The popular anime series Attack on Titan, which debuted in 2013, has become deeply beloved by audiences around the world for its immersive world-building, complex characters, and gripping narrative.
However, one of the major elements that keeps viewers invested is the constant threat of death that looms over the characters.
In the show’s fictional world, the remnants of humanity are forced to hide behind enormous walls in order to survive against man-eating giants known as Titans.
When the outer wall is destroyed by two especially dangerous Titans, a young man named Eren Yeager vows revenge after a Titan kills and eats his mother.
Eren joins the military’s Scout Regiment, a group focused on learning more about the Titans and the world beyond the walls. The anime is quite graphic in its violence and depictions of characters meeting gory ends.
Now that Attack on Titan is nearly finished after 10 years, it seems appropriate to look back on some of the most tragic character deaths that shocked and impacted viewers.
The series does an excellent job of making audiences care about its cast and then pulling the rug out from under them with sudden demises.
This sense that no character has a guaranteed safe future creates suspense and meaningfulness to the show’s many memorable sacrifices.
Reexamining those losses highlights the emotional weight and superb storytelling that has made Attack on Titan connect so strongly with its passionate fanbase.
Most Tragic Deaths in Attack on Titan
Here are the top 10 saddest deaths in the whole Attack on Titan series.
10. Marlo Freudenberg
When he’s introduced in the series, Marlo is shown to be a member of the Military Police, serving alongside Annie Leonhart.
Unlike many of his fellow Military Police recruits who are just seeking an easy and safe position away from the Titans, Marlo joins because he wants to take down corruption in the organization from the inside.
Later on, after the military gains control of the government, Marlo transfers to the Scout Regiment. He participates in the operation to retake Shiganshina district.
When the Beast Titan launches a surprise attack on the Scouts, Marlo, and the other new Scout recruits are tasked with protecting the horses from approaching Titans. In this challenging situation, Marlo takes charge and keeps the other panicked recruits focused on their goal, demonstrating his capacity to lead.
Marlo is portrayed as an upright and determined character who enlists out of a sense of justice rather than self-interest.
Both in the corrupt Military Police and in the Beast Titan attack, he displays courage and leadership abilities that suggest he could have had a promising future before his life is tragically cut short.
Even though Marlo is paralyzed with fear, he follows Commander Erwin’s order to take part in a frontal assault against the Beast Titan. This is intended to allow Captain Levi an opening to take down the formidable enemy.
As Marlo charges towards what he knows is almost certain death, his thoughts drift back to how excited and optimistic he originally felt about this mission before understanding the extreme risk involved.
He reminisces bittersweetly about his fellow soldier Hitch back home, wondering what she is doing now without any knowledge of his dire circumstances.
Moments later, the Beast Titan mercilessly smashes Marlo and the other Scout Regiment soldiers with a barrage of hurled boulders. It is profoundly tragic watching these willing soldiers march straight into their doom, believing Erwin’s assurance that their sacrifices will not be in vain in order to motivate them forward.
We see first-hand how the uncaring carnage robs the life of a promising individual like Marlo. It serves as another gut-wrenching reminder in Attack on Titan of how sudden and pointless death can be in this merciless world, with noble aspirations shattered in an instant.
Died In: Season 3, Episode 16
9. Bertholdt Hoover
Bertholdt graduates near the top of his military training class and joins the Scout Regiment along with many of his fellow trainees. Initially, he seems to just be a quiet, unassuming soldier.
However, it is eventually revealed that Bertholdt is actually the holder of the immensely powerful Colossal Titan ability, which he used years prior along with Reiner Braun to break through Wall Maria and launch the devastating attack on humanity.
Like Reiner and Annie Leonhart, Bertholdt is one of the Warriors sent from Marley to infiltrate Paradis Island and try to steal the Founding Titan power from the Eldians.
Posing as a refugee from a fallen region of Paradis, he enlisted in the military in order to get into a position where he could locate and defeat King Fritz.
When Eren Jaeger and the Scout Regiment finally initiate their mission to retake Wall Maria, Bertholdt is lying in wait with Reiner inside the walls surrounding the human territory.
Once discovered by former friends, Bertholdt transforms into the towering Colossal Titan to attack.
Though Eren manages to slice apart his body and defeat him, just before his death Bertholdt pleadingly smiles at his former trainees, seemingly hoping on some level they would show him mercy despite everything.
This makes his brutal death at their hands more tragic. For all his actions against them, he did seem to genuinely care for his Paradis comrades.
In the end, he dies alone, abandoned even by his fellow Warrior allies. Bertholdt’s sad demise highlights the loneliness and guilt woven into his complex role in the story.
Died In: Season 3, Episode 18
8. Miche Zacharias
One of the most disturbingly brutal death scenes in Attack on Titan involves the character Miche Zacharias.
Miche is introduced as a highly skilled member of the Scout Regiment, known for his stoic demeanor and sharp sense of smell.
During an operation to investigate which of the military trainees might be a traitor, Miche detects multiple Titans approaching. He decides to selflessly hold all five of them off at once so his squad can get to safety.
However, the Beast Titan soon arrives and crushes Miche’s legs, leaving him immobilized.
