Once in a generation, a show like Attack on Titan comes along. In the modern television landscape, it’s the rarest of phenomena: a series that’s thoroughly good from start to finish, driven by an uncompromising artistic and thematic vision. Hopes (and hype) were therefore unspeakably high for the grand finale of this beloved anime. And, in my opinion, the entire MAPPA team delivered and then some. Gorgeously animated, emotionally devastating, and thematically satisfying, Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters Part 2 is everything I could want from a television finale. It’s a practically perfect ending to a perfect series.
[Warning: Spoilers Ahead for Attack on Titan, The Final Chapters.]
The animation in Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters
There’s not much to say about the animation in this series that others haven’t already said. Since episode 1, the gorgeous, colorful, fluid animation has been one of the biggest highlights of this anime. Since MAPPA studios took over for season 4, they’ve only raised the bar. It would be impossible to highlight every single brilliant animation moment in this episode. However, there were a few special standout moments.
The animation of the battle on the Founding Titan’s spine was incredible. Each of the past titans that came out of the Founder were all extremely uniquely designed. Moreover, they gave an excellent sense of scale to the battle. Bertholdt’s Colossal Titan being reduced to a puppet hanging from Eren’s bone-spikes was absolutely jaw-dropping.
The scene of the Rumbling driving a horde of people towards a cliff was exceptionally apocalyptic and upsetting. But the animation of the crowd saving a crying baby from falling was deeply moving stuff. The use of color in this scene was particularly impactful. Many manga fans online praised that scene in particular as a step up from the manga.
Finally, the last timelapse of civilization changing has to be one of the best things that the series has ever done. This whole scene is so gorgeously animated and tear-jerking. My favorite part of this, though, was when we get far enough into the timelapse and we see a futuristic city on Paradis before it eventually crumbles to war and time. High fantasy so rarely shows a realistic progression of technology and society, so this was an excellent touch. It’s also a haunting reminder of the endless cycle of human life and civilization. Despite the victory(?) of the Eldians, everything must come to an end eventually.
A last hurrah for the Scout Regiment
One of the highlights of Attack on Titan has always been the well-developed, multidimensional characters. From season 1 when we met Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Reiner, Bertolt, Annie, Connie, Jean, Sasha, and the rest of the squad, audiences fell in love with these characters, their relationships, and their complex backstories and motivations. That all became complicated in season 2 when we learned that several of these characters were traitors. Things got even more confusing in seasons 3 and 4 when we learned why these characters did what they did.
But several hundred betrayals, double-crosses, and plot twists later, the Scouts are back together to fight a common enemy: Eren himself. Although we had a few moments of the squad coming back together earlier in this season, this finale was the first moment we saw them all back together, fighting as one. It’s hard to understate just how emotional this was to see after so many years.
I also felt as though each character got an appropriate, heartfelt ending. Mikasa honored Eren in both his life and death, and was still able to move on and build a life with someone else. The scouts got to return to Paradis safely, and presumably lived out their lives in peace. The remaining Eldians of Marley began rebuilding and regrowing on the trampled continent. The future looks hopeful for Paradis, or at least, as hopeful as it can be in the AOT world.
If I had one complaint about this finale, it was that we didn’t get to see much of the characters being happy in the post-war world. While not necessary for the plot to work, I must admit, I am a sucker for a long, sappy denouement. I enjoy following up with all of the characters after the story is over and seeing where they end up.
For instance, I would gladly have ugly cried if we saw Connie finally reunite with his mother. I would also have squealed in excitement if Annie and Armin had gotten together by the end. But I suppose we got to see Levi handing out lollipops to refugee children, so at least that’s something.
Redemption for Eren Jaeger?
As someone who didn’t read the manga, I had pretty much no idea what to expect from this finale, except the one obvious thing: Eren dying. Although many Eren Jaeger fans may argue otherwise, there was pretty much no way Eren was walking out of this finale alive. I don’t think any writer could, in good conscience, allow a character who wiped out 80% of the human race to walk away and have a happy ending.
