Attack on Titan Recap: Essential Moments to Remember Before Season 4

We examine Attack on Titan’s most powerful moments as the anime gets ready for its fourth and final season.

Attack on Titan Essential Moments
Photo: Funimation

Many anime series are able to grab a hold of mainstream audiences, but the kind of attention that’s surrounded Attack on Titan is on a whole other level. The anime series only has three seasons, but it’s taken over seven years for it to reach its finish and the enthusiasm towards the property has never waned. Attack on Titan looks at Eren Jaeger and his fellow resistance fighters who wage war against man-eating beasts known as Titans. 

What initially started as a war story with monsters has evolved into a truly epic character study and masterclass in serialized storytelling. Each season of Attack on Titan changes the game in significant ways and its upcoming fourth and final season is set to do so once again. Attack on Titan’s highly anticipated concluding episodes premiere this week, so here’s a breakdown of the series’ biggest and best moments leading up to its finish.

Attack on Titan Eren Colossal Titan

Eren Reunites With The Colossal Titan

Attack on Titan is well aware of the disturbing nature of its titular creatures and right from the first episode they feel like a serious threat that are nearly impossible to overcome. Eren Jaeger swears that he’ll get revenge after his initial encounter with these beasts and the loss of his mother, but the fourth episode of the series is when an older and more prepared Eren finally mounts his attack. It’s thrilling to watch the Survey Corps in action for the first time, but it’s all punctuated by the surprise return appearance of the Colossal Titan. Eren has never felt more ready and his attack on the beast has become one of the most iconic images from the series.

Attack on Titan Young Mikasa Cries

Eren And Mikasa Murder Some Slave Traders

All of the relationships in Attack on Titan resonate, especially when they’re put in a pressure cooker of emotion where death becomes an everyday occurrence. The bond between Eren and Mikasa is one of the most powerful in the whole series and the origins of how these two met is the perfect backstory for their tortured souls. Mikasa becomes orphaned by two slave traders and Eren can’t help but try to settle the score, despite being just a child. The messy endeavor leads to both Eren and Mikasa taking the lives of these corrupt men and becomes the catalyst that forever bonds them. 

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Attack on Titan Beast Titan Introduction

The Introduction Of The Talking Beast Titan

Season two of Attack on Titan doesn’t waste any time and features the introduction of a powerful and mysterious new creature, the Beast Titan. At this point there have been several Titan varieties, but the Beast Titan is the first one that can talk and demonstrate that Titans can actually be an intelligent, complex species. The Beast Titan has crucial ties to Eren and becomes a big obstacle throughout the show’s future. The immediate spectacle that the Beast Titan poses and the insight that he provides on Titans’ and their past begins the second season’s focus on this unusual world’s history.

Attack on Titan Female Titan Advances

The Female Titan’s Assault On Levi’s Squad

The Female Titan is a foreboding figure from its first appearance and Annie guarantees that it remains one of the more brutal villains in the series. Attack on Titan‘s first season depicts Levi as one of the most accomplished and brilliant fighters on the Survey Corps, which makes his team’s destruction at the hands of the Female Titan all the more devastating. If anyone is able to take out this Titan it’s Levi and his team, yet the Female Titan destroys nearly all of Levi’s support in minutes. In an instant Levi’s squad goes from one of the Scouts’ greatest assets to no longer existing.

Attack on Titan Eren Severed Arm

Eren Gets Eaten By A Titan

“The Struggle for Trost” arc during Attack on Titan’s first season features some revelatory moments as the Scout Regiment defends against the Titans. Out of nowhere, Eren gets swallowed by a Titan, which makes for a great cliffhanger, but the anime keeps the audience in doubt for several episodes before it’s revealed that Eren’s still alive. His absence is just long enough that it begins to feel like the character is actually gone and that someone like Mikasa or Levi will shift to become the new lead.

Attack on Titan Levi Versus Kenny

Kenny Ackermann Attacks Levi And His Squad

Season three of Attack on Titan expands on the past of many characters and early on Levi experiences an unwelcome reunion with the one who trained him as a youth, Kenny. Kenny is pure anarchic energy and the ambush that he launches on Levi and his men is easily one of the most impressive animated sequences in the series. This new villain instantly stands out and even though this sprawling fight takes many lives, it’s the personal history between Levi and Kenny that gives it such an impact. This is a visceral introduction to Kenny’s character, which beautifully comes full circle by the time he reaches his end by Levi’s side.

Attack on Titan History Ymir Promise

The Bond And Promise Shared Between Historia And Ymir

Attack on Titan deserves immense credit for how it takes two background characters like Ymir and Historia (formerly Christa) and turns them into the heart and soul of the anime’s second season. Historia and Ymir have both lied about their paths, which are tragic for different reasons. There’s an unlikely, yet genuine, love found between these two characters that teaches a lesson  applicable to the entire cast. The characters’ passionate exchange about the future is a deeply touching moment in a show that’s filled with pain and it retroactively makes Historia’s actions during season one gain a lot more weight.