The Beast Titan then sadistically questions the terrified Miche. Mustering his courage, Miche tries to fight back, but is swarmed and graphically ripped to shreds by the surrounding Titans. Miche screams in anguish, no longer the picture of calm strength he once was.
This horrific demise underscores how even elite soldiers can feel fear when up against an overwhelming enemy. It’s a gut-wrenching scene that exposes Miche’s vulnerability, making his death more impactful.
While we later see Miche at peace joining deceased colleagues, his previous prominence as a Scout leader makes the way he is discarded from the story without mention rather tragic.
The cruelty of his end remains memorable.
Died In: Season 2, Episode 1
7. Marco Bodt
Though he only appears briefly before his death, the character Marco Bott makes a lasting impact.
Initially it seems he died in battle, but season 3 reveals his demise was actually a brutal execution by former friends.
Marco overhears Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie discussing their identities as Titan shifters, exposing their betrayal.
As Marco tries slipping away in shocked disbelief, pretending he misinterpreted it as a joke, the trio remorselessly assassinate him for knowing their secret. Annie takes his maneuver gear to leave Marco stranded helplessly on a rooftop.
When a Titan grabs and bites Marco in half, killing him, his last moments are desperately pleading with his so-called comrades for an explanation.
Marco’s influence carries on through his best friend Jean, who joins the Scout Regiment to continue fighting for humanity in Marco’s memory. His senseless death affects many others as well, including his killers who are haunted by guilt.
Marco remains an inspiration among his trainee cohort, a solemn reminder that in this world, an innocent person can have their life stolen without warning by being in the wrong place. His premature end encapsulates the pain of betrayed trust and good intentions crushed by uncaring violence.
Died In: Season 3, Episode 15
Hannes is introduced as a Garrison soldier who shirks his duties to drink on the job, earning criticism from a young Eren Jaeger.
Though Hannes brashly claims the Walls can’t be broken, he worries about Eren wanting to join the dangerous Scout Regiment.
When the Colossal Titan attacks, Hannes manages to rescue Eren and Mikasa after Eren’s mother Carla is eaten alive by a Titan.
Haunted by guilt for not saving Carla, Hannes dedicates himself to intense training, rising up the Garrison ranks over the years. Upon reuniting with Eren and Mikasa, Hannes emotionally apologizes for failing to rescue Carla.
Later during the attack on Trost district, Hannes confronts the same Titan that killed Carla, seeking to avenge her death. However, the Titan graphically slashes Hannes’ body apart right in front of a horrified Eren and Mikasa.
Having watched over the trio since their childhood, Hannes’ death after finally overcoming his former cowardice to fight for them is tragically in vain.
His savage demise as the siblings helplessly watch their caring guardian figure die triggers their despair and rage. Losing Hannes, who enabled their survival years ago, painfully drives home the cruel randomness of death in this world.
Died In: Season 2, Episode 12
5. Hange Zoë
Hange Zoë is initially introduced as an eccentric but brilliant Squad Leader in the Scout Regiment, noted for their unconventional enthusiasm for studying Titans.
Hange is one of the few higher-ups to support Eren Jäger after his ability to transform into a Titan is revealed. During the battle to retake Wall Maria, Hange survives only thanks to the sacrifice of their loyal assistant Moblit pushing them out of an explosion’s radius.
With Erwin Smith passing on the role of Commander to them shortly before his own death, Hange becomes one of the few remaining veterans leading the Scout Regiment.
As the plot progresses and the Scouts prepare to travel to Marley, Hange volunteers to remain behind in Paradis to help delay the approaching Rumbling attack by Eren.
In an emotional moment, Levi tells Hange to “Dedicate your heart” as a sign of deep respect among the longtime comrades. Soon after, Hange heads into battle against the endless Colossal Titans, sustaining fatal burns from the intense heat the massive Titans radiate.
The scene of Hange perishing while fighting against impossible odds is gut-wrenching.
In the afterlife, Hange reunites with Erwin and the many fallen Scouts. But while Hange has returned to their dear friends, their heartbreaking death leaves the Scout Regiment without its Commander and emotionally devastated.
Hange’s sacrifice encapsulates the theme of devoted, intrepid heroes giving up their lives for the sake of humanity’s survival while grappling with the painful costs.
Died In: Season 4, Part 3, Special 1
4. Ramzi and Halil
One of the most emotionally devastating moments in Attack on Titan involves the deaths of two young refugee boys, Ramzi and Halil. Their tragic fates underscore the horrific toll of conflict on innocent lives.
Introduced living in poverty under Marleyan rule, the boys resort to theft to feed their family. When Eren sees Ramzi getting severely beaten by men, he intervenes to save him, then breaks down crying as he apologizes for his future actions that will kill Ramzi. This foreshadows the boys’ role representing lives soon lost in the Rumbling.
When the Rumbling begins, Ramzi and Halil attempt to flee the endless marching Titans and destruction raining down on Marley. But Halil is abruptly killed by debris, while Ramzi is left screaming in terror as a Titan callously crushes him under its foot.
