Attack on Titan stands on the precipice of its grand finale, with MAPPA coming back next year to wrap the story of Eren Yeager and the Subjects of Ymir with one last epic run.
The journey has been long in the telling. From the first season where both the viewers and our protagonists conceived the Titan threat as an existential crisis, season two where they realized the Titans are their compatriots, to seasons three and four which twisted the narrative into a scale model of prejudice and conflict in human history, this philosophical allegory of a story has taken a decade to unfold.
The highly popular anime is so worthy of multiple binging sessions, however, that many fans might feel compelled to go through the series again before the last batch of episodes arrives. Since there’ll be a whopping 87 episodes to binge through, and that’s barring the OVAs and DVD extras, the exercise may prove too time-consuming for a lot of people.
We’ve got you covered, though. Below are listed some of the best and most plot-heavy episodes in the history of Attack on Titan, serving as the perfect gateway to not only remind you of why you fell in love with its story in the first place, but also refresh your memory on the most important story developments that took place across these four seasons in chronological order.
10. Season 1, Episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw”
Attack on Titan kicked off with an explosive series premiere that did more to traumatize the main character than most stories do in their entire run. That being said, the first few episodes take a slow turn to expand the fictional world and introduce us to the colorful ensemble of Paradis.
But just when you’re about to let your guard down and relax after the events of episode one, “The Struggle for Trost” narrative arc springs its cruelty on viewers again, this time making sure that they’ll never forget Attack on Titan isn’t going to cut any corners when it comes to consequences and emotionally-charged developments.
“The World the Girl Saw” perfectly embodies that by studying the character of Mikasa, who, until now, had taken a backseat in favor of Eren and the narrative at large. The 20-minute story essentially teaches you everything you need to know about Mikasa Ackerman, and the sentimental toll it leaves in its wake is certainly among some of the most poignant and successful characterization attempts in anime canon.
9. Season 1, Episode 13, “Primal Desire”
Wall Rose is compromised and the Titans continue to pour into Trost. Commander Pyxis mobilizes the remaining garrison regiments for one final desperate attempt at thwarting their onslaught. Eren Yeager and his newfound Titan ability is the key to this plan. An advance guard carves a way for our protagonist to seal the broken gate, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance.
“Primal Desire” marks the first time humanity gains an inch on their predators, and perhaps the first time we truly understand the depths of what they’re missing out on as prisoners of the three walls. Eren’s life mission of always going forward and fighting (“tatakae”) also traces back to what Armin tells him in this episode, an ideal that defines and shapes this plot up to the very final chapter.
8. Season 1, Episode 22, “The Defeated”
You’re probably thinking that we probably included this episode because of Captain Levi absolutely mowing the lawn with the Female Titan and dominating that fight to a point of absurdity. While the amazingly choreographed action sequence indeed contributed to “The Defeated” finding its way into this list, the main reason is all the heart-wrenching scenes that come after as the Survey Corps return from their latest expedition, defeated and exhausted.
The episode reprises an old scene from the first episode, where an eager Eren and Mikasa push their way past the crowd to see the Scouts back from one of their missions. The onlookers mock their efforts and question if their tax money is being wasted on these foolhardy efforts, but Eren has a mind to dissuade them from that thought train, even if it means picking a fight with someone twice his size.
In the present day, Eren is being carted away as one of the wounded after the fight with the Female Titan. When the same scenario unfolds again, he gets up to give the crowd a piece of his mind, but upon seeing two other children looking up to them with eagerness and pride in their eyes, our protagonist breaks down crying, with “The Defeated” driving home the idea that the true nature of war and conflict is much uglier when you find yourself on the receiving end of their cruelty.
7. Season 2, Episode 6, “Warrior”
“Is this an angel who falls from the cloudy sky? In this a demon who climbed out of the rocks? Tears, anger, pity, cruelty. Peace, chaos, faith, betrayal. We will fight against our fate.” Betrayal. It seems to be the most appropriate word to describe the sixth episode of season two. As Hiroyuki Sawano’s score “YouSeeBIGGIRL/T:T” builds towards a towering crescendo in the final moments, the idea starts to sink in that Eren’s most trusted comrades have turned out to be the story’s main antagonists.
In “Warrior,” Reiner and Berthold reveal themselves as the Armored and the Colossal titans, the same who attacked the Walls five years prior and caused a massacre that ended with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including Eren’s mom and Armin’s grandfather. Eren, completely flabbergasted in the face of this betrayal, works up the courage to fight Reiner in his titan form, knowing deep down that things will never be the same again.
6. Season 2, Episode 12, “Scream”
“Scream” is an emotional rollercoaster with only one objective in mind — to make fans break down crying, come hell or high water. From Mikasa finally confessing her feelings to Eren to Historia saying goodbye to Ymir and Hannes giving up his life to avenge Carla, the season two finale is ripe with tear-jerking resolutions, concluding with the somber realization that the titans were, in fact, once human.
