One of the most recently beloved but utterly gruesome anime out there, Attack on Titan represents a horrifying fusion of kaiju and zombie tropes set in a post-apocalyptic world. The remnants of mankind live inside a series of walls protecting them from the gluttonous giants that roam what’s left of the world. The “Titans,” as they are known, vary in height, but the vast majority of them are driven to devour humans (and it’s not even for nourishment). There’s very little that even the most skilled humans can do to stop them — even with 3D maneuvering gear allowing them to zip around like Spider-Man — and as such, Attack on Titan more often than not grapples with the suffering associated with losing friends and family to the horrors of a war in which the enemy is prone to biting your head off.
As you might expect, an anime in which slack-jawed giants eat humans for fun is a setting rife with truly gruesome deaths. You thought Game of Thrones was fond of killing off major characters in grisly ways? Welcome to Attack on Titan, where its lead character was once dismembered and eaten alive. So here are the most horrifying deaths from the show, ignoring the 5 original video animations (OVAs) not included in Season 1 but including the newest episodes from Season 2.
This post contains spoilers for Season 1 and 2 of Attack on Titan.
Shortly after Petra’s formal introduction, Eren is in awe of her position on the Scout Regiment Special Tactical Force, noting that she has 10 Titan kills and 48 kill assists. She’s one of the elite soldiers guarding Eren, who meets an unfortunate end at the hands of the Female Titan.
Petra’s death is one of several in quick succession as her squad is wiped out. She puts up quite the fight against the Female Titan alongside Eld and Oluo, successfully removing the Titan’s eyes and pinning her up against a tree before severing her shoulder muscles.
However, after healing faster than other Titans, the Female Titan makes short work of the squad, leaving Petra crushed and bent backward against the base of a tree. Levi’s subtle but telling reaction when he lingers over her dead body soon thereafter really tugs at the heartstrings.
That One Poor Member of Darius’s Squad
Midway through Season 1, Episode 18, the Female Titan engages in combat with a squad of four soldiers led by Darius Baer-Varbrun. Darius is the last to go, but the encounter marks perhaps the most impressive display of the Female Titan’s combat awareness and viciousness.
One squad member, in particular, gets stalled mid-air after sticking the Titan and swinging towards her. She unceremoniously swings him in a tight circle before releasing him into the air. Inertia folds his spine in half before he’s even launched, and we can only imagine what his body looked like once it finally hit the ground.
After the huge fallout from the forest confrontation with the Female Titan, Jurgen is one of two soldiers who ventures back into the forest to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade, only to lure a handful of new Titans towards the main group on its retreat. In the ensuing chaos, Jurgen is scooped up by one of the Titans and slurped up headfirst like a stray strand of spaghetti.
Early in “The Struggle for Trost” arc of Season 1, Eren’s newly activated group of cadets enters the foray for their first battle full of camaraderie and zeal, that is, until their fellow student Thomas Wagner is swallowed by an Abnormal Titan who’s leaping around like a frog. It’s a prime example of how ruthless the world can be for these characters. It’s bad enough that incredibly strong and durable giants appear trying to eat them all, but every now and then “special” variant Titans take them by surprise and always wreak havoc.
Eren’s first “death” marks one of the moments in the series when “shit gets real.” It occurs mere minutes after his valiant first encounter against the Colossal Titan. While going after the variant that killed Thomas, the Bigmouth Titan hops up and chomps off Eren’s leg mid-air, and the impact causes Eren to crash into a rooftop. Armin, frozen out of fear, gets eaten whole by a different, bearded Titan but is then pulled right out by Eren a moment later.
Our protagonist puts up a great fight and also offers one of his most impassioned speeches yet … just before getting his arm chomped off and then swallowed whole (almost whole, anyway). It’s a moment of great heroism undermined by Eren’s foolhardiness, which is his character in a nutshell. Anyone else would die and stay dead, but this is, of course, what spurs Eren’s very first transformation into a Titan.
The death of Eren’s mother is perhaps the first instance of a fairly well-known, central character dying at the hands of a Titan — and it’s a doozy. After having much of her body crushed when their home collapses under the weight of falling debris, Carla is dug out by a horribly smiling Titan as Hannes carries both Mikasa and Eren to safety. That Titan squashes Carla in its hands and devours her as Mikasa and Eren watch helplessly from afar. The memory of his mother fighting until the very last moment, when her neck was broken as easily as a piece of candy, will haunt Eren for years to come, fueling his rage-filled hatred of the monsters.
Survey Corps Member That Levi Saves
During the 56th Expedition Beyond the Walls, Levi makes his debut in the anime saving an unnamed soldier from the jaws of a Titan. The soldier is defiant as the Titan nibbles on him, even stabbing it in the face. But the look the Titan gives, and the grinding crunch, is almost too much, especially when accented by the splatter of blood. Captain Levi shows up just as the man says, “Just wait ‘till Captain Levi …” — which is just great timing. The man lives only a few minutes longer, long enough to see Levi again in the aftermath, where the germaphobic captain grips the man’s bloodied hand and promises that his sacrifice was worth it.
There are few images more horrible than when, just after tossing a comrade out of the gaping jaws of a Titan, Ian Dietrich screams as the Titan’s teeth press against his neck. Ian was resolute in his commitment to the mission, ordering his squad to protect Eren in Titan form as he attempted to seal the broken gate.
You’ll probably remember him as the “sniffing guy,” but Mike Zacharias was an elite member of the Scout Regiment whose skill was supposedly surpassed only by the great Captain Levi. Despite being the second-best soldier of them all, he was caught off-guard by the new Beast Titan.
After the new Titan threw Zacharias’s horse at him, he got the lower half of his body chomped by a small Titan. But when Zacharias couldn’t respond to the Beast Titan’s questions, it took his 3D maneuvering device, leaving Zacharias utterly defenseless as a handful of regular Titans ripped him to pieces. He weeps and pleads fruitlessly as his screams peak and then stop completely. It’s easily the most gruesome death the show has depicted so far.
It’s a culmination of the two things that make the deaths on Attack on Titan so terrifying: watching the greatest heroes die while also seeing human beings be ripped to shreds by monsters. That’s probably why this death had Twitter so shook recently.
You can watch Attack on Titan Season 2 on Crunchyroll, and all of Season 1 is available on Netflix.