Witnessing the brutal deaths of these two children through their own perspective spotlights the sheer inhumanity of the Rumbling.
It also condemns the cycle of violence stemming from conflicts and decisions made by adults, which then rob children of their lives and futures. Their gut-wrenching deaths encapsulate the series’ commentary on the needless loss of innocent lives in war.
Died In: Season 4, Part 3, Episode 1
3. Eren Jaeger
Eren Jaeger began Attack on Titan on a single-minded quest to kill all Titans in revenge for his mother’s death, portraying him initially as an impulsive yet sympathetic young protagonist.
However, as Eren learns more truths about the world’s cruelty beyond the walls, his already unstable emotions spiral further out of control.
Becoming convinced that conflict is inevitable and there are no peaceful solutions, Eren develops an extremist belief that he must destroy the entire outside world for his people to survive.
He tries justifying global genocide as “protecting those he loves,” displaying severely contradictory logic. Eren seems to believe only through violence and oppression can freedom be achieved.
When Eren finally initiates the Rumbling assault on Marley and beyond, he reveals his own eventual death is part of the plan, as removing the Founding Titan will eliminate Pure Titans and give Paradis a chance to negotiate.
In the climactic battle between Eren and the Founding Titan against the allied forces, Mikasa deals the final blow by tearfully cutting off Eren’s head inside the Titan’s massive skeleton.
Tragically, it is only in death that Eren gains the freedom he sought and achieves his goal of eliminating Titans from the world.
His arc encapsulates how even understandable motives can become corrupted into destructive extremism.
The emotional finale conveys that sometimes redemption lies in sacrifice, though the cycle of violence leaves no winners in the end.
Died In: Season 4, Part 4, Special 4
2. Sasha Braus
Sasha Braus, affectionately known as “Potato Girl” by fans, provides much-needed moments of lightheartedness in the otherwise dark Attack on Titan story.
Though she gets less focus than some other characters, her caring nature and impressive skills as a soldier make her incredibly endearing.
For example, Sasha thanks her captor Niccolo for his cooking rather than hating him as an enemy Marleyan, moving him with her empathy.
However, after the Scout Regiment succeeds in attacking Liberio, Sasha is abruptly killed onboard an airship back to Paradis.
As Sasha talks excitedly about meat with her friends, Gabi Braun shoots her in the stomach. A distraught Jean and Connie try stopping her bleeding while even the normally stoic Mikasa breaks down in tears.
Yet Sasha’s last innocent words reminding Eren of better times prompt an unsettling laugh from him.
This sudden death of the squad’s last beacon of lightheartedness and humanity marks a darker turn in the tone of the story.
With Sasha gone, so too is the hopeful optimism she represented, underscoring the message that no character is safe. Losing her serves as a bleak reminder of the brutal meaninglessness of death in this merciless world.
Died In: Season 4, Part 1, Episode 8
1. Erwin Smith
From the outset, Commander Erwin was a beacon of optimism for the people of Paradis Island. Harboring grand plans for the future of humanity, he was perceived as a threat by those in power.
While intelligent and magnetic as a leader, Erwin’s complex motivations made him stand apart. He professed care for his troops, yet willingly sacrificed them for the greater cause.
His drive stemmed partially from a childhood curiosity about the world beyond the walls, though it did not make him less admirable. It simply proved his humanity and occasional selfish impulses.
During the campaign to reclaim Shiganshina District, Erwin contemplated the many lives lost for humanity’s sake and abandoned his lifelong dream. He spearheaded the recruits in battle against the Beast Titan but sustained fatal injuries from falling rubble.
Hearing Erwin deliriously reflect on his youth, Levi opted to let his friend finally rest and used the Titan serum to save Armin instead. In death, Erwin found absolution, dedicating his final moments to fighting for others and leaving a legacy to guide the remaining Survey Corps.
His poignant send-off and the profound void left by his loss cement Erwin’s death as the most devastating in Attack on Titan.
Died In: Season 3, Episode 18
More About Attack on Titan
Eren Yeager resides in the town of Shiganshina, located on the outermost of three concentric walls erected to protect citizens from Titans.
In the year 845, the first wall, Wall Maria, was compromised by two new Titan types – the Colossal and Armored Titans.
During the attack, Eren’s mother is killed by a Smiling Titan as Eren escapes. He vows revenge on all Titans and enlists in the military with childhood friends Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert.
Five years after Shiganshina’s destruction, the Colossal Titan strikes Trost District in the second inner wall, Wall Rose. Eren helps defend Trost after discovering he can morph into an intelligent Attack Titan.
Additionally, he regains memories of his father Grisha granting this power after Wall Maria fell, revealing the truth about their world lies in the Yeagers’ Shiganshina basement.
These events draw the Survey Corps’ interest to utilize Eren’s gift to reclaim Wall Maria and access the basement.
Eren, Mikasa, and Armin join the Special Operations Squad under Levi Ackerman and Hange Zoë. On an expedition, they meet an intelligent Female Titan, later exposed as their comrade Annie Leonhart.
With help, Eren defeats Annie and she encases herself in crystal. Afterward, they learn dormant Titans reside within the walls as Wall Titans.