Should Attack On Titan's anime get a different ending than the manga? It's become an increasingly prevalent question (and now even a fan-driven petition) since Attack On Titan's manga released its climactic chapters (and then added some additional pages), which brought the story to a drastic climax. The events of the final battle in the new status quo that followed in the aftermath left many fans feeling like Attack On Titan didn't stick the landing. At best, the final turns in the characters of Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert were bold and challenging - at best, the final conflict unraveled the entire preceding story of heroism in the face of horrific odds.
Warning: Attack On Titan Ending SPOILERS Follow!
Eren Jaeger's choice to unleash "The Rumbling" on the world was one that shocked fans - but they held out hope that there was some kind of redemption coming in the end. However, Eren never revealed some "higher purpose" or "smarter plan" behind The Rumbling - in fact, Hajime Isayama forced fans to see the witness the true horror of Eren's act first-hand! Some of the final chapters of Attack On Titan brought readers into the perspective of the civilians caught in the wake of The Rumbling, in their last tragic, and horrific, moments before being annihilated by Eren's army of Colossus Titans.
Isayama twisted the knife even deeper with the reveal that Eren had seen this future through his Titan connections - and even met some of his specific victims (like a poor young boy) knowing he would murder them a short while later. As the Founding Titan, he was responsible for Hange's tragic death and unleashed an entire army of Titans along his Founding Titan body, in a genuine attempt to kill Levi, Mikasa, Armin, and all his surviving teammates from the Survey Corps. In the end, Mikasa was forced to sever Eren's head from the Founding Titan and kill him.
However, where Attack On Titan's ending really took a turn was in the aftermath of Eren's death. Eren had altered Mikasa and Armin's memories until after his death, revealing only then that his "true intention" was trying to force his comrades to step up and become the heroes of the world, while forcing mankind to abandon its never-ending cycle of war, killing, and death. But in the end, Eren arguably achieved none of that.
Attack On Titan's epilogue sees humanity learn almost nothing from the cataclysm of The Rumbling. Despite losing 80% of the world's human population, as soon as Eren is dead - and the curse of the Titans disappears from the world - Marley immediately points guns at its Eldian citizens again. Marley doesn't trust that the Eldians no longer pose a threat as Titans; Paradis Island and its "Jaegerists" military faction don't trust that they are safe from outside attack, and the Eldians still don't seem fully able to live in peace and equality with the rest of the world's citizens. While Armin forms a diplomatic peace coalition with his fellow survivors of "The Battle of Heaven and Earth," Mikasa is arguably left alone and shattered, spending her days at Eren's grave. There's some strange reincarnation symbolism thrown in (Eren visits Mikasa as a seagull), but that's only more problematic for a lot of fans, as reincarnation is supposed to be reserved for enlightened or saintly individuals, rather than mass murderers.
Attack On Titan's manga finale is inevitably a super-depressing and confusing end to one of the most beloved anime/manga series of all time, and the story arcs of heroes that have become worldwide icons. With just a few key tweaks, the anime could leave the wider audience of fans in a much better place. Nothing about the bold choices Isayama made for Eren and The Rumbling have to chance (and arguably shouldn't); however, the outcome could deliver a little more in the way of results and hope.
Maybe in the anime, it's at least hinted that there's potential for humanity's survivors to build new bridges of peace - or maybe we see that Armin and his peaceful ambassadors make a discernable difference in easing worldwide tensions and bringing the different countries together. There's so much more room in an anime's final minutes than there are in a manga's closing pages to expand upon ideas or offer new small scenes of development and insight. Isayama and the creative teams at Kadansha have to hear the criticisms rumbling around in the fandom; since anime and manga are free to be different in how they tell the story, it seems like Attack On Titan would benefit from that creative license to change more so than just about any other series in memory.3comments
Honestly, it may all depend on how we navigate this next year in real life: If 2020 and the global pandemic spark actual change in how human beings act toward one another, Attack On Titan's anime may want to reflect hopeful swell when the final episodes run in 2022. But, if we come out of the sickness, death, and societal strife of the last year showing little or no lessons being learned... well, the manga ending is always there.
Should Attack On Titan's anime get a different ending than the manga? Let us know how you feel in the comments.