Attack On Titan: Seasons 1-3 Recap

It has been seven years since the first season of Attack on Titan premiered. Although recent times have seen Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba take over the shounen spotlight, Attack on Titan hasn’t faded into obscurity yet. The manga ranked seventh in Oricon’s annual chart in 2019 with an estimated 4,704,234 sales. The fourth Blu-ray volume of the anime’s third season was in the Top 20 for Japan’s animation Blu-ray rankings in March 2019, and part one of the third season was our Summer 2018 Anime of the Season

It’s now 2020, and the final season of Attack on Titan, produced by MAPPA this time instead of Wit Studio, is arriving in Fall. In case you needed a refresh of what has happened so far, or simply wanted to know just why the series characters have been fighting naked giants for over 50 episodes, here’s a recap of the first three seasons. 

About Attack on Titan

Humanity is under threat from the Titans, giant humanoid creatures who consume humans and are only active when there is sunlight. To protect themselves, humanity hides behind three massive walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina.

The Titans’ regenerative capabilities render them immune to almost all forms of attack. However, the creatures are vulnerable at the nape of their necks. This prompts the creation of the omni-directional mobility gear, which allows soldiers to easily maneuver into position and strike the Titans’ weak spot with their blades.

Most of humanity is content to live within the Walls, with only the members of the Scout Regiment brave enough to explore what lies beyond. However, the status quo is shattered when one of the Walls is unexpectedly breached by the Titans.

Season 1 

A century of peace within the Walls comes to an end when the outer part of Wall Maria is breached by the massive Colossal Titan. The breach allows other Titans to flood into the Shiganshina District. Things worsen when the hardy Armored Titan breaches the inner wall, causing humanity to completely withdraw behind Wall Rose.

Following the loss of his mother and home to the Titans during this incident, Eren Yeager, his adopted sister, Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend Armin Arlert retreat with other refugees behind Wall Rose. Eventually, they decide to join the army. Eren also has a strange dream in which his father, Grisha, forcibly injects an unknown serum into him. Grisha also warns Eren not to forget the key to their basement, which contains a secret known only to Grisha.

Five years later, Eren and his friends graduate. As part of the top ten graduates, they are able to join the Military Police that guard the interior and are furthest from the action. However, Eren wishes to join the frontlines as a Scout instead. Mikasa and Armin also decide to become Scouts. Their first day as graduates coincides with the second appearance of the Colossal Titan, who breaches Wall Rose and leaves the Trost District vulnerable to attack.

The following battle to defend Trost results in Eren being consumed by a Titan. Things look grim for the humans, but an unusual Titan with combat skills and knowledge of the Titans’ weak points unexpectedly comes to their aid. To the surprise of the other graduates, they witness Eren emerging from the Titan’s body after it collapses; the limbs that Eren had lost when he was eaten have also been regenerated. Later, the military forms a plan in which Eren transforms into a Titan again to close the breach in Wall Rose. After temporarily losing control, Eren manages to seal the breach with a boulder.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Trost, the Military Police wish to have Eren killed, while the Scouts’ commander, Erwin Smith, wants to use him to retake Wall Maria. In the end, Eren is allowed to join the Scout Regiment where he is assigned to the squad of Levi Ackerman, the man regarded to be humanity’s strongest soldier. Eren is brought to an abandoned castle for training and assists researcher Hange Zoë in her tests. Hange has two captured Titans in her possession, but they are found dead the next day. The killer is deduced to be a human capable of using omni-directional mobility gear.

The Scouts, now including a number of graduates from Eren’s cadet batch, head to Saganshina for an operation, only to be waylaid by the unexpected appearance of an intelligent Female Titan who is after Eren. Armin has a close encounter with the Female Titan, but it spares his life after seeing his face. Armin theorizes that the Female Titan is a Titan shifter like Eren. 

Although the Female Titan is eventually restrained, the person inside it manages to escape before they can be extracted by the Scouts. Erwin suspects that the Titan shifter is hiding amongst the Scouts. The Female Titan’s second attempt at securing Eren is foiled by Levi and Mikasa, but she escapes again and leaves behind many casualties, including most of Levi’s Special Operations Squad, in her wake.

