How "The Basement" Turned Attack on Titan from Good to Great

It’s the most important plot point of the entire Attack on Titan series, and they’ve been teasing it since the very first episode—what’s in Eren’s basement? Supposedly his father hid some vital information that the rulers of the walls don’t want the public to know, but his house has been trapped in titan-infested territory for the majority of the story and nobody has been able to reach it. That is, until now.

Now that the anime has finally adapted the basement scene after 3 seasons and 6 years of anticipation, we’re here to tell you that it’s worth the wait. The narrative changes dramatically after this moment, and it turns what could’ve been just another shounen action series into a deeply compelling war drama with thrilling twists at every turn. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how mangaka Hajime Isayama turned Attack on Titan from good to great with a single scene.

-- Spoilers Ahead! --

Why Waste an Amazing Premise?

The three seasons preceding the basement reveal are certainly worth watching, but we can’t help but feel like they’re missing something. Attack on Titan has this amazing premise—monstrous humanoids terrorize a pre-industrial civilization who must either cower like rats to survive or attempt to fight back in the most dangerous/badass way possible—but doesn’t really do much with it beyond using it as an excuse for action scenes and angst. Seasons 1 and 2 mostly stick to a zombie-apocalypse-style narrative and none of the characters feel like complete human beings yet.

The first half of season 3 reveals that corrupt nobles have been actively hampering scientific progress to keep the people subjugated and brings in the true royal family to stage a coup, and several OVAs expose mysteries that flesh out the walled city and its surrounding areas. Still, we have to wonder... is this small setting really all there is to this world?

Opening Up the World

The basement contains three notebooks full of knowledge about the outside world, including a photograph tucked into the pages. It turns out that, while the walled city exists on a technological level akin to the early 1800s or so, the rest of the world has advanced to about the 1940s and humanity is thriving without fear of the titans. What we all thought was the last bastion for humanity is actually an isolated island where political prisoners of the oppressed Eldian race are taken and turned into mindless titans who roam the land endlessly in search of food.

Um... wow! This changes everything! Suddenly Attack on Titan is no longer just a jazzed-up zombie story, but an intriguing epic about a racial conflict that spans hundreds of years and multiple countries, where manipulation is just as powerful as the sword and there are only shades of gray. Now that Eren and the others know the truth, how will they react? Will they still be able to fight on the same side?

Isayama Planned This All Along

It’s not like Isayama is the greatest mangaka who ever lived or anything, but you have to give the man credit for planning out his story beats impeccably. If you pay close attention, there are many hidden clues about the existence of a bigger world in earlier episodes.

Reiner, Bertoldt, and Annie seem to have been compelled against their will to infiltrate and betray the military by some outside organization and fellow outsider Ymir is able to read a language that nobody else can (her backstory, which was moved to a much earlier point in the anime, also implies the existence of a more advanced society). Reiner, Bertoldt, and the Beast Titan wear more modern clothes in the Shiganshina battle, they use a coffee grinder that Armin can’t recognize, and the Beast Titan knows baseball terminology. These hints aren’t enough on their own to make the story significantly more interesting before the world actually opens up, but they show that Isayama knew what he was doing this whole time.


Final Thoughts

Before the basement, Attack on Titan was a fun show that was mostly known for the visual and audio spectacle in its big action scenes, with a bit of intrigue if you knew where to look. But now it’s time to pay attention—it’s about to get 1000 times better.

What did you think of our overview? What was your reaction to the basement scene? Are you caught up with the manga and can’t wait to see the next arc animated? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!

Attack-on-Titan-Shingeki-no-Kyojin-manga-334x500 How "The Basement" Turned Attack on Titan from Good to Great

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Author: Mary Lee Sauder

After the hard-hitting East Coast lifestyle hit me a bit too hard, I started pursuing my passion as a writer in my cozy home state of Ohio. Aside from that, I spend my time cooking, cosplaying, collecting anime merch, and being an improv comedy actor. I also love sneaking alliterations and stupid puns into my writing, so be on the lookout for them! 😉

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