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Attack on Titan and Who Started the Last Titan War

Jamal is a graduate of Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Courtesy of MAPPA Studios

Courtesy of MAPPA Studios

Attack on Titan season four: part one has come to an end and it has left me with some interesting questions. The show’s latest season has really evolved into delving headlong into the complexities of that world after the least season’s reveal of the existence of Marley and they’re responsibility in the titan conflict.

The biggest question I think was being asked was who really started the latest round of the titan wars?


If you ask most people they would say that it was obviously Eren Yeager, with his surprise assassination of Wily Tybur and the subsequent battle that followed. After watching the entire first part of the final season though, I would disagree.

Throughout the season, the show reiterates in various ways just how underprepared Paradis Island was for dealing with the outside world, let alone a war with Marley. A large part of Hanje’s anger with Eren was that he started the war too early and that she had actually hoped to come to a sort of mutual understanding.

Eren’s distrust of this plan is immediately apparent from the beginning and the flashbacks show how much this increases over the four years before his incursion into Marley. What’s more, Eren becomes increasingly isolated in this view that there can be no lasting peace with Marley among the Survey Corps. The only ones sharing this being Zeke Yeager’s followers who are upgrading Paradis and the Yeagerists who at that time were an unknown faction to the rest of the military. The only thing everyone agrees on being that Paradis Island needs more time.

Courtesy of MAPPA Studios

Courtesy of MAPPA Studios

Red Herring?

I think the show teases other possibilities however. It is made clear in the first few episodes before the Battle of Liberio that Marley had never forgotten about the Eldians of Paradis. It saw them both as a possible threat to the world’s existence, an obstacle to their own imperialistic ambitions, and just a generational racism towards the Eldians overall.

It is in fact Willy Tybur who first declared war openly before Eren killed him. I think that wasn’t an accident, making it clear to the viewers that Eren was reacting to a ticking time bomb that was ready to go off. And his solution was to try to take it out before it’s blast could achieve maximum effect.

Yes, the Marleyans wanted revenge for the thrashing the Survey Corps gave them, but they didn’t really need the invitation as the high command wanted them all dead anyway. Even Pieck Finger in the last episode of part one tells the Warrior trainee, Gabi, that to the Marleyans the only “good Eldian” was an enslaved or a dead one. And that the latter would be the ultimate fate of all of them once they developed their technologies far enough.

And this is not even mentioning that it was Marley who sent the Warriors into Paradis Islands to steal the Founding Titan so that they could again, later conquer the island. Even after she reveals her attempt to ambush Eren, she tells the young girl that she doesn’t trust Marley, but her fellow veterans.

And the Answer is...

So in conclusion, I think the ultimate cause of the war between Paradis and Marley is Marley. The show makes great points about Eren’s own responsibility in it and examples about though not everyone is a racist, the majority are or at least those in power with the ability to impact Paradis Island. Even if Eren hadn’t enacted his plan in Liberio, Marley was still hell bent on eliminating all Eldians. They were not going to let it go.

The experience of the Marlyean Eldians parallels that of Blacks in the American south and Jews in Nazi Germany. In both cases, there was a longstanding institution that was too old and too strong to just be won over by some kind examples, no matter how sincere. Things had simply progressed too far to avoid some kind of tragedy.

Eren is the only one truly aware of this because of the memories via the Attack Titan. The other Survey Corp members, including the Yeagerists, don’t truly grasp that. This doesn't mean that his former friends and allies are not morally correct or even that theirs is the better option. It's just that Marley keeps shutting down any options for peace which doesn't leave much choice.

Ironically, Eren and the Marleyan leadership are of the same opinion of each other: one cannot allow the other to exist. And it was only a matter of who struck first.

© 2021 Jamal Smith

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