Warning: MAJOR spoilers down below for the entirety of the Attack on Titan anime.
Attack on Titan is literally traumatizing.
I mean this in the best way possible. The show, in general, was fantastic television. There’s a great storyline, really well thought-out characters, and plenty of action to keep you coming back again and again. With four complete seasons after waiting three years for the fourth season to finish, I would consider it one of the best shows ever – even if we had to wait an annoying amount of time for part three and four of Season 4.
But, with any show that has as much destruction as Attack on Titan does, there are bound to be some heartbreaking deaths that will just eat at you for hours on end. From the moment they happen to many episodes later, these deaths stay in your heart and make you cry - because God knows I did. Here are several from the show that truly stand out among the others.
It was the first episode.
I mean, we get about twelve minutes of peace before the hellfire starts in Attack on Titan and Wall Maria is taken down within minutes by one kick from the Colossal. It’s made even worse when Eren is literally forced to watch his mother be eaten by a Titan as he is being saved by Hannes, that horrible look on his face while it happens.
His scream sits with you, too, and no matter how much Eren has changed in Season 4, a part of me can’t help but remember when he was just a little boy who wanted his mom to live. It’s so sad to re-watch these scenes and think about that.
I’m going to be honest - I had barely any idea who Marco was when he died in Season 1, Episode 13. There were so many characters in Attack on Titan at the beginning that I just wasn’t paying attention to the smaller ones. What really makes Marco one of the most heartbreaking deaths on here is A), the manner in which he was killed - betrayed by his friends, and B) seeing Jean’s reaction to it.
Jean and Marco were best buddies when they were in training, and seeing his friend like that, literally torn in half, after the attack on Trost is awful in every way imaginable and I felt terrible for him. It’s amazing how far Jean has come since then, but it’s because of Marco that he ended up becoming a scout in the first place.
While Bertholdt was an antagonist in the second half of Season 3 of Attack on Titan, his death in the episode, “Midnight Sun,” truly sits with me because he was so scared to die. It makes sense, as his death would be able to provide powers to a new holder of the Colossal - this time being Armin, but seeing his reaction guts me.
Don’t get me wrong - I still don’t like a lot of the Marley Warriors from the 104, even after all the cool stuff they did in the best moments of Season 4, Part 2 alongside our favorite main characters, but at the end of the day, they were still just kids who were forced into this out of societal biases that have been passed down for generations. A part of me can’t help but feel bad for Bertholdt, because he’s still just a kid. It’s terrible - at least we got to see Armin live, though, right?
This is probably one of the deaths that truly peeved me off the most. In Season 3 of Attack on Titan, in the episode “That Day,” When Grisha (Eren’s father) was younger, he had a little sister named Fay, and they lived in a camp that was composed of Eldians in Marley. However, he sneaks her out at one point to show her blimps and they are caught. Instead of letting her live, it is later revealed that she was eaten alive by dogs.
The girl was so young. She had her whole life ahead of her and those officers straight up had her murdered just because she was Eldian and she snuck out with her brother to see a blimp. Not even to do anything bad. It’s awful what happened and I’ll never forgive Marley for it.
Levi’s First Season Squad
While we have gotten plenty of time with Levi Ackerman in Attack on Titan (he is humanity’s strongest and most badass soldier, after all), we barely got any time with his first season squad, consisting of Petra, Oluo, Gunther and Eld. Why? Because they were taken out by the Female Titan. In one attack, in Episode 21 of Season 1.
The moment this happens, it’s almost like a wake-up call for the series, that this is where things really take a turn. Levi’s squad is supposed to be composed of literally the best soldiers in the Scouts and to see them taken out so easily, as if they were just flies on the wall, freaking tore me apart. Levi isn’t even an emotional man by any means, and yet even he was deeply affected by it. It’s screwed up and makes me not like Annie to this day, no matter how much she helped in the last episodes of Season 4.
Isabel And Furlan
While the OVA, “No Regrets,” isn’t officially a part of the Attack on Titan episode line-up, it’s still canon within the story and I can’t do this list without mentioning Isabel and Furlan. For those who don’t know, before Levi was a scout, he worked as a thug in the Underground alongside two close friends of his, Isabel and Furlan.
They soon go to the Scouts when they are arrested, and train just like anyone else, but on their first expedition, both Isabel and Furlan are killed by an Abnormal. To be honest, you don’t even know these characters for very long, but what really makes this so heartbreaking is Levi’s reaction. He is destroyed by this. You never see him so upset at something ever, not even in the official anime. It’s such a dark moment in his character history and one deserving of this list.
Damn, Levi can’t catch a break, huh?
In Season 3 of Attack on Titan, we are introduced to Kenny, someone who raised Levi in the Underground who's later revealed to be his uncle. It’s clear that these two have a very complicated relationship, what really makes his death heartbreaking is, again, Levi’s reaction.
During the episode “Friends,” he finds out as Kenny is dying that he's actually Levi's biological uncle, which is why he ended up taking him in after Levi’s mother passed away. Levi didn’t even know his last name until that point, but he doesn’t even get the chance to properly talk to Kenny about it, because the man dies from his injuries not that long after revealing it. I don’t think Levi would have let Kenny live if he had made it out alive, but it’s still such a sad moment in the show.
See, her story is one of the reasons why this show is so good. We barely knew anything about Ymir up until this point except the fact that she was the Founder of the Titans. In Season 4 of Attack on Titan, in the episode, “From You, 2,000 Years Ago,” we get her backstory, about how she was basically a slave (and a baby-maker) for the king at the time.
Her death comes when she’s trying to protect the king from a traitor, taking a spear to the gut. While she can easily heal these wounds (as she’s a Titan shifter), it’s what the King says to her, that she’s just a slave to him still and nothing more, that causes her to lose her will to live. All she ever wanted was to feel loved, but she’s still just some worker to the king. It tore me in half. And it feels even worse now that we’ve reached the end of the series.
