Eren Jaeger is a divisive character to say the least. Anime Planet has him as both the their 52nd most popular character and their 102nd most hated. But I personally don’t have strong feelings for him one way or another—at last not until the last couple of episodes. Part of the change of heart has to do with his incessant whining and “eat me” dialogue, which has me cringing (though it seems the animators are self-aware judging by the reaction of the rest of Levi’s squad at his woe-is-me bit).
But that only bothered me on a superficial level. I would have gone back to not really caring much either way for Eren next week, if it hadn’t been for his recent mistrust of his dad.
In the Attack on Titan world, bad dads abound. The giant elephant—or titan—in the room being Historia’s father, Rod. And actually the two children, Historia and Eren, make a great contrast. The series has been comparing them since episode one of season three, and the lines of similarity and difference work well in so many cases, right up to their fathers. And like Eren, Historia is easily convinced of a story about her father, though it’s Rod that relates it to her, rather than Eren hearing it second-hand through him.
The difference, of course, is that Historia had a rotten childhood. Her father may be offering her the truth, but he’s not man of integrity, and he’s only neglected her in the past. By quickly gravitating toward her father, Historia seems to be acting normal—she’s wanted parental love her whole life and has never received it, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that at first, she would fully trust Rod’s words.
Eren, though, had loving parents, so why in the world would he so quickly want Historia to transform, eat and kill him, and get all this over with?
We could chalk it up to Eren’s love for others and his empathy. Okay, that could be, and I think the animators want us to think that way. But all I could think was, man, what a terrible son you are! Eren would so quickly believe in Rod Reiss’ story than to trust in his own dad.
Our connections to our parents are complex and deep. We might have a bad relationship with one or the other, or it might be good or somewhere in between, but whatever it is, the relationship is tied together in a jumbled knot. But Eren’s relationship, by all accounts, is mostly a good one. In this episode, even Armin mentions what a good man Grisha Jaeger is, but Eren can’t see that and give his father the benefit of the doubt, or even consider that his dad’s side of the story might differ from Rod Reiss’?
Today, I got really mad at my son for no good reason. I just ran out of patience and didn’t treat him with the grace and kindness I wish I would have. Afterward, I apologized to him and we talked some, and he said it was okay, and that he understood and forgave me. I didn’t deserve his grace, but he gave it to me because we have a good relationship and because he’s a loving kid.
Eren has gone through craziness, but he had those things, too. And that’s why Eren is either a wildly inconsistent protagonist, or worse, a hero that I have no desire to root for.
Stream Attack on Titan on Crunchyroll.