Attack on Titan is one of those dystopian society series that grabbed my attention since picking up the first volume. Both new and long-time fans of the series know fully well the ruthless battlefields the story takes place in.
The main cast, Eren Yeager, is an interesting character in the series that renders both anime viewers and manga readers speechless. His character progression drastically changed from the typical Shōnen hero to a debatable villain.
In this review, I will cite several reasons how Eren’s complex personality gave way to his “evil” actions.
From the death of his mother to the comrades that he lost along the way, Eren’s thirst for freedom remained the same. The traumatizing events have made him long for a utopian world that, in his understanding, can only be achieved by destruction — The Rumbling, making him an anti-hero.
I. Eren’s Childhood
First, let’s start by exploring Eren’s childhood. When he saw Dina Fritz’s Titan form take away his mom, Carla Yeager, Eren’s happiness had already shattered during his formative age.
Then, his innocence was taken away when he saved and protected Mikasa Ackerman, his adoptive sister, by ruthlessly stabbing and killing her human traffickers. No matter where he looks, he sees death everywhere — there’s no running away from this world.
II. Eren’s Thirst For Freedom
As he grows up, striving for freedom becomes his drive against an imprisoned world. His hatred doubled against malicious individuals and the Titans attempting to steal freedom from him.
To Eren, these “villains” took away his childhood, home, family, and innocence, all the while, he remains a helpless and weak child.
These are some of the reasons why he decided to join the military at just 15 years old. As he grows up, Eren holds onto his goal of Titan extermination.
In essence, he ultimately believes they rob citizens’ freedoms time after time.
III. Eren – An Assassin?
Eren’s villainous transformation really started after the 4-year time skip (Chapter 91) when he began to think maturely and more about the future.
Readers were misguided to think that Eren was cooperating and planning all along with Zeke Yeager (Eren’s brother). This is so that they can overthrow the military and murder Dhalis Zachary, the military leader.
At this point, fans would deem Eren’s actions evil since assassinating fellow humans is already in his mind. However, it’s later revealed that Eren’s actions went in this direction just so he can manipulate the Founding Titan.
IV. What Is Rumbling?
The Founding Titan is a unique titan whose ability can control all other titans through memory modifications and body compositions.
Eren did not succeed in these goals with Zeke: he was not able to commence the Rumbling.
In this phenomenal event, Titans march across Earth to destroy all life forms. Furthermore, he was not able to allow the Wall Titans to destroy Paradis Island, Eldia’s territory. (Note: Eldia refers to people who can shapeshift into Titans.)
V. Eldia’s Destruction?
Why does Eren want to destroy Eldia, you say? Well, to be fair, the Eldian nation is already in the middle of a terrifying holocaust.
Therefore, in his mind, Eren deems the whole world to be his enemy, where the Eldians are the perpetrators. Besides, Eren thinks that Eldians living in Marley are unredeemable.
Marley is a nation across the ocean from Paradis Island, whose fanatic citizens devote themselves to the shapeshifting Titan influence and power of the Yeager and Braun families. Therefore, Eren deems their lives unsalvageable, which prompts him to wipe them out.
VI. Eren’s Attack On Liberio – Who Is Eren Kruger?
Then, in the Marley arc, Eren truly has transformed into an adult. He schemed his attacks against the Liberio without the Survey Corps’ approval. (Liberio is a city in Marley, and is a designated hometown for many warriors.)
During this arc, Eren posed himself as a Marleyan spy by disguising himself and using the alias Eren Kruger. Upon shapeshifting into his Titan form, Eren devoured an Eldian noble, Willy Tybur, who is proclaiming war in front of a mass audience.
After devouring Tybur, Eren pursued the assembled military officials from the audience. At this point, there’s no turning back for Eren as a villain. He has become more ruthless as he stomps over innocent people in front of the stage, similar to how warriors squished their enemies a few years ago.
In Titan form, Eren also went rogue in Marley because the Royal Government concealed his imprisonment from the public. When it’s revealed that he has been held captive, this caused strife between military personnel and the public.
VII. Eren – A Mass Murderer?
In recent chapters, it was revealed that Eren had been the mastermind behind the killings of the Royal Government’s families.
He had been planning to manipulate his father, Grisha Yeager, to murder the families so the rulers of the Paradis Island would be no more.
VIII. When Did He Change? – The Conclusion
This also begs us the question of whether Eren really changed — whether that view of the ocean at Chapter 90 started changing his mindset. From childhood to adulthood, Eren has been living in what seems to be a hopeless, dystopian world.
As a brave and emotional soldier, he was traumatized mentality, had his emotions hurt, and his frustrations were bound to catch up to him. Despite all this, I believe he was the same since the beginning.
To reiterate in Eren’s own words (Chapter 121), “I have always been this way. Ever since I was born.”
In other words, Eren hasn’t changed; rather, he grew more stubborn in the eradication of the Titans. In the process, his obsession with freedom and its importance to his free will becomes more unchangeable; this is only magnified through several disruptive events occurring around him.
Villain or Anti-Hero?
At 19-years old, Eren’s ill-twisted potential to commit omnicide (extinction of human beings through nuclear warfare) truly renders him as an anti-hero of the series, but not a villain.
True, he’s creating sequential events to massacre nations and destroy the world.
However, this is also because Attack on Titan worlds and nations are continually changing, prompting Eren to alter his persona from protagonist to anti-hero.
He has always been a man desperately seeking freedom against tyrants to save others, even if it meant giving up his life.
But understanding his childhood traumas and seeing his numerous fights and sacrifices, especially after the battle of Trost District, should help us sympathize with his complex character.
Eren began as the boy with Titan eradication plans to save humanity. Still, at the end of the day, he used all Titans to exterminate humanity.
IX. About Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. Kodansha publishes it in the Bessatsu Shonen Magazine.
The manga began serialization on September 9th, 2009, and continues to date with 30 tankōbom formats.
Attack on Titan follows humanity settled within three concentric walls to protect themselves from the terrifying titans that prey on them. Eren Yeager is a young boy that believes that a caged life is similar to that of cattle and aspires to go beyond the walls one day, just like his heroes, the Survey Corps. Yet the emergence of a deadly Titan unleashes chaos.Originally Written By Epic Dope