Attack on Titan | Eren Yeager | Character Analysis | The Hero and Villain of AoT
From the protagonist of Attack on Titan to the series' main villain: Explore the dark transformative journey of Eren Yeager in this character analysis guide!
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He is the protagonist and antagonist of Attack on Titan, the boy who dreamt of freedom yet took that same freedom from everyone else. The boy whose love and hatred were so great that he destroyed the entire world while protecting those he loved.
He is Eren Yeager.
Eren Yeager's Physical Appearance
In the early episodes of Attack on Titan, Eren is portrayed as a young boy with dark hair and green eyes, typically seen wearing a standard brown shirt and trousers. Young Eren is a fairly happy kid who grew up in a loving, working-class family consisting of his mother, father, as well as his close friend, Mikasa.
However, as the series progresses, Eren’s appearance gets much more serious. He joins the Survey Corps and switches out his normal outfit with a military uniform. With the uniform, his responsibilities to defend humanity increases dramatically, causing his smile and bright expression to become less frequent than before.
During the first three seasons, Eren's appearance doesn’t change much, except for the fact that he grows into a young teenager. However, in the fourth season, Eren Yeager undergoes a huge transformation. He discards the military uniform for his simple yet iconic black jacket. Additionally, his hair grows longer, contributing to his depressed and angry look. Instead of hope and optimism, his face now reflects nothing but hatred.
Lastly, in the second part of Attack on Titan’s fourth season, Eren transforms into his final form - the Founding Titan. After getting decapitated by Gabi Braun, the shining centipede gives Eren a new terrifying body and powers he uses to destroy the world.
Eren Yeager’s Childhood
At the beginning of the series, Eren is a little kid with big dreams and big goals. Guided by impulsive actions, strong emotions, and stubbornness, he often makes choices that, while not always logical, ultimately prove right. He often displays these qualities, such as in the first season of Attack on Titan, where in a flashback of him as a child, he saves Mikasa by killing three grown men, as well as choosing to join the military in pursuit of his ambitions.
Eren's dissatisfaction with the false perception of freedom within the walls demonstrates a mature understanding of the oppression of Paradis Island's people. Despite the apparent peace caused by the Titans’ decades-long absence, Eren sees beyond the surface and compares himself and his townsfolk to birds locked in a cage – a metaphor that holds great meaning at the end of the series.
Much like other young people inspired by humanity's heroes, Eren holds a deep admiration for the Survey Corps, envisioning himself as the one to eliminate all Titans – the very beings that destroyed his city and claimed his mother's life in the first episode of Attack on Titan. Fueled by these tragic events, Eren’s quest for freedom intensifies, encouraging him to take any actions necessary to secure a world of real happiness and tranquility for his people.
He takes the first step toward this goal by joining the Training Crops of Paradis Island and working hard to become one of the Scouts. Following some initial challenges in training, Eren showcases his determination and stubbornness and joins Eldia’s military to pursue his ideals, starting his complicated and emotional journey.
Eren Yeager’s Life As a Soldier and a Titan Shifter
As a member of the Survey Corps, Eren's simplistic view of the world, categorizing things as either good or evil, starts to fade. He gradually becomes familiar with the harsh reality of the world outside the walls, uncovering secrets that will ultimately alter not only his fate but also that of everyone around him.
Eren is an empathetic person who prioritizes his friends above all else. He goes to great lengths to ensure Mikasa's safety and even sacrifices himself to save Armin from the mouth of a Titan — a moment that marks a great shift in Eren's character. After being eaten by the Pure Titan, Eren undergoes his first transformation into the Attack Titan, getting a power that sets the stage for the rest of the story.
However, as a kid who passionately despises Titans, Eren finds himself with an internal conflict as he transforms into one. While aware of the strategic advantage this power grants his nation in the fight against its enemies, he still feels unsure about his newfound powers.
Eren's childish innocence starts to diminish in the face of destruction and betrayal. Young Eren who once was ready to help everyone now doesn’t know what to believe in as Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie reveal their evil intentions against Paradis Island; this is where the real chaos slowly begins to unfold.
This betrayal marks Eren's first confrontation with Marley’s actions without knowing the real truth behind them. Subsequently, Zeke and his Titan forces' arrival triggers Eren's second major breakdown. At this moment, he experiences his Founder powers for the first time and witnesses significant losses among his comrades, one of whom is his second father figure – Hannes.
Eren Yeager vs Marley
At the end of the third season, a glimmer of hope arises as the Scouts defeat the Titans and uncover the Yeagers' basement—a mysterious room where Grisha unveils to us, as well as the rest of Paradis, the harsh realities of the world. However, instead of finding the freedom and happiness he longed for, Eren's hopes are shattered. These newfound revelations mark the most significant shift in his character, denying him the cheerful conclusion he searched for after achieving his goals.
Eren finally learns of Marley's actions against his people, and discovers the world’s twisted perception of his country and people. He realizes that Eldia, the nation that sought liberation, is painted as evil as its people are able to turn into Pure Titans; hence the world's nickname for his people, "Devils." This revelation shatters Eren's worldview, steering him toward a new, much darker objective.
In the Raid of Liberio, Eren displays immense determination to achieve his goals, utilizing both his strategic thinking and impulsiveness. His priorities seem to shift, with actions suggesting a diminished concern for his friends. This becomes even more evident with his horrifying acts of attacking the nation of Marley and initiating the Rumbling – his final act of pursuing freedom.
Eren and Mikasa: A Sad Love Story
Eren and Mikasa's relationship is a complicated one and changes significantly throughout the series. Initially, they live together and share a brother-sister dynamic where Mikasa assumes the role of a caring elder sister, keeping Eren out of trouble. In turn, Eren shows genuine care for Mikasa, protecting her from everything.
As Eren and Mikasa endure numerous challenges together, their relationship evolves into something more than a sibling bond. They subtly begin to show romantic feelings, transitioning from childhood friends to individuals mature enough to recognize their true emotions. However, given that Attack on Titan isn't a romance-focused series, their relationship gets a unique, dark, and complicated yet beautiful conclusion.
Eren always cared for Mikasa but knows his new goals will never let them be together. His seemingly distant actions toward Mikasa are driven by love and aim to protect her from pain. However, their love leads Eren to use the Founder's powers to share four years in an alternate reality with Mikasa, expressing a profound desire for a different world.
Mikasa, unwilling to let go of Eren, wears the red scarf during the final battle in Attack on Titan and continues to do so years after Eren’s demise. Isayama expands this emotional detail with one particular heart-breaking scene at the series end where a bird fixes Mikasa’s scarf while she sits under the tree. A scene that made both Mikasa and fans sob, prompting theories that Eren may have reincarnated as a bird.
Final Thoughts on Eren Yeager’s Character
Getting a flawless conclusion about Eren Yeager’s character is not simple, as Attack on Titan is by itself, far from simple. After being introduced as a hopeful boy with a dream of liberating his people, the cruel world changes Eren to the point that he becomes the one who changes the world.
Once, Armin said that there is no pure good or evil in the world, and by the end of the series, it seems like what Armin said is true. A lot of bad things happened throughout the history of Attack on Titan, and yet every country felt justified in their own way to do those cruel things; everyone did what they did thinking they were doing the right thing.
Eren is not a hero, nor is he a villain. He is a product of humanity’s greed and thirst for power, perceived differently by all and bearing many names. In his eyes, he was the world’s savior; to his friends, a suicidal maniac; and to the whole world, utter evil. In the end, he was Eren Yeager, a young boy who got his hands on far too great of a power. A power that while allowing him to liberate the world made him a slave to his ideals. A power that made him a slave to freedom.