An existence abandoned at birth. A child conditioned using duty. A mind demoralized within apathy. A heart numbed through distance. A spirit silenced by its loneliness. Annie Leonhart has known little love in her life and through her upbringing was mainly supported by her adoptive father who desired to transform her into a warrior to use for his pursuit of a better life. In addition, the Marleyan military habituated their warriors with convenient and ignorant truths desensitizing those minds to the killing of whom they considered “enemies”. Yet, on the nonchalant path Annie traversed, a natural desire to connect originated and resided within the shadows of her heart desiring the embrace of love. Only until her adoptive father opened himself up to her and revealed how much he loves her and values her as his daughter, did the walls enclosing Annie’s heart crumble away and reveal the dawn to those deep desires reverberating within Annie.
Annie Leonhart is my favourite character in Shingeki no Kyojin. Ever since she was cornered in The Stohess District inside Wall Sheeha and forced to surround herself with hardened crystal in order to protect herself from the Survey Corps, I had waited for her return. Each conflict that arose in the story had me wondering ‘is this is the moment?’. Eventually, as the story progressed four years into the future, Eren accessed the power of the Founding Titan and issued the command to crumble any and all Titan armor encasing a Titan in order to release the wall Titans from their slumber. This included Reiner’s armor and the hardened crystal encasing surrounding Annie. It may not have been intended on Eren’s part but with that one command, Annie was released from her crystal shell and cast back onto the board as a piece within the chaos.
Once the timeskip happened, I expected that if Annie were to return, she would need to be informed on the happenings of the past few years in order to operate as an effective character within the story going forward. This is where Armin and Hitch’s conversations with Annie came into play. Once the story covered these moments, it became apparent that despite Annie being encased in hardened crystal, it was likely that she was still conscious and taking in the information Armin and Hitch were sharing with her. Not only did it allow Annie to have some idea as to the progressing events occurring within Paradis, Marley and around the world but it gave Annie insight into the thoughts of those she was conditioned to believe as “Island Devils”. Such a display of humanity that reflected her own alongside the silence of loneliness and the experience of darkness embracing her over the past four years became the elements serving to liberate Annie from her limited perspective of the world and life. Annie internalized these feelings and once released, she abandoned her “mission” in favour of her desire to return back to her father, the one person in the world she has come to truly care for.
After meeting Hitch and Armin again, Annie has further come to realise that she also cares for those two. They were to an extent her support over the past four years as she resided within the darkness. If all parties survive the coming events post chapter 137, Annie will certainly become close friends with Hitch and Armin and may even decide to open herself up more to them, something she has never done. Annie and Mikasa have also formed a strange frenemy relationship that could develop more into a close friendship as time goes on. All throughout Annie’s life, as the feeling of indifference compelled her, she saw little meaning in people, the world and in life. Such a hollow outlook was likely sourced from the knowledge Annie had of being abandoned as a child. An existence unwanted. A life not valued. In turn, Annie eventually also questioned her own value and of the value attached to everything else. Through the training she endured and the life she lived with her adoptive father, emotions and the feeling of family were distanced. Her adoptive father in her eyes only saw worth in her as a warrior. Such a callous relationship Annie had with her adoptive father further served to numb Annie to the rest of the world and to life in general. That is until her adoptive father came to realise the destructive nature of his parenting. Through his pursuit of enjoying a better life, he used Annie to achieve those ends and forced her toward the path of becoming a Marleyan Warrior. On the morning Annie was set to leave for Paradis, he opened himself up to her and revealed how mortified he was at himself for putting her through so much suffering. He expressed how little everything else meant in the face of her even her duty. All he wanted now for her to return home. Even if the rest of the world hated her, he would still love her and wait for her. He was wrong in what he taught her. More than a warrior, Annie was his daughter. And he was her father. For this first time in her life, Annie came to feel what it means to have a parent and to be their child. To be loved. Mr Leonhart wasn’t just her adoptive father, he was her father.
Such a relation washed over Annie as a liberating wave. It made Annie realise how desperately she wanted a family and people to love. Annie has a father and wishes to return to him. To once again know the feeling of having a place to belong even if the world around her challenges her, she will fight to keep that relation alive. Annie understands the sins she has committed and their irredeemable nature but would do it all again if it meant being able to return her father. In contrast to Eren who had a loving family and sought to find value in the world around him, Annie hadn’t experienced such love and thus could not concern herself with the world around her. What Annie wants is the simple concept of connecting to others. To have a family. To have a “home”. To be loved. The act of meeting each other and bonding changed both Mr Leonhart and Annie’s lives.
As at chapter 137 Annie is still unaware that her father is alive and at Fort Salta. She believes her father had died as Liberio was crushed by the Rumbling. At present, Annie is still in the process of grieving over her father. Since such emotions are so foreign to Annie, she can do little but behave in the way she knows how, which is looking forward and acting as a warrior. Mr Leonhart himself isn’t even aware Annie is currently fighting the Founding Titan but he continues believe that Annie is alive and as such continues to fight in order to make the dream of meeting his daughter again a reality. Through the hands of fate and the love connecting the two, their efforts will save each other and pave the path on which they will be able to reunite. Once Annie is able to return to her father, the grief numbing her heart will disappear allowing her to move forward.
Those four years in which Annie was able to reflect and think about her life and those within it, it allowed her to recognise how important those she met are. And how much more she would like to spend with them. Her family. Her friends. And even Armin. “Moving forward” to Annie means embracing herself more in those bonds. Bonds which give her value and make her feel alive. Upon such a realisation, Annie couldn’t help but think of those she met regretting how she didn’t notice what she had until it was too late. Fortunately for Annie, Falco was able to transform into his true Jaw Titan form and attain the ability of flight. Along with Kiyomi’s support to do all they can to help, Annie was given the chance to avoid living with more regrets. Annie was given the chance to fight and had to return to help her friends. A decision she expressed she was glad she made when she reunited with Mikasa, Jean, Connie, Levi and Reiner. With Annie now aware of what she wants, it is truly inspiring thinking about her character journey and who she is in general. For seven years I have been a fan and supporter of Annie, which is when I began reading the manga, and I am so glad she has returned back into the story. Thank you for creating such wonderful characters Isayama-sensei! And thank you for Shingeki no Kyojin!