In the first episode of Attack on Titan, we’re immediately shown images of blood, disaster, and the devastation of the Titans. In quick flashes, we see Titans walking towards a windmill, a statue wearing a uniform, toys, and a myriad of deceased soldiers. This is only in the anime, as in the manga Eren is only shown sleeping, with a dream version of Mikasa telling him, “See you later, Eren.” In both versions, Eren wakes up with a start and begins quietly crying. In the manga, Eren asks a young Mikasa, “When did your hair get so long?” This is a curious question, as young Mikasa always had long hair. So why was Eren crying in the first episode? Was it just because the dream scared him, or was there a deeper meaning behind his tears?
Eren was crying in the first episode because he saw visions of everything that would happen in the future up until his death. Because he wasn’t a Titan Shifter yet, he thinks he only saw a long and scary dream, but the potential future terrified him enough subconsciously to make him start crying.
In this article, we’ll discuss the symbolism of the dream in the anime, in the manga, how Eren received future memories despite not being a Titan Shifter at the time, and how it all ties into the ending of the manga. The anime is said to be moving toward a different ending, but as of today, season 4 part 3 hasn’t been released yet. That’s why we can only tie the show’s foreshadowing to the manga’s ending and can’t compare it to the anime’s ending yet.
How did Eren receive visions of the future?
The Attack Titan indeed has the power to see both past and future memories and memories of future inheritors of the Attack Titan. Instead of seeing into the future, the Attack Titan’s power seems more like sending memories to the past.
At the beginning of the series, Eren hadn’t inherited the power of the Attack Titan yet. But he’s considered a future inheritor of the Attack Titan because he will eventually inherit it. Older Eren sent visions of the future to his younger self.
This isn’t the first time he has done this, as Eren also sent future visions of the Rumbling to Grisha Yaeger to push him to take the Founding Titan. Grisha was already hesitant, so he would’ve gotten eaten by the Reiss family, losing both the Attack and Founding Titans. If his father had neither, Eren would have neither.
Eren showed these visions to himself using the Attack Titan and the Paths. This was done to cultivate young Eren’s hatred for Titans to the point that he would do anything in the world to destroy them.
Inheritors of the Attack Titan can’t see their future or the future of the next inheritors by will. Someone already in the future has to send them a memory. Eren deliberately sent inheritors of the Attack Titan memories that would keep them going until they brought the Attack Titan to him. Future Eren sent memories to past Eren to get him to the exact point he would be in the future.
The meaning of Eren’s dream in the anime
Since the anime started with a sequence of images, let’s analyze every frame. This sequence is unique to the anime and doesn’t appear in the manga, which is why it’s worth discussing.
First, we see a bunch of blue flowers in a field. One moment, they make for a peaceful and undisturbed image, and the next, they’re splattered with blood.
This is a reference to Hannes’s death. Hannes was a unit captain in the Garrison and a good friend of the Yaeger family. He was very easy-going, laid back, and kind, but he had a drinking problem. Hannes didn’t care much for exploring the outside world, and he was more than content spending his days within the walls.
Despite this life philosophy, Hannes died while trying to protect Eren and Mikasa from the Titan that killed their mother, Carla. When Carla was devoured, Hannes grabbed the two children and ran to safety, but the sight of his mother being eaten traumatized young Eren. Hannes felt ashamed that he didn’t do something to stop it, and five years later found an opportunity to attack the same Titan.
Despite his act of courage and bravery, Hans is caught and eaten by the Titan. Eren and Mikasa are forced to watch another one of their parental figures meet a violent end at the hands of the Titans, just like their mother.
When Hannes dies, his blood is splattered all over the blue flowers in the field they’re standing in. The peaceful image is once again ruined by violence and bloodshed.
The next few frames depict a windmill and Titans surrounding the windmill. That same windmill can be seen in Sasha’s village. Many consider this to foreshadow the Clash of the Titans arc or the Titans that suddenly appeared at Ragako.
In Ragako, Zeke Yeager transformed the villagers into Titans using fumes derived from his spinal fluid and his power as a royal.
In another shot, we see a red uniform by a fireplace. It’s been argued that this uniform resembles Helos, a legendary Marleyan hero known for slaying the Devil of All Earth. The Tybur family and Karl Fritz made up Helos’ legend to worsen the Eldian civil war conditions.
The Tybur family and Karl Fritz believed Eldia’s atrocities couldn’t be forgiven, so they purposefully contributed to the empire’s downfall. It’s unknown whether Helos truly existed, but his legend was used to incite the people under Eldia’s influence to revolt and retake their lands. Helos’ uniform near the fire might hint that Eren will eventually burn it, rejecting the idea that Eldians should keep taking the blame for their antecedents.
The toys look too fancy to be Eren’s toys, and the curtain behind them looks too intricate. The symbolism of the toys is yet to be determined, but they’re laid out in the same position as the dead soldiers in the next frame.
The frame after that shows an extreme close-up of someone’s eye, with a wasp touching the surface of their eye. The symbolism behind this is unclear, but we can assume the person is dead. The wasp is touching their eye, and they’re not reacting.
The next three frames show the Titan that ate Carla and a blurry shot of Carla getting eaten. This is exactly what happens to Carla soon after the Titans breach the first wall.
The meaning of Eren’s dream in the manga
The manga doesn’t feature a wide array of frames like the anime. By comparison, the manga’s dream sequence is very brief.
The most notable panel is that of Mikasa telling Eren, “See you later, Eren.” A dream version of Mikasa says this right before Eren wakes up. Eren wakes up with a start, looks at Mikasa for a moment, and says, “Mikasa… Aww, when did your hair get so long?”
This seems like a nonsensical question. Whenever we see young Mikasa, she always has long hair. The only time we’ve seen her with short hair is in the latest season, which further reinforces that Eren saw the future.
It’s also a big deal that Mikasa, in the dream, told Eren, “See you later, Eren.” In the last chapter of Attack on Titan, those are her last words to him before she kills him.
In this case, the Japanese phrase used for “see you later” was “itterasshai.” This is used to say goodbye to someone who is expected to return later. This is because Mikasa will always see and cherish Eren in her memories. This symbolism is reinforced when Mikasa is standing by Eren’s grave. A bird swoops down and tugs on her red scarf as if Eren is telling her to let go of her memories with him. She smiles and wraps the scarf tighter around herself, implying she will honor those memories forever.