Attack on Titan Erwin Scout Kamikaze Attack

Erwin’s Inspiring Speech And Kamikaze Attack On The Beast Titan

Attack on Titan has traded in rampant death since the very first episode, but that doesn’t make it any easier when tragedy does strike beloved characters. Erwin is a fundamental member of the Scout Regiment and he makes a difficult decision when pushed into a corner by the Beast and Colossal Titan. The Beast Titan hurls boulders at Scouts, taking out many lives at once, but Erwin inspires his men to fight for their cause and to go down as heroes rather than cowards. It’s Erwin’s best moment and it becomes all the more bittersweet by how he’s almost immediately struck by a boulder. Erwin’s sacrifice is not in vain and it heavily motivates Levi’s retaliatory attack against Zeke’s Beast Titan.

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Attack on Titan Eren Attack Titan Ready

The Mysterious Attack Titan Ally Is Actually Eren

The role that Titans play in Attack on Titan continues to evolve in fascinating ways and it’s easy to forget a time when they were just a horde of ravenous giants. The battle for Trost features a perplexing moment when a unique Titan begins to obliterate his fellow kind and looks to be a crucial ally in this fight. This strange behavior culminates with the reveal that this helpful Titan is in fact Eren Jaeger. It’s an important turning point for both Eren and the anime as a whole as it enters into a new relationship with Titans.

Attack on Titan Thunder Spear Attack on Armored Titan

Thunder Spears Decimate The Armored Titan

Titans are very deadly creatures, but the Survey Corps develop a rhythm where they’re able to eliminate standard Titans with minimal difficulty. The Armored Titan is a major obstacle because the Titan’s tough exterior makes it impossible to damage its nape weak spot. Hange develops drastic weapons, dubbed Thunder Spears, which get the job done against Reiner’s Titan when they’re put to the test. It’s not only beautifully animated, but it finally marks a solution to a problem that’s confounded the Scouts for well over a season. It’s also a rare moment where Hange’s importance is emphasized.

Attack on Titan Eren Coordinate Scream

Eren First Wields The Coordinate Ability

Attack on Titan’s second season concludes on some huge moments, chief among them Eren facing the disturbing Smiling Titan that ate his mother back in the first episode. Eren gets taken over by an avalanche of emotions after Hannes sacrifices himself to keep Eren and Mikasa safe. It initially looks like Eren’s lost his mind, but this fear transforms into confidence once Eren unleashes his Coordinate scream ability, which allows him to control smaller Titans. It’s an amazing new skill for Eren to add to his repertoire, but it also sheds light on why he’s been the priority of Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie: they want to eat him and get the ability for themselves.

Attack on Titan Ymir Flashback

Ymir’s Past And The History Of Titans

Attack on Titan’s first season throws many characters at the audience, but it’s the show’s second season where most of its supporting figures get a chance to gain depth. A large focus in season two is the relationship of Historia Reiss and Ymir, both of whom are much more important than the series has previously indicated. Ymir receives a remarkable flashback story that explains how she was worshipped by a deranged cult as a child and turned into a Titan as some bizarre ritual. Ymir is forced to live life as a mindless Titan for years until she happens to consume a shifter and turns back to human. Ymir’s awe over gaining back her humanity and a second chance at life is beautiful and it speaks to her connection with Historia.

Attack on Titan Reiner Berthholdt Transforming

Reiner And Bertholdt Aren’t Just Traitors, But Titans

Attack on Titan works best as an action series, but it’s also full of mysteries and the second season engages in a suspenseful “whodunit” of sorts with the identities of the destructive Colossal and Armored Titans. The knowledge that some Titans are actually humans who can masquerade as normal brilliantly makes every character suspicious. It’s still a serious shock when Reiner casually tells Eren that not only is Bertholdt the Colossal Titan, but that he’s also the Armored Titans. These two trusted members of the Survey Corps suddenly are turned into the biggest enemy and they try to persuade Eren to work alongside them.

Attack on Titan Grisha Jaeger Basement Photograph

The Contents Of Grisha Jaeger’s Basement

One of the biggest mysteries in Attack on Titan revolves around what’s inside Grisha Jaeger’s basement. The anime impressively waits three seasons to answer this question and it manages to be more satisfying than anything that the fans predicted. Eren and company don’t just come in contact with Grisha’s diary, which has invaluable information on Titans, but the group sees their first photograph. It’s a stunning moment that’s accentuated by how these characters at first believe that it’s a painting because they’ve never encountered such technology. Up until this point it’s been presumed that Attack on Titan exists in a more archaic alternate version of the past, but the contents of the basement indicate that this is more of a The Village scenario where there’s a gigantic technologically advanced world out there that these characters have been completely ignorant towards.

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Attack on Titan Armin Burned to Death

Armin Nearly Dies And Becomes The Colossal Titan

Attack on Titan’s core trio of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin have been tested in many ways throughout the series, but one of the most emotional moments from the series involves Armin’s sacrifice to aid Eren. Armin has always struggled with confidence, so his seemingly final gesture to stand up to the Colossal Titan and get burned to death from intense steam makes for an honorable finish. It’s also the necessary distraction that Eren requires to finally remove Bertholdt from his Titan form. This scene is heavy, but what follows involves Eren, Mikasa, and Levi arguing over which of their nearly dead friends deserves to live on as a Titan. It’s an incredibly unexpected turn for Armin, especially once he’s the new Colossal Titan.