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Why Reiner Braun becomes the protagonist in the final season of Attack on Titan (Spoilers)

Reiner through the seasons (Credit : Wit Studio and MAPPA) at the beginning of the final season of Attack on Titan (credit: MAPPA)
Reiner through the seasons (Credit : Wit Studio and MAPPA) at the beginning of the final season of Attack on Titan (credit: MAPPA)

From being a supporting character to being the antagonist to being the protagonist, Reiner Braun is one of the most discussed characters in Attack on Titan.

From Season 1 to 3, Reiner has been debated, hated and loved amongst fans. Having said that, the final season of Attack on Titan reveals the depths and layers of his character. This sentiment is echoed by Isayama Hajime, mangaka of Attack on Titan:

"I consider Reiner to be one of the protagonists"

Part 2 of the final season of Attack on Titan will air in winter 2022, and Reiner remains as one of its central characters. This article explores why it was so brilliant, and even necessary for Reiner to become one of the protagonists.

Note: This article contains spoilers for Attack on Titan.


Reiner Braun becomes one of the most empathetic characters in Attack on Titan's final season

Attack on Titan The Final Season - ReinerEpisode 1 | Episode 16 https://t.co/Y5bnk2OnCF

Why is the reaction to Reiner so drastically different from season 3 to season 4? To put it simply, in the final season, the anime shifts into a different perspective, and the audience finally sees life from the side of the Eldians residing in Liberio, with Reiner Braun at the center.

Reiner before season 4

Reiner in season 1 of Attack on Titan (credit : Wit Studio) Reiner's Armored Titan (credit : Wit Studio)
Reiner in season 1 of Attack on Titan (credit : Wit Studio) Reiner's Armored Titan (credit : Wit Studio)

Reiner was first introduced in season 1 as the 2nd ranked honor student of the 104th Training Corps. He forms a bond with Eren, expressing his and Berthold’s wish to return home, and joins the Survey Corps with the rest of the protagonists.

Reiner showed incredible leadership skills and led the charge several times, notably during the attack of the Female Titan. It was later in Season 2 that Reiner and Berthold were revealed to be the Armored and Colossal Titans respectively. This elicited hatred from the characters and fans of Attack on Titan alike.

Attention to detailThe metal case can be noticed when Reiner hits his left side of his chest earlier on in Episode 52 https://t.co/DBurDiO8ik

After being rescued by Ymir, the two weren’t seen until midway through season 3. After Berthold’s death, Reiner and Zeke are saved By Piek’s Cart Titan. Broken and battered, they returned to Marley.


Reiner’s backstory

Reiner would do anything to hold onto this moment. Anything. [via Attack on Titan Final Season] https://t.co/HPsT3UZH2x

In the final season, however, Reiner’s character is given both complexity and justification. He was born in Liberio’s internment zone to an Eldian mother and a Marleyan father. Reiner enlisted in Marley’s Warrior Program, fulfilling his mother's wishes.

The latter claimed that his father would accept both of them if Reiner could become an honorary Marleyan. Despite inheriting the Armored Titan at age 10, Reiner was still harshly rejected by his father. This disillusioned the young boy, rendering him aimless.

Reiner's Armored Titan (credit: Wit Studio)
Reiner's Armored Titan (credit: Wit Studio)

Reiner was then sent on a mission to retrieve the Founding and Attack Titans with Marcel Galiard, Berthold Hoover and Annie Leonhart. Amidst unforeseen circumstances, he is saved by Marcel from being eaten by Ymir on their way to Shiganshina.


Psychological trauma

After Marcel’s death, Reiner incorporates his personality into his own, later completely dissociating himself into two identities, whom Berthold labels as the soldier - an optimistic and honest soldier of Paradis, and the warrior - a logical and cunning warrior of Marley.

The split was later unified after Berthold reminded Reiner of his true priorities and his true home in Marley.

Reinwr in his Warrior personality with Berthold in the background (credit : Wit Studio)
Reinwr in his Warrior personality with Berthold in the background (credit : Wit Studio)

Reiner's true personality is slowly revealed to be brilliant and strategic, but indecisive and lacking in self-confidence. Although he harbors convictions, he is also cowardly.

Will Isayama ever give Reiner a break https://t.co/1xoQ2mtEM5

Reiner suffers from severe psychological trauma in Paradis, which coupled with his mother’s insistence and his own disillusionment with Marley, makes him extremely depressed and suicidal.