As the Scouts return from their rescue mission with Eren in tow, the characters refuse to celebrate the occasion as a victor. They instead focus their efforts on finding out the truth about the nature of their enclosed world and what lies beyond the three walls that have housed, or imprisoned, humanity for more than a century. It would be many days until they ultimately realise they were a small part of a large world, a world that would sooner see them dead than accept their different nature.
5. Season 3, Episode 7, “Wish”
Kenny Ackerman has a line in this episode that pretty much sums up what most of us think about the third season of Attack on Titan. While the story is intriguing enough to hook you from the get-go, and the narrative and characterizations potent enough to keep you watching, season three is where all of those twisted mysteries start to unravel in a brilliantly satisfying way, making all viewers echo Kenny’s sentiments by saying: “This is getting good!”
Unlike the previous outings, season three is all about some of the most overshadowed side characters, including Historia. After learning the truth about her heritage, the character finds her own identity by breaking away from the responsibilities of nobility. Instead of continuing the sins of his father and reinforcing the cycle, Historia decides to break the wheel, freeing Eren and giving mankind a chance to learn the truth.
4. Season 3, Episode 10, “Friends”
This is personally my favorite Attack on Titan episode, because it essentially undermines the struggle of each and every character in this fictional world and mankind at large. Kenny, who’s been privy to that conflict for decades, finally understands the truth that had been eluding him for many years — that, in his words, each of us has to live our lives “drunk on something.”
Power, love, drink, higher purpose, selflessness. Everyone has a drug. As for Kenny, who was one of the most enigmatic and interesting characters in all of Attack on Titan, the killer-turned-captain has had his fill of it all, which is why he succumbs to his death instead of using the syringe to turn himself into a pure titan. In his final moments, Kenny reveals that he’s Levi’s uncle, so we’ll forever have him to thank for the absolutely badass monster of a warrior his nephew turned out to be.
3. Season 3, Episode 16, “Perfect Game”
The remaining members of the Scouting Regiment mounting a suicide charge with Commander Erwin at the head of their formation while his rousing speech continues to play off in the background will forever be etched in our memories as one of the most epic scenes in all of fiction. A huge part of Attack on Titan‘s appeal over the years has been the comradery between the members of the Survey Corps and the sacrifices they have made. Their motto “Shinzou wo sasageyo!” (Dedicate your hearts!) has always been a grim reminder that this path to understanding and freedom has been paved with the blood of hundreds of kindred souls.
This is the moment where all of that sacrifice comes to fruition, as Erwin Smith forsakes his own ambitions and, together with the remaining soldiers of the Survey Corps, dedicates his heart and soul to the cause. Whether you’re a fan of the subbed version or the English dub, hearing Erwin shouting “Heishi yo okore! Heishi yo sakebe! Heishi yo tatakae!” (My soldiers push forward! My soldiers scream out! My soldiers rage!) always gives us an adrenaline rush. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
2. The Final Season, Episode 5, “Declaration of War”
“Declaration of War” marks the first time a protagonist from Paradis sits in front of a character from the Marleyan side after the former learn the truth about their world. Better yet, it’s the usurper Eren Yeager, here to make amends with a depressed and remorseful Reiner before promising to do to them what they did to Paradis nine years back.
The entire episode is full of tension, slowly building towards the inevitable as our two protagonists share their perspectives on the plight they find themselves in. As the viewers struggle to not fall off the edge of their seats, Eren Yeager describes his intentions, fully aware of what needs to be done. Only instead of the rageful main character we’ve all come to know and love, this older Eren speaks and acts in a terrifyingly stoic manner.
Just as Willy Tybur ends his speech and declares war on Paradis on behalf of the entire world, Eren Yeager vouches to only move forward when he’s destroyed all his enemies. He then proceeds to turn into his Attack Titan, killing Tybur and slaughtering the entire Marleyan chain of command, thus setting in motion the most ambitious and breathtaking battle in all of Attack on Titan.
1. The Final Season, Episode 7, “Assault”
Words can’t begin to describe the amount of hype this episode rode on prior to and after airing in January 2021. As mentioned above, Eren Yeager begins his assault on Marley, with the rest of his comrades, led by Captain Levi, soon joining him in the fight and absolutely decimating their sworn enemies.
After dealing with the Titan onslaught for decades, the Survey Corps makes quick work of Marley’s Titans, with Eren taking care of the Warhammer Titan, Levi dispatching the Beast Titan, Sasha and Jean incapacitating the Cart Titan, and Mikasa relieving the Jaw Titan of his limbs. For good measure, Armin also superheats the shores of Liberio, destroying the Marleyan military fleet and army in one fell swoop, or rather, explosion.
“Assault” is not only one of the most perfect Attack on Titan episodes to date but also one of the best in the entire anime canon. For a long while, the episode retained a perfect 10/10 score on IMDb, and since then, it has only plummeted a single decimal point, an achievement only a handful of TV shows have managed in their lifetimes.