It finally happened. After 10 years, 4 seasons, and 92 episodes, the Attack on Titan anime has concluded. But despite so much hype surrounding the long-awaited finale, there was also plenty of uncertainty leading up to it. Since the original manga ended over two years ago, there’s been a very loud group within the fandom that hated how the story ended. Even if you blocked out every possible spoiler for years, it was impossible to ignore the rumblings of how the ending “ruined” Attack on Titan.
But now that the credits have rolled on the anime and the dust is settling, many walked away satisfied with the anime’s finale. What changed this time around? The overwhelmingly positive response to the final episode left many, myself included, wondering, “This was the bad ending people lost their minds over?” Playing into my more inquisitive habits, I did some digging to find out what the anime did to improve the ending of Attack on Titan.
For the most part, no. The anime does not have a different ending from the manga. However, the anime did make some key changes that vastly improved the message and storytelling of the ending.
The anime took the liberty of changing some lines of dialogue, with the most notable change being in Eren and Armin’s final conversation in the Path. At the time of the manga’s release, this scene was one of the most discussed moments among fans. Armin’s infamous “Thank you for becoming a mass murderer for our sake” left many fans perplexed by how tone-deaf it sounds in what’s supposed to be an emotional moment between two best friends sharing their last moments together. Creator Hajime Isayama has even lamented that the translation of that particular line did not come out how he had hoped.
In the anime, that infamous line was removed entirely. While Armin does still thank Eren in a way, his acknowledgment of Eren’s horrific crimes against humanity comes with a more touching send-off. Armin reassures Eren that they will eventually be together forever when they see each other again in Hell. As morbid as that sounds, it shows Armin effectively shouldering part of Eren’s guilt of causing so much death during the Rumbling. It’s a bitter-sweet testament to the undying bond between two best friends who inexplicably changed the world.
Having been able to block out all sorts of spoilers the last two years, I had no prior knowledge of that particular scene being the one that many fans thought “ruined” the ending of Attack on Titan. Now that the credits have rolled on the anime, I consider that scene as one of the finale’s best.
Another notable change is the treatment of the story’s epilogue. After Mikasa puts Eren to rest, the story goes into a timelapse that shows Paradis Island developing into a new society but eventually plunging back into war and destruction. This sequence encapsulates the story’s tragic message that history is bound to repeat itself and that humans will always turn to conflict and violence. In the manga, the rise and fall of this post-titan world plays out in what seems like just a matter of decades. The short timespan of peace stupified readers as it felt like all of the heroes’ efforts in the battle against the Titans were for naught.
While the anime retains the core message of the epilogue, it gives this new world a little more time to breathe and develop. Instead of a matter of decades, the evolution of Paradis Island stretches on for generations. It goes as far as showing futuristic-looking skyscrapers being built until a devastating bomb hits the city. As tragic as the epilogue’s essence is, it’s more reassuring to know that the world our favorite characters helped shape got to at least enjoy a much longer time of peace and prosperity.
As much as people love to argue how mangas are superior to anime, or vice versa, there’s no denying an anime’s advantage in swaying your emotions as you watch. Even if the Attack on Titan finale has several plot holes or character inconsistencies you can nitpick, the overall production of the anime plays a big role in making the final chapters feel more grand than what was originally published.
One of my favorite tropes in anime is when songs iconic to the series hit during climactic moments. Not only did the finale bring back some old favorites, but it also dropped some new songs that fit perfectly into the series. Having Linked Horizon, the band behind many of Attack on Titan’s most beloved intro tracks, return for one last song was an especially nice touch. Even if you have complaints about the story’s writing, you can’t deny that the anime’s music raises the big moments over the top.
It should also go without saying that MAPPA killed it with their animation for the finale. As notorious as the studio has become in recent years, they are still easily among the best at animating and choreographing incredible action sequences. After a season that’s been more focused on political intrigue, it felt nostalgic to see the Scouts put on their ODM gear and zip across the skies to fight an army of Titans for a final time. MAPPA pulled out all the stops for this episode, making the farewell to the series all the more satisfying.
Apart from all the hype moments in the finale, the finale packs plenty of heartbreaking scenes in its 80-minute runtime. We’re talking about Attack on Titan, after all. These scenes are elevated by the talented voice actors who worked on the show. Marina Inoue, Armin’s VA, and Yui Ishikawa, Mikasa’s VA, particularly deserve special mentions. They both put out some of their best work in the series, delivering lines with such raw emotions that you’re hanging on every word. Look up the videos of the voice actors speaking their final lines in the recording booth for the show. Their reactions after closing the scripts should be enough to tell you how much these roles mean to them. It was just as much of a journey for them as it was for us.
In an interview with the NY Times, creator Hajime Isayama talks about how he had the ending of Attack on Titan in mind since the beginning. He mentions how even if there were some changes throughout the manga’s development, having Eren transform from a victim into an aggressor was always the determined path of the story. If anything, the ending seems like the one thing he insisted on never changing. Because the path already was envisioned since the start, Isayama believes his role as the creator shares a parallel with Eren's journey. He laments how even if he’s the one who holds all the power in the story, his commitment to the planned ending is what ultimately shackled him from achieving true creative freedom.
Like any good piece of art, the Attack on Titan finale and the series as a whole are going to continue to be discussed for years to come. The anime finale may not be perfect, but it still showcases plenty of what made the series so beloved. In the end, it’s great to see fans being happy with the ending by reaching the satisfying conclusion they deserved for sticking along for such a long and crazy ride. See you later, Attack on Titan.