Reiner as a protagonist

Disillusioned Reiner (credit : MAPPA)
Disillusioned Reiner (credit : MAPPA)

In the final season of Attack on Titan, the viewer sees everything from Reiner’s persepective, turning him from a villain to a broken and relatable character. It was a candid representation of the Marleyan perspective, which is different from the one revealed through the diary of Grisha Yeager in Season 3.

Reiner tells his family about his time on Paradis.[via Attack on Titan Final Season] https://t.co/d0PK294VFA

Reiner, at the end of his term as the Armored Titan and by extension - his lifespan - has grown disillusioned with the Marleyans and the Eldians. In fact, he harbors no animosity towards his friends from Paradis, understanding that they are all humans. This attitude is contrasted in Reiner's young cousin, Gabi, and reflected in his mentee, Falco.

Attack on Titan Wiki Website Featured Image (Anime): "Reiner sees the past Warriors' https://t.co/L64Tb7ngo0

It is Falco’s voice that stops Reiner from killing himself, and he is shown to hallucinate about his friends while looking at the children he is protecting. It is Falco who once again makes Reiner fight, and despite his misgivings, the latter returns to Paradis to rescue him and Gabi.


Who is Reiner Braun?

Reiner braun, a human. (Credit: Wit Studio and MAPPA)
Reiner braun, a human. (Credit: Wit Studio and MAPPA)

In the end, Reiner is neither a charismatic leader nor a morally corrupt villain. In the final season of Attack on Titan, Reiner is an enervated man suffering from PTSD. His cowardly nature is contrasted with his deep concern and care for the people around him, especially his fellow warriors and the children he mentors.

Reiner can’t be the only one with money here.[via Attack on Titan Final Season] https://t.co/V0mUWGwidR

Reiner's gradual shift through meeting and living with the people of Paradis, his understanding of both Eldians and Marleyans, and the guilt he carries from having caused so many deaths, make him want to stop fighting. The sheer trauma coaxes him to stop living.

Reiner: Why... won't you guys... just let me... die in peace?! https://t.co/wNF5dEIh4d

Even when he meets Eren, not only is Reiner submissive, but he almost seems thankful, stating that now he can finally atone.


Reiner and Eren

Reiner Braun and Eren Yeager share one of the most complex bonds in Attack on Titan. They are each other’s foils, and throughout the anime, their positions keep shifting from good warriors to deplorable creatures.

Attack on Titan is an anime about a morally gray world, and its fitting that both Reiner and Eren are morally ambiguous characters as well.

Official posters of Attack on Titan season 3 and the final season respectively, with Eren and Reiner mirroring each other (credit : Wit Studio and MAPPA)
Official posters of Attack on Titan season 3 and the final season respectively, with Eren and Reiner mirroring each other (credit : Wit Studio and MAPPA)

As Eren shifts towards a darker path, Reiner becomes the more humane one. Both of them suffer through trauma, buried under the weight of their actions, and that leads to some of the most heart-breaking encounters in the entire series.

Eren vs Reiner Manga panel ( credit : Funimation)
Eren vs Reiner Manga panel ( credit : Funimation)

While all of their fights are epic, it is their encounter in Libero, where Eren proclaims that he is just like Reiner, that sends fans careening to the floor.

Their visceral outpouring of grief and suppressed rage transitioned into one of the most tragic fights of the season.


What’s next for Reiner in part 2

Reiner vs Eren gonna be 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/0DZ55hx3dC

While part 1 of the final season ended on a cliff hanger, it shouldn’t be a surprise to say that another Reiner vs Eren battle and his Pokemon-like collection of Titans is imminent.

Isayama in an interview (credit : Funimation)
Isayama in an interview (credit : Funimation)

However, Reiner is the favorite character of Isayama Hajime, the mangaka of Attack on Titan. In fact, Isayama's love runs so deep that the fandom often jokes that he will never kill Reiner.

But the author has never hesitated to put any of his characters through hell, especially Reiner, and is infamous for giving them an abrupt death.

Reiner reaching out to a hallucination (credit : MAPPA)
Reiner reaching out to a hallucination (credit : MAPPA)

Amidst the climactic war, Reiner's possible reconciliation with Gabi, Falco and his old comrades from Paradis seems necessary but uncertain. Coupled with that, whether he survives the fight with Eren remains to be seen.

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Edited by Sijo Samuel Paul
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