then has to learn a whole new set of skills after becoming a Titan. Oddly enough, this is part of what makes him a hero.
7 Many of his peers reject him for his titan form, but he works with them anyway
After Eren’s Titan powers are revealed, he is despised and considered an anomaly among the people of the walls. Only Mikasa and Armin defend him. He does not blame anyone for their behavior. He accepts the doubts of his superiors and, often, their abuses, as something totally justified.
When Hange Zoe begins to work with him to experiment with his hardening, he accepts his requests, even though it is often exhausting.
6 After discovering the truth, he wants freedom for himself and his people
It’s very easy to empathize with Eren’s desire to defeat the Titans after seeing Carla’s death. It is just as easy to understand his need to give freedom to his people. Originally prompted by his friend Armin, it makes Eren want to join the Survey Corps before Shiganshina even breaks through. After Carla’s death, that seed blooms even more, and grows even more after Eren discovers the whole terrible truth.
Elders have been unjustly paying for the crimes of their ancestors for generations. It stands to reason that Eren wants this to end and there is nothing wrong with it. This is exactly why so many people rally under his leadership, the Yeagerists choose to trust him rather than the Paradis authorities.
5 Eren’s most villainous actions are a natural progression of the course of events
In the season three finale, viewers see Eren ask himself a terrible question. “If we kill everyone beyond the ocean, will we finally be free?” It’s an understandable dilemma, as Eren has just realized that everything is exactly like in his father’s memories. That can only mean that his true enemies are even more dangerous than the Titans.
Mikasa and Armin don’t answer, but a few years later, it seems that he has found the answer himself. The timeskip makes your character’s arc a bit confusing, but it’s still a natural progression in the course of events.
4 Your decision to abandon your humanity is an act of courage and sacrifice
In the past, Eren has always done his best to help and save the people around him. For example, he jumps into a titan’s mouth to save his friend Armin and swallows him instead.
In a way, your decision to abandon your humanity is also a decision of courage and self-sacrifice. He recognizes that he has to become a monster to achieve his goals, and that makes him a tragic hero rather than a villain.
3 He hates the idea of his friends being used like him
One of the main reasons for Eren’s fight is his desire to protect his friends. He hates the idea of them becoming tools like him. He tells them that he does not want any of them to inherit the Attack Titan, that his wish is for them to have a long life. However, the Eldian government wishes to use Historia, turn her into a Titan, and have her eat Zeke.
Eren has always wanted to protect Historia, so this idea is unacceptable to him. Their pregnancy is the only reason they don’t carry out their plan, though it’s unclear if Historia got pregnant on purpose to avoid her plan and if Eren was involved in any way.
2 Marley is the one who perpetuates warfare and will never stop doing it
Eren doesn’t like the destruction he causes or the more questionable things he has to do. But he knows he has to do these things because Marley’s insistence on perpetuating the conflict with Eldia puts Paradis in a terrible position. He continues to promote his agenda of turning his own people – and the rest of the world – against the Eldians.
To make matters worse, technology advances. Marley may have won the war against the allied forces of the Middle East, but it has been a narrow one, and his narrow victory has shown that the Age of the Titans is over. From Eren’s point of view, he has no choice but to attack now, when they still have a chance. He may have set himself up as everyone else’s villain, but it is always for Eldia that he fights.
1 Die to free the world from the power of the Titans
Eldians are a different species capable of turning into monsters, so the world will never accept them. Neighboring nations will always blame them for monstrosities committed with their powers, just as Ymir was blamed for being used by King Fritz. Eren knows this, and that knowledge never leaves him throughout the war.
It’s not that Eren doesn’t make major mistakes throughout the Rumbling. Considering the number of casualties, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that he chose a villain path. But after Eren’s death, thanks to Mikasa’s strength, the Power of the Titans disappears, freeing the world from Ymir’s Curse, forever. It comes at a high cost, but it is a new beginning. In the end, Eren is as much a hero as he is a villain.