How to create a final ED: Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2 Ending Analysis
Ach ja, a few days ago, the first episode of the (hopefully) final season of Attack on Titan aired and with it came a new Opening an Ending sequence. Both are great, though the OP needs some getting used to and the decision, to very openly include of what will be happening in the story coming forward is… definitely a choice. What really surprised me, however, was the ED. While they are regularly overshadowed by the bombastic Openings, Attack on Titan has a great array of Endings and despite this, the new one easily takes the top. Here’s why.
No Manga Spoilers ahead! I will not talk about events that will occur after the first part of the final season. Also, please watch the Ending with subtitles enabled, as they translated the lyrics into english.
I will quickly talk about the lyrics. They essentially summarize Eren’s journey, from the innocent boy dreaming of freedom to picking up the knife and eventually walking the bloodstained path he himself created. Simple, but strong stuff. I am more of a visual learner, so this will be the main part of this analysis.
The ED starts off with a young Eren looking into the distant, while being surrounded by a dark void, though it is more accurate to say that this void obfuscates the view, as it is later cleared. We don’t know where Eren is looking, though knowing him it is his idea of “forward”. Attack on Titan has introduced several false horizons over its run. First, there were the obvious literal walls surrounding the inhabitants of Paradise, as well as the metaphorical walls they represent, there were the titans hindering the advance to outside the walls and at the of Attack on Titans’s first part, the ocean, over which not freedom but another enemy lies.
We zoom out and while the void is still filling the background, we see that Eren is standing in a field of what I assume are white poppies. Eren is almost completely unsaturated and the only things of color are his eyes, his scarf and the blood on his knife. Eyes are a often used motive in Attack on Titan. They are obviously the way through which the characters see the world around them and reflections off the eyes are often used to show the viewer what the characters see. The fact that Erens’s eyes are colored enforces the notion that Eren is in fact looking for something. The scarf and bloody knife are easy to pinpoint and pair it with the lyrics and we know that it is Eren from when he killed the murderers of Mikasas’s parents and realized that he has to fight in this world.
This shot also bears resemblance with the very first Ending of Attack on Titan, using the same narrative motive, but this time from another perspective. The first ED focuses on Mikasa and how her encounter witch Eren changed her into the person she is today. It also shows how Eren has changed from the kind boy that gave her his scarf to him being in the military and swearing revenge against those that killed his mother, almost as to ask where this change will lead him. Close to the end of the story and we know exactly where it goes, now this time from his perspective and the way how his first time killing someone has shaped him internally to eventually take up the usurper role and fight for his vision of freedom himself.
The next shot shows the lead up of all this. A drop of blood flows down the knife and falls on one of the poppies, dying the petal from white to red. I honestly have to applaud the utter audacity of this shot. Attack on Titan is rarely subtle, but I also think it is at its best when it punches you in the face with its symbolism, as it tends to be at its most effective. Subtlety is a tool for conveying your story, not a goal, and I doubt Attack on Titan would resonate as much as it does with a lot of people, were it any less brash about its themes.
The next shot follows Eren walking forward through the field of flowers, while the same petals we saw in the first shot, fall against him. Falling leaves or petals, unless they are cherry blossoms, normally symbolize the end of life and with the flowers being poppies, who are used for consolation and, in flower language, mean remembrance and death, probably show that death, even as a child, was always around him. What I find is interesting is that all the poppies are white, a color normally reserved for the pure and innocent, though it is most likely due to young Eren’s naive world view that the poppies are all still white, as they change into color later.
Next up, the wind blows the scarf away from Eren, which then transforms into a bird. I can’t make out if it is supposed to be a specific bird and it doesn’t look like one of AoT’s go-to birds like doves, wild geese and falcons, so I assume it is just supposed to be a generic bird™. I doubt the gold coloring of the bird has any more meaning, than the obvious contrast it provides to the cold and dark blue sky. The bird is also most likely not to be seen as Mikasa. While the scarf is widely associated with Mikasa, the scarf itself belonged to and is in memory of Eren. Eren himself has yet to be symbolized as a bird, but does this seem not too far out of place. Now, I don’t think that I have to go to great lengths to explain a bird flying into the sky, especially not in Attack on Titan of all things. It is the symbol of freedom and what Eren is damned to endlessly chase after. I like, how, as the bird flies higher, the void is replaced by the sky, meaning the void could actually be the walls, which would also be supported by a later scene and just make sense in general.
As the bird soars through the sky however, it is slowly caught up by the void again, this time it forming a bird cage. The implication this time is pretty clear: Even if Eren gains wings, even if he goes outside the walls, there is still something denying him his freedom and keeping him in this bird cage. Something has to fundamentally change and with a sweeping crescendo, young Eren suddenly gets what he wished for.
Starting from inside where Eren is standing, the poppies turn into all kind of flowers and colors, the cage gets destroyed and reveals the entire world, a true horizon this time, while the night gives way for a new dawn. It almost hurts to see this young Eren full of wonder and happiness, finally achieving access to his vision of freedom. However, while the stunningly beautiful scenery continues, we see what this vision actually entails. The Trost District, at least I think it is, is abandoned, destroyed and grown over. I think the purple flowers are wisterias, representing love, beauty and longevity, which would be fitting, though it is hard to make out correctly. Next are one of the the outskirt and we see that the walls are indeed destroyed and so is the empty throne room and what I would guess is a part of Shiganshina. I can’t think of a specific reason of why these locations were chosen, they do line up with the major battles and locations following the story chronologically, though.
We finally see adult Eren, walking through a field of flowers and stepping on some of them. It is Eren who is responsible for this current world, which his younger self yearned for so much. He, however, does not smile, as more and more flower petals keep flying by his side in the wind. At the end, he finally comes to a stop. In the beginning, young Eren faced the camera and started walking from right to left and fight for his freedom until he became older and got to a stop when this freedom was achieved, now facing away towards the sun. Whether the lack of a smile on adult Eren’s face is that of regret or something different is up to debate… or to watching how this story unfolds until the end. But now that he achieved his goal, it can end, he no longer has to walk forward. I am not sure how to describe the last seconds without giving anything away. There are only so many interpretations of going up in flames and vanishing into the wind. Does it hit as hard as Eugeo going the other way?.. Maybe it does.
Attack on Titan is a tragedy and knowing how it ends, I couldn’t wish for a better Ending. It just captures the character of Eren so well and I like how it encapsulates the “The world is cruel, but also beautiful”-motive running through the series. It is also stunningly animated and the song itself is great too. All in all, peak fiction.
Attack on Titan is available on Crunchyroll.
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