Due to the failed operation, the Scouts are summoned to the Capital and ordered to hand over Eren. Annie Leonhart, a cadet from Eren’s batch who now serves in the Military Police, is asked by Armin to assist them with Eren’s escape. However, the real plan is to determine if Annie is the Female Titan, which turns out to be the case. The Scouts fail to stop her from transforming, but Eren manages to defeat her in his Titan form after a fierce battle. Annie crystalizes herself to avoid interrogation.

Following Eren and Annie’s clash, the Capital rescinds its order to have Eren handed to them and allows the Scouts to have custody of Annie. A post-credits scene shows a portion of Wall Sina that was damaged by the fight. A part of the wall falls off to reveal the face of a Titan inside it.

Season 2

The Titan within Wall Sina is discovered by Hange. A man, Pastor Nick, rushes to the scene and tells them to cover up the Titan to shield it from sunlight. Pastor Nick’s knowledge about the Titan causes Hange to interrogate him. 

12 hours earlier, Eren’s fellow graduates are stationed at an outpost south of Wall Sina. When Titans are spotted approaching from the South, the graduates and their superiors are split into four teams and sent to warn and evacuate the nearby civilians. Section Commander Miche stays behind to battle the Titans but is defeated by the intelligent ape-like Beast Titan, who is capable of speech. Later, Connie Springer, one of the graduates, arrives at his hometown of Ragako with his group and discovers a Titan lying on its back in the ruins of a house. The Titan’s limbs are too stunted for it to move, which raises questions about how it penetrated Wall Rose in the first place. Furthermore, when two of the teams meet up after checking out the wall, they conclude that there was no breach to begin with.

While resting at an old castle together, the two teams end up being attacked by a group of Titans led by the Beast Titan. Left on their own after the experienced soldiers are killed, the graduates are saved by one of their own, Ymir, who transforms into a small Titan. Hange arrives with reinforcements before Ymir is overwhelmed. Christa Lenz, a kind and caring graduate who became close with Ymir during a training exercise in the past, reveals that her real name is Historia.

The Scouts send an unconscious Ymir back to Trost for medical attention, but another unexpected situation pops up: two of the graduates, Reiner Braun and Bertholdt Hoover, reveal themselves to be the Armored Titan and Colossal Titan respectively. Although Eren almost manages to beat Reiner in a Titan-to-Titan brawl, he ends up getting captured. Reiner and Bertholdt intend to bring Eren to their homeland, which lies beyond the Walls. Ymir is also taken away but eventually sides with Reiner and Bertholdt after she wakes up. Ymir’s condition is that she may bring Historia, who is actually the illegitimate child of a nobleman, with them. Ymir supposedly wants to trade Historia for her own safety, but she is ultimately motivated by a desire to protect the latter. 

It is revealed that Ymir was worshipped by a cult in the past and was captured by soldiers and transformed into a Titan. Decades later, and shortly before the fall of Wall Maria, she gained the ability to transform after consuming Marcel, one of Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie’s allies. Meanwhile, one of Hange’s subordinates arrives at Ragako and realizes that the immobile Titan resembles Connie’s mother. 

The Scouts catch up to Reiner and Bertholdt, kicking off an intense chase in which Erwin loses an arm. Eren displays the ability to control other Titans, which Ymir suspects to be the reason that Reiner and Bertholdt are after him. In the end, Eren is successfully retrieved by the Scouts and also puts an end to the Titan who ate his mother. Ymir, who switched sides again during the chase, chooses to leave Historia to save Reiner and Bertholdt from other Titans, who were lured to the area as part of Erwin’s plan. Ymir decides to follow Reiner and Bertholdt to their homeland so that they will not be punished for returning empty-handed.

A report by Hange and Connie concludes that the Titans that had appeared within Wall Rose were actually transformed citizens from Ragako. Finally, the Beast Titan is revealed to be a blonde, bespectacled man.

Season 3 Part 1

Eren and his fellow graduates are now part of Levi’s new squad. Hange learns that Pastor Nick was killed and suspects the Military Police to be behind the murder. Meanwhile, Levi learns from Erwin that the Military Police is also interfering with the Scouts’ activities and wants Eren and Historia in their hands. With someone in the government seemingly after them, the Scouts find themselves maneuvering against their fellow humans instead of battling the Titans. Levi also finds himself facing someone from his past: the dangerous Kenny the Ripper, who now works for the Military Police and leads the Anti-Personnel Control Squad. 

