Random Rant: Ymir and the Warriors (Attack on Titan)

(Warning: Probable spoilers for the ending of Attack on Titan season 3
and definite spoilers for the manga up to around chapter 100.)

In 2016, after watching Attack on Titan for my second time, I finally decided to break down and read the manga. So when season 2 aired in 2017 and when season 3 part 1 aired in 2018, I knew most of what was going to happen. I also knew the secrets in the basement and hence the answer to the question of who the real enemies are: the Marleyans. I decided to watch all seasons of Attack on Titan for a third time, and this time more carefully. Going back and re-watching season 2 was honestly pretty depressing sometimes. However, it also gave me a deeper appreciation for some characters rekindled my interest in the series. This is a bit of a ramble but the point is that the Warriors deserve some appreciation.

First, let’s talk about Ymir’s story. It’s not that anyone I know is dissing her character, but some sof them still don’t understand her actions. And as for me, I’ve always liked Ymir, but I only realized during this rewatch how amazing she is and how moving her her story can be. She deserves hella respect. I’m going to assume you know where Ymir came from, what she was punished for, and how she ended up becoming human again after being turned into a titan. Knowing that, take a look at the relationship between Ymir and Historia depicted in season 2.

Historia was the redeeming light in Ymir’s dark and depressing life, and for Historia, Ymir was the sharpest and most no-nonsense person in her life, the only one to break apart her goody-two-shoes facade to get to the real girl underneath. The bond between these two is far deeper than friendship, and I consider them more like a couple. I’m always sad to see this the end of this beauitful relationship, which is why Attack on Titan season 2 still makes me cry.

In anime you see a lot of unhealthy or possessive couples, but Ymir and Historia were different. They each cared more about the other’s happiness and future than their own. They encouraged each other to live only for themselves. That’s why, when the time came, Ymir left Historia and joined Reiner and Bertholdt. Historia was quiet and depressed for a while after that, but as she told Eren in the first episode of season 3 part 1, she wanted to respect Ymir’s choice and let her live her own life. But why exactly did Ymir go with the Warriors?

Despite coming from the Marleyan country just like Reiner and Bertholdt, Ymir knew very little of the Titans or how they worked. That’s because the details were mostly government and military secrets. Ymir knew that the Eldians were a persecuted people. It just didn’t “click” in her mind that Reiner and Bertholdt were persecuted Eldians forced to become Titan Warriors. Not until season 2 episode 11, when Bertholdt said these stirring words.

“Tell me who!
Who the hell would want to kill people by their own choice?!
Who the hell would like doing this sort of thing?
Do you think I wanted to do this?! People hate and despise us.
We’ve done such terrible things, we deserve to die.”

~Bertholdt Hoover

That was what made Ymir understand the situation of the Warriors, as well as what awakened her sympathy. She felt a wave of emotions all at once. She was hopelessly indebted to them, because if they hadn’t come to break down the wall, Ymir wouldn’t have eaten Marcel and turned back into a human. Also, she felt guilty. For one thing, she ate Marcel and made the mission so much more difficult for Reiner and Bertholdt. For another, Ymir had lived as a rescruit and a scout all this time and had probably killed Titans that were once her own people. A third powerful emotion was empathy. As someone who was punished for saying she was of the royal bloodline, and someone who was forcibly turned into a Titan, Ymir felt her heart ache for the persecuted Eldians.

Now, Ymir isn’t stupid. She knew perfectly well that going with the Warriors meant she would probably be eaten by another Warrior back in the Marleyan country. While she doesn’t want to die, Ymir is prepared for the possibility. That just shows how much she wanted to make it up to Reiner and Bertholdt for the way she ate their companion and caused them to lose Eren. Thus, Ymir helped the Warriors escape the Titans in episode 12, and gave herself up to them peacefully after. She said it was just too sad to let them go back the the Marleyans empty-handed. So all of that is why I think all AoT fans should respect Ymir as a great character.

Briefly, let me note that when I watched season 2 episode 11 for the second time, my reaction was similar to Ymir’s. I felt great sympathy and empathy. But the first time I watched it, my thoughts were more like those of Eren. I was consumed by rage and hatred for Reiner and Bertholdt, but especially for Reiner, since he had the audacity to be a victim of a dissociative disorder after causing the deaths of thousands of people within the walls. But I not found more sympathy for Reiner on the second watch, and I also understood his mental issues better. That brings us to the disussion/ explanation of Reiner’s psych disorder dilemma.

