Attack on Titan Gives Its Real Heroes What They Deserve in the End

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Chapter #139 of Attack on Titan, "Toward the Tree on That Hill," by Hajime Isayama, Dezy Sienty and Alex Ko Ransom, available in English now from Kodansha.

Attack on Titan fans may be divided on whether Eren Jeager got what he deserved, but for the rest of the cast, opinion regarding the manga's final chapter is likely far more unified. Although we lost some important and beloved heroes along the way -- Commanders Erwin and Hange, and in devastating fashion -- the manga's recent conclusion is thankfully light in its brutality. Mikasa, Armin, Levi, Jean, Connie, Reiner, Annie, Pieck, Gabi and Falco survive Eren's endgame. And not only that, due to his extremely controversial methods, they get to live on in a world free from Titans.

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In the penultimate chapter, a classic "All Is Lost" moment occurred when the shining centipede at the root of the Titan curse transformed every Subject of Ymir surrounding it into a Pure Titan. That included Jean, Connie and Gabi, and until Mikasa took Eren's life -- ending Ymir Fritz's supernaturally prolonged existence in the process -- they appeared to be stuck that way. Although it could be easily be criticized for its ease, it's undoubtedly a relief to see the curse's effects lifting in Chapter #139, restoring these three, and everyone affected around them, back to their human form. In an extra twist of sentimentality too, the ghostly figure of Sasha appears before Jean and Connie, perhaps bidding them a proper farewell as the Path connecting all Eldians disappears with Ymir. Beaten and broken, Levi is also visited by Hange, Erwin and the other spirits of the departed Survey Corps. Saluting them, he can now finally rest easy knowing his comrades didn't die in vain.

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The Warriors, meanwhile, are similarly relieved of their Shifter forms for good, and those with Marleyan families alive and waiting among the crowd on the battlefield are reunited with them. Again, the cheesiness is strong, but in some respects, those who were able to break out of Marley's anti-Eldian brainwashing to take up arms alongside their former enemy are just as deserving of a rewarding resolution.

Other than eliminating the Titan threat forever, Eren's other important gift was, by making himself the world's worst villain, making those who stopped him the world's greatest heroes. "How could you not have been seen as the saviors of every surviving member of society?" Eren explained to Armin during their final conversation. "You turned your backs on Paradis in spite of being 'island devils' to stand on the side of humanity in the end. You'd probably become the most respected beings in the world." In the end, Mikasa is revealed to be the most important hero of all -- the one who, for reasons only known to Ymir, had the power to end the Founder's 2,000 years-long enslavement to her abusive husband. Armin, however, takes the public credit in the immediate aftermath for Eren Jeager's death while Mikasa slips away quietly to bury what's left of him. Three years on, we discover that the group, along with Jean, Connie and the Warriors, as peace ambassadors for the Allied Nations, are in charge of brokering a treaty with Queen Historia and the new Eldian nation and its allies.

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The fact that these tensions remain between the Island and its neighboring continent cuts the softer side of Attack on Titan's ending with more of the grit the series is known for: unlike the Titan curse, centuries of human fighting can't be so universally undone with a single, decisive action. Still, when it comes to the core cast, though all of their journeys have been fraught with extreme peril and moral murkiness, it's a relief, not a disappointment, that Hajime Isayama chose to spare them in the end. 'Kill 'em All' endings have their place, and Attack on Titan certainly set the tone for one. Perhaps bucking the inevitable at the last moment has been the series' greatest plot twist of all.

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