Despite using decoys, the Scouts are unable to prevent Eren and Historia from being captured. The Scouts convince the merchant Dimo Reeves, who was forced to assist the Military Police, to help them instead. Kenny assassinates Dimo for his betrayal but doesn’t notice Dimo’s son, Flegel, witnessing the incident. 

Historia explains her past to the Scouts in a flashback. Five years ago, she met her father, Rod Reiss, for the first time. Reiss had meant for Historia to begin living with him, but Kenny arrives and kills Historia’s mother. To spare Historia’s life, Reiss proposes that she be sent away under the name of Christa Lenz. In the present day, Historia reunites with Rod while Eren becomes his prisoner. Hange explains to the Scouts that Rod plans to have Eren eaten in order to obtain his Titan powers.

Meanwhile, Erwin convinces Commander Pyxis of the Garrison Regiment to aid him in his bloodless coup against the government, as it is more concerned with looking after itself than the people it governs. Furthermore, the King is actually a mere fraud, with the Reiss family secretly ruling as the true royal family; Erwin intends to install Historia as the new ruler due to her Reiss blood. Erwin later gives himself up to the Military Police after being accused of killing Dimo and appoints Hange as his successor. 

Hange rescues Flegel, who is on the run from to government due to him being a witness to his father’s murder. Hange involves Flegel in her plans to expose the government’s role in Dimo’s death, while Erwin is brought before the false king to be tried. Although Erwin is sentenced to death, elements of the military trick the government officials into exposing their self-interest and willingness to let the rest of the population be killed by the Titans, resulting in a successful coup and Erwin’s freedom. The military thus takes over the government.

Meanwhile, Eren remains in the hands of Rod Reiss and is bound by chains in a crystalline cavern. Historia is on her father’s side, believing his actions to be justified by noble motives. Rod and Historia place their hands on Eren’s back, causing Eren to remember that his father, Grisha, turned him into a Titan via the injection; consuming Grisha allowed Eren to return to his human form, just like how Ymir was able to do so after eating Marcel. Meanwhile, Historia regains memories of her late half-sister Frieda and the latter’s love for Historia. Those memories were erased by Frieda using the Reiss family’s power. Eren and Historia also learn that Grisha, also a Titan-shifter, killed the rest of the Reiss family and by consuming Frieda, who held the power of the Founding Titan, he was able to take her power for himself. 

The Scouts head out to save Eren, while Kenny prepares to hold them off with his squad. Kenny remembers a conversation he had with his grandfather, revealing that the Ackermans once served the Reiss Family and are one of the bloodlines who are immune to the Reiss’ mind-alteration powers. The Oriental clan also shared this immunity. This trait caused both clans to be persecuted when they disagreed with the Royal Family’s plans.

Levi’s squad arrives and does battle with Kenny’s soldiers. Historia learns that Rod intends for her to consume Eren and retake the Founding Titan’s power for the Reiss Family. Kenny, who also desires the power, is infuriated when he discovers that only one with Reiss blood can utilize the Founding Titan’s ability. Historia prepares to inject herself with the Titan-transforming serum. However, several factors, including the revelation that a Reiss member can never use the Founding Titan’s power to free humanity from the current status quo due to the first king’s wish, cause her to reject her father’s plans and break the syringe. As she frees Eren, Rod licks some of the spilled serum and transforms into a massive Titan.

The size of Rod’s Titan form causes the cavern to collapse, killing Kenny’s soldiers. After being freed by the Scouts, Eren protects them by drinking another serum and gaining the ability to crystallize his Titan form, thus preventing the debris from crushing the Scouts. Unable to stand, Rod crawls towards Wall Sina, with the heat radiating from his Titan form preventing the Scouts from getting close. 

However, the Scouts devise a plan to blow up Rod’s Titan form from within, which is made possible by its lack of a mouth. Before the battle, Historia is approached by Levi and agrees to be the queen on the condition that she also participates in the fight. After blowing up Rod, the Scouts rush to cut the flying pieces of his Titan form in the hopes of striking the nape and killing Rod for good. In the end, Historia is the one who deals the decisive blow. Standing before the civilians and soldiers who witnessed her deed, Historia reveals her identity and declares herself to be the true ruler of the Walls. 

