Attack on Titan chapter 123, especially the scene where Eren asks Mikasa what he means to her, has been one of the most anticipated chapters to be adapted into the anime.
Mikasa’s answer to this question has been treated with mostly fond exasperation in the fandom, many lamenting that she failed to get her feelings across to Eren.
However, to Mikasa herself, a sliver of doubt continued to gnaw at her even years later. Despite knowing better, she continued to wonder if she could have steered Eren towards a different path had she given a different answer. This article explores why this blame is misplaced and what the moment could have signed for Eren.
[Note: This article contains spoilers up to Attack on Titan episode 87 and reflects the writer’s personal interpretation.]
The significance of Eren’s question and Mikasa’s answer in Attack on Titan episode 87
In Attack on Titan chapter 123, episode 87 of the anime, during their visit to Marley, Eren asks Mikasa why she is so protective of him, specifically what he means to her. He asks if it’s just because she considers him family, to which she awkwardly agrees.
However, before she can elaborate further, they are interrupted by a local resident. After a night of revelry, Eren disappears, and Mikasa sees him again during the raid on Liberio.
Mikasa’s guilt and self-awareness
This incident is presented to the audience entirely through Mikasa’s flashbacks, in both the manga and the anime. She prefaces the flashback with a monolog about being aware of her insignificance her, in this particular case, in the development of Eren’s nature her.
Mikasa firmly states that she is aware of Eren’s propensity toward the extreme, his innate attraction towards freedom and his single-minded ferocity. She understands that no matter what answer she would have given, they would have ended up in this exact situation. She could not have done anything to prevent it, because Eren was predisposed to turn out this way.
While she is unaware of how tumultuous and twisted the notion of pre-destination and fate can be for the Attack on Titan universe, especially at the hands of someone like Eren Yeager, Mikasa is aware that sometimes one cannot influence the inherent tendencies of another.
She accepts Eren’s nature, however, she is no longer blind to the collateral damage that lies in his wake.
Eren’s possible reasons behind asking the question
In such a predicament, it is impossible to say if he wanted a different answer to see if the future can be changed, or if he simply wanted Mikasa’s answer to solidify the notion that his own designs have now become inescapable chains.
Either way, this question was less about the response, and more about the fact that Eren asked it despite having probably seen this transspire several times via the Paths.
[The next section contains spoilers from Attack on Titan manga.]
A long dream
Some posit that the natural conclusion to this moment and their conversation was shown at the end of Attack on Titan chapter 238, “A Long Dream.” Mikasa was shown an alternate future by Eren, where they had run away and lived his remaining four years in peace.
It is still debated within the fandom whether that was one of the timelines in the popular “See You Later Universe” theory.
At the end of Attack on Titan manga, Mikasa tells Eren, after his death, that he was someone she cherished, which many believe to be a late answer to his question. Either way, neither Mikasa nor Eren hinged anything significant onto the question or the answer. What mattered more was Eren’s reasons for asking it, and the impression it left behind on Mikasa.