Yelena: Attack on Titan’s Puppeteer

Yelena: Attack on Titan's Puppeteer

Yelena: Attack on Titan’s Puppeteer

Yelena: Attack on Titan's Puppeteer

One of Attack on Titan’s most distinct and impressive attributes would have to be the way that it uses minor or secondary characters. Throughout the story, Isayama has such a consistent instinct for introducing or re-introducing these personalities to help enrich and embolden the narrative, and a simple reflection on what we’ve gotten throughout makes this pretty clear.

From the likes of Kenny, who is a masterclass in connecting and broadening the scope of the story and themes in Uprising while fleshing out Levi so well and just being an interesting and believable personality himself, to someone like Magath, who is lesser discussed but completely vital in enhancing our perspective with regards to Marley, to Floch, such a bold personality and one of the most accomplished and deceivingly profound characters in the story, as I discussed in my blog on him.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Yet even as late in the game as the end of Marley into the beginning of the War for Paradis arc, the story still manages to find a way to surprise us by introducing yet another compelling figure, one who adds a facet to the work completely unlike anyone else.

Rather than coming into her own or gradually developing into a bigger role like some of the other characters, Yelena is larger than life, imposing and unabashedly eccentric as soon as the veil is lifted from her hilarious undercover job.

On the balance of things, she tends to be outwardly calm and forthright in her manner of speech despite disguising her motives. She takes responsibility when needs to, she has a sharp wit and in most cases she tends to be quite sincerely respectful of those who she deems as deserving of respect, regardless of if they oppose her.

She holds a ceremonial and quite grand demeanor to compliment this behaviour and can be prone to gesticulation, but she isn’t overly cartoonish with any of this and despite standing out, she doesn’t at all feel out of place in this setting. This is who Yelena is, and she’s unflinching in this throughout the story no matter the situation, which alone gives her a bit of distinct identity and flair.

But not so deep underneath all of this is a frenzied fanaticism that helps inform us of both who she is and the type of person a situation like this can bring about, and we see this very soon after her introduction in witnessing how deeply into zealotry she fell for Zeke. Having grown disillusioned with everything to do with her situation, Yelena’s life was sparked into motion the minute she bore witness to and was saved by this perceived god among men during the Mid-East war.

Whether this created a new side to her or unearthed what had laid dormant is unclear, but either way Zeke gained a devout follower this day who essentially began basing her entire existence and purpose around carrying out his vision. Though the question remains – why exactly does Yelena feel this way about Zeke?

The first thing that comes to mind – aside from him obviously saving her – would be that he provided a tangible symbol of hope and potential freedom for those who have none – and this is something she herself mentions as she drifts into a fervent daze.

Though she was sick of life in Marley, he gave her the inspiration to have faith in something and the resultant confidence to take action herself. She was born into this world, and it was Zeke that helped her to remember this and begin to live on her own terms. As such, this life-changing event would lead to obsession.

Yelena: Attack on Titan's Puppeteer

Having stagnated in the doldrums of this cycle, maybe what she wanted was for this world to change and break out of this muck, and perhaps she desired to take part in and witness the swing of the pendulum.

The way I see it, her admiration and refueled hope stems not from the idea that this man is going to do what is necessarily morally righteous, but that he will be the being that alters the tides of history, whose acts will live on in significance as time passes – which is consequently enough for it to loop back and make his actions pretty damn morally righteous in her eyes.

She doesn’t care about some petty thing like revenge – her goals are much bigger. She wants history to be made in this moment, and she wants to witness it. And Zeke provided her with that not only through saving her life, but through showing her the power and will to make the change she was yearning for possible.

From there, it was pure adoration and unquestionable subservience. She very much appreciates Eren too and puts him on that pedestal reserved for deities – but what’s notable here is that she views Eren as such because of his powers, whereas everything Zeke is – who he is as a person, what he represents, his conviction and motives – all of that factors into her evaluation of him as a god, not just his abilities.

He was her first love, and so she is much more of an advocate of Zeke than Eren. Yelena is very extreme and some would say deranged in the way she worships Zeke and approaches her plans and ideals. If anyone encroaches, there is no room for mercy. If anyone proves to be an obstacle, she will dangle their existence in front of them, threaten it, and show them how insignificant she has truly come to learn any given life is in this world is, which in itself helps prove her point a little.

And through this, along with being a wholehearted advocate of the Euthanasia plan, Yelena is one of the examples of doing what many would consider inhumane things for the sake of her view of saving humanity. And we can see a parallel with Floch in the reasoning for this hardline stance and commitment to the cause.

