What began as a story about a life lived within a cage like birds, transformed across its pages into one where the desire for freedom sought to spread its wings and soar across the boundlessness of the sky. The walls that surrounded ones scenery became the imagery that surrounded ones heart. Conflict, desire, difference and a lack of understanding contributed to the fear within the people’s hearts and led to the Titans that became the world’s demons. What existed to bring people together through the Path that Ymir created served only to generate further division among those outside the Path’s embrace. Over the course of 2,000 years, Ymir was held prisoner by her emotions and only after the appearance of Mikasa and the result of Mikasa’s choice was Ymir finally able to liberate herself from the love binding her. Bearing witness to the sight of such a love awakened a realisation within Ymir. The love she felt for Karl Fritz did not mean being a slave to his commands. Just as walls aren’t need within the world, a cage isn’t required to surround ones heart.
The existence of Titans was the concept that induced fear in people’s hearts but beyond such a visual representation of terror, it was the people’s fear itself that caused them to be overwhelmed by such darkness. The Titans presence only exaggerated what already existed in people’s hearts. It provided them a target to direct their fear and anger toward. Before the Titans existed, it was there. And now, even after the Titans have vanished, it remains. Fear continues to compel discourse and division. The nation of Eldia dreads the retaliation from the rest of the world over what they set in motion and in turn believes further fighting is the only solution to their continued survival.
Those central to Eren’s life realise the sacrifice he made and resolve to not only live the life Eren sacrificed himself for but to fight to make the world a less divided place. A world in which walls and a war aren’t needed to achieve “peace”. Armin is not wrong in that conflict will never vanish from human civilisation but the existence they all embody provides the world with a path that people can look to when wondering how to move forward into a future that doesn’t involve death, destruction and extermination. Individuals that shouldn’t have joined hands are now fighting side by side not with weapons but with their hearts that have reached an understanding with one another. Enemies that once fought against each other are sailing toward Paradis with a common goal, to advocate for peace. The very presence of such a group will invoke curiosity within those who believe peace is impossible. And such a reality became possible because of the actions of Eren. Actions Eren felt were necessary in order to remove the threat of Titans from the whole world and to provide his friends with a path on which they can traverse on to help heal the people of the world. To everyone else, Eren is a heartless monster that killed the majority of world’s population and destroyed large portions of the world. But to his friends, he provided the ultimate sacrifice in which a path forward toward peace between Eldia and the rest of the world exist. Such a fight that was impossible before when they attempted it, is now possible.
If peace between the two people does ultimately arise, one of the primarily reasons for why would be Historia. Her presence on Eldia as the Queen provides Armin and Co. with the opportunity to share their story with those on Eldia. Amongst the fear, anger and anxiety, perspective can be offered by Armin and Co. who now serve as the Allied nations’ ambassadors for peace talks. Perspective to rest of the world and how they actually view Eldia. Perspective to war not being the only option available. Once the people of Eldia come to recognise the possibility of a peaceful path forward, support will rally behind Historia to reach out to the rest of the world. The Yeagerists may not agree with this approach but their very power stems from the support they receive from fighting being the only way forward. And if the Queen of Eldia is in support of peace with the Allied Nations, the Yeagerists won’t have much ground to stand on unless they seek to separate themselves off from Eldia into a new faction. This may happen but at this point they won’t be representative of the people of Eldia.
Mikasa’s choice at the end was such an inspiring one. Despite Eren’s request for her to forget about him when he dies, she knew what he really meant in his heart and recognised the boy who once saved her still existing within his eyes. Mikasa loved Eren and chose to kill him. In order to save the world, she killed the one person who meant the world to her. And to provide Eren with a proper burial, she left the battlefield with his head to bury it at a place special to Eren, Armin and her. All Mikasa ever wanted was to live peacefully with Eren. And despite such a reality not arising, she was the one who was able to provide Eren with a peaceful end. An end that also provided her with a look into her own heart. The choices Mikasa made were her own and she chose to keep the memory of Eren within heart because it was him who provided her with the warmth during a time she felt embraced by the chill of death. And even now, the memories Mikasa holds of Eren continues to warm her heart.
I suspect the dream Eren had when the series first began may have been memories of his future farewell with Mikasa and possibly of the past Ymir had suffered and continued to suffer for 2,000 years. This would explain Eren’s comment about Mikasa’s hair having grown longer as in the vision of his future when she farewelled him, Mikasa had short hair. The tears that streamed down Eren’s face in the start of the story as he awoke from the nap under the tree could even signify Eren’s subconscious awareness of Ymir’s story. Without directly being aware of it, Eren has been desiring to help Ymir from her imprisonment. This is why his decision to help Ymir when he entered the Path with Zeke played out so naturally. Even without holding a Titan at the start of the story, Eren would have still been connected to the Path due to being one of the subjects of Ymir. He subconsciously understood the pain Ymir had been suffering and acted according to his desire to help save her which is turn helped save the subjects of Ymir from their label of “Devils” by the rest of world. Eren may have been wrong in choosing to destroy the majority of the world but what drove him were the good intentions of wanting to create a world in which his friends and family could exist not as ‘Devils’ but as people alongside everyone else. A heart that took on the burden of the Founding Titan and chose to move a 2,000 year conflict onto a different path. One directed toward peace and freedom.
Shingeki no Kyojin has been a series that challenged not only ones perspective but the emotions that drive our actions. It compels us to look at others and how we view them and why we view them that way. Fear is something born from a natural reaction to the unknown. It is natural and okay to be afraid. Yet as has been illustrated through the story of Shingeki no Kyojin, we must not let fear overwhelm us to the point where our hearts become prisoner to its limited reach. The world exist as a place common to everyone. A place where change is possible. And where the possible also includes resolution through peace. Ever since picking up the Shingeki no Kyojin manga in 2013, I have loved reading it. Thank you Shingeki no Kyojin. And thank you Hajime Isayama-sensei and your team!