The Big Picture
- The Return to Shiganshina Arc is the standout arc in Attack on Titan, with epic battles and high stakes that push the characters to their limits.
- The arc showcases the sacrifices made by the Survey Corps, including the deaths of beloved characters like Erwin and Armin.
- The arc reveals the true origins of the Titans, introducing a larger world outside the walls and raising questions about freedom and sacrifice.
The grand finale of Attack on Titan has come and gone, leaving fans without a happy ending. Now is a wonderful time to reflect on Hajime Isayama’s 10-year masterpiece that took Eren Yeager (Yuki Kaji), his dear friends, and the Eldians on Paradis island through an unruly journey of self-discovery. Their story spans several arcs — some of which are more exhilarating than others — but is credited for having one of the best arcs in anime and manga history. The Return to Shiganshina Arc was truly a game-changer for not only the Attack on Titan characters but for the fan’s perspective of the entire show.
By far, the Return to Shiganshina Arc is where Attack on Titan shines at its brightest. As Eren, Mikasa (Yui Ishikawa), and Armin (Marina Inoue) endeavor with the Survey Corps to reclaim their hometown where the story all began, familiar enemies are waiting for them, resulting in epic battles. The interconnected episodes put the stakes at higher risk than ever before. The characters audiences have grown to love are pushed to their maximum limit and are forced to confront life-changing decisions. These terrifying events are all leading up to the show’s most pivotal reveal in Grisha Yeager’s basement. Fans often argue the Marley Arc is the superior narrative, but the retaking of Shiganshina — a wake-up call to reality — is the arc that changed Attack on Titan forever.
Attack On Titan
After his hometown is destroyed and his mother is killed, young Eren Jaeger vows to cleanse the earth of the giant humanoid Titans that have brought humanity to the brink of extinction.
- Release Date
- September 28, 2013
- Marina Inoue, Hiro Shimono, Takehito Koyasu, Yûki Kaji, Josh Grelle, Bryce Papenbrook
- Adventure, Action, Anime, Fantasy
What Happens in the Return to Shiganshina Arc in ‘Attack on Titan’?
The Return to Shiganshina Arc is the 7th story arc within Attack on Titan, spanning from Episode 49 to Episode 59 in the anime. Set two months after The Uprising Arc, Historia (Shiori Mikami) is now crowned on the throne, and the Survey Corps has grown stronger than ever before. With the newfound information on the Titans, Commander Erwin Smith (Daisuke Ono) leads the Survey Corps to retake Wall Maria in the Shiganshina District in order to find out the secrets hidden in Grisha’s basement. This is a very difficult and emotional task for the main trio. Neither Eren, Mikasa, nor Armin have been back to the town they grew up in since the Colossal Titan broke the wall almost a decade prior.
The group is ready for the challenge, and they leave Trost District on horseback. The Survey Corps safely make it into Shiganshina unscathed, yet the shocking sight of the destroyed city triggers painful memories. Thankfully, the team carries out their sub-missions of sealing the initial hole opened by the Armored Titan. The core of their plans seem to be going just fine until one of the soldiers finds Reiner Braun (Yoshimasa Hosoya) hiding inside the wall! The group panics, Levi fails to take him down, and Reiner transforms into the Armored Titan, challenging Eren to the battlefield. Thanks to Hange’s newly developed lightning spears, the Survey Corps is able to help Eren in knocking out Reiner, but the chaos doesn’t end there.
The Return to Shiganshina Arc Is About Sacrifice
To their surprise, the Beast Titan, Zeke Yeager (Takehito Koyasu), makes an appearance beyond the wall and blocks the team’s escape routes with the help of the Cart Titan. He launches a counterattack by chucking large stones into the city, which kills several soldiers and horses. Even worse, the Beast Titan throws a barrel that contains Bertolt (Tomohisa Hashizume) into Shiganshina, and the Colossal Titan explodes. At the brink of defeat, Commander Erwin has to make a fatal decision. They must defeat the enemy no matter what the cost. Erwin convinces the remaining soldiers to join him in a suicide run out toward the battlefield to make an opening for Levi (Hiroshi Kamiya) to take down the Beast Titan.
In one of the saddest moments in the AOT franchise, Erwin and the Survey Corps soldiers sacrifice their lives for the mission. Levi sneaks up behind the Beast Titan in one of the most iconic fights in the series, and rips Zeke out of the Titan’s body. Armin also sacrifices his life in this arc (he is burned to death) when the team takes down the Colossal Titan. Levi makes the tough choice to give Armin the Titan serum instead of saving Erwin’s life. Armin devours Bertolt, inheriting the Colossal Titan. This is a very heavy change to process for the gentlest character in the series. At the entire expense of the Survey Corps, the Beast Titan and Reiner manage to flee the scene, leaving only nine survivors from the battle. The rest of the team set off to find Eren’s old home, where the biggest reveal of the series challenges everything we once knew from inside the walls of Paradis — the true origins of the Titans.
The True Origins of the Titans Are Revealed
The end of the Return to Shinganshina Arc is a mind-bending roller coaster meant to pave the way for the last epic season of Attack on Titan. After the blood-shedding battle, Eren, Mikasa, Levi, and Hange finally arrive at their mission’s destination. Eren opens the door to his father’s secret basement, where they stumble upon the reality Grisha Yeager left behind. And it all starts with the image of an old family portrait with Grisha and a different family. Fans experience a whiplash of surprise when it is revealed there is a bigger world outside the walls! A more technologically advanced world, that is. More shockingly, the map of the world looks like an upside-down version of Earth where Paradis is just a small island compared to the hometown Grisha came from — the city of Marley.
Since the foretold story of their dark origins, Eldians are hated by the whole world. In fear of their Titan powers, we learn the Marleyans have oppressed everyone with Eldian blood and are forced to live a life of poverty. After his younger sister was murdered by a Marleyan officer, Grisha became the leader of the Eldian Restorationists, where he met and fell in love with Dina Fritz. It is discovered that Zeke is Eren’s half-brother, who later inherits the Beast Titan power. But Grisha’s obsession with liberating the Eldians causes Zeke to turn his parents in. Fans are then thrown into another loop when Marley is revealed to be the one who injects the Eldians with the Titan serum and sends them off to Paradis as punishment for their crimes. But, the biggest plot twist of the arc is witnessing Dina Fritz turning into the smiling Titan, the one who ate Eren’s mother. Miraculously, Grisha is saved by a mysterious man who ends up giving him the Attack Titan power so that he may carry out the Eldian Restorationists’ mission.
After three seasons of hard-fought battles, navigating political turmoil, and learning the truth about humanity, Eren and his friends finally reach the ocean as they always dreamed of. Eren knows he was wrong, and now his world has been turned upside down. “The enemies [across the sea], if we kill them all, will we be free?” says Eren. The arc is full of incredible twists and turns and, at the same time, conveys the message of sacrifice while passing on the torch to the next generation.
Attack on Titan is available to stream on Crunchyroll in the U.S.
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Khushi Patel is a science fiction author who lives in Austin, Texas. She has published three novels, and her work has been praised for its originality and imagination. Khushi is a graduate of Rice University, and she has worked as a software engineer. She is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and her books have been nominated for several awards.