- Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters redeems the controversial manga ending, addressing narrative flaws and themes that ruined the original finale.
- The anime made significant changes to key scenes, with Eren taking responsibility for his actions and Armin advocating for humanity’s capacity for good.
- The changes in Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters turned the story into a more meaningful and sympathetic portrayal.
After 10 years and changing the world of anime forever, Attack on Titan finally ended with the release of its last three episodes through Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters. While the feature-length finale’s very release was an event of its own, it had a lot more than ratings riding on its back. Fans looked to Attack on Titan’s last episodes to redeem the manga’s controversial finale and, thankfully, they were not disappointed.
Attack on Titan’s original ending, “Chapter 139: Moving Towards That Tree on the Hill,” tanked the manga’s goodwill overnight. While still amazingly illustrated by Hajime Isayama and his team, its narrative choices and themes were so bad that they got the manga’s harshest critics and most passionate fans to agree that it ruined everything beforehand.The anime addressed this controversy by making some small yet, significant changes in its adaptation.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
Attack on Titan’s Original Finale Confirmed Critics’ & Fans’ Worst Suspicions
In brief, Chapter 139 controversially lionized Eren Yeager while absolving the surviving characters of any responsibility they had to the world Eren just killed. The only thing worse than Eren claiming that he killed almost 80% of all life for Eldia’s sake was Armin Arlert tearfully thanking him for doing so. The epilogue then showed that Eren’s plans of scaring the world into leaving Eldia alone and turning his friends into war heroes were futile because Eldia was wiped out by war generations later.
The manga justified Eren’s global genocide as self-defense. All other countries and people were expandable, so as long as Eldia was safe. The manga positing that militarization and isolation were the only solutions to the mere possibility of conflict also exposed Attack on Titan’s underlying fascism. These disproved all previous claims that the manga was subtly criticizing such dangerous and hateful politics. Isayma’s overt support of the Japanese right wing only worsened things. Chapter 139 validated critics’ fears that Attack on Titan was nihilistic and regressively conservative. Fans who defended the manga couldn’t do so anymore, and were appalled and disturbed. Following the backlash, Isayama added new pages and rewrote some parts to better explain controversial points, like Ymir’s “love” for her abuser King Fritz. He even apologized to readers for disappointing them.
Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters Made Some Small but Significant Changes
Broadly speaking, Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters stayed faithful to the manga. The Alliance’s remnants stopped The Rumbling by killing Eren, the survivors rebuilt their lives, and Eldia (and presumably the world as well) was wiped out in a future war. But to get to these points, the anime made small yet significant changes. In the anime, the survivors helped in post-Rumbling relief efforts. Levi Ackerman entertained refugee children, Gabi Braun and Falco Grice planted trees, and Yelena helped Onyakopon deliver aid. Originally, Levi, Gabi, Falco, and Onyakopon explored the world as tourists. Yelena was oddly absent despite playing a major role in the final arc. In the manga, she was last seen in Kiyomi Azumabito’s lifeboat.
The biggest change was Eren’s and Armin’s conversation in The Paths. Unlike the manga, Eren called himself an idiot for thinking that the only solution to Eldia’s problems was genocide. Instead of vindicating Eren’s mass murder, Armin called out Eren’s immaturity and narrow-mindedness. Although he pitied his best friend and finally understood what drove him over the edge, Armin still knew that Eren was beyond redemption. He at least thanked Eren for inspiring him and the Eldians to dream of a world beyond the walls. Before he woke up, Armin promised to help Eren shoulder his guilt, pain, and responsibility. He also promised to reunite with him in Hell.
Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters Vastly Improved the Original Ending
Attack on Titan: The Final Chapter’s changes didn’t alter major events like Eren erasing the power of the Titans or Mikasa Ackerman dying of old age, but they changed the story’s overall messages and themes. By having Eren admit how monstrous he was, the anime avoided the nihilistic pitfall that the manga and many similarly dark anime fell for. More often than not, anti-heroes like Eren were allowed to commit heinous atrocities because they were wronged in the past. Other characters and the text agreed with them, and even revered the anti-hero in question. Doing so exposed their respective stories as juvenile and self-indulgent, despite any claims of “maturity.”
Fans weren’t offended by these themes’ existence, but at the fact that Attack on Titan’s manga was ultimately no different from lesser yet equally cynical and juvenile works. Eren’s case was so extreme that he demoted the manga from being a generational icon to being an edgy and nationalist power fantasy. Here, brute force and unprecedented cruelties were equated to strength and justified as necessary evils. Compassion and peace were derided as weaknesses. This nihilism didn’t just justify Eren’s actions, but espoused a fatalistic message. Human nature was inherently cruel and bound for self-destruction, so nobody (characters and readers alike) should hope for better or even try to improve things.
The anime redeemed Attack on Titan by making Eren take responsibility for his evils and having Armin speak for humanity. Instead of being a “slave to freedom” who was powerless to fate and destiny, Eren was now a tragic monster who deluded himself into thinking that he had no control to cope with his guilt and regret. The anime emphasized that, for all his power and terror, Eren (and by extension, other anti-heroes like him) was just a sad and pathetic teenager who was in over his head. This turned Eren from an insufferably self-aggrandizing martyr to a boy who was unfairly denied of a childhood, and forced to carry immense destiny. This also made Mikasa’s undying love for Eren more sympathetic. Rather than falling for an unrepentant and self-righteous monster, Mikasa was sadly the only one who could see Eren’s last shreds of humanity.
Similarly, Armin’s passionate appeal to Eren’s humanity undid the manga’s tiresome final point and gave the anime a more meaningful coda. It was also a better payoff and build up from his similarly impassioned conversation with Zeke Yeager earlier in The Paths. Although Eldia could find itself at war in the future and even if conflict could never be truly erased, Armin still trusted in people’s capacity for good. Armin’s belief in the sanctity of life made the epilogue where the world fell to war feel more like humanity’s unavoidable folly rather than the bleak self-fulfilling prophecy that Eren surrendered to. War may be unavoidable, but this still didn’t give Eren (or anyone) the right to kill billions and call the genocide an act of mercy. What was more important was making sure that people could live, love, and thrive in the present.
This responsibility to others also extended to the surviving characters. Instead of abandoning the world to enjoy themselves, Gabi, Falco, the oft misunderstood Levi, and others were shown making an active effort to create a better future. The Alliance’s return to Eldia on the world’s behalf also felt more genuine in the anime thanks to Armin’s principled moral stance. This stood in sharp contrast to the Alliance’s return in the manga, which felt odd and hypocritical since they (especially Armin) thought Eren killing most of humanity in their name was fine. It seemed like they only spoke for the world because they didn’t want other nations to retaliate against Eldia, not because they actually cared about achieving peace.
Thanks to these changes, Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters redeemed the story to even the most jaded fans. When Attack on Titan: The Final Season began, many were worried about how it would adapt the manga’s controversial ending, if at all. Some even prayed that MAPPA would create an anime-original finale. Fortunately, the anime retained the best of Isayama’s vision while making the necessary adjustments. Attack on Titan’s last episodes didn’t just undo its source material’s worst implications; they solidified the series’ place in anime history as a modern classic.
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