Levi finds a dying Kenny who talks about his past meeting with Rod’s brother Uri, the former King of the Walls. Kenny originally wanted to kill Uri but joined him after the latter apologized for the persecution of the Ackermans and displayed humility. Kenny also recalls how he found Levi and raised him, before revealing that Levi’s mother was his sister. Before dying, Kenny hands Levi a syringe containing Titan serum, which he stole from Rod. In the capital, Historia is crowned as queen. Elsewhere, Reiner’s Armored Titan is defeated by the Beast Titan, who tells Reiner and Bertholdt that their priority should be retrieving something called the Coordinate, with Annie’s rescue coming later.

Eren improves his hardening abilities. With the help of those abilities, Hange develops a Titan-killing device called the Executioner. The Scouts seek out Keith Sadies, the current Training Corps commander and Erwin’s predecessor, as Eren believes that Sadies knew his father. Keith recounts how he had found an amnesiac Grisha outside the Walls. After he was brought inside, Grisha learned about life within the Walls and became a doctor. He later married Carla, a waitress who Keith also liked. When Wall Maria fell, Keith and Grisha learned of Carla’s death through Eren. Grisha took Eren into the woods for the Titan serum injection after this. Although Keith was unaware of the procedure, he later found Eren’s unconscious body in the forest and brought him to a shelter. 

Hange is unable to fully analyze the Titan serum that Levi received from Kenny. Erwin entrusts the syringe to Levi, telling the latter to decide who to use it on when the time comes. The Scouts prepare to retake Wall Maria and discover the secrets hidden in Grisha’s basement. Reiner and Bertholdt wait atop Wall Maria for the Scouts to arrive. In a mid-credits scene, Levi faces off against Eren and Mikasa. 

Season 3 Part 2

The Scouts head for Shiganshina during the night, as the Titans are inactive without sunlight. Once there, they find the district to be empty and seal the breach with Eren’s hardening ability without any trouble. However, Armin notices signs of recent human activity, putting the Scouts on alert. He hypothesizes that Reiner and Bertholdt are hiding within the walls. Armin’s suspicions turn out to be correct and Reiner is discovered. However, Reiner is able to transform into his Armored Titan form before he can be killed. Worse, the Scouts’ escape route is blocked by the Beast Titan, who is also accompanied by a number of normal Titans.

In the ensuing battle, the Scouts attempt to kill the Armored Titan with Thunder Spears, special explosive weapons developed under Hange’s orders. Reiner is brought to his knees but is able to signal for Bertholdt to join the battle. Bertholdt, hiding within a barrel, is thrown into the district by the Beast Titan. Bertholdt checks on Reiner and realizes that the latter had transferred his consciousness throughout his Titan’s nervous system to survive his otherwise fatal injuries. Armin tries to negotiate with Bertholdt, but the latter, having found his resolve, expresses his intent to kill the Scouts and later transforms into the Colossal Titan. Hange and some of her men appear to be caught in the resulting explosion.

Eren and his comrades struggle to kill the Colossal Titan due to its massive size and the steam it emits. Meanwhile, Erwin, seeing that there are no better options, convinces the Scout recruits to charge the Beast Titan head-on. Almost all of the recruits are killed during the charge, and Erwin himself is badly wounded. However, the charge accomplishes its purpose of distracting the Beast Titan from Levi’s approach. Levi severely wounds the Beast Titan shifter, War Chief Zeke, and pulls him out of the Beast Titan’s form. Unfortunately, another Titan, the Cart Titan, grabs Zeke and escapes.

Hange, who survived the Colossal Titan’s explosion, joins the Scouts in taking on Reiner. Thanks to Hange, Mikasa is able to blast Reiner out of his Titan form with a Thunder Spear. Eren and Armin team up to battle Bertholdt. Armin sacrifices himself to distract Bertholdt, allowing Eren to sneak up on Bertholdt and pull him out. 

The Cart Titan grabs Reiner but is forced to leave Bertholdt in Eren’s hands after seeing that Levi is still in pursuit. Before the Cart Titan retreats with Zeke and Reiner, Zeke claims that Eren has been brainwashed by Grisha and says that he will rescue Eren one day.

