I thought I’d never get here, but here we are – all of the Attack on Titan arcs – otherwise known as significant storylines – ranked.
I have a fondness for Attack on Titan, unlike any other. While I have seen plenty of anime over a few years and even watched some when I was younger, like all of the Pokemon anime or even the best Studio Ghibli movies, it was Attack on Titan that really ignited my love for the genre of anime as a whole – and now, I can make lists like the best 2023 anime that I’ve seen, because I’ve watched so much.
However, Attack on Titan ended in 2023 after ten years and four seasons (plus two specials). As someone who has repeatedly watched this show, I can fully rank all the major arcs that happened in this show – so today, let’s get into it.
And MAJOR SPOILERS for the majority of Attack on Titan down below!
10. Humanity’s Comeback (104th Cadet Corps Training)
One of the first significant arcs of Attack on Titan was called “Humanity’s Comeback,” which was a part of the first half of Season 1. I like to name it the 104th Cadet Corps Training because that’s what it is. The arc lasts only a few episodes, and it’s just watching Eren become a soldier alongside his friends that we inevitably meet and come to care for, if not more than the main characters.
This arc is special but ranks low for how forgettable it is compared to many of the later storylines. It establishes much of what we need to know about the series, such as the usage of ODM gear, the formations, the history of the Wall, and so much more, but besides that? It’s pretty low.
9. The Fall Of Shiganshina
“The Fall of Shiganshina” is the first arc we are introduced to from episodes one and two, and it is one of the shortest storylines of the show. And obviously, just because it’s at number nine does not mean it isn’t good.
With the other storylines, many more significant moments rank them much higher, but “The Fall of Shiganshina” makes us keep watching. We were given about twenty minutes of peace before everything turned terrible, and then I couldn’t stop watching, so it got number nine.
8. Battle Of Trost District
“The Battle of Trost District” happens right after the 104 cadet training, and truthfully, it’s the first action we see in the series. While it ranks at eight for, again, not being as important as the other storylines in the series, “The Battle of Trost District” in Season 1 of Attack on Titan is essential for one specific reason – we get to find out Eren is a Titan, one of the main Titans of the show.
If this is the first time watching the series, it’s a significant blow and changes the course of the story entirely, of course, they end up using Eren’s Titan (The Attack Titan, they later find out), to block a hole that was letting Titan’s in thanks to another attack from the Colossal and Armored Titan. The arc lasts several episodes, so it’s the first huge moment of the series.
7. Royal Government
I have a special place in my heart for the “Royal Government” arc in Season 3 of Attack on Titan, mainly because I love the focus on the human aspect of Paradis rather than the Titans and that there is so much action between humans rather than Titans. Still, we get plenty of that down the line.
This plotline in the first half of Season 3 is more for story purposes to show that the government of Paradis is hiding a lot from their citizens, and that was only the beginning of discovering what the rest of the world was truly like. The best part to me was Kenny and Levi – but other than that, not a lot is super memorable from this arc.
I despise the “Marley” arc from Season 4 of Attack on Titan with a passion, mainly because it contains one of the most heartbreaking AOT deaths of the series. However, I can’t deny its importance to the plot.
From the introduction of important characters like Gabi, Pieck, Falco, and more, to the world-building of Marley and beyond, and of course, to Paradis attacking Marley and causing the sad death of Sasha, a fan favorite, Marley is critical – and deserve number six at least, if only for the character development it gives Reiner.
5. Clash Of The Titans
“Clash of the Titans” is the entire storyline of Season 2 of Attack on Titan, considering the second season is only twelve episodes (after a four-year wait, by the way; still upset about that). And what a storyline it was.
When I watched this show for the first time, I always had a feeling that Reiner and Bertolt were the Armored and Colossal Titans. But to hear Reiner outright say it and then proceed to attack Eren and the Scouts and then try to steal him away from the others, leading to an intense fight, was some of the best TV I’ve ever watched. With a tightly packed twelve episodes, this arc deserves a top-five spot.
Also, was anyone else terrified when Zeke’s Beast Titan started talking for the first time? Traumatizing.
4. Female Titan
The “Female Titan” arc in Season 1 of Attack on Titan was such a fun time for me because this was when we knew nothing about the world outside of Paradis, and it was all theories and fun, but it added so much to the story.
This arc further expanded on many non-Titan badass characters that would become fan favorites, like Levi Ackerman, Erwin Smith, Hange Zoe, and many others. We got our first taste of the devastation of war and how horrible betrayal truly feels. And, of course, we got that mouth-hanging cliffhanger that we had to wait four years to find out about. Like, come on. Come on.
3. War For Paradis
The second part of Season 4 of Attack on Titan broke me in many ways, and I will not be talking about all the emotional damage I went through. I honestly thought it would be the end of the show – until they announced it would have a third part in the form of a special (and later a fourth, which we’ll get into later).
However, the second part of Attack on Titan, known as “War for Paradis,” is one of the best arcs of the show. It features the complex character of Eren, grown up and lowkey terrifying now. Still, it’s the more mature theme and depressing indication that this show doesn’t end happily as we initially thought it might. It’s gritty and shows the nuances and horrible nature of war – which is why I genuinely love it the most out of all the fighting.
2. The Rumbling
The last two specials of Attack on Titan, Parts 3 and 4, almost took the top spot. I won’t lie. When the show was finally confirmed to end, I almost didn’t believe it.
At first, I thought it was cheap to keep splitting up the fourth season to let it last for this long, but with “The Rumbling” arc, the animation, the story, and the outcome blew me away.
It was heartbreaking in the best ways, beautifully drawn, and painfully bittersweet. Compared to the manga’s ending, the anime’s ending will be looked back on fondly, and despite the fan discourse over it, I will always love it – even if I disagree with Eren’s choices.
1. Return To Shiganshina
Yeah, you knew this was coming.
The “Return to Shiganshina” arc is considered the best among all fans, especially myself. There are so many reasons to have it at number one. The deaths that happen hurt so much, the action is intense, and the stakes are at an all-time high – I mean, I’d put this at number one just for Levi’s fight with Zeke’s Beast Titan.
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These are some of the best episodes of television I have ever seen, and I’ve watched a lot of TV, as anyone who knows me understands. It’s a non-stop action war battle for multiple episodes that draws you in and will most likely distract you from outside responsibilities. And yes, you will sob for a long time, long after the credits roll.
Attack on Titan will always live in my mind as one of the best anime out there and one of the best to watch overall, even for anime beginners if they’ve never seen it. I don’t think we’ll get another one like it for some time – so until then, maybe I’ll just settle on rewatching it over and over and reliving my trauma.