Dina Fritz was actually Grisha’s first wife in Attack on Titan, and the mother of Zeke Jaeger (Eren’s half-brother who is also the Beast Titan). She is captured alongside many of the Eldians who were planning to revolt against Marley. While she doesn’t technically “die” until she’s killed by other Titans at the end of Season 2, her soul and brain are gone when she is transformed into a mindless Titan during the Season 3 episode, “That Day.”
What makes her death even sadder is that she ends up becoming the Smiling Titan - the Titan that eats Eren’s mom, Carla, as well as Hannes. Talk about a full-circle moment.
You want to talk about the epitome of a fantastic commander? Erwin Smith is that in Attack on Titan. And, his death is freaking awful. In Season 3 during “Midnight Sun,” Levi is given the option to use the spare Titan serum Kenny gave him to turn either Armin Arlert or Erwin Smith into a Titan, since Bertholdt is gravely injured and can be eaten now to have the Colossal passed onto someone else.
For a while, it seemed as if Levi was going to give it to Erwin, as he was the Commander, and Hange agreed that they needed him too. After an interaction with the dying man, though, he decides to let Erwin rest in peace after what happened and gives it to the dying Armin instead. It’s a sad end to the Commander’s storyline and makes you wonder what would have happened if he just got to that basement.
It’s still a very hotly debated topic if Levi made the right decision. I personally think so, but who knows at this point.
Don’t talk to me, I’m still not over this.
Do you know the pain I felt seeing Sasha alive in the Season 4, Part 2 finale? I had so many feelings because she was literally one of my favorite characters and all I wanted was to see her alive again. Her death in the Season 4 episode, “Assassin’s Bullet,” shattered my soul.
From the moment I saw Sasha in Attack on Titan, I felt this connection with her. I, too, love food and would probably eat a potato while getting yelled at, and she just continued to grow on me. Watching her get absolutely shot to hell by that little brat, Gabi, made me want to just die.
I don’t remember the last time I cried so hard. It was one of the best (and worst) moments of Season 4, Part 1, but damn, I was out of it for a week after that. She wasn’t innocent, no one is in this world, but she was sweet, and kind, and didn’t deserve the end she got. Ugh...be right back, about to go cry.
I mean, I knew it was coming, but damn it still hit hard.
In the first part of the Attack on Titan finale, which was released almost a year ago in March 2023 (wow, I feel so old saying that now), every fan said goodbye to Hange, the third commander of the Scouts that we see, and the Titan-loving, science-freak that we all loved dearly.
She died doing what she loved – examining Titans and defending her friends, getting burned up by the flames of the Colossal Titans around her thanks to the Rumbling. I have to say, for some reason this didn’t gut me like many of the others on this list – most likely because of me being spoiled on it – but there’s no denying the heartbreaking nature.
That name might not sound entirely familiar, but it’s because Ramzi wasn’t really a main character – he was a refugee boy that Eren meets when he and the rest of his squad visit Marley for the first time, the same boy that he sees himself kill in his future memories.
We all knew it was coming in the first part of the finale, but seeing it actually happen so graphically is really what got me. He just gets…stepped on. He’s out like a light, just like that, as if he was a bug on the bottom of our shoes.
He was so full of life and then boom, just gone. It shatters you to your core and you don’t know how to survive afterwards.
Alright, my heartbreaking nature is quite complicated when it comes to Eren Jaeger’s (or Yeager, whatever floats your boat) death in Attack on Titan .
On one hand, I’m so enraged at what he did, at the cost of it, and everything else in-between, just like Armin was. Hell, I wish I could have punched him through the TV because I knew deep down there was no way Eren truly felt this much evil in his heart. It was such a stupid, stupid decision. He may say he wanted to kill them all, and I can see why, but to this extent? He's such a complex character and it bothers me so much - to the point where I'm almost happy he's dead. There was no way he could live with that guilt.
But at the same time, I can’t help but pity him. He felt he had no choice. This was his family, his friends, and it was what his memories told him would happen. Every time he tried to avoid something, it always came true. He was stuck in his own cycle of violence that he could never have the luxury to escape – because it was his own mind.
And then I see how his friends reacted, the tears pouring down their faces and everything else – that’s what gets me. Not the death of Eren Jaeger, the face of the Founding Titan, the man that wiped out 80% of the world’s population. I sob at the death of Eren, the boy who wanted freedom – for his friends and family, and did everything to risk it, and lost himself in the process.
Mikasa Ackerman was the first female anime character (besides Chihiro from Spirited Away) that made me not want to pull my hair out, because she was strong, brave, and literally everything I wished I could be. While her death wasn’t on screen, it still broke me.
After Eren dies, we see throughout the credits that she visited Eren’s grave all the time, grieving for her friend well into her old age, and in one final frame, we see that she’s in a grave, with that same red scarf wrapped around her neck – the one that Eren gave her all those years ago.
How can you not get choked up watching that? Heck, her death wasn’t even shown and I was a sobbing mess. Every part of me wishes they would have run away that night in Marley, but that’s wishful thinking – at least that’s what Archive of Our Own and its fanfiction is for.
I really don’t know if there’s ever going to be another anime like Attack on Titan that will capture my interest and utterly break me like this one has. It was number one on my top 2023 anime list, but if we’re being honest, it’s going to be number one in my heart for a long, long time. I suppose I can spend my time simply watching new anime, but I’m always going to miss those Wings of Freedom.
Either way, here’s hoping that I can get over this sadness because my emotions are coming back with a vengeance as I’m updating this right now. Where are my tissues?
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A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.