With Armin still breathing despite being horribly burnt from Bertholdt’s steam, Eren convinces Levi to use the Titan serum on his friend. However, Floch Forster, the only surviving recruit from the charge, then arrives with a severely-wounded but still-living Erwin. The argument over who is more beneficial to humanity’s survival and deserves to be saved results in the clash between Levi, Eren, and Mikasa as seen in the mid-credits scene of the season’s first-half finale. In the end, Levi decides to let Erwin rest in peace. The serum is used on Armin, who consumes Bertholdt and becomes a Titan Shifter. 

Eren, Mikasa, Levi, and Hange head into Grisha’s basement. They discover a photograph — something that does not exist within the Walls — of Grisha with a different wife and child. The back of the photograph contains Grisha’s writing, which says that he came from a land beyond the Walls where “humanity lives in elegance.” A flashback scene shows Grisha and his younger sister, Fay, as children. Spotting an airship, Grisha drags his sister out of the Liberio Internment Zone they reside in to follow him. 

In the city, Grisha and Fay are caught by two officers. As the two do not have exit permits, Grisha chooses to be beaten by one of the officers as punishment and asks to receive Fay’s punishment as well. The other officer ostensibly takes Fay home, but her body is found the next day. It is revealed that Grisha’s people, the Eldians, live in the internment zone and are harshly discriminated against by the majority of the land, the Marleyans, due to the actions of their ancestors. 

As a young adult, Grisha joins a movement seeking to restore the Eldians to their former glory. The movement is led by the Owl, an unseen mole in the Marleyan government. One day, the Owl sends Dina Fritz, a descendant of the Eldian royal family, to join the movement. Grisha falls in love with her, and they have a son, Zeke. Burdened by his parents’ expectations of him and choosing to protect himself and his grandparent, Zeke eventually sells Grisha and Dina out to the Marleyans. 

Grisha and Dina are sent to Paradis Island, where the Walls are located. Eldians who are sent there are turned into Pure Titans who cannot transform. Dina is injected with the Titan serum, revealed to be Titan spinal fluid, and transforms before a horrified Grisha. At this point, it is revealed that Eren is somehow viewing these memories; he also recognizes Dina as the Titan who ate his mother. 

Back in the past, Grisha is unexpectedly saved by Kruger, the Marleyan officer who beat him up when he was a child. Kruger reveals himself to be the Owl. The officer who caused Fay’s death is pushed off the wall they’re on and eaten by Titans. Kruger then turns into a Titan, the Attack Titan, to take on the rest of the Marleyans. He later tells Grisha about his past, revealing in the process how those who inherit the power of the Nine Titans die in 13 years due to the “Curse of Ymir.” He also shares that beneath Paradis Island is an abundance of fossil fuels; Marley seeks to control this resource to maintain their dominance, which is currently ensured by their control of seven Titans. 

Eren learns more details through the memories. If a person possessing one of the Nine Titans dies without passing their power on, a yet-to-be-born baby from the Subjects of Ymir will be given the power. Furthermore, these Subjects of Ymir are bound by a mysterious connection that allows memories and thoughts to be transmitted. 

Kruger tells Grisha to seek out the Founding Titan before the Marleyans can get their hands on it. He also informs Grisha that the King of the Walls does not have the intention to fight the Marleyans; the threat of unleashing the Titans within the Walls if provoked was simply a deterrent. It is due to the king’s inaction that the Owl tasks Grisha with taking the power of the Founding Titan. Only a royal member can utilize the Founding Titan’s full power, but they are bound by the vow of non-violence made by the original king. 

In the present, Hange notes that Eren was able to control other Titans despite his lack of royal blood. However, Eren remembers that his Founding Titan ability activated only when Dina, came into contact with him as a Titan. He keeps this realization to himself to keep Historia safe. Back in the past, Kruger prepares to inject Grisha and have him take over the power of the Attack Titan. Kruger also tells Grisha to save Mikasa and Armin, acknowledging that he doesn’t know whose memories they belong to.

Historia decides to make the truth behind the Titans known to the public. Thanks to the Executioner, all the Titans on Paradis Island are slain, allowing the Scouts to freely venture out. They are able to reach the wall where Marley turns Eldians into Titans and see the wall for the first time. Eren wonders if killing all the Marleyans will deliver the freedom the people on Paradis Island have been looking for.

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