In Attack on Titan, there is a battlefield everywhere you look. From the macro to the micro, you can find spiritual, emotional, and physical war zones everywhere. Spurred on by a reductive culture that glorifies those who are condemned to bear the torch of so-called heroism, there is a motivational monotony associated with the acts here.
Wherein everyone seems to be fighting for what has become tragic mundanity. The reasons perpetuated throughout history that have only ever gotten them to this point and no further – to get a happy life for their family, to be a hero, to do their duty, to save humanity, to survive, and to just see one more day. Ideologies are stagnant and repetitive.
People just fight for the same old reasons again and again, always reaching their hand out and feeling so close to freedom but never quite getting there. For their goal is deceptively distant and never gets closer. And this is why in this decaying, blood-soaked purgatory, something different and is what’s needed to even stand a chance of breaking through.
This is why in this world, those who hope, those who think outside the box, and those who are different are the ones truly capable of changing something is among the strongest characters in Attack on Titan. And while they are more than capable in combat, it’s primarily because of what they stand for and represent that makes them as strong and essential as they are.
While others, primarily soldiers, are absolutely essential players for rallying around and fighting for a cause, characters like Hange are the rare few who make it clear what they’re fighting for in the first place. Hange does not care for revenge or war or hate. Hange simply lives to discover the secrets of the world, expand the reach of those they care about, and protect their spiritual and physical home as best they can.
They’ve experienced all sorts of tragedy and death, but that never deters them from their ultimate motivation. To keep a firm eye on progress. With progress and discovery and knowledge, the truth of the world will come about. And the more truth is shed, the more possibility for a harmonious, free life there is. Not a single semblance of malice within Hange G.
And from start to end, they are an embodiment of the spirit of the Scout regiment and why it was conceived in the first place. To give humanity the best possible chance of living through learning and experiencing as much as they can. Hange has stated that in the past, they were not nearly as exuberant and enthusiastic as some may think of them now.
Like many we see throughout the story, they were disillusioned, full of anger at everything around them, and they were one of the most understandable yet worst things that one could be in this world. They were cynical. However, this all changed when they kicked the head of a Titan, only to discover how bizarrely light it was, kick-starting their curiosity and scientific delve into the mysteries of the world.
In this one small moment, they saw something fainter than a hint of the tiniest glimmer, but it was more than enough for them to grasp onto as a feasible thing to live for. And so, they became this eccentric.
And they could take things too far. They could be reckless, and they could be borderline psychotic at times, but what mattered more than anything is that they saw something. Hange saw hope. Hange began believing that there was a way out and that the road to that way out was dependent on discovery, outrage, collaboration, knowledge, experience, solutions.
This is the core ideal of the Scout Regiment, not war, not death, not simple survival. However, of course, for any given person, it becomes difficult to hold on to your idealism, and that goes a hundredfold for anyone in the setting of Attack on Titan.
Over time, Hange started to experience roadblocks, stagnation in their progress, frustration, and more than anything, the death of their comrades and friends. Hange had to learn to keep eyes clear, focused on the goal, to maintain momentum in spite of anything that may be thrown at them, to honor the souls of those who pass on, you must keep moving forward.
Once they became commander, even more brutal reality checks were in store as not only did those difficulties and losses keep stacking up, but they could not simply do their research unrestrained by corporate duties, by politics, and red tape.
The burden of leadership is heavy, and as Son has warned them, sometimes you’re walking down a road and suddenly lose track of how limited you’ve become, how hypocritical you have to be to maintain what you believe is the right path. Here, Hange learns how absolutely exhausting it can be to simply keep your head above water in this position, and it is agonizing.
However, the key here is that they never lose themselves, not once. While they began facing difficulties in enacting and carrying things out, no one knew better than Hange what it meant to be a scout, and no one knew better than Hange what their fallen comrades would have wanted.
So many of them died without learning the truth, but even if they hadn’t, there is no chance whatsoever that they would have been okay with genocide. The Scout Regiment was never about simple selfish survival at all costs; it wasn’t about war. It was always about hope, and Ervin did not become a devil to simply survive; he did it to find out the truth, in the hopes of finding a solution.
Killing everyone so that a small population would live would have been no solution at all; it would have just repeated, as he said, the same cycles, the same mistakes.
The main goal here was to expand Humanity’s reach and learn and come up with a solution, all the while fueled by a simple hope that this world tried best to not allow, and in the necessary battles on the way to that goal, did Ervin ever look anywhere near as jubilant as he did when he learned more about the Titans and got one step closer to the truth? Not a chance.
That is the heart of the scouts, and of course, a large part of his happiness here is due to getting closer to his dream, but this is also simply their goal: learning about the mysteries of the world, learning the truth, and expanding Humanity’s reach to try to grasp freedom. No one knew that better than him, and in that way, he and Hange were always, always the same.
Mass death for survival without trying to find a solution here is not the Scout way at all, and it is not something that any of them would abide. Along with Levi, act in the way that true Scouts would, and foolish as it may have seemed, fought in seemingly vain attempts to find some sort of answer, anything other than what Aaron seemed to propose.
And Hange thinks maybe there will never be a solution to this mire. When asked for one, they are upfront with the fact that they have no idea what to do here. And in the end, when all was said and done for them, they never really found one. But they knew that this was not it, and they instead dedicated the end of their life to ensuring that the most inhumane thing imaginable did not come to pass.
This is not the world that they and their comrades dreamed of, and some things are far more important than one’s individual life. Maybe our hopes will never come to fruition, but as long as there is a chance, we will do everything in our power to try.
So they pressed on, the alliance was conceived, unlikely partnerships were formed, and in an encapsulation of the impossibility of the task ahead, something seemingly miraculous happened. Connections were built between those who were once mortal enemies. In the years past, this would have been looked at as an impossibility, so who’s to say that there is no hope?
Through these final acts, the alliance did as the scouts did, they acted in service of humanity, and they searched for that hope. They didn’t know if that answer would be found right here, but they acted so that one day it might be found. In the end, Hange died so that those they entrusted the future with could carry on the ideological and spiritual legacy that they kept so close to their heart.
As perhaps the most powerful personification of the Scout spirit and the core reason and sentiment, Hange was happy to do their part in not giving in to this nihilism and believing in something more. They were courageous enough to not despair and to search for something different.
It may be cruel and horrible that they had to die, but to them, Aaron’s broken dream was never an answer, and as long as there is a chance, we will try to find it. Sentiments don’t win wars, but if acted on in the right way, they paved the way so that wars may not be necessary in the future. And that’s the lasting impact that Hange Zoe had on this world, dying as they lived, defying the world by daring to believe that there was a chance for more out there somewhere, somehow. Many thanks for reading.
That’s me, Andreea Blaga, author of the blog anime-everything.com. I work as a content creator in the US. I am also passionate about Japanese Anime.