After Season 4 Episode 21 of Attack on Titan aired, many viewers were confused about Mikasa and the Ackermann lineage in general. Is she an Eldian? Where does the Ackermanns’ power come from? As it turns out, the anime actually left out a key reveal about the Ackermans’ power that the manga revealed a long time ago.
This Attack on Titan article will have spoilers for the newest episode. It won’t contain spoilers from the manga beyond the newest episode, but it will reveal a plot point the manga shared that the anime skipped over.
Mikasa Was Able to Hear Eren’s Message
At the end of Season 4 Episode 21, Mikasa was transported into the Paths to hear Eren’s message, just like Armin, Jean, Falco, and the rest of the Eldians. Eren made it clear that his message was for the Subjects of Ymir. Up until this point, anime viewers had been debating about whether the Ackermann line (spelled “Ackerman” in the manga but “Ackermann” in the subtitles for the anime) was actually Eldian or not. We know for certain that on Mikasa’s mother’s side, she is not Eldian. In Season 4 Episode 10, we learned that Mikasa and her mother were direct descendants of the shogun of Hizuru and Mikasa is the rightful ruler. She’s the last descendant of that royal bloodline. King Fritz was friends with the shogun and when he constructed the wall, the shogun’s baby was “accidentally” left behind. (I put that in quotes because who knows with this show.)
So we know her Mother’s side wasn’t Eldian. But as for the Ackermans, it was always a little unclear. We know they’re not susceptible to brainwashing, and typically it’s just bloodlines that aren’t Eldian that aren’t susceptible. So Mikasa’s inclusion in Eren’s “subjects of Ymir” announcement was surprising. If you read parts of the manga that the anime had left out, it is even a little more confusing, but also revealing.
First, let’s review what we do know about the Ackermans through the anime.
The anime revealed that Kenny and Uri (a previous holder of the Founding Titan) were close friends. We know the Ackermans used to be the royal guard for the king. But they and other bloodlines (including Mikasa’s mother’s side) were not susceptible to the Founding Titan’s brainwashing and didn’t bow down to the king like some others did. As a result, the Ackermans were persecuted and almost wiped out, until Uri befriended Kenny and the persecutions stopped. The same happened to Mikasa’s mother’s side of the family too.
At One Point the Manga Seemed to Indicate that the Ackermans Were From a Different Bloodline
The background of the Ackermans is partially explained in this video from the anime in season 3, when Kenny talked to his grandfather. However, the manga’s reveal at this point is a little different.
His grandfather told Kenny that the royal family is afraid of the Ackermans because they can’t control them. He talks about how the king can erase memories “except for a few noble bloodlines. Among them were two groups that turned their back on the King. That is the Oriental clan and the Ackermann family.”
However, the manga shared more details than that, including that his grandfather was the first generation born behind the wall. However, in his talk with Kenny in the manga, he indicated that the Ackermans were from a different bloodline.
His grandfather tells Kenny that there are “minority bloodlines” behind the walls, including the Ackermans, and the Founding Titan’s ability to brainwash people only works on the “majority race.” And since the Ackermans and Mikasa’s mom’s bloodline disagreed with the King’s philosophy (which we now know involved punishing Eldians forever), they objected and were persecuted as a result. However, his grandfather also emphasizes on another page that his father’s generation really didn’t pass on much information about the lost history to the children, including himself, so he doesn’t know everything that happened.
This leads to some major confusion. If it’s true that the Ackermans are not part of the majority bloodline behind the walls, and both sides of Mikasa’s bloodline aren’t from the majority race, then how is she still a Subject of Ymir? Was Kenny’s grandfather wrong in his recounting of history? Or did Mikasa have a random person in her ancestral lineage who was an Eldian?
With that confusing revelation (and is it even canon in the anime?) let’s look at what else we know about the Ackermans.
Let’s Review More of What the Anime Revealed
Also in season 3, Levi and Mikasa learn they’re related. Mikasa’s father was an Ackerman.
Mikasa does say that her dad “didn’t seem like a different race like my mom was,” which hints that the Ackermans are indeed Eldians. It’s during this conversation that Levi asks if she ever felt a power awaken inside her. She says yes (when she was a child protecting Eren). Levi says it also happened to him (though he doesn’t reveal when but says he “felt moments” (plural) like that.) We also know it happened to Kenny. This part is mostly the same in the manga.
Then there’s the scene above when Eren discussed Mikasa’s power with her, but we’re not sure if he was being honest with her or not. He said, “The Ackermann family was formed to protect the king of Eldia. That day you obeyed my orders in a life-or-death situation. ‘Fight.’ Just then, your instincts were awakened. Your hallucinations in that moment made you think I was the one you needed to protect.” He then told her that Ackermanns experience headaches when their powers are awakened because “the original identity (is) resisting the compulsion to protect the host… You’re a family that lost its originally identity and now exists only to follow orders. You’re a slave.”
People are doubting how truthful Eren was in this speech, in part because he says that the people he “hates the most” are “people who aren’t free,” and we know that he didn’t hate the Founder Ymir, who was a slave her whole life. We also haven’t seen evidence that Kenny or Levi had the headaches Eren spoke about.
Up until now, the reason Attack on Titan viewers weren’t sure if the Ackerman line was Eldian or not is because Mikasa’s mom’s side was also not susceptible to brainwashing. We eventually learned that only Eldians can be brainwashed by the royal family. Since the Ackermans can’t be brainwashed, many had guessed this meant they weren’t Eldian. Which may (or may not) be true. It’s all confusing.
The Manga Revealed the Truth About the Ackermans’ Power, But the Anime Left That Part Out
Here’s something fascinating. The manga revealed the truth about the Ackermans’ power a long time ago, but the anime left that part out. It was revealed when Zeke was talking strategy with the Marleyan military. Here’s the anime version.
Zeke tells the Marleyans that more than the titans are a threat from Paradis. Then it cuts off and goes to Reiner’s PTSD issues from facing the Ackermans.
However, a key part was left out. Zeke shared more with the Marleyans in the manga, and the anime cut that part out. Zeke actually explained why the Ackermans were dangerous, along with the source of their powers.
Zeke reveals that the Ackermans “possess a bloodline once thought to exist only in legends told by the royal family. I failed because I underestimated those weapons. The Ackerman clan, byproducts of Titan chemistry. At least two members seem to be there.”
So we know for certain that part of what Eren told Mikasa is true. The Ackermans were some created by the king’s family and their power is somehow a “byproduct of Titan chemistry.” We also know that the Founder Ymir got her powers from a glowing parasitic spine, but over time the royal family learned more about the powers and were even able to create vials of serum that gave Titans specific powers (like the vial for armor that Eren drank.) It appears that at some point while researching Titan chemistry, they were able to grant some Titan-like power to the Ackermans without actually turning them into Titans. That’s very interesting. Is this why they’re subjects of Ymir, while still being a minority bloodline? There’s a lot left to learn.