One of the biggest draws to Eren Yeager as a character is his growth and what happens to him in Attack on Titan.
Eren is one of the best anime protagonists ever, even with Attack on Titan fans being left disappointed with the story's closing chapters. His journey and development are truly elite and merits breaking down exactly what happens to this character.
Charting the journey of Attack on Titan's Eren
The early years
Eren lived with his mother, father, and Mikasa in the Shiganshina District of Wall Maria as a child. When the Titans attacked, his father was away on business (the exact manner of this business is revealed later on). This left only Eren’s mother, Carla, in Shiganshina with Mikasa and Eren at the time.
Unfortunately, Carla was at home alone while Eren and Mikasa were out and became mortally wounded, trapped underneath debris. Eventually, Eren accepts that he must let his mother go, and unfortunately, watches as a distinct-looking Titan eats Carla.
This is where Eren's rage is born, the anger he directs at Titan-kind for three seasons before redirecting his efforts to the source. Eren's father, Grisha, also gives his son the powerful weapon of Titan-shifting to help combat Titans and the true enemy.
With this, we have the start of Eren's journey in addition to the formal military training he receives as an adolescent. The foundation is laid for what happens to Eren in his journey through Attack on Titan.
During the Battle of Trost District, Eren is seemingly eaten and killed by a bearded Titan. Fortunately, he makes his first Titan Shift shortly after that and bursts through the bearded Titan, fully transformed.
This is the first emergence of the Eren we see in the story's closing arcs, someone willing to do anything for their goals. At this moment, he cares for nothing but the destruction of Titans, even making an ecstatic face when remembering the moment later.
The remainder of the first two-thirds of Season 1 focuses on Eren's training and introduction/incorporation to Levi Squad. The last third of Season 1 does give us another step forward for our young protagonist.
First signs of the enemy
In the first episode of Season 1's final third, the Female Titan makes her first appearance. From her first actions, it's clear she's no ordinary Titan while still being so distinct from an Abnormal.
It's eventually apparent that this is someone who has powers similar to Eren's, adding more suspense to the origins of Titan Shifting. No one in Attack on Titan seems to know where these powers come from, yet seemingly two people possess them?
While captured originally, the Female Titan does escape and successfully makes her getaway, leading to no answers and more questions. Attack on Titan's S1 finale deals with the suspicion and reveals that Annie Leonhart is the Female Titan, leading to her and Eren clashing as Titans.
Eren wins, but with that victory comes the unfortunate knowledge that there must be enemies among friends within the Walls. The first inklings of conflict with other members of humanity appear in Attack on Titan.
The warriors revealed
Season 2 of Attack on Titan is home to arguably one of the greatest twists and reveals of all time. The season's climax sees Reiner revealing he and Bertholdt are Titan Shifting Warriors from another country, sent to bring Eren and his Titan powers back.
Eren initially tries to give Reiner an out, saying it's a bad joke or he must just be tired. Bertholdt seemingly gets through to Reiner when reinforcing this, but unfortunately, Reiner further reveals himself.
Reiner and Bertholdt transform into the Armored and Colossal Titans, respectively, successfully capturing Eren and Ymir, also a Titan Shifter. The group's conversations don't give us too much information, but one big message can be taken.
Somewhere beyond the Walls of Paradis, there is a nation of people, perhaps the world, intent on destroying Paradis and all Paradisians.
During capture and after rescue, Eren continually expresses hate and rage for Titans, Reiner and Bertholdt, and those behind it all. Another key step in Eren's development, our Attack on Titan protagonist now knows who his next enemies are and what he must do.
Life and sins of the father
Attack on Titan Season 3 finds Eren captured by the Reiss family due to Grisha Yeager stealing the Founding Titan and passing it onto Eren years ago. Rod Reiss' goal in capturing Eren is to have Historia take back the Founding Titan from Eren, a conflict that ends in humans killing humans.
Eren and the Survey Corps fighting other humans here is an important moment for the former's journey and development. This is likely where Eren lastly resolves himself to do what he must before the return to Shiganshina and discovery of the truth.
After the Reiss family, the Survey Corps turns their eyes toward the Shiganshina District. A battle that results in devastating losses and Colossal gains for humanity (pun intended), Eren's victory allows basement access and, finally, the truth.
Learning humanity is the true enemy gives Eren the final push he needs, especially after it's implied he sees Grishes entire life through his own eyes. His closing words of Attack on Titan Season 3 emphasize his reluctant commitment and acceptance of what must be done.
Attack on Titan Season 4 sees Eren invade Marleya and declare war in a terrifyingly deadly manner paralleling his own experience from childhood. Preceding this is an excellent conversation between Reiner and Eren, where the latter tells Reiner he'll do what he must to save his friends.
This further emphasizes Attack on Titan S3's closing statements from Eren and shows he's truly ready to destroy Marleya.
After Marleya, we see Eren commit further to his goals as he turns on his friends and forms his own militant group. This moment is especially noteworthy as this is the first time we've seen Eren essentially betray his friends to save his friends.
Perhaps S1 Levi's words regarding how outcomes determine right and wrong choices convinced Eren to commit this hard.
Attack on Titan spoilers from here on out
Eventually, Eren begins the Rumbling, solidifying his intent to destroy the world to save his friends (who ironically resolve to stop him). We get a horrifyingly tragic flashback of Eren 2 years ago, apologizing tearfully to a child before showing that child dead from the Rumbling.
This is a profoundly symbolic moment for Eren's development and descent into near-villainy. Eren used to be that child, scared of the Colossal Titan peeking over the walls all those years ago.
Now, Eren is the one up high, looking down below at the people he's killed and coming to terms with his choices. It is a true full-circle moment with Eren further coming to terms with Reiner and Bertholdt's actions years ago as he does the same.
The final moments
In the closing chapters of Attack on Titan, we see Mikasa committing to killing Eren herself. Before dying, Eren shows Mikasa the future they could've had if she had told him how she felt days before.
It's clear Eren loved Mikasa all along, further reinforced by Eren's conversation with Armin in Chapter 139.
In the end, it's shown Eren orchestrated almost every event within Attack on Titan via the Founding Titan's powers.
A significant reveal was Eren's controlling of the Titan that ate his mom, having the Titan go right by the Warriors to instead start Eren's journey. Although unpopular, these reveals certainly solidify Eren's impressive resolve to the point he'd sacrifice his own mother to save his friends.
While the Attack on Titan manga ending left fans with a sour taste in their mouths, Eren's journey is still noteworthy and one of the best in anime.
While still one of the best series of all time, Attack on Titan undoubtedly disappointed a majority of its fan base with its ending.
However, fans should keep in mind the evidence that the published final chapter isn't what Isayama originally intended. Perhaps the Attack on Titan anime can bring that true ending to light.
While we may never know what Eren's journey could or should have been, we do know it as we experienced it. Although some different choices could've elevated Eren's journey to greater heights, he's still a complex and well-written character that deserves to be hailed as one of the GOATs.
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Note: This article reflects the author's views.
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