No one had ordered Eren to join the military corps and challenge the most piercing fears of existence. Eren has chosen, independently, to be a soldier since he turned five, before he even knew the difference between dreams and reality. Attack On Titan opens with a little Eren explaining to adults what courage is, and above all how good it is to pursue your desires. His desire, born and raised on the legends in which the nature of the giants was explained, then developed from a tragedy, like a black and white photograph. Since his mother’s death and that tragic moment, Eren has transformed his greatest passion into a necessity: become a soldier and eliminate the giants to repay his revenge. But how much does this revenge cost? And above all, where can Eren’s courage go?
Thus, like a long journey in which the destination is not fully known, Attack on Titan first showed us Eren’s training and then his true nature, that of a giant. This moment was the first truly great plot twist of the Japanese anime, one of those for which the initial exhilaration soon becomes amazement, and one of those for which the mind begins to formulate various questions: Is Eren the bad guy in the situation? How will the plot evolve from this episode onwards?
But Attack on Titan is the paradise of plot twists and that episode, so powerful and alienating, was the first of a long series of surprises
From the tragic passing of Eren’s mother to the characters who left us along the surrendering battles, there were so many moments within the story that caught my attention, but the reveal about Reiner and Berthold’s identity is one I still struggle to get over. But let’s go in order. Attack on Titan presented us with Reiner as a charismatic and reliable character, one who inspires great trust in his companions, and a sort of big brother to the companions who live within the 104 Recruit training corps. He was immediately one of the most appreciated by the commander because he made his own the motto according to which the survival of the group passes through a strong sense of individual self-denial. Berthold, on the other hand, is an apparently quiet boy with little willpower: Berthold himself has admitted to being a coward known for the low self-esteem he has towards himself. The two are perhaps the ones who best experience the relationship with Eren within the training camps, and also two characters capable of establishing a relationship with the public through their ambiguous characterization.
Then came an episode, a single episode that changed our perspective and that of the series in general on two characters so important from a narrative point of view. ‘Warrior’ is the name of the sixth episode of the second season, an episode that sees soldiers scaling the walls after the battle near Utgard Castle. They are joined by a patrol led by Hannes, who reports that no signs of breaches in the walls have been found: What could it be? While the soldiers set off towards Trost, Reiner takes Eren aside and reveals that he and Berthold are actually the Armored and Colossal Titan and that their mission to destroy humanity can only be avoided if Eren agrees to follow them.
It all happens naturally, as if they were talking about the carbonara recipe. With a remarkable directorial artifice, our POV becomes Eren’s, his reaction becomes ours. As an excuse? Did we hear correctly? Did they just reveal AoT’s biggest mystery yet? Through a transversal narrative in which past and present mix with flashbacks to show the doubts of the companions regarding the two Giants, Attack on Titan makes Eren and the Armored Giant discount as the antipodes that have always marked the world. But where is the good in Attack on Titan and, above all, who represents it? This clash, so full of pathos and emotion, is actually the watershed of the series itself, a sort of ‘erase from your brain everything you have seen so far’.
A story full of twists and surprises
The anime’s ability to overturn the emotions of the spectators reaches, here and a stone’s throw from brutality, one of its highest peaks, and together with the nature of the Armored Giant we discover that Reiner, the classic affable and overwhelming boy, is none other than the one who broke down the door of the Wall Maria and one of those responsible for the death of a fifth of the human population. We know that Eren fought for that, that he became a soldier to massacre all those monsters who fed on human flesh like they were sugary sweets, and now he finds himself discovering that one of those Giants is actually his friend Reiner. But there is more and it is precisely in this more that all the greatness of one of the most beautiful anime of recent years lies, and that is the ability to make us observe a character from different points of view. Because knowing Reiner in depth means understanding that due to the weight of that great responsibility and the attachment he has developed towards his companions, Reiner suffers from a split personality: in addition to his identity as a genocidal warrior, develops the conviction of being a simple soldier whose task is to protect humanity, together with his companions: Because ultimately more than Giants and monsters, Attack on Titan is about humanity and values, and every moment marks the start of a new map to discover.
“Only winners can live. This world is so merciless” – Mikasa, Attack on Titan.