Warning: The following article contains major spoilers for the ending of Attack on Titan.
It’s quite obvious to any Attack on Titan fan that Mikasa Ackerman and Eren Yeager’s relationship is an important element of the story. In a world where combat for survival is often the priority, the series doesn’t have much time for romance, but even so, it’s there.
Mikasa’s devotion, loyalty, and love for Eren are palpable from the very beginning (and no, it’s not a familial type of love) but the same cannot always be said about the protagonist. Granted, Eren shows great care for both his childhood friends, as well as the ones he makes after starting his military training. However, there’s a clear difference between platonic and romantic love and a lot of the time, it’s difficult for fans to decipher which type the protagonist feels for Mikasa.
Does Eren reciprocate Mikasa’s feelings?
Despite how many fans wished for the two to get together eventually, a time came when Eren’s feelings were questioned more than ever before. We’re talking about chapter 112 of the manga, of course, which was brought to the small screen in episode 15 of the anime’s fourth season. In it, Eren even claims to have always hated Mikasa, expressing frustration toward her constant need to be by his side. He further explains that she doesn’t really love him, since her devotion is merely a side effect of her bloodline, which was created to serve and protect.
Of course, this was a bucket of cold water to Mikasa, and I certainly wouldn’t enjoy being in her shoes, but let’s think about the situation for a second. While this seems like a pretty clear-cut answer to the question of whether or not Eren loves Mikasa, the reality is much more complicated than this. Does it really make sense for Eren to spend his whole life protecting Mikasa despite hating her? What would be the point in pretending to care for her in the first place? The correct answer is none because as fans later come to learn, Eren was lying at that moment. He does love Mikasa but is only able to confess this at the end of Attack on Titan.
Are Eren and Mikasa endgame in Attack on Titan?
In chapter 139, the protagonist has a heart-to-heart with Armin, in which he expresses disappointment at the thought of Mikasa finding love with someone else after his death. Naturally, by this point Eren has long since accepted his fate, making himself the villain and sacrificing his life to guarantee the safety of the people of Paradis Island. Nevertheless, his desire to live alongside Mikasa is one of the last things on his mind, to the point of making him want to escape the demise he brought upon himself:
“I don’t want that. Mikasa finding another man? I want her to think about me and no one else for the rest of my life. Even as I die, I want to be at the front of her mind for a while. Ten years at least. I don’t want to die. I want to be with Mikasa.”
It’s at this moment that fans understand Eren does love Mikasa, meaning that his previous proclamation of hate was likely a ploy to create distance between them. If Mikasa didn’t have what it takes to go against Eren during the Rumbling, his plan to save Paradis would likely not have worked, so making her resent him was the solution Eren found to accomplish that goal.
Despite not being inherently about romance, we have to admit Attack on Titan does a pretty nice job of portraying all the intricacies and conflicting feelings of love in times of war. And as far as tragic love stories go, Eren and Mikasa’s is a solid one.