Nothing is ever as great as you imagine. When a dream becomes real, it inevitably loses some of its magic.
There’s something really sad about Eren when he finally reaches the sea. For so much of this story, he’s been the driving force, a guiding light, but there is no end in sight for him now, no clear enemy to defeat, it’s just an unending road for him, robbed of its clarity.
“Eren will reach the sea for me!” – Armin
We could all use a friend like Armin. As Eren’s stood there, staring out across the sea, mourning his childhood and unable to let himself go, Armin’s clinging to a seashell, struggling to believe his eyes, smiling. All along, he was right. The world is full of strange and beautiful things. That’s why Levi chose to bring him back and not Erwin, because deep down, he knows that Armin imagines a place that extends beyond their cruel world. A true, free home. He sees more than just enemies. Erwin just wanted to reach Eren’s basement, but Armin wants to explore and see new things. In the heat of the moment, as he’s being literally roasted alive by Berthold and holding on for his dear life, his last thoughts aren’t full of anger and regret, they are reserved for his friend, Eren, and seeing the sea. He’s not the flashiest or the strongest, but he wrings every last second of his life out for his friend. In a series of emotional peaks as high as the Himalayas, Armin’s sacrifice is as high as Mount Everest. Combined with Hiroyuki Sawano’s moving soundtrack, I’ve watched it again and again, and felt my pulse race every time. It’s a story about self-sacrifice, dreams and companionship: the world can be a tough, hopeless place and sometimes it feels like there is no end to the struggle, but at the lowest point, all it takes is a smile, an outreached hand, a pat on the back.
When the Scouts finally reach the sea, it feels surreal, like they are standing at the edge of the known world, having have gone further than they ever dreamt possible. It’s euphoric before melting into melancholy, the beginning of the end. I love this story, these characters. I love how awestruck Mikasa looks as the waves rush in about her feet, how Levi refuses to let himself go, Eren’s sad speech and the song that plays behind it.
“But I was wrong. On the other side of the sea are enemies.” – Eren
Attack on Titan has always been a story about fighting complacency and refusing to accept a ceiling to a dream. Life is full of such moments, when there’s a choice to be made between merely existing or taking a risk, but risk is not always rewarded. Eren looks like a lost soul. He’s no longer the bright-eyed boy. There is no righteous path for him to follow, no correct way, yet he’s still carrying everyone’s expectations. Becoming an adult is learning to cope with others’ expectations of you. You put on a brave face, reassure them that it’s okay, but in a quiet moment, the doubt creeps in. “Was I right? Do I know what I’m doing?” After a while, the questions stop, because you’ve already gone too far. Eren has the look of a man that’s gone too far and can’t turn back. In such times, I rely on my friends to pull me back. Eren has Armin and Mikasa, and when it comes down to it, I’m certain they will save him, but it’s still hard to see them struggle so much. I’ve followed this story for so long at this point, I just want them to be happy, but that’s never been what Attack on Titan is about. Eren and Armin will die young. We know that for a fact now. They will leave Mikasa behind. It’s not fair at all, but to rise so high, to fight to change your life: I wouldn’t have this story any other way.