But despite this, there was one twist I did not see coming: that Eren knew all along he would be killed, and he had done all of this to set up Paradis and the Scout Regiment as the heroes of the world. For much of season 4, I had assumed that Eren had fully “gone bad,” as they say. I fully anticipated Eren to go to his grave believing that he had to wipe out the entire world.
This ending for Eren’s character is just proof of Isayama’s brilliance as a writer. There’s a reason Eren is such a controversial character, both loved and hated. His motivations are realistic and understandable, yet so thoroughly complex and convoluted that it’s unlikely that even Eren understands them himself. What works so well about the AOT cast is that they genuinely all feel like real, messy, morally ambiguous people, Eren in particular.
And boy. That final battle was heart-wrenching. Eren’s character arc is one of the most compelling, complex, and painful character arcs in all of anime. In my opinion ‘The Final Chapters’ finished it perfectly. If anything, this final episode solidified him as one of the best-written and most multi-dimensional anti-heroes in all of television. Sayonara Eren, you will be missed.
Heroes and villains themes in Attack on Titan
Above everything, what captivated me about Attack on Titan from the beginning was how thematically rich and nuanced it is. Especially from season 3 onwards, there’s so much to dissect and interpret about the story and the world, and so many ideas to take away. While people could write essays and essays worth of material dissecting all the meaning behind AOT (and they have), I think the theme that this finale most addresses is the concept of heroes and villains.
Attack on Titan is an incredibly subversive series. It sets up a traditional cut-and-dry good vs. evil story, only to completely pull the rug out from under everyone. In season 1, all we know about the Titans is that they are inhuman monsters who devour humans alive without remorse. But throughout the series, we learn that the Titans are in fact human, and are unwilling participants in a war that started generations before they were even born.
Similarly, we initially hate the Marleyan traitors, assuming that they are horrible monsters bent on the destruction of humankind. But as we uncover their backstories, we learn that they are just as complex, compassionate, and sympathetic as the Paradis dwellers.
Attack on Titan is a story about peeling back the systems of society and realizing that our “enemies” are not evil, they simply were raised with different values, and a different worldview. At the end of the day, we’re all humans trying our best to survive in this chaotic world.
The Final Chapters Part 2 really drives this point home. Eren knew that to save Paradis, he would have to play the villain to set up his friends as the heroes. His intentions were good, but his actions were unspeakably awful. And yet, despite this, he is still a sympathetic character. Similarly, Armin has been the level-headed moral compass of the series pretty much since episode one. And yet, he accepts the role he played in The Rumbling, by having put the idea in Eren’s head.
It’s tempting to separate the characters of Attack on Titan into heroes and villains, good and evil. Oftentimes, we find ourselves doing this in real life as well with the people around us, our politicians, our celebrities, even complete strangers. But what worked so well about this finale is that these characters all defy that easy categorization. No matter what past mistakes they made, they were all able to come together to save the entire world.
But perhaps the most sobering, yet strangely uplifting, part of all this is that even though the Scout Regiment saved the island, the island will one day crumble and fade away regardless. No victory is a permanent victory, because everything ends eventually. And yet, the final shot of the entire show is of an explorer and his dog discovering the tree under which Eren is buried. Coincidentally, it looks exactly like the tree under which the Founder Ymir gained her Titan-shifting powers.
There will be new endings and new beginnings, and the world just keeps turning. For now, the best we can do is accept the time we have on this Earth and try to make it a little better.
Final thoughts on Attack on Titan The Final Chapters Part 2
Since its premiere 10 years ago, AOT has taken the entire world by storm. It’s not hard to see why either. The series has something for everyone: thrilling and brutal action, complex character drama, epic high fantasy worldbuilding, thoughtful and nuanced social commentary, with just a touch of romance and comic relief. But while there will be new beginnings, this anime has come to a monumental ending. A true landmark of television, Attack on Titan will be dearly missed, and treasured by fans for as long as people still watch anime.
What did you think of the finale? Let us know on Discord or over on social media @mycosmiccircus!