In the end, they all want to make their mark on history – not just to lead to a prosperous world, but to contribute and see that world come into shape. The current course is headed nowhere quick, rotten and soiled. And so she revels in the chance of altering things, and as far as she’s concerned, maintaining the blasphemous status quo is the highest possible offence.

But as hinted at through her introduction and overall demeanor, as far as I can tell none of this is rooted in ill will or bad intentions and the basis behind her actions is.. love. Love for a life worth living and a world worth living in free of this pain and strife, love for the things that this setting doesn’t currently have.

As I alluded to, Yelena is very genuine. She tears up when she believes that Armin empathizes with and buys into their motives because she truly believes that it is the proper path, and that helping others realize this is a beautiful thing. This is all in service of a great ideal, for a society that will cull any of those who would try to oppress, and so she also has a strict moral code and sense of honour shown through her killing Grieze for disrespecting Sasha.

There is no room for hate. She appreciates our protagonists for being heroes contributing in a way she admires and truly wishes well for them – as long as it doesn’t interfere with her plans. And if it doesn’t, then there is no obstacle for cooperation and harmony. All of these little touches and dimensions help deepen her and make her much more than just a simple obstacle or shallow villain to root against.

Despite opposing many people in many situations, there is no malice here. She just wants to change the world. And to that end, her drive for this goal is so extreme that any progress towards it is her lifeblood. She is fascinated and enthralled with the spectacle of this conflict, and finds what others think of as tragic and horrifying as awe-inspiring and monumentally beautiful.

She feels wonder and joy in the prospect of mass destruction if it is for her cause, because through this she can feel the weight of the tides of history shifting. And it cannot be denied that this aspect of her is quite twisted, but as I mentioned, there is more to this than meets the eye. Because while she enjoys the spectacle, it is not for the spectacle itself, but rather for what the spectacle is in service of.

What it means, and what will happen at the end of it. Yelena does all she does out of the sheer passion she feels for her end goal, and she doesn’t feel joy at the prospect of Eldians dying off. She feels joy at the prospect of a new age of prosperity, and any act that will lead to that. Sfo naturally, when all is said and done, this time in history that most would describe as horrific is what she perceives as a show and privilege to bear witness to.

With all this in mind, naturally there is a madness to her sowed from the seeds of this horrible setting. But in addition to that I do have to admit that there is a certain draw and cool factor to the type of character who maneuvers things to allow themselves to ultimately sit back and watch history unfold from the sidelines, almost like an audience insert in a couple of ways.

Although of course that’s only applicable for an audience that is able to find entertainment in what are incredibly divisive, violent and volatile acts. Yet unlike the classic sort of jester character that you’d usually see spouting lines like this and looking on at the story from the best seat, Yelena is one hundred percent invested in this conflict and she is not a detached onlooker.

She is not an emotionally uninvolved neutral who would be able to find joy in any outcome. She truly did this for Eldia and even for Marley at a stretch and honestly believes that it will improve things, which helps her to find such joy and fulfillment in taking part in this macabre show that she has helped put together.

However, though it goes without saying, it’s worth mentioning that her deep fanaticism, sincere belief and advocation for this pain is very much criticized as a lack of perspective and empathy, while not painting her as evil or one-dimensional. At this point in the anime it’s not at all confirmed that Yelena won’t end up being correct, but just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right.

Yelena: Attack on Titan's Puppeteer

And all of this makes Yelena a fascinating addition to the cast for the final stretch of story and one of the most efficient characters, with nearly every scene or line of dialogue being contributory. Regardless of whether it has to do with progressing the intrigue of the plot, informing us about her own outlook to compare and contrast with the others, or even just adding an element of theatre to the whole thing through her manner of speech and overall behaviour.

And she also has the benefit of providing some of the most chilling lines in the story. It’s clear that she’s accurate in touting the immense importance of this moment and how these events will send echoes cascading through the ages – the only question being – what sort of echoes? In what way will all of this go down? Only time will tell, but history will note that this woman no doubt played a huge part in pushing the pieces that were needed to get there.

With every war, there are those who suffer, those who fight, and those who benefit – but there are also those like Yelena – those whose ambition, dream and entrancement from within the ecstasy of that dream transcend all. Those who only have eyes for the end goal, and those who then perceive the sheer cataclysm on the way to it as a marvellous display to celebrate.

Many thanks for reading.

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