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The Unknown Soldiers

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Quote1 My soldiers! Rage! My soldiers! Scream! MY SOLDIERS! FIGHT! Quote2
— Erwin leads a charge against the Beast Titan

The Unknown Soldiers (名も無き兵士 Na mo Naki Heishi?) is the 2nd chapter of the 20th volume and the 80th chapter overall of the Attack on Titan manga, written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama.

Overview

The Survey Corps watch in shock as the motionless body of Eren's Titan is stranded atop Wall Maria, wondering if he is still alive, but they avert their attention from Eren and focus on the Colossus Titan who continues to approach the Wall. Jean orders his comrades to draw his attention while Mikasa shoots Thunder Spears into the Titan's nape, but Bertolt easily sees through their scheme and releases a burst of hot steam, deflecting the Thunder Spears and burning the Special Operations Squad. Armin goes to help a wounded Mikasa and admits that he still does not have any plan to save them from their predicament. A loud explosion occurs shortly after and the soldiers watch in horror as a fully recovered Armored Titan stands up, ready to rejoin the fight.

On the inner part of the Wall, Levi urges Erwin to order the retreat and save the few survivors, but Erwin reveals that he still has a strategy to defeat Zeke, though at the cost of his and the new recruits' lives. He admits that the only thing that stops him is his desire to live long enough to see the basement, but Levi prompts him to forget his dreams and sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Erwin leads the recruits into a direct suicide attack against Zeke to serve as decoys while Levi sneaks through the surrounding horde of Titans, using them as trees to maneuver with his equipment as he approaches Zeke in order to land a surprise attack. Erwin and his troops continue riding towards the enemy, using signal flares to obstruct his aim. As Zeke launches a barrage of rocks towards them, Erwin and all the soldiers are struck by the debris.

Summary

Atop Wall Maria, Eren lies immobile after being brutally slammed there by the Colossus Titan's kick. Erwin and Levi watch the scene in shock while Mikasa wonders if he is still alive. However, Jean assures her that Eren is alive and shouts for everyone to focus on the Colossus Titan, who continues on his way to attack the Wall.

Bertolt deflects Mikasa's attack with hot steam

Bertolt deflects Mikasa's attack with a burst of hot steam

Jean orders Connie and Sasha to help him draw Bertolt's attention while Mikasa shoots Thunder Spears to his nape. The three attempt to distract him with insults and nicknames, but Jean realizes they are being too obvious and Bertolt probably has already realized that Mikasa is behind him; though still hopes that she will be able to hit him. Mikasa launches the spears, but Bertolt responds by releasing a massive burst of hot steam, which deflects the spears as well as blows away the grapple hooks of her maneuvering equipment and violently pushes everybody back, causing them superficial burns.
Armin, Jean and Mikasa observe the Armored Titan rising again

Armin, Mikasa and Jean see that the Armored Titan has risen again

Armin comes to help Mikasa, who was hit in her right arm by a Thunder Spear shrapnel, though she replies that the wound is not deep. She asks him if he has devised a plan to counterattack, but Armin admits that he still does not have any. At that moment, they and Jean hear a sound at their backs, and watch in horror that the Armored Titan has fully recovered and is standing ready to return to the fight.

Meanwhile, Zeke continues launching rocks at the Survey Corps' hiding spot. Levi tells Erwin that at that rate it will not be long before he turns it all into rubble, and urges him to order the retreat if he does not have any counterattack method left, using Eren to carry the few survivors.

As Erwin and Levi speak, the new recruits are overcome with terror. Marlowe tries to calm down a fellow who has allowed a horse to escape, but is taken aback when the recruit lashes out, claiming that they will all be killed and therefore did not need horses. The recruit begins bemoaning his decision to join the Survey Corps due to it leading him to a meaningless death.

Erwin laments the he will not realize his dream

Erwin laments that he will die without ever knowing the secrets of the basement

Levi volunteers to battle Zeke while the rest of the Corps escapes. Erwin tries to convince him otherwise, but Levi insists that all hope will be lost if Erwin and Eren do not escape. At Levi's prompting, Erwin reveals that he still has one last plan to defeat Zeke, and that he did not reveal it to Levi because it would result in the deaths of all of the Survey Corps' recruits and Erwin himself. Watching the recruits panic, Erwin notes that although most of them will likely die regardless of his decision, they will only willingly give up their lives if he leads them into battle. Erwin notes that this will mean he will be the first to die, and quietly laments that due to this he will never get to see Eren's basement, a statement which draws Levi's attention.

Erwin reveals to Levi that the reason he did everything he has done is that he desires to reach Eren's basement, and discover the secrets within it, so that he will finally be able to answer all the questions he is had since his father's death. He bemoans the fact that, after staving off death so many times, he will have to sacrifice his life before discovering these secrets, which are now within his grasp. Finally, he asks if Levi can see them: the fallen Survey Corps soldiers, who want to know what has happened to their hearts, which they devoted to the Survey Corps' cause. Levi assures Erwin that he has done his job leading the Corps well, but advises him to abandon his dream. His only job now is to lead the Survey Corps' recruits straight into hell, so that Levi can engage the Beast Titan.

The Survey Corps charge against the Beast Titan

The Survey Corps charge a suicide attack against the Beast Titan

As Zeke crushes another rock in preparation for his next attack, he is surprised to see the Survey Corps coming straight at him in a direct attack. Amused, he notes that while he had not expected to give up without a fight, he had assumed they would have a better strategy than a frontal assault. The soldiers, under Erwin's command, fire their signal flares all at once, and Zeke observes the scene with curiosity as he prepares to throw his next volley of projectiles. Watching Zeke, Erwin warns the recruits that another attack is coming, while reflecting on how he convinced them to agree to his frontal assault.
Levi apologizes to his comrades

Levi apologizes to the soldiers that are running to their deaths to serve him as decoys

Erwin ordered the recruits to line up, informing them that they will be charging the Beast Titan from the front, and using their signal flares to disrupt his aim as much as possible, while Levi uses the diversion to kill him. After his speech, he instructed a bewildered Levi to use his vertical maneuvering equipment to approach the Beast Titan, using the Titans surrounding him to maneuver into a position where he can kill him.

During the charge, Levi advances his way to the Beast Titan's position, slaughtering mindless Titans as he goes, and he sees Erwin's forces firing their signal flares and silently apologizes to them as he recalls the recruits' reactions to learning of their impending demise.

Erwin is hit by a projectile

Erwin and the recruits are obliterated by the projectiles

Upon hearing Erwin's plan, one of the recruits had approached him, noting that they will die whether they obey their commander's orders or not, so they will die a meaningless death no matter what. Erwin confirmed his observation, noting that getting crushed by a rock would result in the same experience for all of them, and that everyone would die sooner or later. However, this did not make their lives, or the lives of their fallen comrades any less meaningful. They would remember the lives of their fallen soldiers, while the next generations of soldiers would remember their lives after they died.

Leading his soldiers into battle, Erwin continues to encourage them. Even as he and his comrades are torn to pieces by Zeke's projectiles, he encourages his soldiers to let their blood boil, to let their voices be heard, and fight.

Characters in Order of Appearance

Trivia

  • Levi and the deceased

    Furlan and Isabel stand among Levi's many deceased comrades

    This chapter marks the first appearance of Isabel Magnolia and Furlan Church in the main manga, among the soldiers Erwin envisions while feeling responsible for their deaths (third and fifth figures from left to right).[1]

References

  1. Attack on Titan manga: Chapter 80 (p. 25)

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