Dissociation is a form of (unintentional) detachment from reality, and usually involves feeling like things and people are unreal. It’s also associated with identity confusion, general confusion, and omission of memories (or selective amnesia). Dissociative Identity Disorder is the newer name for Multiple Personality Disorder, but that’s not quite fitting of what Reiner has, since certain criteria aren’t met. Psychologists would call messy cases like Reiner’s DDNOS, Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. It’s explained pretty well in the anime why this happened to Reiner and how it manifests, but in case you missed it, here’s the explanation.

Reiner and Bertholdt couldn’t come to terms with what they had done by breaching Wall Maria. They caused ten thousand people to be eaten by titans or destroyed in the chaos of the broken wall. If not for them, the 250,000 people who were sent to “Reclaim Wall Maria” wouldn’t have died. The only respite Reiner and Bertholdt had was their time spent as soldiers, interacting with the other trainees and recruits. This is where Reiner got confused. Since he found such peace and joy in being the reliable big brother for everyone, he thought that was his real identity. He thought he was a soldier of Paradis Island. He went through times where we lost his memories of being a persecuted Eldian and a Titan Warrior for the Marleyans. He was able to forget his sin. Though he wouldn’t meet the criteria for DID, it’s not to say that Reiner has two selves or two personalities.

For managing to continue his duties as Warrior even with a condition like this, and for being forced to wake up from his delusions time and time again, Reiner deserves respect. All the Warriors we’ve seen so far do. Yes, they are doing evil things for evil people, but they’re convinced that serving the Marleyans is the only choice. It’s the only way to save their families. Rebelling against the world’s major power isn’t an option, with all the technology and Titans they have. Anyway, Bertholdt is amazing in his own way, too. He’s never been particularly interesting to me, but still. Marcell was eaten. Annie was captured. Reiner was still functional, but not quite right in the head. Dealing with all that plus functioning and fighting– wow, Bertholdt is a strong man.

Yet the most interesting of the Warriors, in my opinion, has always been Annie Leonheart. Mentally, she is stronger than the others, and maybe in terms of fighting skills, too. Granted, she didn’t have to break the wall 5 years ago, but she’s still here on a mission to destroy the people within the walls. Annie manages to keep her unique sense of self, which has the personality of an advocate, while at the same time never forgetting what she has done, and what she must do. She kills many valuable soldiers of the Survey Corpse, plus the civilians in Stohess later. Annie doesn’t enjoy death or killing, as we saw her horrified about Marco in the flashback in season 3.

Annie’s goals are two-fold. Firstly, she wants to obey and protect her father. He is the only family she has, and though he’s a scumbag, Annie loves him. The only way to keep his life secure is to be a Titan Warrior for the Marleyans and complete her missions. Secondly, Annie wishes to find a way to help as many persecuted Eldians back home as possible. This is what I meant about her being like an advocate. As the battle with Eren approaches at the end of season one, Annie says the following to Marlowe and the other Military Police recruits.

“I just want the weak who get swept along with the flow
to be considered human, too.”

~Annie Leonheart

By her own definition, though, Annie fails to become a full-fledged warrior because she didn’t retrieve Eren in her mission and she went along with Armin despite suspecting that her cover had already been blown. Annie liked Armin (I don’t know about romanitcally, but as a person), and didn’t kill him as the Female Titan despite having two chances. The smartest thing would have been to go into hiding after her attempt to steal Eren. But Annie didn’t, because she was convinced the scouts wouldn’t guess her identity, and because she was just too tired, overwhelmed, and depressed after killing so many in the Survey Corps and still not catching Eren.

If Annie had stuck to being a Warrior in the most optimal way, she never would have gone along with Armin in episode 23. That’s not to say she didn’t try her best, out of desperation, once Armin and the others forced her to transform. The Warriors cannot afford to lose the power of the Female Titan, one of the Nine Titans, so Annie couldn’t let herself be eaten. She covered herself in layers of crystal-like material, as strong as the walls of Paradis Island. Annie hoped this would protect her from being eaten until her time as a Titan Warrior ran out and the power passed to another Eldian. It was an excellent last resort, and it showed that although Annie had been too merciful and kind for own good, she wasn’t going to give up her quest as a Warrior.

All the Warriors we know from the anime– except maybe the one piloting the Beast Titan– are deserving of respect. So is Ymir. That’s really what I wanted to illustrate with this post. This has been 7mononoke on Anime Rants. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts!

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